Electoral candidates have said that they have faced difficulties launching campaigns in southern Chin State’s Paletwa Township due to ongoing regional stability as clashes continue between the Burma Army and Arakan Army (AA).
Soe Htet, Chin State’s current municipal minister and a National League for Democracy electoral candidate for Paletwa’s Constituency 1, said that even though he’s been able to start campaigning in downtown Paletwa and nearby villages, he’s unable to travel to communities in more remote areas of the township, such as those near the borders with Bangladesh and India.
“It’s difficult to go there. The Union Election Commission already announced that the election will take place, so we have to try [to campaign],” he told Khonumthung News.
The AA reportedly launched an attack on a delegation including Soe Htet as they traveled along the Kaladan River on September 9. Government security forces and the AA then exchanged gunfire for 30 minutes.
Salai Kwe Yan, an election candidate with the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), said that all roads were being closed off because of the fighting, making travel and communication even more difficult.
“It’s difficult to communicate with the respective election commissions. We cannot send letters from here. All vehicle roads remain closed, so we can only use the phone for communication,” he explained. “We cannot travel across Paletwa Township. We can only go to some places which are safe to go to. We can not go to unsafe places. We cannot reach every village in Paletwa Township for the election campaign.”
On September 1, the Brotherhood Alliance of ethnic armed organizations, comprised of the AA, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, released a joint statement extending their declaration of a unilateral ceasefire until November 9, citing the 2020 general election on November 8 as the reason.
The Burma Army also extended their own unilateral ceasefire declaration throughout the country until September 30, except in regions where “terrorist” organizations are active. The move was likely intended to exclude areas where they have fought the AA—including Paletwa, Chin State—since the government declared the AA a terrorist organization earlier this year.
A total of 24 electoral candidates from six political parties will run to represent Paletwa Township in the coming general election.