Myanmar Teachers’ Groups to Defend Staff from Election Fraud Claims

By San Yamin Aung 2 December 2020

YANGON — Teachers’ groups in Myanmar have formed an emergency response committee to resolve accusations against teaching staff assigned to polling stations in last month’s general election.

The committee’s formation marks the first time teachers have countered electoral allegations involving staff. The committee was formed by the Basic Education Workers’ Union, Myanmar Teachers’ Federation and University Teachers’ Associations Network on Monday.

The committee said it would defend teachers facing accusations related to the Nov. 8 election. It said at least two teachers — Daw Khin Mar Yi and U Mya Htay, both basic education school headteachers, worked at polling stations in Mandalay Region’s Pyawbwe Township and Ayeyarwady Region’s Ngapudaw Township respectively — have been sued by Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) representatives.

Daw Khin Mar Yi is accused of soliciting votes for the National League for Democracy (NLD) when collecting advance ballots. U Mya Htay is accused by the USDP of allowing an underaged voter to cast ballots.

“We worked hard [at polling stations]. Being falsely accused of campaigning, while I did nothing wrong, damaged my reputation. I will face the lawsuit to reveal the truth,” Daw Khin Mar Yi, 53, said. She also served at polling stations during the 2010 and 2015 general elections.

Ko Myo Thu Ko from the Basic Education Workers’ Union said teachers assigned to polling stations were dutiful and worked transparently with election sub-commission staff in front of poll observers, representatives of candidates and the media on election day.

The teachers’ groups denounced any insults and defamation against the teachers who faced a rising risk of COVID-19. Around 200,000 teachers worked at polling stations on Nov. 8 with over 100 becoming infected with coronavirus. Two teachers have subsequently died.

The committee’s spokesman, U Min Min Htut, said the committee will provide legal protection to teachers facing lawsuits.

“If anyone broke the law, they should face legal action. But we won’t tolerate false claims and defamation against honest teachers who did nothing wrong. In these cases, we will file counter lawsuits,” he said.

The USDP told the media in Yangon on Nov. 11 that “some schoolteachers at polling stations were sympathizers of the National League for Democracy and were not neutral”. The comments sparked anger among teachers, who demanded an apology. The USDP replied: “It was an error by a typist.”

Additional reporting by Zue Zue.