Myan­mar op­po­si­tion says it is blocked from cam­paign­ing in is­land seat

Mizzima Business Weekly - - AFFAIRS // NEWS -

Op­po­si­tion can­di­dates for one of Myan­mar’s small­est con­stituen­cies are be­ing blocked from vis­it­ing the re­mote is­land chain, a party spokesman said on 11 Oc­to­ber, just weeks ahead of elec­tions billed as the coun­try’s freest in decades.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s op­po­si­tion Na­tional League for Democ­racy party says it has re­peat­edly tried to se­cure pas­sage to the Coco Is­lands in the An­daman Sea, rais­ing con­cerns author­i­ties are try­ing to pre­vent the party from mak­ing gains in the Novem­ber 8 polls.

“We’ve been try­ing to go there for more than a month -- since Septem­ber 8 -- but we have not been granted ap­proval,” the NLD’s spokesman Win Htein told AFP.

The NLD wanted to send three can­di­dates on Sun­day by ferry but have not been given ap­proval from the Yan­gon re­gional gov­ern­ment, de­spite ask­ing in writ­ing for per­mis­sion to travel.

Al­though they are a few hun­dred kilo­me­tres from land the Coco Is­lands, which has a pop­u­la­tion of be­tween 1,000-2,000, fall un­der Yan­gon’s ju­ris­dic­tion -- a legacy of Bri­tish colo­nial ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“It’s ob­vi­ous that they (the author­i­ties) are try­ing to make it im­pos­si­ble for us to go there... they are try­ing ev­ery way to stop us,” Win Htein added.

Myan­mar’s elec­tion body said the NLD should have been given swift per­mis­sion to travel to the is­lands.

“Ac­cord­ing to cam­paign rules, when (some­one) re­quests per­mis­sion, they need to give per­mis­sion right away,” Thant Zin Aung, an of­fi­cial from the Union Elec­tion Com­mis­sion in Yan­gon told AFP.

Yan­gon’s re­gional gov­ern­ment could not be im­me­di­ately reached for com­ment.

Myan­mar’s elec­tion is be­ing closely watched as the big­gest test yet of re­forms made since the mil­i­tary handed back some of its power to quasi-civil­ian rule in 2011.

Suu Kyi’s party is ex­pected to make ma­jor gains, but the mil­i­tary re­tains a big in­flu­ence through links with the rul­ing party.

It is also gifted a 25 per­cent of par­lia­men­tary seats un­der the cur­rent con­sti­tu­tion.

The NLD swept polls in 1990 but the mil­i­tary ig­nored the re­sult and tight­ened its grip on power.

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