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KIO/A Won’t Allow Polling In Its Area

KIA female soldiers at its de facto capital Laiza, eastern Kachin State, northern Burma.

The Kachin Independence Organization/Army (KIO/A) won’t allow polling to occur in its areas during the national election. The ethnic armed organization (EAO) said it doesn’t recognize the 2008 Constitution.

Col Nhpang Naw Bu, in charge of KIO/A’s information department, says the election was based on a constitution designed by the Tatmadaw. “We do not accept this constitution and, therefore, we do not accept the general election either,” Col. Naw Bu told KNG.

Nhpang Naw Bu explained KIO/A officials aren’t prepared to negotiate with the Union Election Commission or the government should they try to convince the EAO to accept the election. At the same time, he said KIO/A will not oppose the election in anyway by disturbing polling outside its area.

After its 17-year ceasefire unraveled in June 2011, Nhpang Naw Bu said many villagers sought refuge from the conflict in its controlled territory. KIO/A won’t block these citizens if they want to return to their original wards to cast ballots.

Duwa Gumgrawng Awng Hkam, deputy chair of Kachin State People’s Party, told KNG the government has already declared KIO/A an illegal organization. As a result, internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in their controlled areas will face difficulties voting in their original constituencies, as they may technically face charges under Burma’s Unlawful Associations Act 17/1.

“We want to get votes from IDPs living in KIA’s (Kachin Independence Army) controlled area. But we’re concerned about article 17/1.” He said the KIO/A is allowing villagers living in its area to vote in government-controlled wards but they could be arrested. “It would be good if the Election Commission cooperated with KIO/A.”

In Kachin State, there are over 1,080,000 eligible voters for the upcoming general election, compared to 800,000 during the last election in 2015.

There will be 889 polling stations in the state for the November 8 election. In 193 villages there will be no voting.

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