NLD passes law requiring soldiers to vote at civilian polling stations

Military members and their families will have to vote at polling stations outside of their barracks in this year’s general elections after MPs passed amendments to election by-laws on Thursday.

Previously, soldiers voted inside military bases under the supervision of their superiors, which meant election monitors were unable to get access.

The change is one of eight amendments that the Union Election Commission presented to parliament in October.

Lawmakers were not required to vote on or discuss the amendments, which would have gone into effect after 90 days if there had been no objections.

But several military MPs and some ethnic lawmakers submitted objections, triggering a vote in the Lower House.

MPs also approved a change on Thursday that allows people to vote in a new constituency after living there for 90 days.

The military argues that soldiers could be exposed to attacks from armed groups if they vote outside their bases.

“There are some security concerns in certain circumstances if military polling stations are moved outside,” said military MP brigadier general Maung Maung.

“It seems like (NLD members) think they can amend whatever they want as the majority of lawmakers are NLD and will win when they vote (in parliament),” he added.

Kyaw Soe Lin, secretary of the Lower House bill committee, said military personnel can cast advance votes at civilian polling stations if they have security concerns.

“This amendment will make the Tatmadaw indistinguishable from civilians [when it comes to voting], which would build greater public trust in the institution and bring about a free election,” Kyaw Soe Lin said.

Reporting by Min Min in Naypyidaw, written by Tin Htet Paing