Polling for the general election has been cancelled in four Shan State townships amid security concerns as intense fighting continues between Burmese government forces and the Shan State Army-North (SSA-N) rebels in the area.
An announcement by the Union Election Commission (UEC) on 27 October said elections will not be held in the constituencies covering Monghsu and Kehsi townships. In addition, no polling stations will open in eight village-tracts in Tangyang Township and five wards and 37 village-tracts in Hopong Township.
Monghsu township election commission secretary Myo Nyunt said his office has not yet received a formal directive from the UEC about the poll cancellations but confirmed that there have been security concerns in the area due to the ongoing conflict.
He said four political parties had fielded candidates to run in the elections in Monghsu Township where 34 polling stations had been scheduled.
The Shan Nationalities Democratic Party (SNDP) on 19 October requested the UEC to postpone the elections in Monghsu, Kehsi and Tangyang, citing security concerns.
Nang Kawng Kham, a regional assembly candidate in Monghsu for the SNDP’s main rival, the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD), said cancelling the elections means the disenfranchisement of local voters and local political parties.
“The people wish to vote – we are now collecting signatures for a petition and will send it to the UEC when we get 5,000 signatures,” she said. “Cancelling the elections will cause a lot of damage. We have travelled to remote, hard-to-reach hamlets in our quest to campaign; we have spent a lot of time, money and energy. It now seems like it has all gone to waste.”
Schools, markets and shops in the ruby-rich town of Monghsu were closed due to the hostilities, which included artillery shelling. Some 3,000 civilians have been forced to flee their homes in Monghsu, Kehsi and Mongnawng since 6 October.
On 12 October, the UEC announced a cancellation of polling in 403 village-tracts and five townships across Burma, including Kachin, Karen, Shan and Mon states, and Pegu Division, also on grounds of conflict in those areas.
In other developments, Shan State Army-South (SSA-S) leader Yawd Serk urged the Burmese government to end hostilities with its rival SSA-N.
The SSA-S is one of the eight armed groups that signed a ceasefire agreement with the government on 15 October, while the SSA-N declined to attend the ceremony.
In a letter addressed to Burmese President Thein Sein on Tuesday, the SSA-S leader stressed that the SSA-N had actively participated in peace talks and Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) drafting, and that the group had not refused to sign the NCA but was entrenched in fighting due to Burmese army aggression.
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