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As Myanmar Bans Voting in Parts of Kachin, UN's Ban Ki-moon Withholds Report?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 31 -- As voting begins in Myanmar, or parts of Myanmar, the junta has banned polling in at least three constituencies in Kachin State, ostensibly because fighting with rebels makes it unsafe. But one of the three, and most of another, have seen no fighting. Rather it seems that no polling is taking place because the government would lose.

  According to Inner City Press sources, one of the constituencies, Mogaung, has had no known fighting so its unclear why voting has been canceled there -- except for the fact that the the candidate running there Dr. Tu Ja was a former vice chairman of the KIO and would almost certainly have won.

  Another constituency Hpakant has had some fighting but very little over the past few months so again its unclear if security is the real reason voting can't take place. The popular candidate is Bauk Ja (also Bawk Ja or Bauk Gyar) is from the NLD splinter group the NDF and almost certainly would win in a fair fight.

  On Monday March 26, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's deputy spokesman Eduardo Del Buey:

Inner City Press: it’s been announced by the Government of Myanmar that at least three constituencies in Kachin state will not vote in this upcoming election that the UN is, you know, and many have praised them for holding, but so certain parts of the country will not be allowed to vote. Is there any comment on that and can you say anything more about the Secretary-General’s public statement that he may go to Myanmar next month? What are the considerations just as other scheduling or is it in some way contingent?

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, as you know, we usually issue statements to the media on the Secretary-General’s travel closer to the travel. We don’t have any dates selected yet. We’ll see what happens with the travel plans and we’ll make an announcement when we have something to announce.

Inner City Press: Does he think it would be good if everybody in Myanmar can vote in this upcoming election, and what does he think of this suspension of voting rights in parts of Kachin state?

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, I think it all depends on the nature of the suspension. If the suspension is for security reasons, obviously, if you can’t hold elections because of security reasons, you may have to wait until the security situation is such that election authorities can go into the region, can distribute the ballots, can set up the voting stations, can enumerate the voters, etcetera, etcetera. So, I don’t have any specific comment on it, but that would be my general reaction.

  Then on the eve of the election on March 30 Inner City Press asked again:

Inner City Press: There are some parts of Kachin that are not being, that have been said by the Government that they cannot vote. And I have looked into it a little bit, it seems like people there are saying that, there is one called Mogaung, where they said that there has been no fighting at all, it’s just that an opposition candidate would probably win. Same thing in a place called Hpakant. So, I just wonder, was your statement just general, you just assumed that the Government, if they said there was fighting and you couldn’t vote, that that’s how it was, or does the UN have any… I know that there was some observers going there, are they going to go up to Kachin, and what do you say to the allegation that, that people are not being allowed to vote simply because the opposition would win in these constituencies?

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, we have a delegation, which is not an observer mission, but we have a delegation that was scheduled to arrive in Myanmar yesterday. They will, in response to the Government’s invitation, it was decided that the delegation would represent the UN Headquarters from New York. The delegation will follow the election and report back to the Secretary-General.

Inner City Press: Will they also follow on this issue of places that are not being allowed to vote? That’s my question.

Deputy Spokesperson: I am sure they will be looking at the whole election scenario and reporting back to the Secretary-General.

Inner City Press: In some, is there going to be any kind of public statement about it?

Deputy Spokesperson: That’s up to the Secretary-General. I don’t know yet.

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