Political Campaigning 'Difficult' in Myanmar Regions Hit by Floods and War

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myanmar-flood-evacuation-camp-sagaing-region-aug3-2015.jpg Flood-affected residents rest at an evacuation camp in Kalay, northwest Myanmar's Sagaing region, Aug. 3, 2015.

Flood damage and armed clashes with ethnic armies across large areas of Myanmar are slowing the work of political campaigns as the country prepares for national elections on Nov. 8, sources in the affected regions say.

Voters in 14 townships in five flood-hit regions will now have little more than a week in which to review registration lists, many of them badly out of date, to ensure their names have been properly entered, Myanmar’s Union Election Commission (UEC) announced on Thursday.

Transportation in some of the country’s worst-damaged areas is still blocked, though, hindering political campaigners in their work, local sources told RFA’s Myanmar Service on Thursday.

“As this is now the rainy season, we are having problems because of heavy rain, floods, and landslides,” Kwan Gaung Aung Kham, chairman of the Kachin Democratic Party and candidate for parliament from the region’s Sumprabon township said.

“Transportation is the major problem in this area, especially in the Puta-O district,” he said.

“We can’t use cars to travel.  We can only use motorcycles, but it is very difficult to travel with them.”

“Telephone connections are a problem, too,” he said, adding that campaign literature must be brought by plane from Yangon to Myitkyina, the capital of northern Myanmar’s Kachin state.

“Even then, it is hard to deliver them around the state,” he said.

Roads closed by fighting

Fighting in the area between separatist forces and government troops has also closed roads and made travel dangerous, Htun Aung Khine, an election commission officer for Kachin state, said.

“Some roads are full of land mines, making it difficult to send staff and equipment to polling places,” he said.

“It is very difficult for me to travel to campaign,” Yadana Zoe Zaw, Kyaukme township candidate for the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) in Myanmar’s northeastern Shan state, bordering China, said.

“We have to contact the leaders of the ethnic armed groups for permission to travel in their areas,” she said.

“I went to the District Election Commission office yesterday, and the officer there said that township police would help us to travel, but that we shouldn’t go into the places with fighting.”

“But as a candidate, I have to go there to campaign,” she said.

Need to rebuild

Many residents of flood-damaged areas now need to rebuild their homes and lives and are not interested in voting, Thant Zin Lin, a relief and resettlement worker in Kalay township in northern Myanmar’s Sagaing region, said.

“Most can’t even return home yet,” he said.

Others fear government retaliation if they are seen to support parties challenging the ruling and military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), Kyaw Aung Lwin, a resident of Sidoktaya township in central Myanmar’s Magway region, said.

“They are afraid of attending campaign events held by the opposition parties. They worry that the authorities will be angry with them if they go.”

“And most of them think that nothing will change no matter what government we have,” he said.

Reported by Zin Mar Win, Kyaw Myo Min, Nay Rein Kyaw, and Khet Mar for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Richard Finney.


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