Without ID, Shan Refugees and IDPs Excluded From Burma’s Election

By Network Media Group
Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Shan refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in camps in Burma and Thailand along the border want to participate in the 2020 general election but because they don’t have a national ID card they won’t be able to vote when the polls open on September 8.

Sai Lin, in charge of the Thai Koung Jor refugee camp and member of the Shan Refugee Committee, told NMG most of the refugees in Thailand don’t have ID because they come from remote, rural areas of Burma. Also, many of them don’t speak Burmese, posing additional challenges for acquiring ID.

“If possible, we want to vote in the election,” he said, explaining they also can’t vote in Thailand because they don’t have Thai citizenship, despite living in the country for many years.

There are about 6,200 living in the five Shan IDP camps in Burma and in Koung Jor who won’t be able to cast their ballots when polling opens.

Sai Lek, general secretary of Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) said his party is working closely with Shan civil society organizations in Thailand to help Shan migrant workers vote in the upcoming race.

“If they want to vote during the election, they must contact the embassy in Thailand. If they have an official document, they can vote.” He estimates there are about 1,000 Shan workers eligible to vote.

Sai Lek wishes he could do more to help IDPs and refugees, but without documents it is up to the government to decide what can be done. The amount of people who cannot vote or face obstacles to voting is enormous,” he says. Shan political parties need to work harder so these people will be included during future races.

For similar reasons, many Shan refugees and IDPs were also excluded during the 2015 and 2010 elections. Although, some migrant workers in Thailand were allowed to cast their votes, according to the Shan Refugee Committee.

The five Shan IDP camps are Loi Kaw Wan, Loi Sarm Sip, Loi Lam, Kong Moong Murng and Loi Tai Leng