The Mon State Election Commission has refused pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi permission to run a campaign rally at Than Lwin Garden in state capital Moulmein.
Ko Ko Zaw, a senior member of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD), told The Irrawaddy from his Moulmein party office that, “[The Election Commission] told us that the garden would be damaged. This is why they did not give permission.”
“We have the right to use it according to the law,” he added.
The Election Commission has instead allowed the event to take place in a football field six miles (10 km) outside the city which critics claim will make it harder for local people to hear Suu Kyi speak.
“It is far for the people to go there. They need to take motorbikes,” said Ko Ko Zaw.
NLD sources claim the party asked twice to use Than Lwin Garden for their campaign, and complained that the replacement football field is only a third of the size.
The NLD has said that the restrictions on using public venues risked making the upcoming by-elections unfair. The Burmese election authorities last month lifted restrictions on political campaigning.
However, the NLD claims that some government departments continue to block the party’s campaign activities despite being approved by the Union Election Commission.
Similar problems have marred Suu Kyi’s campaign all around Burma, with planned speeches in Naypyidaw and Mandalay townships having to be hastily rearranged after access to venues was refused.
Suu Kyi also complained during a rally in Taungoo Township on Tuesday that NLD billboards were being defaced.
Suu Kyi will arrive in Moulmein on Saturday afternoon and will spend one night in the city before giving a speech on Sunday morning, according to Khun Thar Myint, who is responsible for security during her visit.
The 66-year-old Nobel Laureate also plans to meet some members of Mon and other political parties during a dinner at the Strand Hotel.
Mon State has only one parliamentary seat to contest at the upcoming by-elections scheduled for April 1. There are four candidates from different political parties—Khin Htay Kywe from the NLD, Myit Myit Wai from the All Mon Regions Democracy Party, Aung Than Oo from the National Unity Party and Aye Myit from the Union Solidarity and Development Party.
The NLD boycotted the 2010 general election in protest at the 2008 Constitution which guaranteed a large proportion of parliamentary seats for the military. But it agreed to rejoin electoral politics last year when the new military-backed elected president, Thein Sein, began implementing democratic reforms. irrawaddy news