Monday, April 2, 2012

Myanmar vote brings hope for people's future

From morning to dusk amid Myanmar's searing heat, thousands of people turned out to vote in the country's by-elections yesterday.
Many women dressed up in colourful traditional costumes to exercise their voting right, some took time finding their names on voting lists, while others were excited to see throngs of local and foreign journalists talking to people and observing the poll.
In the evening, volunteer observers and party agents were observing vote counting at each booth.
Thai embassy Charge d'Affaires Kallayana Vipattpumiprates said that in Mandalay, where he and his colleagues from Bangladesh, India, and Japan observed the election, things seemed to be running smoothly.
''The election officials helped voters to find their names. They also assisted the elderly at polling stations. The result at each voting unit will be known within the day _ the same as in 2010,'' said Mr Kallayana, in Pyin Oo Lwin township.
In Yangon Division's Mingalar Thaung Nyunt, 5km from the city, a 41-year-old office worker said it was only her second chance to vote since 1990.
In 2010, she did not feel so enthusiastic as her party of choice, the National League for Decmocracy (NLD), boycotted the election which the government, led by former general Thein Sein, won.
Tin Aung, 33, said he also voted in 2010 but this time, with the NLD participating, Aung San Suu Kyi's party was his choice.
The owner of a snack shop near the office of an NLD candidate said yesterday was a specially busy day as people were flocking to the office, which is opposite a polling booth. Hninn, 35, a medical equipment saleswoman, said she was excited as this was her first election.
While most voters were willing to reveal their choice, some declined, and a few said they did not vote for the NLD.
A 40-year-old housewife said from one of the 32 polling booths in Mingalar Thaung Nyunt that she voted for the Union Solidarity and Development Party as it has helped her community.
Meanwhile, a retired civil servant said he felt encouraged to see the presence of foreign media and observers.
''This election is good for the people and the country which has suffered for a long time,'' said Ohn Myint, 72.
''The poll is more open than the 2010 election. Last time we voted out of fear, now we vote out of freedom.'' But the pensioner cautiously said it has yet to be seen how open Myanmar's general election in 2015 would be.
''I do not doubt the government, but we do not know how the military will respond to the changing situation in the future,'' said Ohn Myint.
Zayar Win, 31, a hotel worker, said yesterday's election was also his first as the NLD did not take part in the 2010 elections.
''The NLD is the family party. Entire families vote for Suu Kyi's party,'' he said. In Mayangone township, 16km from Yangon, a Muslim family said they were excited and happy to see observers.
Myint, 49, a mobile phone shop owner, said she did not vote in 2010 while her daughter Aye, 23, was also a first-time voter. Both voted for the NLD.
Han Su Tin, an NLD party member who showed up at polling stations to observe the balloting, said people were optimistic about the election.
The 23-year-old said young Myanmar people needed to look to the future otherwise there would be no change.
''Things have been unstable in the past several years, but we must get ourselves motivated, or nothing will happen,'' added Han Su Tin.

People line up to vote on Sunday.