Myanmar postpones voting in north over security concerns
AFP YANGON MYANMAR has postponed voting in its conflict-hit far north in closely watched byelections to be held next month because of security concerns, official media reported on Friday.
Fierce fighting between government troops and armed rebels in parts of the mountainous Kachin state near the Chinese border since June last year has displaced tens of thousands of people.
“Because of security reasons there are no conditions to hold free and fair elections,” state television said as it announced the decision to delay the polls in three constituencies in the state until an unspecified date.
While the new quasi-civilian government which took power last year has signed peace deals with other insurgent groups, several rounds of talks with the political wing of the Kachin rebels have failed to bear fruit.
“The fighting is still happening in some areas in Kachin state almost every day,” said Yup Zaw Hkaung, a prominent Kachin businessmen who is acting as a mediator between the government and the rebels.
“There was no improvement yet since both sides met in early March,” he told AFP.
Next month’s vote, which will see Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi stand for a seat in parliament for the first time in a constituency near Yangon, is viewed as a key test of the government’s commitment to budding reforms.
Civil war has gripped parts of Myanmar since independence in 1948. An end to the conflicts and alleged rights abuses involving government troops is a key demand of Western nations which have imposed sanctions on the regime.
During a recent visit to Myanmar, US special envoy Derek Mitchell said the violence in Kachin was inconsistent with the government’s reformist bent.
“The immediate concern that we have is on the issue of internally displaced persons, who by any definition are innocents caught in the crossfire of conflict,” he said, urging the government to enable aid to reach the victims.