A line of people, both men and women, wearing Kayin traditional dress waited on the concrete road at the entrance to Wa Thein Ka village. When the Pajero carrying Daw Aung San Suu Kyi appeared on the concrete strip, the people greeted her uniformly in Kayin language.
“It means, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, be successful!” explained a Kayin woman in the crowd.
The Pajero slowly passed the 100 or so pedestrians, including a bunch of local and foreign reporters, and arrived in the village about 7pm.
“It is important that tomorrow you all will vote. Don’t forget that. You all should arrive in time at the voting station tomorrow. Otherwise I will lose the by-election!” Daw Aung San Suu Kyi told the crowd from the veranda of a house.
Before she entered the house, she added: “I hope to see you more often!”
The ground in front of the house where Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was staying had been lit up by battery-powered lamps and was packed with residents and journalists.
A pandal had been set up in the compound of the house and Kayin girls performed a folk dance (done-yein) as Daw Aung San Sui Kyi watched on.
“I feel so happy because Amay Su is staying our village. I’ve never seen a scene like this before. All the people, including the children, are greeting and welcoming her. I’ve never seen her this close up before either,” said Ko Sa Hein Min Zar, a resident of Wa Thein Ka.
Daw Sein May, a 60-year-old resident who had come to see Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, said she was still unsure how she’d vote, as she’d never done it before.
“I don’t know who I’ll vote for. But I will see. I think I like all of them,” she said.
It is an indication of how far Myanmar’s transition to democracy had not filtered down from the hluttaws and government offices in Nay Pyi Taw that there were many villagers like Daw Sein May who didn’t know how to vote. Some didn’t even know how to use a ballpoint pen and had trouble marking their ballot forms, said NLD member Ko Win Aye, a resident of neighbouring Ya Khine Su village. He said NLD members had gone door to door teaching people how to mark the ballot paper.
“Firstly, I asked them which one is their favorite. Then, show them how to mark in the box. We taught them clearly how to vote for their favorite party and how to make sure they don’t cast an invalid vote. We villagers often used to mark all the boxes,” said Ko Win Aye.
At 7am on April 1 Daw Aung San Suu Kyi visited one polling station at Wa Thein Ka, located in the village’s middle school. After meeting with some voters and election commission officials, she visited other voting stations on the road back to Yangon.
Among the many visitors to Kawhmu on April 1 – along with local and foreign journalists, diplomats and election monitors – was Union Election Commission chairman U Tin Aye, who visited the Kawhmu Township Election Sub-Commission office and met with U Tin Yi, the candidate for the Unity and Peace Party. He also visited Ma Gyi Kan voting station but refused to answer any questions from reporters.
At 4pm voting stations closed and counting began. News of an NLD victory was quickly released, prompting a surge of motorbikes and farm vehicles, known as trawlergyi, to hit the streets in celebration.
“We can’t even express how happy we are right now … I’d like to say to Amay Su, ‘Our duty is accomplished’,” said U Hla Aung, a resident of Kawhmu’s Phayar Lan quarter.“And I’d like to say to Amay Su to do perfectly the three issues she mentioned,” he said, referring to the party’s three campaign promises of national peace, rule of law and amending the constitution. – Translated by Thiri Min Htun