Kachin State Safe for By-elections: KIO

By Election, Lawi Weng 29 March 2012

The Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) has promised that it will not interrupt Sunday’s by-elections and is even willing to help Burma’s main opposition party ensure security in Kachin State, according a statement released on Wednesday.

The ethnic armed group, which is currently fighting the Burmese government in northernmost Burma, released statement which said, “We are going to help the NLD [National League for Democracy] if they think the election held in Kachin State will be free and fair.”

The KIO statement emerged after Burmese state-run television broadcast an announcement last week by the Election Commission (EC) that voting in three constituencies in Kachin State has been postponed as “security conditions are not conducive to conducting a free and fair by-election.”

It said that voting would be held when security conditions improved.

The KIO denied government allegations that security was a legitimate reason to postpone voting, and that fighting only occurred in remote parts of the three constituencies concerned—Mogaung, Phakant and Bamaw.

“The fighting only occurred in local areas,” said KIO spokesperson La Nan. “It did not occur in the town. The government can provide security for the election if they want to hold it.”

La Nan added that it was clear that the KIO would not interrupt the election as the group never has done in the past. The group instructed its members during the 2010 general election to let the civilians vote for who they liked, and even provided security for the poll.

The NLD asked the Burmese government and EC to help them negotiate with the KIO regarding voting security conditions in a statement released on March 26.

“We wanted to negotiate with the KIO if either the government or EC can help with this,” said the NLD statement. “We believe that it is possible to run the election in these three constituencies as we heard from people there that there is no problem with security.”