Paletwa Residents More Concerned With Eating Than Voting

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Citizens of southern Chin State, who are sequestered by fighting between Burma Army and Arakan Army (AA), are more concerned about having enough food rations than voting in the general election, which is less than three weeks away, aid workers told Khonumthung News.

“People are running out of the rice in their hands,” said Zarni, who’s helping internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Paletwa Township. With rice stocks that were borrowed by the Burma Army already consumed, many don’t have much rice left. Meanwhile, the food convoy from Sami to Paletwa town has been delayed.

State spokesperson and Municipal Affairs minister Soe Htet said 1,700 bags of rice were shipped from Sami to Paletwa in 12 vehicles. Domestic items, other food items and building materials were sent in 29 vehicles. Everything was expected to arrive on Tuesday, October 13, he said. But supplies have yet to reach the beleaguered town of Paletwa.

For nearly a year, fighting blocked vital land and water transportation routes between Kyauktaw, located in Rakhine State, to Paletwa, affecting over 200 villages.

A woman from the Chin Women’s Organization said political parties have been unable to campaign in Paletwa. There isn’t much interest in the upcoming race because many aren’t educated about why voting is important in a democracy, she explained. “We intended to provide voter education for the youth, but COVID-19 restrictions prevented gathering.” With fears about the pandemic, the fighting and getting enough rice, villagers have more immediate concerns, the woman said.

Rober, who lives in Paletwa, said he will vote if there’s an accessible polling station. “It’s really difficult  to travel, but I think people will vote if there’s a polling station in our area.” Sending ballot boxes is challenging because the Burma Army has many checkpoints along the Kalandan River, he said. And AA has set up their own checkpoints. Some villagers still need to check their information on the voters’ lists.

According to the Chin State Election Commission, there are 62,845 who are eligible to vote in Paletwa Township when polling starts on November 8. There are 24 electoral candidates from six political parties contesting the election in the five constituencies located in the township.

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