Myanmar junta moves to charge more than 2,000 with voter fraud

Critics say the real goal is to further weaken political opposition, not clean elections.
2022.01.25
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Myanmar junta moves to charge more than 2,000 with voter fraud Voters in Myanmar's Shan state cast ballots at a polling station in Lashio, Nov. 8, 2020.
RFA

The decision by Myanmar’s ruling junta to charge more than 2,000 former government officials and election workers with voter fraud is just another form of political revenge against the National League for Democracy-led government the military overthrew early last year, analysts and observers say.

The plan announced on Jan. 14 by Khin Maung Oo, a member of the new Election Commission set up by Myanmar’s military rulers, already affects 422 people held under arrest and will include 2,489 others, including the chairmen of state and divisional election commissions.

Among those already charged are former president Win Myint and former state counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, Khin Maung Oo said. Both are now serving prison terms following conviction on other charges widely regarded as politically motivated.

Khin Maung Oo did not give details of the charges against the 422 persons already serving jail terms or awaiting trial from detention.

Myanmar’s military overthrew the democratically elected government of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy on Feb. 1, 2021, saying voter fraud had led to the party’s landslide victory in the country’s November 2020 election.

The junta has yet to provide evidence for its claims, however, and has violently suppressed nationwide protests calling for a return to democratic rule, killing at least 1,493 protesters and other civilians, according to the Bangkok-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

One former chairman of a district election commission confirmed to RFA he has been charged for failing to provide proper oversight of the election.

“They say that we exercised weak oversight, but we actually toured the townships ourselves to oversee the proceedings. So how can they say we didn’t provide proper supervision?” he asked.

An NLD polling station representative who worked in the capital Naypyidaw during the election said he had carried out his work within the correct legal framework. He said that he had escaped after learning that other polling officials were being arrested and has been on the run ever since.

“They want to disband the NLD and are chasing all party-affiliated people,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity for security reasons. “About a month after the coup, some were already under arrest and others had died.”

Another party member who was arrested and later freed said the junta had moved to arrest chairmen and members of township-level election sub-commissions who were close to NLD executives, while those without these personal connections were only fined and then released.

Civilians in supporting roles

Commission secretaries placed in charge of voting booths during the election were often former army officers, however, with the civilians now being charged serving only in supporting roles, said one former commission member now also under indictment.

“The secretaries did the actual work, and now they are the ones who are accusing us of irregularities,” he said.

Though some shortcomings could be seen in the November 2020 voting, no level of fraud could be found that would have changed the final election results, said Sai Ye Kyaw Swa Myint, director of the People’s Movement for Elections, which oversaw the November election.

“The legal framework needs to be reconsidered, as we have suggested, rather than prosecuting thousands of people for any wrongdoing under the election law,” he said. “Taking legal actions like this will not produce better elections.”

The prosecutions now under way are aimed only at removing the NLD and everyone associated with the party from the political scene, said political analyst Than Soe Naing.

“In my view, the 2020 election was full of fraud. But they are making widespread arrests not only of NLD members but also those in charge of the election process itself, so they can suggest to the world that the fraud in the election was a coordinated effort,” he said.

In fact, those now being accused are honest people, Than Soe Naing said, adding that he feels sorry both for the country and for the NLD.

Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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