Myo Myint Zaw | DMG
16 October 2020, Thandwee

The chairman of the National League for Democracy (NLD) in Taungup Township wants an answer from the Arakan Army (AA) as to whether the ethnic armed group’s members were behind the recent abduction of three of the party’s candidates.

“We must demand that the AA make a statement,” said the local NLD chairman, U Tin Thein Aung. “We demand immediate release if they have abducted the candidates. If they want to do give-and-take with responsible officials, communicate with us on how to make a deal.”

Speaking to the media, the Arakan State Security and Border Affairs minister and Taungup Township police have accused the AA of abducting the three candidates, but the AA has not made any statement on the matter to date.

The NLD’s Central Information Committee secretary, Monywa Aung Shin, said the party’s Central Executive Committee is taking the issue very seriously.

The NLD’s Pyithu Hluttaw candidate for Taungup Township, Daw Ni Ni May Myint, Amyotha Hluttaw candidate Daw Chit Chit Chaw, and State Hluttaw candidate U Min Aung were abducted on October 14 by an unidentified group of armed men at Phaung Khar village in Taungup Township. They were kidnapped while campaigning for the November 8 general election.

The families of the three candidates have also demanded their immediate release.

DMG was unable to contact the AA for comment as it would be against the law to do so (following a government designation of the ethnic armed group as terrorists). 

Taungup Township police have opened a case under Counter-Terrorism Law to prosecute those responsible for abducting the three candidates.

Other NLD parliamentary hopefuls, meanwhile, say they are concerned for their own security on the campaign trail in the abduction’s aftermath. 

The NLD’s U Kyaw Zeya, an Arakan State Hluttaw candidate for Kyaukpyu Township constituency No. 2, said the party’s candidates would like to visit villages on campaign trips but believe their safety may be in jeopardy by doing so.

“Our party candidates’ worries have reached their highest point. Even if they campaign, they dare not go to distant places and have to be vigilant and dare go only after checking the situations. We cannot do public speeches due to the COVID-19 problem,” he said.

NLD State Hluttaw candidates in Ramree Township can put up vinyl posters and distribute pamphlets only in downtown areas and dare not go to villages, according to U Khin Yi, the NLD’s State Hluttaw candidate for Ramree Township constituency No. 2.

“Although there are no intimidations, we are worried about security. NLD candidates from our township dare not go on campaign trips to villages,” he said.

U Win Naing, an NLD candidate for a Thandwe Township State Hluttaw seat, told DMG that he would like to see the matter resolved expeditiously.

“We want the armed group to release the candidates after a quick investigation. Here [in Thandwe], there is no problem and the situation is normal. There has been no destruction of party signboards,” he said.

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