Rural Kachin offered incentives to vote "Yes"

Apr 22, 2008 (DVB)-Government officials are trying to persuade voters in rural areas of Kachin state to vote "Yes" in the national referendum by offering them mobile phones and rice, a Kachin news editor said.

Lahpai Naw Din, editor of the Thailand-based Kachin News Group, said religious leaders in Kachin state, where most of the population is Christian, were being offered incentives to persuade them to vote in favour of the constitution in the 10 May referendum.

"Not only that , the authorities are manipulating people who live in the upper area of the Maykha river, who are uneducated and don’t have much knowledge of politics," Lahpai Naw Din said.

"They are already sure they are going to win a lot of ‘Yes’ votes there," he said.

"Locals there said they were told by the authorities that they have to vote ‘Yes’ or they will be in trouble."

Lahpai Naw Din said authorities had also been selling cheap food to the locals, who have not been able to produce much food for themselves from their slash and burn farming.

Many rural Kachin people have no access to information about their other options in the referendum.

"It is likely that they are going to vote ‘Yes’ since they have no knowledge about politics or about the referendum and constitution. They never listen to the radio either, since not many of them have radios," Lahpai Naw Din said.

Lahpai Naw Din said the majority of Kachin people living in cities were against the constitution, and had been unhappy about the Kachin Independence Organisation's participation in the National Convention.

Reporting by Naw Say Phaw

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