Local residents in Shan State North’s Muse Township, located opposite China’s Yunnan province, are saying that they are under pressure and threats by local authorities to cast votes for junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) due to its ‘must win’ policy.
The USDP is using local militia groups to push people to vote for the party saying people who cast vote for other parties would be imprisoned, a local resident told SHAN.
On 27 September, U Kengmai, 50, chief of 200-strong Mongpaw militia unit, was said to have told villagers in its controlled areas to vote for the USDP or their lives would be in danger.
“If we win, we win. And if we don’t win, we must still win,” a villager in Mongkoe quoted him as saying.
U Kengmai is mostly well-known among the local people as a drug lord. Most drug production in Muse and Kutkhai Townships are reportedly run by him and another drug lord U Myint Lwin. And most products to China were transported through his controlled areas, according to businessmen.
He will contest for state legislature in Muse, Constituency No.2 as a representative of USDP.
“Voters are frightened by his words,” an election watcher from the Sino-Burma border said. “They are worried if they don’t give the votes to the party, they might be in trouble when the elections are over.”
Many politicians in Shan State say that the USDP is clearly breaking the electoral laws but local authorities have chosen to ignore and instead are going out of their way to help them to gain an advantage over smaller parties.
With regards to criticism and threats, Union Election Commission (UEC) has said that if the complainant has no compelling evidences such as documents, tapes, places, dates and names, the EC would regard the complainant as ‘unfounded allegations’.
Each of the two constituencies of Muse Township has reportedly been designed to have 27 polling stations. Constituency No. 1 is in Man Hio, in the western part of the township and No. 2 is I the eastern part under the control of U Kengmai. The population in the two parts are said to be imbalanced.
“The population in the west is larger and denser in contrast to the east and most people in the east don’t have identity cards,” said an informed resident of Muse.
Union Elections Commissions announced on 22 September, the township has over 85,000 eligible voters. According to junta plan, the upcoming elections will not be based on population, but on townships. Some candidates from other parties have also raised concerns that the arrangement may place them before twofold challenges.
“For instance, Mongkoe village tract has 7 polling stations, but voters are just over 1,000. Homon Quarter in Muse alone has over 9,000 voters, but there will be only 3 polling stations,” a candidate said.
There are only two main parties to contest in the township, Shan National Democratic Party (SNDP) and USDP.
The SNDP candidate to contest in constituency No.1 is Nang Ngwe Ngwe and Mai Sam Pu, ethnic Palaung, of USDP. And Sai Aung Myint of SNDP and U Kengmai of USDP will be contesting in Constituency No.2.
“Constituency No.2 is where the SNDP is finding difficult to travel,” a source said.