Embassies, Civil Society Call On Arakan Army to Release NLD Candidates

Thursday, October 22, 2020

International embassies in Yangon and the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) have demanded that the Arakan Army release three National League for Democracy (NLD) electoral candidates currently being detained by the armed group.

The Arakan Army released a statement on October 19 announcing that they had arrested the NLD candidates. The American, French and Canadian embassies, along with the AAPP, responded by calling for their release.

“Threats, intimidation and violence, including abduction, have no place in a democracy,” the Canadian embassy wrote in its own statement on October 20. “Violence or the threat of violence is never an acceptable means to achieve political goals. The Embassy continues to call for a cessation of conflict and a return to political dialogue as a means to address grievances and to ensure a safe, peaceful campaign and election period in Myanmar.”

The US embassy said that all electoral candidates should be able to “launch a safe campaign under a democratic system.”

Burma’s general election is scheduled for November 8, and the arrest of the candidates is the latest of many concerns surrounding the upcoming vote.

“An essential component of a free and fair democratic election is the right of candidates to campaign safely. Extrajudicial intimidation and arrests of candidates of any party violate the basic human rights of those individuals and affect a free and fair election,” the AAPP wrote in its own statement on Wednesday.

Political analyst Maung Maung Soe said that the primary issue of concern is the ongoing civil war in western Burma, where the Arakan Army and Burma Army continue to engage in intense clashes. He argued that the effects of the fighting go beyond the election.

“If arresting three people will impact the election, a question is raised about how there are many casualties in Rakhine State. Won’t this impact the election?” he asked. “Many children have died in the clashes. Schoolteachers have died in the clashes. I don’t think this only concerns the election. If they cannot stop the war, I am sure it will impact the election in Rakhine State. I also think it’s not enough to only look at this issue.”

The Arakan Army’s statement said that they would release the three NLD candidates if the ruling NLD government also released ethnic Rakhine political prisoners.

“If the NLD government immediately releases Rakhine politicians, innocent students and Rakhine people from prison unconditionally, the AA will release the three electoral candidates,” the armed organization wrote on Monday.

The three individuals detained by the AA are Min Aung, Ni Ni May Myint and Chit Chit Chaw. They were arrested while campaigning in Hpoung Hkar village in Taung Gok Township on October 14. They are running for parliamentary seats in the state parliament, Lower House, and Upper House, respectively.