Myanmar’s ‘Muslim-free’ election

Arifa
By October 29, 2015 11:05

Myanmar’s ‘Muslim-free’ election

Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi “purged” opposition of Muslims ahead of election, senior party member tells Al Jazeera.

Myanmar’s main opposition party, led by the Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, deliberately bypassed Muslim candidates ahead of the November election, a senior party member told Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the source said Suu Kyi ordered an “Islamic purge” in the National League for Democracy (NLD) to appease growing anti-Muslim sentiment fuelled by hardline Buddhist nationalists.

Not one of the NLD’s 1,151 candidates standing for regional and national elections is Muslim, despite there being around five million Muslims – or between 4 and 10 percent of the population – in the country.

There are also no Muslim candidates in the military-backed, governing Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) running in what has been billed as the country’s first free and fair general election in 25 years.

In the run-up to the vote, local election commissions reportedly rejected dozens of Muslim candidates with authorities denying that their parents were citizens, claims which many of the shunned candidates denied.

“I think Suu Kyi is a bit concerned about the Ma Ba Tha, so it became an Islamic purge here,” said the source.

The Ma Ba Tha is an increasingly effective, ultranationalist Buddhist movement, also known as ‘The Association for the Protection of Race and Religion’, whose outspoken members are known for their bitter speeches attacking the ethnic minority Muslim Rohingya.

“Islamic people have been persecuted,” said the source. “A party should have all kinds of people and all kinds of religions.”

Suu Kyi, 70, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, for her non-violent struggle for democracy.

Her silence on the marginalisation of the Rohingya and general exclusion of Muslims, however, has drawn criticism.

“The anti-Muslim monks are becoming stronger and stronger,” said the source, adding that authorities should crack down on what the source called extremist members of the Ma Ba Tha instead of “sponsoring them”.

Win Htein, a senior NLD member who is coordinating its campaign, told Al Jazeera that the party decided that to secure the best chance of winning, Muslims would have to be left out.

“In the present climate, we believe that it is a better strategy to win by leaving out Muslims candidates in coming election,” he said, claiming that potential candidates of the Islamic faith had “agreed to that”.

Some 15 Rohingya candidates were barred in August from running, again on account of their parents being ‘foreign-born’.

Earlier this year, the government effectively disenfranchised about 700,000 people, mostly Rohingya, when it declared holders of “white cards” ineligible to vote. The cards had been issued as temporary identification documents, and white-card holders had been permitted to vote in the 2010 elections.

“Rohingya Muslims have been removed from the elections by the USDP where they used to participate. You could say that where Islam is concerned, everyone – the monks and the government – is united.

“Now the elections are unequivocally Islamic-free.”

Source: Al Jazeera

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Arifa
By October 29, 2015 11:05

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