Maungdaw, Arakan State: Local authorities were out in force yesterday in Maungdaw two days before Burma holds its first national election in more than 20 years, a local elder said.
“You can see riot police at every junction, and two trucks full of security forces are on patrol.”
The elder added that authorities are questioning any residents they pass, as well as checking motorbike drivers.
“Maundaw residents resent the security checks since they are residents and just going around town to attend to social or family matters,” said an organizer from the National Democratic Party for Development (NDPD). “We perceive it as an implicit threat to the people who may want to support our party.”
Many residents have said that they fear supporting NDPD candidates because of threats made by supporters and candidates from the Burmese junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party.
Personnel from Burma’s border security force Nasaka have also been deployed throughout Maungdaw Township, according to one villager who asked not to be named.
Nasaka forces armed only with wooden batons have been sent to patrol every village in the township in groups of three but do not otherwise engage with residents, a local village leader said.
The lead-up to the November 7 elections has also seen widespread reports of tension between rival political party supporters and members, which could explain efforts to heighten security, said a Maungdaw resident.
An NDPD supporter identified as Mamom Rashid was arrested earlier in the week for allegedly owning an illegal mobile phone. He remains in Nasaka custody.
Two students were also reportedly beaten by Syed Alam, an associate of Nasaka on November 1 for wearing T-shirts bearing the logo of the NDPD, according to a Nasaka aide who spoke on condition of anonymity.
A curfew was also imposed in Ward 4 of Maungdaw earlier this week that prohibits groups of two or more to gather and requires that residents stay indoors after 9pm, according to a Maungdaw election watchdog group, which said it expected curfews to be extended to other areas of the township.