Myanmar’s junta began forcibly gathering household registrations on Monday in preparation for a national election that has been denounced both at home and abroad as a fake exercise to cement military rule.
The junta announced the census will be conducted nationwide until Jan. 31 but didn’t openly say it would be used to compile voter lists for its planned August election.
Village, tract and ward administration bodies in Yangon townships started collecting registrations to verify the number of residents in each ward on Jan. 9.
“Today [Jan. 10], they abruptly announced it with loudspeakers and summoned the people to submit name lists [at collection points],” said U Tin, a Kyauktada township resident.
One resident from each household had to submit their registration paper along with a list of any guests at a temporary street-corner booth, he explained.
The regime’s poll has been denounced as a sham by Myanmar’s parallel civilian government, other revolutionary forces, and democracies around the world.
In Myanmar, the election is widely viewed as the regime’s attempt to tighten its grip on power following last year’s coup while the US and UN said it would be neither free nor fair.
“Of course, they will just make the election happen, but the whole thing is laughable. What will they [junta authorities] do if we don’t go and vote? They are completely ridiculous,” U Tin said.
The civilian National Unity Government (NUG)’s Home Affairs and Immigration Ministry warned on Jan 9 it will take action under the counter-terrorism law against anyone who joins junta efforts to hold an illegitimate election.
“The junta led by Min Aung Hlaing is compiling voter lists with door-to-door data collections over 23 days, from Jan 9 to Jan 31. In some places, administrative bodies and immigration officers, the stooges of the military council, started forcibly collecting population and household registration lists on Jan 7,” the NUG statement said.
Armed resistance groups around the country have released similar warnings.
The Chin Defence Force in Hakha township (CDF-Hakha) today declared it will not permit the regime to hold an election on its territory.
“We will not allow the terrorist military council, which is killing innocent people, to conduct elections in Hakha Township and we view anyone who participates or collaborates in preparations for the junta election as an enemy worthy of strong action,” the CDF-Hakha statement said.
Despite the warnings, regime administration bodies continue to collect data for voter lists. The collection process began in the administrative capital on December 30, according to a Facebook post by the junta-appointed Naypyitaw Council.
It said teams of Immigration Department officials have been knocking on doors to gather names of voting-age residents.
“Whether they are collecting or not, I will not vote. I can’t accept it. The election was already held,” said Hlaing township resident Ko Lat, referring to the 2020 polls which the National League for Democracy (NLD) won by a landslide. The regime began collecting household lists in Hlaing yesterday.
“They may force people to vote, but the people will also try their best not to,” he added.
Resistance groups in Launglone township, Tanintharyi Region were the first to respond with arms when the nationwide census officially launched on Monday.
A team of administrators being guarded by junta troops were attacked as they prepared to collect household data at a primary school in Kamyaw Kin village, Launglone Township.
Launglone Peoples Defense Force and Dawei Guerrilla Revolutionary Force (DGRF) today claimed responsibility for the attack, saying they had killed one junta soldier and seized an AK-47 rifle and ammunition.