Myanmar Election Board to Register Voters in Barracks Amid Calls for Transparency
By Zue Zue 5 June 2020
YANGON—The Union Election Commission (UEC) said it will register the family members of military personnel living inside military cantonments for the November election.
“Following the negotiation between the Office of the Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services (Army) and the UEC, the election commissions at state and region levels have prepared to coordinate with relevant commands and register military personnel and their family members in local battalions and military units,” said Yangon Region Election Commission spokesman U San Myint.
“Region and state election commissions will hold talks with relevant commands, and township election commissions will contact local battalions and military units and ask for eligible voter lists,” said U Myint San.
Since the 2010 general election, military personnel and their family members in many constituencies have been ordered to vote in military cantonments, under the watch of military superiors. In the 2015 general election and the by-elections in 2012, 2017 and 2018, the military limited monitoring of polling stations inside military compounds and areas where military personnel live for “security reasons.”
The Myanmar Parliament passed amendments to election by-laws in February that require military members and their families to vote at polling stations outside of their barracks in this year’s general elections.
The UEC said the amendment aims for the military personnel and their family members “to be able to cast votes together with civilian voters and to be transparent, where candidates, observers and party representatives can freely enter and monitor.”
Myanmar’s military has an estimated 500,000 personnel. With the addition of family members, over 1 million people out of an estimated 32 million eligible voters in the 2015 election were affiliated with the military. Over 37 million people in Myanmar will be eligible to vote in the 2020 general election, according to the UEC.
Shan Nationalities League for Democracy spokesman U Sai Leik stressed the need to get accurate lists of eligible voters among military personnel and their relatives in constituencies where military barracks cover a larger proportion than civilian areas.
“If [the UEC] can’t verify [the lists of voters], how can their votes—either advance votes or votes on election day—be measured? If not, then rival parties will have to suffer from a serious handicap,” he said.
He called for the voter lists of military personnel and their relatives to be verified by political parties apart from the UEC. Political parties have access to the lists of eligible civilian voters.
Sai Ye Kyaw Swar Myint, director of the People’s Alliance for Credible Elections, also shares the same view. “There will be doubts unless the lists of eligible voters from inside barracks are released transparently,” he said.
He warned of the risk of allowing advance voting without knowing the exact lists of eligible voters from inside the barracks.
“If we don’t know the exact voter lists of cantonments, even if they come out [of the barracks], there will still be problems due to the advance vote. So it is necessary to get the voter lists of cantonments,” he said.
He also called on the UEC to create an environment in which civil servants, including military personnel and police, can vote freely without fear of being punished by superiors.
Voters should also have the right to vote for the party they like in areas where ethnic armed groups are present, said Sai Ye Kyaw Swar Myint.
“If voters are forced to vote for a particular party when they are threatened with weapons, they are not enjoying their suffrage,” he added.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.
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