Monday, 18 December 2017

Maungdaw, Arakan State: The Union Solidarity and Development Party(USDP) was expected to distribute a statement signed by 87 religious leaders (Maulana) to villagers in rural areas urging them to support the Burmese junta-backed party, according to an election watchdog group in Maungdaw.

The statement was prepared on November 2 at the residence of Maulana Anwar, the owner of “Ruby” gold shop, the group said.

A Maungdaw elder said the statement requests all residents of Maungdaw Township to vote for USDP candidates.

A similar statement has also been released by the Tabalique (local religious gathering) headquarters, according to the watchdog group.

The release of the statement follows reports that religious leaders announced during Friday prayers that residents must obey the orders of the rulers of the country and must vote for the USDP, said an elder
from Myothugyi village.

Election Commission officials have been distributing materials to local polling stations, including ballots, boxes, and other necessary materials.

Villagers said that Ayub Khan, a local EC member and Myothugyi village chairman, showed the paper ballots to area residents.

The ballots are marked with a lion logo, the mark of the USDP party, said the elder, adding that Ayub Khan warned that anyone who didn’t support the government-backed party would be punished after Election Day.

“We find it strange that the village chairman would intimidate his own villagers into supporting the USDP by saying they would be punished if they refused,” said an organizer from the National Democratic Party
for Development (NDPD).

“In addition to the threats, authorities in Maungdaw have also been making promises that the USDP will address the needs of Rohingya communities, such as easing restrictions on movement and marriage, and granting more rights, which the junta has promised before but has not done anything about.”