Some ten thousand Karen would-be voters have been disenfranchised after Burma’s election commission announced that 102 villages in Burma’s east are too dangerous for polling to go ahead.
The Union Election Commission (UEC) announced the upcoming general election has been postponed indefinitely across one quarter of Karen States’ 400 village tracts, citing security concerns.
The decision will leave parliamentary seats unfilled across both houses of Union Parliament and Karen State’s regional legislature.
Maung Maung Naing added that the villages in question are in areas under control by Mon and Karen ethnic armed groups. Prior to the decision to postpone, the UEC had announced voter lists and formed local commission branches in a number of villages – before being met with objections by armed groups.
“Security can only be ensured in areas where government is in place, but there are many villages in Karen State where local administrations cannot yet be formed. Moreover, local election commission branches can only be formed when there are village administrations and such.
“Ideally, we can only have elections in areas where there is government administration and election commissions, and an environment where all parties are able to campaign with equal rights and without bias,” Maung Maung Naing said.
The armed groups later retracted their opposition following requests from locals, and asked the UEC to go ahead with original electoral plans – going so far as to pledge security for the polling process. Despite this, the UEC confirmed the postponement would continue in the area.
Saw Aung Naing Kyaw, a representative from the Phalon-Sawaw Democratic Party, questioned why the polls are being delayed.
“The UEC said the polls cannot continue for security reasons, but in areas such as Kyain-Seigyi town and Khale-Tagondai village-tracts, there are government schools, clinics, police stations and ceasefire militia groups. It is questionable why the polls cannot take place despite having all of that,” he said.