Burma

Violence in Rakhine Prevents Voter List Posting in 15 Village-tracts, IDP Camps

By Min Aung Khine 7 August 2020

SITTWE, Rakhine—Preliminary voter lists still cannot be posted publicly in 15 village-tracts in northern Rakhine State due to armed conflict between the Myanmar military and the Arakan Army (AA), according to the Rakhine State Election Sub-commission.

Preliminary lists allow voters to check their registration information and correct any errors so they are able to vote in the November election. The lists still cannot be posted in village-tracts in Buthidaung, Kyauktaw, Mrauk-U, Minbya and Ann townships as these areas are experiencing serious armed clashes between government troops and the AA, said U Thurein Htut, secretary of the state election sub-commission.

“Voter lists could not be posted in a total of 15 village-tracts, mainly because there are not administrative bodies there. Some have abandoned their villages and the security is not good. Due to these factors, voter lists could not be displayed in those villages,” he told The Irrawaddy.

Voter lists could not be displayed in five village-tracts along the Kaladan River in Kyauktaw, including Meewa Village, which has seen fierce fighting since February over a strategic hill. As a result of the same clashes, voter lists could not be displayed in Chin State’s Paletwa Township, which borders Kyauktaw.

Election authorities were unable to post voter lists in four village-tracts in Mrauk-U, three village-tracts in Buthidaung, two village-tracts in Minbya and one village-tract in Ann Township.

According to Rakhine civil society organizations, the fighting in Rakhine State has affected around 200,000 local people and led to the opening of over 150 camps for internally displaced people (IDPs).

Rakhine Ethnic Congress (REC) Chair U Shwe Paw Sein said local Rakhine people are not interested in the coming election due to the current political landscape and are only struggling for their survival.

“People at the grassroots level believed real democracy would be practiced by holding elections since 2010. They cast votes for candidates. But since they were elected to the Parliament, they have totally ignored the role of the people,” he told The Irrawaddy.

“While people are in trouble, the Parliament has kept silent. Under such circumstances, people have little interest in candidates and the election,” he added.

The Union Election Commission (UEC) has said that the general election will be held on Nov. 8 and preliminary voter lists would be posted publicly from July 25 to Aug. 7. However, following widespread complaints about errors in the voter lists, the commission has extended the period for one more week until Aug. 14.

Ma Thein Mayi, a woman taking shelter at Pipinyin IDP camp, said she wished to cast a vote but voter lists are not yet displayed at her camp.

“Voter lists have not yet been displayed at my camp. I want to cast a vote. My village was set on fire [in the fighting]. We suffered huge losses. We don’t know if [the election] will be for the better or for worse. But I want the election to take place,” she told The Irrawaddy.

The Rakhine State Election Sub-commission was not able to post voter lists at IDP camps because it has no data about the IDPs, such as on which village people are from or how many people are staying at each camp.

“We have posted voter lists in camps where there are exact data about how many people from which villages are staying there,” said U Thurein Htut.

“But in camps where there are no camp managers or administrative bodies [to register the IDPs], we can’t post voter lists. We have posted voter lists in camps where we can. If a village has been destroyed and voter lists can’t be displayed there, we posted the voter lists of that village at the office of the township election sub-commission,” he said.

A total of 232 candidates, from 13 political parties as well as independent candidates, have registered to run in the election in Rakhine.

The Rakhine State Election Sub-commission says it plans to open around 2,600 polling stations in Rakhine, which has some 1,640,000 eligible voters.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.

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