Ethnic armies vow to keep peace during election

Ethnic armies vow to keep peace during election

The United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) has vowed that ethnic armed groups will not disturb the upcoming November elections.

Nai Hongsa, deputy-chairman of the UNFC, told DVB on Wednesday that the armed groups will try to avoid violent clashes during the elections, despite ongoing conflict in Karen, Kachin and Shan states.

He also expressed concerns over irregularities in the voter lists.

“The government is leading efforts to hold a general election and we will not disturb it. We have no direct concerns with the polls, but wish for everyone’s voting rights to be ensured and that the elections are held freely and fairly,” said Nai Hongsa.

The Kachin Independence Organisation’s Dr Laja also said the group will prioritise their focus on the nationwide ceasefire, and reiterated his hope for a fair polling process.

“As an ethnic armed group, we have no comment about the elections since we won’t be taking part,” he said. “We are focusing our attention on the ceasefire process but we would like to see democratic, free and fair elections.”

The government’s Union Election Commission has confirmed there will be 1,171 constituencies across the country for the elections, including in Wa and Kokang regions, but it is unlikely polling will take place in these areas.

As of now, there are around 80 registered political parties, the majority of whom are ethnic-based.

Meanwhile, the Karen National Union (KNU) released a statement on Wednesday urging for calm in Karen State, recently rocked by renewed fighting between government forces and the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army.

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Saw Thaw Thi Bwe, secretary-1 of the KNU, said the fighting along the new Asia Highway 1 route had affected the local populations’ livelihoods. He added that such clashes could fuel mistrust amongst the various Karen militias.

“We would like to express our concern about the conflict in Karen State,” he said. “As the region is home to various armed organisations, miscommunication can lead to conflict.”

In its statement, the KNU also called for both sides in the current conflict to stand down and find a peaceful solution. It also offered to help mediate negotiations.

Talks surrounding a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement are ongoing.

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