Monsoon floods could delay elections in Myanmar's Chin state

Christian candidates say people may not be prepared to vote
Monsoon floods could delay elections in Myanmar's Chin state

This file photo shows destroyed buildings caused by a landslide in Hakha, Chin State in Myanmar on July 30. (Photo by Bik Lian/AFP)

Christian politicians from Myanmar’s flood-ravaged Chin state say the highly anticipated Nov. 8 elections should be delayed.

The Chin National Democratic Party has urged the country’s Union Election Commission to postpone the election by one month because of devastating damage during monsoon storms through July and August. Party officials say key roads and bridges in the impoverished state are still damaged and more than 15,000 people are still displaced in temporary camps.

"We are facing a tough battle for campaigning in Chin State," Salai Ceu Bik Thawng, the party’s general secretary, told ucanews.com Sept. 3.

He said many roads remain impassable.

"So we have much concern that people will not be well-informed and they can’t choose the right candidate. As a result, it could be a big loss for ethnic candidates."

There have been cases of government workers using relief efforts as a tool for propaganda and voting-buying, he said, adding to concerns that candidates from smaller parties will suffer more than government-aligned ones.

The party has also called for changing the day of the election, Nov. 8, which currently falls on a Sunday.

 

High expectations

About 10 ethnic Chin parties are expected to contest the election. They'll run against parties including the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy.

Paul Hawi Ying, a Catholic upper house lawmaker from the Chin Progressive Party, said ethnic Christian candidates will benefit from delaying the election.

"It is a big challenge for us to carry out a campaign as flooding has affected the region so it is not easy to organize the people and give election education," he told ucanews.com Sept. 3.

"We have high expectations that ethnic Christians candidates will gain more seats in parliament," he added.

Election commission officials have said they will consider pushing back the election date in parts of Chin state.

"If it is necessary, we think it would be postponed just where there are still difficulties in transportation and communication," U Tin Aye, the commission’s chair, told reporters Sept. 2, according to the Myanmar Times.

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Suan Do Cim, a Christian lawmaker running with the ruling party, said he would prefer that the election date stay the same.

"We have to carry out our campaign eyeing Nov. 8," he said. "I have confidence that people will vote for us as we have helped with the development of roads and health care. So they will vote by observing the candidates who are really helping them instead of just focusing on the party."

The heavy rains and landslides triggered by monsoon storms destroyed churches, homes and infrastructure in the remote region.

Nationwide, more than 100 people died, 1.6 million people were displaced, and more than 476,000 houses were partially damaged or destroyed. Access to remote and isolated villages remains difficult, according to a Sept. 2 report from the National Natural Disaster Management Committee.

 

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