Election Posters for Myanmar’s Ruling Party Vandalized in a Dozen Locations
By San Yamin Aung 15 September 2020
YANGON—At least a dozen election campaign posters for Myanmar’s ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) were vandalized in seven locations around the country in the first few days of the official election campaign period.
According to party officials spoken to by The Irrawaddy, posters erected in the Coco Islands in Yangon Region; Maha Aung Myay and Patheingyi townships in Mandalay Region; Zeyarthiri Township in Naypyitaw; Monywa Township in Sagaing Region; Hakha Township in Chin State; Paung, Chaungzon and Kyaikmayaw townships in Mon State; and Taunggok Township in Rakhine State were deliberately destroyed.
The earliest incident occurred in Chin State on the first day of the election campaign period. U Biak Kung from the NLD’s Chin State Information Committee said someone used a knife to slash portraits of the party’s candidates on a poster in Hakha Township on the night of Sept. 8.
He said the party had opened a case under the election law, but police had yet to make an arrest, U Biak Kung said.
Under the election law’s Article 57 and 58, whoever is found guilty of using violence, threats, undue influence or cheating to prevent a person from exercising their right to vote or to stand for election, or anyone abetting such an act, can be punished with a maximum sentence of one year’s imprisonment and fines.
In the Coco Islands—where top generals are running for seats representing the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), the NLD found four out of its total six campaign posters erected there had been torn on the night of Sept. 10, according to U Win Ko Ko Win, one of the NLD candidates contesting in a Coco Islands constituency.
The islands’ population is largely made up of military personnel, their families and civil servants. The USDP secured victories there in both the 2010 and 2015 elections.
In another military electoral stronghold, Naypyitaw’s Zeyarthiri Township, posters in Kyopyin Village featuring portraits of NLD candidates were slashed on Sept. 11.
A 19-year-old suspect was arrested in the case, said U Thet Htwe, chairman of the NLD office in the township.
Even before the vandalism occurred, party workers faced obstacles putting the posters up on Sept. 8, U Thet Htwe said.
“The owner of the house who agreed to let the poster be put up near his home told us that he was threatened by three village leaders, who said he would be kicked out if he accepted us,” he said.
The party has opened a case against the trio under the election law.
Monywa Aung Shin, secretary of the NLD’s Central Information Committee, said the party had faced more destruction of its campaign materials this year than before the last general election. Ahead of the 2015 vote there were only a few cases, he said.
“We have seen several acts of vandalism, such as in the Coco Islands, Mon State, Rakhine’s Taunggok and elsewhere. It reflects badly on those who committed the destruction,” he said.
“I think the more they damage our posters, the more public support will grow for us. But we will take legal action in all cases.”
The NLD is running in 1,143 seats out of a total of 1,171 up for grabs in the Union Parliament and state and regional legislatures. It took office after winning a landslide victory in the 2015 general election.
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