Election 2020

No Security Guarantees Made for Rakhine Voting: Myanmar Government

By Khine Rola 11 January 2021


Sittwe, Rakhine State — There are still no solid security guarantees to hold voting in parts of Rakhine State where polling was canceled in November, despite a push from Myanmar’s military, according to government spokesman U Zaw Htay.

The Union Election Commission (UEC) canceled voting in Buthidaung, Maungdaw, Rathedaung, Pauktaw, Ponnagyun, Kyauktaw, Mrauk-U, Minbya and Myebon townships.

Moreover, voting was partially canceled in the state capital, Sittwe, Kyaukpyu and Taungup townships, which left over 1.2 million out of 1.6 million voters in Rakhine disenfranchised.

U Zaw Htay said there must be a solid agreement with the AA for voting to be held in Rakhine. “Security guarantees are required if we are to hold free and fair voting. No organization has guaranteed much-needed security to the UEC,” he added.

On January 7, Myanmar’s military or Tatmadaw called for voting to be held as soon as possible in strife-torn parts of Rakhine and Mongkaing in Shan State. The newly elected parliament will come to session in February.

The Tatmadaw said in a statement that there have been no clashes since Nov. 12 in Rakhine State as the military and the Arakan Army managed to observe a temporary truce. In the meantime, the Tatmadaw held talks with the AA and its political wing, the United League of Arakan, on holding voting, the military said.

On Nov. 28 Yohei Sasakawa, Japan’s special reconciliation envoy in Myanmar, visited Buthidaung and Kyauktaw which experienced the fiercest fighting in northern Rakhine. The diplomat said the townships were sufficiently stable to hold voting.

There is a need to complete voter lists in the townships where the majority of civilians have been displaced by armed conflict and are taking shelter in camps. Many village administrators, who are critical in holding elections, had resigned, said U Zaw Htay. Many village-tract administrators in Kyauktaw, Rathedaung, Mrauk-U, Minbya and Myebon townships in northern Rakhine have resigned in previous years after they were detained and interrogated in connection with the fighting.

U Thurein Htut, an officer at the Rakhine State election sub-commission, said the body is prepared to hold voting if instructed by the UEC and will open polling stations in internally displaced camps.

“We have ballot papers ready but we don’t have the budget. And we will have to fix voter lists if we are to open polling stations in camps,” he said.

Ponnagyun Township resident Ko Kyaw Hlaing asked the election commission to hold voting before the new government is sworn in.

Under election law, village administrator positions left vacant must be filled first before voting, said National League for Democracy spokesman Dr. Myo Nyunt.

“Voting still can’t be held because of legal restrictions. Administrators resigned in Myebon, Minbya and elsewhere. They must be appointed first,” he said. The NLD is unlikely to win many of the seats due to be contested.

In his message to mark the 46th anniversary of the founding of Rakhine State on Dec. 15, President U Win Myint called for cooperation between citizens and organizations to rapidly hold the voting in Rakhine.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko