With coronavirus transmissions rapidly increasing across Burma, electoral candidates are facing challenges launching campaigns during the 2020 general election after travel restrictions aimed at reducing the infections have been introduced.
“I’m contesting Muse District, but I live outside the district,” said Ko Maw Tun Aung, from Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD). The candidate, who’s running for a House of Nationalities seat, isn’t sure the government in Yangon will issue him a travel pass to the district in northern Shan State.
To curb the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, the government’s Ministry of Health and Sports (MoHS) restricted travel except with a health recommendation letter. Any travelers caught without it will be subject to a quarantine of 21-days at their own expense.
MoHS didn’t indicate whether exemptions would be made for candidates like Ko Maw Tun Aung, who live in a different district from the one they are contesting.
Aung Min, a Ta’ang National Party (TNP) candidate, said during the pandemic many are afraid to receive candidates in their village. “It’s hard to talk to the public during the election campaign. Even though villagers are listening to what we say, they feel uneasy sitting near us.”
According to MoHS’s guidelines, no more than 30 people are allowed to gather during campaigning and social distance of six feet must be maintained at all times.
Aung Min told SHAN the Union Election Commission (UEC) should cancel the race until the situation has improved. “It’s better to hold an election in December. Maybe by then infection rates will be under control.”
Ne Zaw Naing, a National League for Democracy (NLD) candidate for Namsang Township, said restrictions on gathering made campaigning difficult. “Currently,we’re launching our campaign online,” he said, as well as going door to door.
Fourteen parties proposed that the November 8 election date be reviewed. The parties include Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), National Democracy Party (NDP), National Progressive Party (NPP), Democratic Party – Myanmar (DPM), New Era People’s Party (NEPP), National Political Alliance Party (NPAP), Wunthanu Democratic Party (WDP), Rakhine State National Political Alliance Party (RSNPAP), Mro National Development Party (MNDP), Difference and Peace Party (DPP), People’s Benevolent Students’ Party (PBSP), New Era Union Party (NEUP) and Myanmar People’s Democratic Party (MPDP).
MoHS reported 4,299 transmissions on September 18, while 944 of these have recovered and 61 have died.