Shan Voters in Mandalay Report Being Unable to Vote for Shan Ethnic Affairs Minister

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Multiple Shan residents of Mandalay reported that they were unable to vote for the Shan ethnic affairs minister in Mandalay Region on Sunday during Burma’s general election.

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Billboard of U Thein Maung

The criteria for being able to vote for the post is having one’s ethnicity listed as Shan on their national identification card. Such voters should receive four ballots— to vote for parliamentarians in the regional legislature, the Lower House, and the Upper House, as well as for the ethnic affairs minister.

The Shan voters who SHAN spoke with complained that they were only allocated three ballots on November 8.

“[The polling station staff] told us to cast three ballots prior to casting a ballot for the ethnic affairs minister,” Nang Than Aye, an ethnic Shan resident of Mandalay Region, told SHAN. “My name was not included on the [eligible voter] list, so I could not cast a ballot for the ethnic affairs minister. I complained to the polling station officer. The polling station officer told me if my name was not included on the list, I could not cast a ballot for [the minister].”

She said on Sunday that she would keep advocating throughout the day for the error to be rectified.

“I am an ethnic person, so I want to cast a ballot for the ethnic affairs minister. I have had to wait five years for this opportunity. I want to exercise my voting rights. I will try for it until the closure of the polling station,” Nang Than Aye said.

Another Shan woman who lives in Mandalay, Nang Aye Yon, said that she was able to vote for the Shan ethnic affairs minister in Burma’s 2015 general election, but she was told that she could not do so this year.

“I feel so upset. I want to cast a ballot for my people,” she told SHAN. “Every vote is important for the respective ethnic parties. […] The ethnic affairs minister can speak for their ethnic people. I am not able to cast a ballot for it. I feel we have lost our ethnic rights. I am so angry about it,” Nang Aye Yon told SHAN on Sunday, adding that she was “still trying.”

SHAN found that ethnic Shan voters in particular in the Mandalay town of Pyin Oo Lwin were denied a ballot to vote for the ethnic affairs minister.

Pyin Oo Lwin resident Sai Soe Moe Aung said that he and his relatives were unable to vote for the post.  

“It’s not only my family. Many Shan people could not cast a ballot for the Shan ethnic affairs minister. Shan people have lost their voting rights,” he said.

Shein Win, chairperson of the Mandalay Region Election Commission, told SHAN that election commission officials had been looking into the problem throughout Sunday morning, but blamed voters for not ensuring they were eligible in advance.  

“The problem is that voters didn’t check their name on the eligible voter list,” he said. “Voters cannot cast their ballot for ethnic affairs minister if they are not included on the eligible voter list.”

On election day, SHAN also reported a dispute in Taunggyi, Shan State in which Intha and Bamar voters said they were denied the chance to vote for their respective ethnic affairs ministers.

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