Monday, 27 March 2017

Buthidaung, Arakan State: Villagers have accused township officials of harassment for not supporting Union Solidarity and Development Party(USDP) candidates in Sunday’s national election, according to an election watchdog group in Maungdaw.

Voters from Buthidaung say they have been threatened by Major Sein Win, commander of the Burma border security force in Area 9 because they cast their ballots for candidates of the National Democratic Party for Development (NDPD).

Despite reports of widespread voter irregularities and violations of election laws, NDPD candidates won more than 80 percent of the vote in Buthidaung and Maungdaw townships.

The villages’ authority also threatened the villagers to support the USDP.

“Zainal Begum, Nurulnar and other two women were put in the stocks by Ngan Chang village authority chairman, Musa for refusing to vote USDP on Election Day,” said a local from said village.

A clash between voters and voting booth attendants occurred in Myint Hlut village, where residents tried to vote for NDPD candidates but were forced to vote with the USDP.

“We tried to vote for the NDPD on the paper ballots, but they gave our vote to the USDP. Nasaka forces entered the area and fired warning shots, before forcing us to mark our ballots for the USDP,” said one resident of Myint Hlut village.

Another voter said an associate of Nasaka prevented entry to the voting station altogether.

“We were not allowed to enter by Syed Alam, a close associate of the Nasaka and a USDP supporter, because he said our votes had already been cast,” said a voter from Kyauk Hlaikhar (Dargadil) in northern Maungdaw.

Khin Zaw, an NDPD organizer from Kyetyoepin (Kyariprang), was arrested on charges of obstructing voting at a polling station, said the election watchdog group.

More than 100 people were detained in Maungdaw and Buthidaung before and after Election Day for their support of the NDPD, the group said.

“The NDPD must follow up on these arrests and seek the release of those in custody from police and Nasaka officials. They worked for the party, and the party is responsible for them,” said an elder from Maungdaw.

Authorities in Buthidaung have also reportedly told villagers that they could change their vote if they felt that they had cast their ballots mistakenly for NDPD candidates, according to an NDPD organizer, who added that some Rohingya voters were threatened that the community would face further restrictions of their rights if they didn’t vote for the USDP.

Meanwhile, winning candidates from the NDPD could see their victories stripped from them as election officials attempt to alter the number of votes cast in their favor, said a politician from Buthidaung.

An Election Commission official in Buthidaung said that NDPD candidates Mostafa Kamal, Abu Taher and Jahidullah won the constituencies for which they ran in the election.

However, government authorities have tried to alter their vote counts by adding so-called pre-votes from the army and others to give more votes to their USDP opponents, the politician said.

Reports have also emerged that election officials have deemed many ballots cast in favor of the NDPD to be “spoiled” ballots.

Leading USDP candidate Aung Zaw Win left Arakan State for Naypyidaw yesterday ahead of official election results.

Residents say they fear that he and his supporters within Burma’s ruling junta might find a way to reverse the success of the NDPD in Arakan State.

Despite such fears as well as no official announcement about election returns in Arakan State, the Election Commission in Maungdaw said that NDPD candidates had won 90 out of 105 village tracts in Sunday’s polls.