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Non-ruling party candidates contesting the remote Coco Islands have finally been granted access to the islands, enabling them to campaign for the first time.
Election hopefuls from the National League for Democracy (NLD) and New National Democracy Party will visit the islands on a charter boat arranged by the government, according to NLD candidate Win Min, who is contesting the Lower House seat in the remote archipelago, located 300 kilometres southwest of the Irrawaddy delta.
“We understand that the chartered vessel is actually a freighter, temporarily turned into a passenger boat under direction of the Department of Waterways – this is the first time the government has ever provided such an arrangement,” he said.
The ruling Union Solidary and Development Party nominee Thet Swe, who recently retired from his post as chief-of-staff of the Burmese navy, has reportedly been able to travel freely to the islands since the campaigning period began on 8 September.
The NLD has filed formal complaints with relevant regional departments, as well as the Union Election Commission, protesting what they say is unequal treatment. The majority of the 950 Coco Island residents are civil servants or navy personnel, strengthening the USDP advantage.
Speaking to DVB on Tuesday morning, Win Min said, “We do not thank the government for finally allowing us to go to the islands as it’s rather a bit late now. It is the government’s responsibility to provide transportation between towns. Our rival party was allowed to campaign on the islands for the whole 60-day period, but we will only get about two weeks.”