Election 2020

Militias Accused of Forcing Voters to Back Military Proxy Party in Northern Myanmar

By Hset Paing Toe 6 November 2020

Yangon — People’s militias in Kutkai and Muse townships in northern Shan State are being accused of threatening to disrupt voting.

According to lawmakers and residents, who do not want to be named over safety concerns, people’s militias in Tarmoenye, Pansay, Manpang, Kaungkha, Mongse and Mong Wong are coercing people to vote for the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), which is widely viewed as the military’s proxy.

People’s militias are formed, trained, armed and commanded by the Tatmadaw or Myanmar’s military. At the Union level, they are under the command of the Directorate of People’s Militia and Border Guard Force.

The Irrawaddy was not able to obtain comments from militias.

Mai Kyar Tun, candidate for the Ta’ang National Party in Kutkai for the Shan State parliament, said: “We have told villagers not to be afraid of pressure and to vote boldly according to their wishes.”

The candidate said he was stopped by the Mongse militia while campaigning and he saw USDP flags at militia offices in villages and militias soliciting votes for the USDP.

Though people’s militias said parties can campaign in their territory on condition that they notify them in advance, only Shan ethnic parties are tolerated, he said.

Union Election Commission member U Than Htay, who has been supervising the electoral process from the office of the election sub-commission in northern Shan State, said: “We are resolving those issues through negotiations [with militias]. If problems are not solved, [candidates] can file complaints under the election law.”

U Kyaw Zaw Win, a spokesman for the USDP in northern Shan State, denied the allegations. “It is just a politically motivated attack on us to say people are coerced to vote for the USDP while they can vote freely.”

He denied having any ties with people’s militias, the Tatmadaw or any other armed organizations. The USDP has never requested the people’s militias to solicit votes for them in their territories.

Political analyst U Ye Tun said: “Every armed organization wields influence in their territories one way or another.”

Ten political parties are fielding candidates in Shan State where 45 Lower House seats, 12 Upper House seats, 90 state parliament seats and seven ethnic minister positions are up for grabs.

There are over 30 people’s militias in Shan State with thousands of troops, with most based in Kutkai and Muse townships.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.

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