YANGON – A few months before the general elections in the country, the military government withdrew hundreds of thousands of Muslims the right to come back. So they could retrieve it, they would have to prove their citizenship, but without using any government-issued identification, since these had been canceled.
This was just the last of outrages against the millions of the country’s Muslims, who face severe discrimination and are the target of murderous campaigns led by Buddhist radicals. Some Muslim members of the national parliament were prevented from running for re-election.
In northwest Myanmar, hundreds of thousands of ethnic Rohingya, a largely Muslim group, had denied their citizenship rights and are confined in isolated villages and refugee camps.
As the democratic movement in Myanmar prepares to assume power after a resounding victory at the polls, Muslims wonder if living conditions will improve under the new government’s command, led by the National League for Democracy, or NLD. But, according to comments made by leaders of the NLD, this is unlikely.
“We have other priorities. The peace, the peaceful transition of power, economic development and constitutional reform,” said Win Htein, a leader of the party.
“Let’s deal with this issue based on law, order and human rights, but rather have to deal with the government of Bangladesh, since most of these people came from there,” said Win Htein.
The election held on November 8 was celebrated as a great victory of the new national democracy. But it was a bittersweet moment for Muslims in Myanmar, many of whom had placed their hopes on Aung San Suu Kyi, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, icon of national democracy and main leader of the National League for Democracy.
Experts say do not expect drastic changes in government policies towards Muslims, but say they have hope that things will at least not worsen. Although the NLD leaders have not promised to end discrimination against this group during the campaign, analysts said they did not made it to attack them.
“I believe that many Muslims have concluded that although the NLD and Suu Kyi have not publicly stated support, they would be much better than the other guys,” said David Scott Mathieson, an analyst specializing in Myanmar by the Human Rights Watch. “This is another one of the responsibilities of Suu Kyi against the government – they can not fully support the political participation of Muslims, but they must ensure that they are treated as citizens and there is no more discrimination during his tenure Achieving this will not be easy.”
Suu Kyi has been criticized by the international press for not rule in favor of the Rohingya, whose life in the country is so bad that led thousands of people to flee in smugglers boats in the early months of this year, leading to a regional crisis after many countries initially They denied receiving vessels, leaving the migrants to starve at sea. However, his reticence is the standard in a country where anti-Muslim hatred exists in all media, and any attempt at reconciliation is seen as political suicide.
Neither party of Suu Kyi or the party aligned with the military government accepted Muslim candidates, seen as a political liability. When the new parliament take in late January, there will be no Muslim representative for the first time since the country became independent in 1948. A Muslim candidate, which after appeal twice to the election commission was allowed to run for office, abandoned the NLD, the party he had helped found in 1988.
The candidate, Yan Naing, said party members had organized a religious protest against him in the town of Myaung Mya, where he was supervisor of the party’s electoral committee. He says he reported his concerns in a series of letters to Suu Kyi, who never responded.
“I have been discriminated against. This party is not truly democratic. I was very disappointed.”
Win Htein, NLD leader acknowledged that his party has chosen not to have Muslim candidates in this election, as it would have served weapon for radicals Buddhists, who are seen as a powerful political force in the country. The Patriotic Association of Myanmar, an anti-Islamist group operated by Buddhist monks, have accused Suu Kyi of being too tolerant of Muslims.
“They said that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi won, it would allow the country to be taken over by Muslims,” said Win Htein. However, he insisted that the party treats all religions alike.
The only positive of the elections to the Muslims of Myanmar was the fact that the radical Buddhist movement could not influence the election in favor of the ruling party, which was supported by their leaders. However, experts say that the movement can hardly fail to be a political force in the region.
“Unfortunately, I think they will still be around,” said Mathieson of Human Rights Watch.
Note: Changes have been made, O GLOBO is not responsible for these.
Source: O GLOBO