ICC Note: As a 17 year old ceasefire was eliminated, the aftermath of the conflict which has been raging for years between the Burmese military and the Kachin rebels have left over 100,000 people internally displaced. National elections are nearing for the military controlled nation with many names still remaining off the list of registered voters. For those in temporary camps some will be able to vote however, many who in rebel-controlled regions will not as the government has cancelled elections in more than 400 villages in parts of Kachin and Karen state due to security concerns. Both regions have historically included large populations of Burmese Christians and regions which have seen violence and acts of genocide in the past especially the Karen Christian communities.
11/03/2015 Myanmar (UCA News) – After years of living in temporary camps, thousands of displaced people in northern Myanmar’s conflict-torn Kachin state have little hope the country’s Nov. 8 election will bring meaningful change.
Tens of thousands of people have been displaced since 2011, following the breakdown of a 17-year ceasefire between Myanmar’s military and Kachin rebels.
More than 100,000 internally displaced people, many of them Christians, have been living in temporary camps in government and rebel-controlled areas in Kachin and northern Shan states.
Tu Ja, a Catholic politician from the Kachin State Democracy Party, said it appears that many people living in displacement camps in government-controlled areas will get the chance to vote. He saw voter lists when he visited a displacement camp in Myitkyina, the Kachin capital, on Nov. 2.
“When I met with people from the camps, I told them that I reached out to them to show solidarity with them and I didn’t tell them which party they would vote for,” said Tu Ja, who is running for a seat in the state parliament. “But I found out that these people show an interest in the elections.”
However, it may be a different story for displaced people living in rebel-controlled areas. Election authorities have already canceled the vote in more than 400 villages in parts of Kachin and Karen states, due to security concerns.
“This is a serious loss for ethnic parties’ votes, but I hope that people from (displacement) camps under the government-controlled areas would support ethnic parties,” he said.
Roughly half of the more than 100,000 people displaced in Kachin and Shan states live in rebel-controlled areas, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. This means tens of thousands of displaced people could find themselves without a vote on election day.
Learning to vote
Of the displaced Kachin that can vote, many say they have yet to decide who to support in the election, since they are unfamiliar with the candidates from the various political parties.
“I’m still learning how to vote,” said Mar Tu in Jar Mai Kaung camp in Myitkyina.
For the father of three, the main concern is not the election itself, but returning home.
“We are very keen on returning homes after getting stability and peace,” said Mar Tu, whose family fled its village in 2011 due to fighting between the military and Kachin rebels.
But even potential voters in government-controlled areas may not be equipped to vote.