Issued: 02 November 2015
The Media Review Network (MRN) expresses grave concern at the upcoming Myanmar elections (Burmese elections), due to be held on 8 November 2015.
The National League for Democracy Party (NLD), led by Nobel Peace Laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi, deliberately by-passed Muslim candidates, notwithstanding the fact that the Muslim population numbers 5 million. The NLD have put up 1151 candidates for the regional and national elections. Not one of these candidates is Muslim.
The military backed governing party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), also has no Muslim candidates. It is difficult to see how these elections can be dubbed free and fair.
Election commissions rejected dozens of Muslim candidates, with authorities denying that their parents were citizens of the country. The Buddhist Party known as ‘The Association for the Protection of Race and Religion’ are known for their bitter rhetoric attacking the Muslim minority the ethnic Rohingya.
The denial of the right to vote is part of a bigger problem. These oppressive conditions range from a denial of citizenship to Myanmar’s 1.3 million Rohingya Muslims to severe restrictions on their movement, employment and access to education and healthcare, as well as a discriminatory law imposing a “two child” limit on Rohingya families in their home state of Rakhine.
Hundreds of thousands have been driven from their homes; their towns and villages razed to the ground by rampaging mobs. In 2014, the government even banned the use of the word “Rohingya”, insisting the Muslim minority, who have lived in that country for generations, be registered in the census as “Bengali”.
The silence of Suu Kyi on the marginalisation of the Rohingya and general exclusion of Muslims comes as no surprise. The recent ethnic cleansing of these people and their non-acceptance by neighbouring countries was met with deafening silence from Suu Kyi. The NLD believe that for them to win the elections, Muslims must be excluded so that they may secure Buddhist votes.
The MRN is greatly disturbed that the military government has effectively disenfranchised about 700 000, mostly Rohingya Muslims, by issuing temporary identification documents which automatically excludes them from the elections.
The Myanmar elections can now safely be called ‘Muslim Free’.
Senior Researcher, Media Review Network
Tel: (+27) 0 11 837 3220