Monday, 25 May 2020

Maungdaw, Arakan State: Relations between members and supporters of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and the National Democratic Party for Development (NDPD) were further strained yesterday during a campaign stop in Northern Maungdaw, said a local election watchdog group.

An NDPD delegation that included school children from Maungdaw traveled to Ngakura, Kyein Chaing, Ngan Chang and other villages in northern Maungdaw for scheduled campaign events.

But when the delegation arrived in Ngakura village, relatives of USDP candidate Aung Zaw Win who live there barred the delegation from entering the village by blocking the road, the watchdog group said.

NDPD organizers contacted local authorities, and officials from the Burma border security force (Nasaka) arrived and cleared the road, allowing the campaign delegation to proceed with their events

“If the roadblock had not been cleared, there would have been bloodshed,” said a student who was part of the delegation. “The relatives of Aung Zaw Win feel as though they can do anything they want because they have the backing of the ruling junta and the USDP.”

More than 200 NDPD supporters in Maungdaw gathered at USDP’s branch office located in the office of the Regional Development Association (RDA) in Maungdaw after news of the roadblock reached them.

“They surrounded the RDA office and did not allow anyone to enter or leave for two hours,” the watchdog group said, adding that the crowd dispersed when they heard that the roadblock had been cleared. 

Political parties have been working aggressively to win support from residents of Arakan State as the November 7 election approaches, and reports of voter intimidation by the USDP have circulated widely. But NDPD candidates say they have begun to make inroads.

In the Mro village of Pyin Chaung in Buthidaung Township, a local elder told an NDPD organizer that the entire village would support the NDPD.

But the USDP has reportedly begun pressuring local religious leaders to garner support for their candidates. Party officials convened a meeting at the RDA yesterday, the watchdog group said.

“Sixty religious leaders were called to a meeting and USDP officials distributed mosquito nets and health drinks to a select few of them.”

At the meeting, Aung Zaw Win reportedly said that after the election he would arrange for new religious buildings to be constructed in Maungdaw and Buthidaung.

“It is too late. You must do this first and then make sure all Rohingyas are together for the elections,” a religious leader reportedly told Aung Zaw Win at the meeting.

A local businessman in Maungdaw said that USDP organizers have threatened the Rohingya community by warning them that they have been placed on what they call the “350” list, and that they should beware of losing their properties after the elections.

“In Northern Arakan, most people show support for the USDP when high-ranking junta officials are in the area and make promises to help the Rohingya after the elections,” an elder from Maungdaw said.

“But when they start campaigning, they use illegal tactics and rely on the support of the junta to rebuke and threaten people.”