RANGOON — Burma’s main opposition party claimed on Wednesday that phones lines on the remote Coco Islands had been deliberately cut to prevent the party’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from connecting with voters.
The National League for Democracy (NLD) chairwoman had planned to speak with voters living on the islands via telephone on Tuesday at 5 pm, but was unable to make a connection after repeated attempts.
The NLD’s Lower House candidate for the isolated constituency, Win Min, told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that the phones on the island were out of service from 3:40 pm until just after 8:00 pm. He said it was likely an intentional act in order to disrupt the NLD’s campaigning.
“We could make contact with Rangoon since we arrived here using SIMs distributed by the military-backed Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC), which is the one working service on the island. Only yesterday, we couldn’t make [contact],” Win Min said.
Former Burma Navy chief Adm. Thet Swe and former Rangoon Division Minister for Border Affairs and Security Col. Tin Win are contesting seats for the ruling party on the islands, of which only one is populated—predominately by navy personnel and their families.
Several attempts by NLD candidates to board planes or boats heading to the islands were initially thwarted before they were finally able to reach the islands last month. At a press conference on Oct. 12, the candidates claimed that their opponents from the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) had benefited from the ruling party’s ties to the military, making multiple trips to the Coco Islands via military aircraft and naval vessels.
Win Min said the party had only been able to reach out to around 400 eligible voters on the island known as Great Coco, with over 1,000 voters living in restricted areas.
In a video message from the NLD leader brought to the Islands by the NLD candidates, Suu Kyi makes a direct appeal to the local constituents.
“Some say most of the residents on Coco Island are civil servants and so they won’t dare to vote for the NLD because of pressure from their heads of department. But I believe in our public’s courage,” she said.