Advance voting in Kalaw, Shan State South, appears to be in order but disappointing in Lashio and Hsenwi, Shan State North, according to sources.
Village tracts in Kalaw have been given only 35-40 blank ballots for voters in poor health and “tied up” as well as polling station officials. “As far as we could witness, the voters were free to vote for any candidate they chose,” said Sao Tha Oo, Shan Nationalities Democratic Party (SNDP) candidate.
Kalaw township has 131 polling stations.
In Lashio, state personnel were summoned a week in advance to cast advance votes by the Township Election Commission chairman U Tha Oo, in defiance of the dates fixed for advance voting by the Union Election Commission, 30-31 March. “Of course, it was not quite as widespread and blatant as in the November 2010 elections,” said an informed resident. “But it’s still a breach of the rules.”
In Hsenwi, 32 miles north of Lashio, both customers of Aung Thida teashop and passers-by yesterday saw a second lieutenant and a sergeant ticking the ballots for two light infantry battalions: # 567 and # 568 both based in Kutkhai, 36 miles further north. “Only we can’t say which party they were ticking for,” said a witness.
In Tangyan, south of Lashio, there are reports that 8 polling stations, located in Shan State Army (SSA) controlled area, might be getting extra security from the Burma Army units based in the township. “We have signed a ceasefire agreement with the government,” said an SSA officer. “Bringing Burma Army troops will only complicate things.”
Out of 45 vacant seats contested by 17 parties, 2 are in Shan State: Kalaw for People’s Assembly (Lower House) and Lashio, Hsenwi, Kunlong, Tangyan and Mongyai for National Assembly (Upper House).
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