Kawkariek Town Residents Angry as Thousands of Voters Vanish From Electoral Rolls

As Burma’s national elections loom closer, voters in Karen State fear ‘dirty tricks’ on finding their names have been removed from electoral rolls.

Thousands of voters in Kawkareik Town were upset when they found their names not included in the second round announcement of voters listed as eligible to vote in the November 8, national elections.

Kawkareik Town residents said the voter lists barred as many as a thousand people in one of the electoral sections. The huge differences were found in three sections out of seven sections in Kawkareik Town – namely section 5, 6 and 7. The total discrepancies in the voter lists in seven sections totaled more than 5,000 voters.

Daw Ye Nwe, the secretary for the Section 7 Election Commission sub-office admitted that there were huge differences between the first round and second round voter lists.

Speaking to Karen News, Daw Ye Nwe listed the ways that many people were disbarred from voting.

“The difference is big in our section. We have taken out those who are dead, who are serving in the religious life [monkhood, priests], voters with mixed blood/religions [referring to the Muslim community without an eligible pink ID card], people without ID cards, people with only temporary ID cards, people who lost their ID cards and people with the three-folded type ID cards. We did this according to the Township Election Commission guidelines.”

Residents in the three sections are worried they will lose their voting rights in the election, especially those who were included in the first round, but had their names taken out during the second round.

Ko Htay Aung, who was born and raised in the Kawkareik Section 7, is angry that his name was removed from the second round voting list. Ko Htay Aung said his name was included on the first round voting list, but he had been disbarred as he had been categorized as a person of mixed blood/religion.

Ko Htay Aung told Karen News he was disappointed that he was barred from voting in his hometown.

“I was born in this town and I am from this town. I voted in the 1990 election and I voted in the 2010 election. My name was included at the first round, but not in the second round of the 2015 voting list. I was told that it was because I am of mixed blood/religion. As a citizen, I want to vote. If the situation continues like this, I am doubtful that this will be a free and fair election.”

According to District Election Commission, there was an increase of 400,000 voters in Karen State for the 2015 election. The second round voter list displayed on September 14 to 27 in Kawkareik District, showed that there was an increased of 90,000 voters.

In the seven sections of Kawkareik Town, the first round voter list was at 26,704 people who can vote but the second round voter list reduced to 21,335 people which has more than 5,000 differences.

Community based groups providing voting awareness are saying that until now, people still has less interest to go and check their name on the voter list. Section or village election commission records show only a few hundred people whose names are not in the voter list reclaim their voting right.

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