Buthidaung, Arakan State: The Union Solidarity and Development Association,(USDA) organizers have stepped up election campaign in north Arakan after a delegation of Arakanese Rohingya people arrived in Maungdaw and Buthidaung Townships recently, said local elder from Buthidaung Town.

Five members for Buthidaung Township and 10 members for Maungdaw Township arrived from Rangoon on March 16, under the Deputy Home Minister Phone Swe for the election campaign. 

The USDA was founded in 1993 by SPDC high ups. Some of the organizers among local USDA members also mobilized the local villagers to get support for the USDA before arrival of the Arakanese Rohingya delegation from Rangoon. At the meeting they said, “We are a social organization and work for the interest of general people. We will stress on local development and substitute local VPDC chairmen who abuse their power with high-quality leaders, if we are elected, said a USDA member from Maungdaw town.

In other townships in Arakan State, the junta-backed USDA has been campaigning.  Meanwhile, authorities have promised issuing National Identity Cards to the ethnic Arakanese Rohingya people in Arakan State. The Arakanese Rohingya have been living here for many years, said an Arakanese Rohingya youth from Buthidaung Town. 

At present, the Arakanese Rohingyas are the second largest ethnic group in Arakan State, after the Arakanese Rakhine community. But, Arakanese Rohingyas are the first biggest ethnic group including those who were expelled or forced to flee from their motherland since 1942.  Arakanese Rohingyas are a majority in Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Rathedaung Townships including Sittwe, the capital of Arakan State. Arakanese Rohingyas also live in Kyauktaw, Pauktaw. Mrauk Oo, Man Aung, Myinbya. Maybon,  Rambree, Kyaukpru, Sandoway and other townships, said a school teacher from Buthidaung town.  

From March 19, an Arakanese Rohingya  delegation ---Amtiyat from Buthidaung Town, Abu Tayub from Taung Bazaar, Rohimullah from Tim May village,  Abu Soffian from  Thin Ganet, and Ali Hussain from Paungdaw Pyin village---went to Buthidaung south and north to campaign for USDA.  They arrived in Buthidaung Town from Sittwe   (Akyab) on March 16 by Malika ship, said a local elder from Buthidaung Town.

They opened an office for USDA in Buthidaung Town, and Dr.  Boshir was appointed as a Chairman of USDA of Buthidaung Township. Temporarily, the house of Mahabur Rahaman, the former village Chairman of Taman Chaung village of Buthidaung Township is being used as an office of the USDA. 

Dr. Boshir, while campaigning in Buthidaung south said, “The fence on the Burma- Bangladesh border is for stopping smuggling of narcotic drugs, check entry of strangers and to stop illegal smuggling of arms and ammunitions.”  He also said that National Identity cards will be issued to the Arakanese Rohingyas before the election. But, whether it is white or green or red, is not confirmed, said a participant who declined to be named. 

Another delegate Ali Hussainn said that to win in the election, all the people must work hard for the success of USDA, otherwise we will fail. He also said that it is very important to be patient and be vigilant while working, said a trader from the locality.

But, most of the people don’t believe what they say. The participants said that some of the restrictions must be withdrawn from the Arakanese Rohingya community such as--- marriage restriction, arbitrary arrest and extortion, and movement restriction. Junta authorities do not keep their promise.

Another representative Amtiyat said, “We are unable to drink water after digging a lake. We have to be patient to get to the target,” said a businessman from the locality.

In the meeting, religious leaders, local youths, students, local elders, schoolteachers, and other participated in the campaign meeting.

Similarly, in Maungdaw Township, the delegates who arrived in Maungdaw from Rangoon under the Deputy Home Minister Phone Swe have also been campaigning in Maungdaw Township. They are also mobilizing villagers by saying that the junta will provide National Identity cards to the villagers before election. They have asked villagers to vote for USDA members, said a politician from Maungdaw.