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Govt Will Build Polling Stations in IDP camps

Trinity IDP in Myitkyina, Kachin State

To assist villagers displaced from conflict in Kachin State to vote during the upcoming elections, the government is planning to build some polling stations inside internally displaced persons (IDPs) camps.

Tun Aung Khine, head of Kachin State Election Commission (EC), told KNG although they cannot make polling stations in every camp they will put some in ones that are remote or in wards where there is already a high population density to prevent the regular stations from getting overwhelmed on election day. EC stated that at least four polling stations were planned in some of the 85 IDP camps in Kachin State.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, there were 67,654 people living in camps in government-controlled areas as of January 31, 2020. Of this population, over 20,000 are eligible to vote in the 2020 election. There are over 39,457 who live in areas controlled by the Kachin Independence Organization/Army (KIO/A). In these areas there will be no polling stations this election.

The Baptist pastor responsible for Trinity IDP camp, La Hkawng, told KNG residents lost their right to vote during the 2015 general election. A general administration officer informed him that this election there would be a polling station in the camp, which is located in an area controlled by the government. While the EC posted a list of eligible voters in the camp, few bothered to check to see if their name was on it.

Tun Aung Khine said IDPs have the right to vote and why the EC is committed to making the polling stations. The EC promised a voter list for every camp where there will be polling.

Brang Mai, the head of KBC Mai Ner IDP camp, told KNG they asked EC to post a voter’s list in their camp because there are elderly people who find it difficult to check their names in the nearby village. “Some of them can’t go to the village because they have to cross the highway. And it’s dangerous. It’s better if officials come to post a voter list in our camp. And if possible, build a polling station in our camp.” No-one from EC came to the camp in Waingmaw Township to discuss the election with any of the 500 families living there, he said.

Well over 100,000 Kachin villagers have been displaced by fighting between Burma Army and KIO/A since 2011, when the Army broke a seventeen-year ceasefire.

According to EC, 119 candidates will be contesting the House of Representatives (Lower House), 87 will contest the House of Nationalities (Upper House), and 246 will contest the Kachin State Parliament during the 2020 election. There are 19 parties contesting the election in Kachin State.

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