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Farmers in Burma’s northern Kachin state claim the party led by Burmese Prime Minister Thein Sein is collecting votes in advance for the looming 7 November elections.
It comes as opposition politicians complain about controversial electioneering tactics by the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), which is widely tipped to win the polls. The party has already been accused of illegal vote collecting in southern Burma.
“The USDP took people’s ID card [details] when drawing lists of party members,” said Than Than Nu, secretary of the Union Democracy Party (UDP), who is currently campaigning in Mandalay division’s Amarapura township. The UDP is fielding only three candidates, while the USDP has more than 1,100.
“Some people actually thought [they had already voted USDP] when they joined the party and that they could now no longer vote for other parties so we had to explain that voting will be done in a ballot system,” she added.
The accusations resonate among villagers in rural Kachin state, who say that entire areas are being issued with USDP membership cards.
“Now the whole village is being issued the member cards,” said a farmer on a banana plantation in Momauk township. “It’s hard to find jobs here so people have no choice but to work on a banana farm run by the Chinese company.
He said that the USDP’s candidate in Momauk, Yon Mu, told farmers they must have USDP cards to work on the plantation. While Yon Mu, an ethnic Chinese, is known to have become rich through his ownership of a jade mine, it is not clear whether he has links to the banana company.
A USDP campaign in Magwe division has been cancelled after local authorities complained that the party was using a community hall for a meeting, which is illegal under Burmese law. A protest by locals in Yaynanchaung town led to its cancellation.
Advanced voting collecting is already underway in Thailand and Japan, which have significant Burmese migrant populations. The casting of votes by exiled Burmese before the 7 November is legally allowed.
Additional reporting by Nang Kham Kaew