A request by the National League for Democracy (NLD) to cancel by-election voting at three polling stations in Mong Hsu Township, southern Shan State, has been denied by the Union Election Commission.
On March 21, the Mong Hsu branch of the NLD submitted a letter to the state election commission, calling for the closure of polling stations in Wanloi, Mawmea and Kunkyaung village tracts due to what it called security issues. The cancellation of polls at these three village tracts in Loilem District would have affected more than 4,000 registered voters.
The state commission in turn forwarded the letter to the Union Election Commission in Naypyidaw for a decision.
Reached for comment by Shan Herald, Than Thin, the head of the Loilem District Election Commission, said, “We will not cancel voting at these three polling stations. However, we will move the polling stations closer towards the main towns.”
He added: “In order for this by-election to go smoothly, we all have to work together. That’s why we will not close down these polling facilities. We have not yet announced where the new polling station sites will be, because the time is not right to make that announcement. We will wait until security is assured before we make the move.”
The polling stations will not be relocated to sites more than four miles from their respective village tracts, according to sources from the state election commission.
“It is better that these polling stations are not closed down completely,” said Sai Leik, the spokesperson for the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD). “Actually, there is no fighting in these areas. The situation is calm. However, the villagers will have to travel to polling stations about four or five miles from their homes. That is an inconvenience.
“Whenever it comes to voting, many people in Shan State have little interest in participating,” he added. “Therefore, in situations like this, we have to put in some extra effort to encourage them.”
There are 17 village tracts in Mong Hsu. The three village tracts in question are located in areas recognized as territory of the Shan State Progess Party/Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA).
The SSPP/SSA made an announcement on February 25, saying that they welcomed the by-election and were ready to support any political party that was campaigning in its territory.
Voting was cancelled in Mong Hsu Township, as well as Mong Nong and Kehsi townships, during the 2015 general election due to the commencement of heavy offensives by Burmese government forces on positions of SSPP/SSA troops in those three areas.
By Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN)
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