A militia leader turned lawmaker in northern Kachin State has ordered candidates for the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) not to campaign in his constituency.
Zakhung Ting Ying, the sitting parliamentarian representing Upper House constituency No. 5 in Kachin State, sent a letter to NLD candidates on Tuesday, instructing the party to avoid campaigning in Waignmaw, Chipwi and Tsawlaw, three townships along the Sino-Burmese border in which the New Democratic Army–Kachin (NDAK) operates.
Zakhung Ting Ying is the leader of the NDAK, which nominally came under the control of the Burma Army when it converted to a Border Guard Force in 2009. He contested Burma’s 2010 general election, winning his Upper House seat in a race against one opponent from the National Unity Party (NUP).
A letter from the NDAK commander dated Sept. 22 asserts that the region is “not ready to accept such public mobilization for the campaign,” claiming the NLD is not welcome because “this area is not yet under the government’s reforms.”
Zaw Lai, the NLD’s Lower House candidate for Tsawlaw Township, said his fellow NLD parliamentary hopeful from Chipwi, who was on the campaign trail in Pangwa village on Tuesday, was told to get out of the area.
“I just heard about the news that Min Naing, our Lower House candidate for Chipwi who is the local head of the Chipwe Township NLD, was told not to come to Pangwa for his campaign trip, but I cannot yet say exactly what happened,” Zaw Lai told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday.
Zaw Lai said his colleague had every right to carry out canvassing in Pangwa, an area located northeast of Chipwi town that plays host to the NDAK headquarters.
“I don’t think such individuals have the right to do such a thing,” he said, referring to the alleged warning from Zakhung Ting Ying. Zaw Lai said he planned to test the waters in his own race on Thursday.
On Nov. 8, Zakhung Ting Ying will compete against candidates from the NLD, National Democratic Force (NDF), Lhaovo National Unity and Development Party and another independent candidate for Kachin-5. The Upper House seat covers Chipwi, Tsawlaw and Injingyang townships, a sparsely populated area home to fewer than 20,000 people, according to the 2014 census.
Sai Htay Aung, the chairman of the Tai-Leng Nationalities Development Party, said his party had heard about the attempt to restrict the NLD’s campaign activities in the area.
“If it is true, such warnings should not be happening,” said Sai Htay Aung, whose party will also field a candidate in Waignmaw Township. The Tai-Leng Nationalities Development Party chairman said his party had not received a similar order proscribing its campaign movements.
If the order from Zakhung Ting Ying extends across all races in Waignmaw, Chipwi, Tsawlaw and Injingyang townships, a total of 13 NLD candidates could be affected.