23 May 2005

Ballot boxes flown to south of PNG island of Bougainville to avoid armed blockades

7:05 am on 23 May 2005

Some ballot boxes in the Papua New Guinea Island of Bougainville have been flown to the south of the island by helicopter to avoid roadblocks set up by armed men who are threatening to disrupt the elections.

Bougainvilleans are taking part in polls to elect their first autonomous government within Papua New Guinea.

Polling began on Friday and continues until June 2.

Voting is to elect a president and a 39-seat assembly.

A United Nations Observer Mission advisor, William Ozkaptan, told the Australian Association Press that the authorities decided to fly ballot boxes and papers to Buin in the south following "reliable information from police that armed men would have taken them" at road blocks.

Officials said that a ballot box was fired into at Eivo district in central Bougainville but local elders contained the situation.

But an international observer mission says there has been no sign of any trouble at the majority of polling stations.