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CAMPAIGN TRAIL

Supporter of Jailed Candidate Says Charges Meant to Crush Campaign

The campaign manager of detained independent candidate Myat Nu Khaing says charges brought against her are meant to sabotage her campaign.


RANGOON — The campaign manager of detained independent candidate Myat Nu Khaing, who was jailed last week for her alleged role in a peaceful demonstration late last year, said charges brought against her were meant to sabotage her campaign after she accused her opponents of manipulating voters.

“I think our candidate was intentionally attacked,” said campaign manager Tin Aye, not to be confused with the eponymous chairman of Burma’s Union Election Commission (UEC). “Now she is losing her campaign period.”

Tin Aye said the candidate was charged shortly after she had accused one of her opponents of taking undue credit for public works, urging voters to be wary of campaigns grounded on the achievements of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).

Myat Nu Khaing is contesting a Lower House seat in Pegu Division’s Phyu Township, competing against former director general of the President’s Office, Ko Ko Kyaw, and Parliament Speaker Shwe Mann.

The former retired from his post as presidential advisor to contest the Nov. 8 poll as an independent, while the latter will represent the USDP, despite his impolite ouster as the party’s chairman in mid-August.

The defendant’s lawyer said the underdog candidate was losing valuable campaign time while awaiting trial, while her campaign manager Tin Aye accused her competitors of “unprofessional and dirty” tactics designed to avoid vote splitting, as the well-known activist has a broad support base in her constituency.

Myat Nu Khaing was arrested on Oct. 16 for her alleged role in a peaceful demonstration on Dec. 29, 2014, when nearly 100 people marched to the Chinese Embassy in Rangoon to pay tribute to a woman who was shot dead by police during a protest against a controversial Chinese-backed copper mine at Letpadaung, Sagaing Division.

Police blockaded the marchers before they could reach the Chinese mission and the two sides clashed after protesters attempted to breach the barricades.

In May, six activists, including prominent human rights advocate Naw Ohn Hla, were sentenced to four years and four months prison in relation to the demonstration.

Myat Nu Khaing’s lawyer, Than Zaw Aung, says his client faces six lawsuits including one under Article 18 of the Peaceful Assembly Law for protesting without permission, as well as several other charges under articles 147, 353 and 505(b) of Burma’s Penal Code.

These articles outlaw rioting; assault or use of criminal force against a public servant; and making statements with intent to cause “fear or alarm,” respectively.

Union Election Commission (UEC) Chairman Tin Aye told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that Myat Nu Khaing will remain eligible to contest a seat in the election, despite being charged and confined to a cell in Rangoon’s Insein Prison.

The chairman said that her supporters can continue to lawfully campaign on her behalf and she will remain eligible throughout her trial, though, “if convicted, the candidate will be disqualified.”

Myat Nu Khaing’s next hearing has been scheduled for Oct. 25.