Rohingya Vision

Myanmar leader seeks to capitalize on anti-Muslim sentiment

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Myanmar leader seeks to capitalize on anti-Muslim sentiment
September 18
09:11 2015

YANGON, Myanmar— With an eye on upcoming elections, Myanmar’s president has ticked off a list of accomplishments under his administration — noting with apparent pride a number of anti-Muslim policies he hopes will help him win another five-year term.

He said a string of controversial laws on race and religion were passed under his watch and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation — which represents more than a billion Muslims across the globe — tried to open an office in western Arakan (Rakhine) state.

The president’s comments came as the U.S., Britain and other governments expressed concern about rising religious tensions ahead of the Nov. 8 general election in the country also known as Burma that many hope will be relatively free and fair following decades of military rule.

The countries issued a statement this week saying they were “concerned about the prospect of religion being used as a tool of division and conflict during the campaign season.”

In Washington, State Department spokesman John Kirby said the U.S. was aware of reports that almost all Muslim candidates have been disqualified, including some current members of parliament. He said disqualifications through an opaque and discriminatory process, “risks undermining the confidence of the Burmese people and the international community in these elections.”

Myanmar has seen a rise in anti-Muslim rhetoric since Thein Sein’s nominally civilian government came to power in 2011, including attacks on Rohingya that left up to 280 people dead and sent another quarter million fleeing their homes. Half are now living under apartheid-like conditions in camps, where they have limited access to medical care and education. Others took to the sea, sparking Asia’s own migrant boat crisis.

Adding to their disenfranchisement, the Rohingya for the first time will not be allowed to vote.

Thein Sein, a former army general, has expressed on-and-off again interest in running for another five-year term.

Critics say the laws regulating religious conversion, interfaith marriage, population control and monogamy could further entrench discrimination against women and religious minorities.

Note: Changes have been made, AP is not responsible for these.

Source: AP



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