၂၀၁၅ ေရြးေကာက္ပြဲ Irrawaddy.org
Ethnic Issues

Kawhmu Karen Turn Out for Suu Kyi

Despite the ongoing civil war in eastern Burma, the ethnic Karen living in Kawhmu voted overwhelmingly for the NLD leader.


WAH THEINKHA, Kawhmu Township — Supported by a bamboo walking stick, 95-year-old Daw Aye entered the polling station as her family waited outside for her. She made no secret of who she was going to cast her vote for.

“I see Daw Suu as an honest leader,” she said. “I no longer expect any improvements in my lifetime. I’m too old. But I hope she will do something for the younger generation.”

Situated southwest of Rangoon, Wah Theinkha is a small rural village in Kawhmu Township, which this week became the focus of the region’s media as Aung San Suu Kyi fought for a seat in the constituency.

Interestingly, the majority of the village’s population is ethnic Karen, and most are rice farmers. Many say they are hoping that Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), can do something to help end the civil war between the Burmese government and Karen rebels that has plagued the country for more than six decades.

“She can do it,” said voter Hla Myo Swe, who was dressed in Karen traditional costume. “Since her release, the government has initiated peace talks with various ethnic armed groups. If she has a chance to become officially involved in those talks, there will be no more war in this country.”

“I don’t know how to express my feelings,” said local woman Nilar Sein, 34. “I feel so very happy to vote for the leader I love.”

Another middle-aged Karen woman announced, “I am overjoyed!” as she left the polling station. She openly admitted she had voted for Suu Kyi.

Generally, Wah Theinkha is a village that goes to bed early. But on Saturday night, its one main road was busy with visitors looking for a place to call home for the night or even a late dinner.

“I’ve never experienced an occasion like this before,” said Mann Chit, 60, one of the 115 villagers who volunteered to form a ring of security at the house where Suu Kyi stayed overnight.

A Karen father of two insisted on being heard. “We want change!” he said. “My father was a rice farmer, the same as me. But I don’t want my children to work like this. I voted for Mother Suu because I believe she will bring a brighter future.”