Burma’s main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), was forced to abandon a planned campaign rally in Kachin State’s Chipwi after its members were attacked by over two dozen men on Monday.
According to local party members, around 30 men, some wearing headbands emblazoned with the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) logo, stormed the shared sleeping quarters of a group of NLD members and candidates on Monday evening.
“They were armed and smashed everything, the projectors, the [amplifiers] and motorbikes. They even hit the faces of NLD candidates and members,” said Kyaw Oo, an NLD candidate running in Kachin-5, an Upper House constituency which includes Chipwi Township.
According to the party, up to 20 members sustained minor injuries and electrical equipment worth an estimated 3,000,000 kyat (US$2,335) was destroyed.
“They even threatened to shoot us if we didn’t leave,” said Kyaw Oo. “So we had to leave the area immediately and the planned campaign rally was brought to an end.”
The party members also said some of the attackers wore headbands printed with pictures of Manaw poles, the long wooden poles traditionally decorated with ethnic Kachin designs.
The cancelled political rally was planned for Tuesday in Kanhphan village, Chipwi Township. Kyaw Oo said the party had informed its headquarters in Rangoon and planned to file a lawsuit against the offenders.
Party supporters claimed the attackers were tied to a pro-government militia, the New Democratic Army-Kachin (NDAK), that is active in several townships along the Sino-Burma border, including Chipwi.
The armed group’s leader, Zakhung Ting Ying, a sitting MP who is running for re-election in Upper House constituency Kachin-5, issued a letter last month ordering the NLD not to campaign in up to 13 races across four townships in the northern state.
Following a formal complaint from the NLD, the state’s election sub-commission intervened to allow the opposition party’s candidates to campaign in the area that has long been Zakhung Ting Ying’s personal fiefdom.
“It will be our second time [leaving the area], as we were there in September when Zakhung Ting Ying issued the order. We have come back in vain,” Kyaw Oo said.
The militia leader’s mobile phone was switched off when The Irrawaddy attempted to contact him on Tuesday.
The NLD has faced a variety of disruptions since campaigning for the Nov. 8 poll officially began in September, including other cases of election-related violence and intimidation, vandalism of party billboards and administrative prohibitions blocking the party’s access to venues.