Rakhine insurgents claim kidnappings of three ruling NLD candidates

Yangon, Myanmar, Oct 19 (efe-epa).- Insurgents in conflict-ridden Rakhine state in Western Burma have claimed responsibility for the kidnappings of three candidates for the country’s ruling party last week.

The Arakan Army rebels said in a statement on Monday that they had kidnapped three people campaigning for Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) and demanded the release of student protesters.

“We will release the three candidates if the NLD government frees all politicians, students and innocent people who have been illegally arrested and detained,” the group said.

The three kidnapped candidates are Ni Ni May Myint, a member of the national parliament, Senator Chit Chit Chaw and Min Aung, a former minister of the state government. They were on an election campaign trip when they were abducted.

The kidnapping took place in the municipality of Taungup, in the south of Rakhine, a restive state in western Myanmar that last year saw an escalation of violence between the Burmese armed forces and the ethno-nationalist AA guerrillas, who fight for greater autonomy for the Rakhine, the majority ethnic group in the region.

So far the fighting has been concentrated in the north of the state and had not spread to southern areas, where the AA had not been operating openly.

On Saturday, Burma’s Election Commission announced the cancellation of the November 8 general elections in several conflict zones across the country, citing security reasons, including 13 (9 in full and 4 in part) of the 17 election districts in Rakhine, the worst affected by the cancellation.

Although Taungup is far more tranquil than conflict-torn northern Rakhine, the municipality has been the scene in recent months of tensions between members of the NLD and the National Arakan Party (PNA), a Rakhine nationalist group that won the majority of the votes in the state in the 2015 elections.

The legislative elections on November 8 will be the second relatively free elections to be held in Burma since the country embarked 10 years ago on a transition towards what the military, who had ruled the country with an iron fist for five decades, called a “disciplined democracy”. EFE/EPA


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