Insein detainees cast advance vote

Detainees awaiting sentencing in Rangoon’s notorious Insein prison were yesterday told to vote in advance for tomorrow’s elections.

Burmese law states that no one convicted of a crime is allowed to vote, ruling out some 2,200 political prisoners. But authorities reportedly asked those yet to be convicted to vote.

A visitor to Hpa-an prison in Karen state told DVB that detainees there were also asked to vote in advance, and told to vote only for the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).

The Rangoon-based Weekly Eleven news journal said the government’s Prison Administration department is working with the Election Commission (EC) – the country’s supreme authority before and during polls – to bring voting rights to inmates awaiting sentencing.

Insein prison holds up to 10,000 inmates and is Burma’s largest detention centre. It is famed for being the principal jail for the country’s political prisoners, 45 of whom also spent the last elections in 1990 behind bars.

Advance voting legally began yesterday, with instructions from the junta to collect votes from people, such as fishermen or active troops, who are unlikely to be close to a polling booth on Sunday. Reports of illegal vote collecting have repeatedly surfaced.

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