Election 2020

Myanmar’s NLD Calls for Release of Three Candidates Abducted by AA in Rakhine

By Nyein Nyein 22 October 2020

The ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) has called for the immediate release of three of its candidates who were abducted by the Arakan Army last week while campaigning in Rakhine State’s Taungup Township, following the armed group’s confirmation that the three are in its custody.

It has been nine days since the three candidates—Daw Chit Chit Chaw, Daw Ni Ni May Myint and U Min Aung—who are standing in the November general election for Lower House, Upper House and Rakhine State parliament seats respectively in Taungup, were abducted in Hpaung Kha Village on Oct. 14. The latter two are sitting lawmakers for the township. A group of AA men in plainclothes abducted the trio after physically abusing them, according to witnesses.

The NLD released a statement on Wednesday evening condemning the AA’s actions against the candidates. It said the three had done nothing illegal, and had been in Hpaung Kha Village to canvass for votes while observing both the election law and COVID-19-prevention rules set out by the Ministry of Health and Sports.

Fighting between the AA and the Myanmar military in northern Rakhine State intensified in late 2018 and spread to southern Rakhine last year. As a result, the Union Election Commission recently announced that nine townships in northern Rakhine would be excluded from the November election entirely, citing security concerns. The poll has also been canceled in parts of southern Rakhine, including some parts of Taungup.

The increasing prevalence of armed clashes in the area has seen an increase in the number of local residents who have been displaced, injured or killed. Additionally, civilians are at risk of arrest by both the military and the AA.

The three NLD candidates from Rakhine State’s Taungup Township who were abducted on Oct. 14 are seen in a photograph released by the Arakan Army on Monday: (from left) U Min Aung, Daw Ni Ni May Myint and Daw Chit Chit Chaw.

The NLD said its candidates were physically and verbally abused, and that the AA treated them like criminals.

In a statement released on Monday, the AA accused the abducted NLD candidates of being “traitors” and “Burmese puppets” who are “jeopardizing the Arakanese liberation movement” and collaborating with the Myanmar Army to “commit torture and killings against civilians.”

The NLD said political solutions must be found for the armed conflicts in Myanmar, and the NLD government was working toward achieving peace and building a democratic federal union through the peace process.

It added that the AA’s actions “could create a huge obstacle to implementation of the peace process in the future.”

On Wednesday, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma) (AAPP) urged the immediate release of the candidates, pointing out that Daw Ni Ni May Myint and U Min Aung are both former political prisoners who have dedicated their lives to promoting democracy, human rights and national equality.

“Extrajudicial intimidation and arrests of candidates of any party violate the basic human rights of those individuals and affect a free and fair election,” the AAPP said.

The US and French embassies in Myanmar have condemned the abduction of the three candidates and demanded their immediate release.

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