Thousands of Shan IDPs Still Unable to Vote in 2020 Election

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Thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Shan State living on along the Thai border say they won’t be able to vote in Burma’s general election scheduled for November 2020.

Refugeesss at Loi Kaw Wan
Refugeesss at Loi Kaw Wan

Largely from Langkhur, Mong Hsat and Tachileik districts, the 6,000 IDPs fled to six camps on the Shan-Thai border during intensified periods of the civil war in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and remain there today.  

Most have never been able to vote.

“Most of them do not have national ID cards. The few who do have ID do not have the experience of voting in previous elections in our country,” Nang Nguen Hom, who is working with the Shan State Refugee Committee—Thai-Burma Border (SSRC-TB), told SHAN.

She added that many of the IDPs also lack family registration documents necessary to get ID.

At the time of reporting, the IDPs’ names were not included in the voter list for the 2020 election, signifying yet another election in which they are unable to participate.

According to the SSRC-TB, there are 2,559 IDPs in Loi Kaw Wan camp, 2,381 in Loi Tai Leng, 390 in Loi Samsip, 253 in Loi Lam, 221 in Kong Moong Murng, all located in territory controlled by the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA). There are also 303 people in Koung Jor, a camp located on the Thai side of the border.

“People in RCSS/SSA controlled area lost their voting rights in 2015 general election because they did not have national ID cards,” Maj Kham San, an RCSS/SSA spokesperson told SHAN.

A representative of the Loi Kaw Wan IDP camp estimated that just over 100 people in the community had national ID.

In addition to losing voting rights, the IDPs continue to struggle for their survival due to the economic impacts of COVID-19 pandemic. With the Thai border closed, people that once sought work as daily laborers in the Kingdom can no longer travel to look for employment.

According to government estimates, there are total of 5.8 million people living in Shan State. The Shan State Election Commission has said that the state has more than 3 million eligible voters.

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