Myanmar voters compelled to attend election propaganda sessions by pro-junta militias

A pro-junta Pyu Saw Htee militia group training in Kantbalu, Sagaing Region. (Photo: The Irrawaddy)

Local sources report that pro-regime forces are coercing voters in the Sagaing and Mandalay regions to attend election campaign gatherings where junta administrators canvass for the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).

According to reports, Pyu Saw Htee militias had compelled residents of the Shwebo and Kantbalu districts, Sagaing, and the Myingyan district of Mandalay to attend meetings regarding the so-called election that the junta hopes to hold in August. One person per family must attend sessions where junta officials solicit support for the USDP.

Last month, such gatherings took place in communities in four Myingyan townships. According to the district anti-coup committee, inhabitants of the No. 18 Ward in Myingyan were informed in the final week of December that they would receive rice and cooking oil if they voted in the election.

A citizen who attended the Taungtha gathering stated that regime officials exploited racial and religious bigotry to convey their message.

"They primarily discussed the current state of the military, the fact that power would be transferred after the election, and the fact that the People's Defense Forces are committing terrorist acts while the Tatmadaw has always saved the country from trouble."

They also stated that participation in the election was necessary, the resident added.

Influential monk U Wasawa of the ultranationalist Association for Protection of Race and Religion, or Ma Ba Tha, also urges voters to support pro-military parties. Since November 2021, U Wasawa has been organizing Pyu Saw Htee militias in Sagaing, with recruiting concentrated in Kantbalu Township, where numerous male villagers have been conscripted.

One Kantbalu resident remarked, "Recently, the monk has been discussing the downfall of Buddhism under the National League for Democracy and urging locals to vote for parties that will save Buddhism and the Bamar race in the upcoming election. He also called for the murder of members of the PDF and the adoration of the military. Worst, he threatens to fire communities if locals do not attend his gatherings."

The regime-backed Pyu Saw Htee militias are recruiting ex-military people, USDP members, and junta allies to assist the military in its nationwide drive against resistance elements. In resistance strongholds, armed Pyu Saw Htee militants commit murders, massacres, and arson attacks alongside junta forces.

On December 25, Pyu Saw Htee militiamen led by U Wasawa compelled the people of Karboe Village in Kantbalu District to attend a meeting at the village school. Seven hundred residents from 900 families participated in the session after being told by militias that they would be fined if they did not show up. Officials at the conference presented PDFs as terrorists while seeking votes, according to a resident, who added that Pyu Saw Htee militias are gaining strength in Kantbalu and committing everyday human rights violations against people.

In the district of Myingyan, a faction of the USDP led by former Air Force colonel Nyan Tun Aung has ordered households in villages and wards to attend meetings and produce their household registration certificates, threatening to torch the homes of any who refuse.

Nyan Tun Aung is a senior USDP member who was defeated in the Mandalay Region general election of 2020.

In December, USDP chairman Khin Yi also spearheaded campaign efforts in Sagaing Region.

A PDF fighter in Kantbalu Township stated, "Military tensions in the township remain high. Thus it is possible that voting will occur in Kantbalu town and [other] Pyu Saw Htee strongholds. Their election is illegal, and we will reject the fraudulent vote."

Since late December, groups of junta-appointed administrators and teachers who did not participate in the Civil Disobedience Movement have begun ringing doorbells in Mandalay's urban wards to count voters. A Natoegyi Township activist said they also regularly summon voters to the sessions.

"The uneducated will be persuaded. However, many people are aware of the objective problems of the country. Thus their current efforts will fail," the activist stated.

The military overthrew the democratically elected National League for Democracy (NLD) administration following the NLD's landslide victory in the 2020 general election. In his Independence Day address on January 4, junta leader Min Aung Hlaing stated that power would be given to the winning party.

The rival National Unity Government, the National League for Democracy (NLD), and other revolutionary groups have described the election as a fraud designed to cement military authority, a sentiment mirrored by democratic nations throughout the globe.

At the next election, the regime intends to replace the current first-past-the-post system with proportional representation. Constitutionally guaranteed 25% of seats in Parliament, the USDP, and other pro-military parties need only 26% of total votes to form the government and claim legitimacy.

Coup, crackdown, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Democracy, Election, Human Rights, junta, military in politics, military regime, Min Aung Hlaing, National League for Democracy, National Unity Government, November 8 general election, PDF, People's Defense Force, people's war, regime, Rule of Law, Tatmadaw.

Publish : 2023-01-10 08:53:00

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