Kachin State’s election sub-commission has invited militia leader turned lawmaker Zakhung Ting Ying to the body’s headquarters in Myitkyina next week after the sitting parliamentarian ordered candidates for the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) not to campaign in his constituency.
In a letter sent to NLD candidates on Tuesday, Zakhung Ting Ying instructed them to avoid campaigning in Waingmaw, Chipwi and Tsawlaw, three Kachin State townships in which the New Democratic Army–Kachin (NDAK) operates.
Zakhung Ting Ying, who heads the NDAK which converted to a Border Guard Force in 2009, is competing for an Upper House seat in Kachin-5, which includes Chipwi, Tsawlaw and Injangyang townships.
Maung Maung Kun, chair of the Kachin State election sub-commission, told The Irrawaddy on Friday that the Union Election Commission (UEC) had directed the state body to speak with the lawmaker.
“We were instructed by the UEC to inform the individual of the rules and code of conduct,” Maung Maung Kun said, referring in part to an election Code of Conduct, voluntary signed by the majority of political parties.
“We sent a letter to him asking him to meet us on Sept. 29 [in Myitkyina]. We will inform him of the guidelines, instructions and code of conduct relating to the election campaign,” the chairman said.
“Every candidate, whether from parties or as individuals, must abide by the UEC’s rules and code of conduct during the electoral period,” he said. “Every candidate has the right to campaign.”
The NDAK leader’s Sept. 22 letter asserted that the region was “not ready to accept such public mobilization for the campaign,” claiming the NLD was not welcome because “this area is not yet under the government’s reforms.”
The NLD has requested a meeting with the UEC next week, according to party spokesperson Nyan Win, during which they plan to discuss the letter.
“We have to review security in the region. Who has responsibility in this region? The government or armed groups, like Zakhung Ting Ying’s [group]?” he said.
Zaw Lai, the NLD’s lower house candidate for Tsawlaw Township, told The Irrawaddy on Friday that the party’s candidates for Kachin-5 had stopped their campaigning since Wednesday.
“My colleagues, the Upper House candidate for Kachin-5 Kyaw Kyaw Oo and the Lower House candidate for Chipwi Township Min Naing, came down to Myitkyina with Zakhung Ting Ying’s letter,” he said.
“We cannot continue campaigning yet, as Zakhung Ting Ying has stopped us and his fellow militiamen have guns.”
Zaw Lai questioned whether the militia leader was in breach of Article 58(b) of the 2010 Election Law, which stipulates punishment for those “threatening a Hluttaw candidate or a voter to prevent him from freely exercising his electoral right.”
According to Maung Maung Kun, the Kachin State electoral body lacks the authority to take punitive action against Zakhung Ting Ying.
Zaw Lai said local authorities in Chipwi had asked the NLD candidates to meet with Zakhung Ting Ying in the town on Sept. 28, although it was not clear if the latter would agree to attend.
Regardless, Zaw Lai said party representatives would not attend, preferring to “seek a solution through the union electoral body.”
When The Irrawaddy contacted Zakhung Ting Ying on Friday, he declined to answer several questions, citing a poor phone connection.