Myanmar opposition says it is blocked from campaigning in island seat


Coco Islands Photo: Myanmar Burma.com

Opposition candidates for one of Myanmar's smallest constituencies are being blocked from visiting the remote island chain, a party spokesman said Sunday, just weeks ahead of elections billed as the country's freest in decades.

Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition National League for Democracy party says it has repeatedly tried to secure passage to the Coco Islands in the Andaman Sea, raising concerns authorities are trying to prevent the party from making gains in the November 8 polls.

"We've been trying to go there for more than a month -- since September 8 -- but we have not been granted approval," the NLD's spokesman Win Htein told AFP.

The NLD wanted to send three candidates on Sunday by ferry but have not been given approval from the Yangon regional government, despite asking in writing for permission to travel.

Although they are a few hundred kilometres from land the Coco Islands, which has a population of between 1,000-2,000, fall under Yangon's jurisdiction -- a legacy of British colonial administration.

"It's obvious that they (the authorities) are trying to make it impossible for us to go there... they are trying every way to stop us," Win Htein added.

Myanmar's election body said the NLD should have been given swift permission to travel to the islands.

"According to campaign rules, when (someone) requests permission, they need to give permission right away," Thant Zin Aung, an official from the Union Election Commission in Yangon told AFP.

Yangon's regional government could not be immediately reached for comment.

Myanmar's election is being closely watched as the biggest test yet of reforms made since the military handed back some of its power to quasi-civilian rule in 2011.

Suu Kyi's party is expected to make major gains, but the military retains a big influence through links with the ruling party.

It is also gifted a 25 percent of parliamentary seats under the current constitution.

The NLD swept polls in 1990 but the military ignored the result and tightened its grip on power.

© AFP

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