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A National League for Democracy (NLD) candidate in Pegu Division has accused his rivals from the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), including the Burmese vice-president, of drafting Buddhist monks to garner votes and verbally attack the opposition.
The NLD’s Saw Maung Thein alleges that USDP campaigners in his constituency of Zigon have been visiting Buddhist monasteries and have conscripted the assistance of monks who are now advising local laypeople to support the ruling party and smear Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, the NLD.
Incumbent Vice-President Nyan Htun and Pegu [Bago] Division Chief Minister Nyan Win are listed by the USDP to contest lower house and regional assembly seats, respectively, in Zigon. Saw Maung Thein is the NLD candidate running for the regional assembly.
“Soon after USDP campaigners visited the town and local monasteries, several monks began urging locals to vote for that party,” he complained. “Some monks even spoke on loudspeakers to crowds.”
He alleged that some monks have begun smearing the reputation of NLD leader Suu Kyi and are warning the public that if she comes to power “the country will fall under the influence of the kalar [meaning ‘blacks’, a derogatory reference to Rohingyas or Muslims].”
However, the USDP’s Zigon Township joint-secretary Hnin Yi Win denied the NLD candidate’s allegation, insisting its campaigners only visited monasteries to pay respect to the monks.
“Our campaigners never told the monks to say those things – they just paid respect and made donations to the monks as they usually do when they go on campaign,” she said. “We did not tell the monks to garner votes for us, as that is prohibited under the Election Law.”
She said Nyan Htun and Nyan Win, both Zigon natives, had visited the town more than 10 times and met with locals, but had not yet addressed any public rallies.
Five political parties – NLD, USDP, National Unity Party, National Development Party and Myanmar Farmers’ Development Party – are fielding candidates for the upcoming November election in Zigon, home to more than 57,000 eligible voters.
In the 2010 polls, which the NLD boycotted, the USDP easily took each seat in Zigon, with its candidates winning more than 50 percent of ballots cast for each assembly.