88 Generation Group Pushes Voter Education in Myanmar's Irrawaddy Region

myanmar-vote-08282015.jpg Supporters of National League for Democracy chairperson Aung San Suu Kyi (not pictured) shout and applaud at a rally on the outskirts of Yangon, August 21, 2015.

Members of Myanmar’s 88 Generation democracy movement have begun a stepped-up voter education push in the country’s Irrawaddy Delta region, reminding potential voters to participate in upcoming national elections and urging them to check local voter registration lists for errors.

The 88 Generation Peace and Open Society Group, formerly known as the 88 Generation Students, is campaigning especially in the region’s rural areas, where voter awareness is low, one member of the group told RFA’s Myanmar Service this week.

Local officials of the ruling and military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) have not interfered so far with the campaign, democracy activist Aung Aung Kyaw said.

“The authorities haven’t stopped us, but we are seeing that some people have had trouble checking their names against the voter lists,” Aung Aung Kyaw said.

“Many people don’t know about the voter lists, and some don’t even know that they can vote,” he said.

About 32 million of Myanmar’s population of more than 53 million will be eligible to vote in the Nov. 8 election, which the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD)—backed by the 88 Generation Group and led by democracy icon Aung San Suu Ky—is widely expected to win.

Lists out of date

Voters’ names must appear on registration lists, though, and many of these are badly out of date, with some not including the names of eligible voters and others carrying the names of voters who have died.

“There are serious errors on the voter lists,” 88 Generation activist Nilar Thein told RFA.

“It is difficult for us to make corrections to these around the country, as there is now so little time before the election, but we will do the best that we can,” she said, adding that the group is now campaigning in the large delta town of Hinthada.

Though “about two-thirds” of the residents of the region’s urban areas have looked at the voter lists, “people from the rural areas, who we saw coming into the town on boats, don’t know about the elections or about voting,” she said.

“They see what we are doing when we distribute posters promoting voter education.”

“We encourage them to go and check the voter lists and tell them how important it is to vote for the sake of our country’s future,” she said.

Active across the country

The 88 Generation Group, named for its members’ role in 1988 protests against Myanmar’s then-ruling military regime, is now setting up networks in townships across the country, Nilar Thein said.

“Our network members will encourage people to check the lists and to vote on Election Day."

But any election held with errors remaining on the lists will not be free and fair, she said.

Myanmar’s Union Election Commission, which oversees registration for the polls, “must solve these problems,” she said.

Reported by Wayan Myo Myint and Khet Mar for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Richard Finney.

Add comment

Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.

View Full Site