Displaced Shan Say It is ‘Impossible’ For them to Vote in 2020 Election

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Shan refugees speculate that they will once again be unable to practice voting rights in Burma’s next election, scheduled for later this year.

Sai Leun, who is working with the Shan Refugee Committee, said that because they lack identity documents, displaced Shan people will not be able to cast votes in their homeland. They also were unable to vote in 2010 or 2015.

“We don’t have national ID cards, so we have no chance to vote in the election. It’s impossible for us to vote in coming general election,” Sai Leun told NMG.

Language differences also contribute to their marginalization, he added.

“Many Shan people cannot speak Burmese. It creates more difficulties,” Sai Leun said.

There are six Shan displaced persons camps along the Thai-Burma border, home to 6,000 people: Kong Jor, Kaung Mung Murng, Loi Sam Sip, Loi Lam, Loi Tai Leng and Loi Kaw Wan camps.

General secretary of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) Sai Lek said that the Union Election Commission (UEC) is the institution that must ensure displaced people and migrant workers can vote.

“The UEC has the full responsibility to make sure refugees can vote in the election,” he explained.

Burmese workers abroad with official travel documents were eligible to vote in past elections, Sai Lek pointed out. If the government is committed to helping those without official ID to vote, he said that political parties would assist with this.

“These people are our country’s citizens, but they don’t have national ID cards or official documents. So how can they vote? If the government accommodates them, political parties can help,” Sai Lek told NMG.

The Shan Refugee Committee said that the number of Shan migrant workers in Thailand who were able to vote in past elections in Burma has been very limited.