Maungdaw, Arakan State: Widespread voter intimidation and violations of election law have been reported throughout Maungdaw as residents of Arakan State voted in today’s national election.
An organizer for the National Democratic Party for Development (NDPD) said officials and candidates from the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) forcibly removed NDPD officials from polling stations, where they were to serve as election monitors.
As well, USDP party members openly urged voters at polling stations to support the Burmese junta-backed party.
The NDPD organizer said that party candidates had been called to a meeting last night on the eve of the election and warned that their party’s candidates could be banned from participating if there were any signs of misconduct by the party.
The organizer added that USDP candidate Aung Zaw Win, contesting for a seat in the Upper House, visited a polling station at State Middle School in Maungdaw and tried to convince arriving voters to cast their ballots for his party, in clear violation of election law.
Hajee Yousuf, a USDP supporter and the finance officer of the Regional Development Association (RDA), threatened voters in Nyaung Chaung village today by warning them that they could come to harm if they did not cast their ballots for the USDP, said an election watchdog group from Maungdaw.
“We complained to the election commissioner about these activities by Hajee Yousuf, but no action was taken against him,” said a local elder from the village.
Tensions also rose in Nyaung Chang village when voters were issued ballots bearing the lion logo of the USDP party and asked for alternative ballots.
“They complained to local election officials, but nothing was done,” the elder said.
The election watchdog group also reported that some NDPD supporters in northern Maungdaw were assaulted by security personnel after arriving to cast their votes.
In southern Maungdaw, supervisors in charge of voting booths also urged voters to support the USDP.
“There will be violent clashes after voting is finished because local people are waiting to confront the voting booth officers about why they were trying to get them to vote for the USDP,” said a local teacher from Myint Hlut village.
A politician from Maungdaw said USDP candidates and local authorities have not employed similar tactics against the Rakhine community, which has largely shown support for the National Unity Party (NUP).