Election Commission Rejects Appeal by Kachin Warlord

By Htun Htun 1 September 2016

NAYPYIDAW — The Union Election Commission on Tuesday ruled against an appeal launched by veteran Kachin militia leader Zahkung Ting Ying, who will now forfeit his seat in the Upper House of Burma’s Parliament.

Zahkung was defending two cases involving intimidation, defamation and alleged violence during the campaign period for the general election last year, via Zahkung’s private militia—the New Democratic Army-Kachin, which is firmly allied with the Burma Army and became a Border Guard Force in 2009.

The cases were filed by rival independent candidate Yaw Nar and by a National League for Democracy candidate, San Wai Khaung Lwan, who competed in another constituency in the same area of eastern Kachin State.

In June, a post-election tribunal in Naypyidaw, made up of three members of the election commission, pronounced Zahkung Ting Ying guilty of breaching Article 66 of the Upper House Election Law, which outlines electoral “malpractices” including “committing violence,” “false accusations,” “creating public unrest,” and obstructing a party or person “for the purpose of electing a [parliamentary] candidate.”

As an independent candidate in the general election in November of last year, Zakhung won the Upper House seat of Kachin State-5, covering Chipwi, Tsawlaw and Injingyang townships, a sparsely populated area home to fewer than 20,000 people, according to the 2014 census. He was lawmaker also under the previous government, from 2011.

Zahkung will be replaced in Parliament by independent candidate Yaw Nar, the runner-up in the November poll with around 3,000 votes to Zahkung’s approximately 5,000.

“I have no comment about the commission’s decision. Since it is the final ruling, we can do nothing more,” said Hla Han, the lawyer acting for Zahkung.

Due to Zahkung Ting Ying’s close allegiance with Burma’s military and his clout as a local power broker in Kachin State, this tribunal case was a test of the fairness of the election commission’s post-election dispute resolution process.

After the election, the election commission received a total of 45 complaints, which were put to tribunals. However, rulings have only been made in 19 cases as of Aug. 30, and the process continues.

The tribunal process lacks structural independence from the election commission. Tribunal judges in all cases have been senior members of the commission. Although they had the option to appoint independent legal experts as judges, they chose not to do so. Appeals against rulings go only to the commission, whose decision is final, without judicial or parliamentary oversight.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.