As Civil War Continues, Locals Fear Loss of Voting Rights in Northern Shan State

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Locals and civil society organizations (CSOs) have called for a halt to fighting in northern Shan State ahead of Burma’s general election next month.

The Burma Army and the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) have had clashes in Kyaukme Township since October 2. People in the region have voiced concern that they will be unable to participate in the general election on November 8, based on past experiences of canceled voting in the state during times of conflict.

“The 2015 general election could not be held in Kesi, Monghsu and Tangyan townships in Shan State because of regional instability,” Nang Pan Ei Phyu, who is working with the Tai Youth Network, told NMG. “Only the 2017 by-election took place in these townships. So, if clashes continue in [northern Shan State], there won’t be polling stations in this area. People will not be able to vote in the election in this area. That’s why we want to demand that all armed organizations stop clashes as soon as possible.”

A local man in Kyaukme told NMG that he has seen little to no political activity in his area due to the fighting.

“People are afraid of losing their voting rights. There is no election campaign in this area. Some people do not understand how to vote. The election is just one month away,” he said.

The Union Election Commission (UEC) called off the 2015 general election in seven townships and 600 village tracts in Kachin, Karen, Mon and Shan states and Bago Region, citing ongoing instability.

In Shan State, this included Mongla, Monghsu, Kesi, Pangwai, Mong Mao, Ner Hpan and Panghsan townships. Some village tracts in Muse, Mangton, Kong Gyan, Mong Yang, Mong Hket, Mong Yawng, Mongton, Tangyan and Metmang townships also saw electoral participation called off.

Mong Mao, Ner Hpan, Metmang, Pangwai and Panghsan are townships in the Wa Self-Administered Region of the state, leaving much of the ethnic Wa community excluded from the polls.

In Kachin State, the 221 village tracts where voting could not take place were in Sumprabum, Waingmaw, Hkawnglanphu, Machanbaw, Chipwi, Sawtlor, N’jan Yang, Mansi, Tanai, and Shwegu townships.

Village tracts in Myawaddy, Thandawnggyi, Hpa-an, Hlaing Bwe, and Kyainseikgyi townships in Karen State and Baw Naw Gyi village tract in Belin Township in Mon State also did not allow voting in 2015.

Residents of 29 village tracts in Shwe Kyin Township and 12 village tracts in Kyaukkyi Township in Bago Region were also unable to vote.