Thousands Excluded as Overseas Voting in Myanmar Election Starts in Singapore
By Nyein Nyein 2 October 2020
While more than 32,000 migrants from Myanmar are eligible to cast advance ballots in Myanmar’s Nov. 8 general election in Singapore from Thursday, another 2,000 did not get their ballots papers although many were on the voter lists.
Voters in Singapore can cast their ballots from Oct. 1-18 and make up about 32 percent of overseas voters.
Nationals from Myanmar in Singapore, whose right to vote in the election was uncertain, are among nearly 8,000 nationals who are not on the Union Election Commission’s (UEC) voter lists, even though they registered for early voting at Myanmar’s embassies.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, from July 16 to Aug. 16, 109,470 migrants registered for early voting. The UEC approved 101,526 of them and their ballots papers were sent to various diplomatic missions in late September.
Those who applied for the early voting using form 15 did not get their names on early voter lists as the applications for early voting applications did not arrive at township offices in time, according to voting volunteers in Singapore.
“We heard some of the form 15 applications went missing and the mail was sent to the wrong addresses,” said Daw Khin Moe Moe Shein of Singapore, who volunteers to help with early voting. She voted on Thursday but many of her friends are not on the voter lists.
She has been studying the process, how the forms are submitted and why around 2,000 applicants have been denied their voting rights.
Daw Khin Moe Moe Shein told The Irrawaddy that when she talked to the electoral sub-commissions in Yangon’s Bahan, Hlaing, North Dagon, East Dagon, North Okkalapa and Kyauktan townships, the commissioners said they could not provide advance ballots as they did not receive requests although the applicants are on the voter lists.
The volunteer said: “It is sad to learn that eligible voters’ forms were sent to the wrong addresses and they are losing their right to vote due to mismanagement.”
Ko Myo Naing from Yangon’s Kamayut Township, who now works in Singapore, was surprised to find his name was not on the voter lists on Sept. 27 on the embassy’s website.
The embassy in Singapore said anyone not on the UEC’s list must submit a form to the embassy before Sunday, Oct. 4.
“I submitted the complaint form and on Thursday my name appeared on the list but I will have to wait for the ballots papers to arrive in Singapore before the deadline,” said Ko Myo Naing.
COVID-19 travel restrictions made him question whether his ballots papers will arrive on time.
Despite the uncertainty, Ko Myo Naing also volunteers to help other nationals in Singapore. Most of them are domestic helpers, so the volunteers help them by sharing information about early voting and getting a queue number to vote in the embassy, he said.
Citizens from Myanmar in Singapore cast the most ballots in the 2015 general election.
Because of COVID-19, the Singaporean authorities are restricting gatherings and the police monitor queues outside Myanmar’s embassy to ensure preventative measures are followed.
“The police and internal affairs officers are watching closely and if we get too close together, they remind us to keep our distance,” said Ma May Sandar, a volunteer who helped other voters in Singapore on Thursday.
Meanwhile, in Thailand, three polling stations will be opened in the embassy in Bangkok between Oct. 3 to Oct. 13 for some 39,000 registered voters.
In northern Thailand, nearly 1,000 migrants can cast their ballots from Oct. 10-13, according to the Myanmar Consulate General Office in Chiang Mai.
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