MYANMAR: As anti-Muslim Buddhist group enters political mainstream, NLD (National League for Democracy) totally excludes Muslims from electoral list

20150401184135With the rapid growth of the Organization for the Protection of Race and Religion, or Ma Ba Tha, Myanmar’s Buddhist monks have succeeded in staking a claim as a political force, pledging to urge the public to vote with a “nationalist spirit” in the final months before all-important elections.

UCA News  Large video screens showed supporters the face of Myanmar’s best-known nationalist monk, U Wirathu as he delivered a speech.  U Wirathu told the crowd of at least 1,300 monks — plus scores of lay people — that the group would continue to lobby the Myanmar government to protect Buddhism and Buddhists against the threat of expansionist Islam. 

Myanmar's Buddhist 'James Bond' Ashin U Wirathu
Myanmar’s Buddhist ‘James Bond’ Ashin U Wirathu

The monk-led Organization for the Protection of Race and Religion, or Ma Ba Tha, has grown in influence since it was formed two years ago this month, an anniversary marked by a conference this weekend at a monastery in northern Yangon’s Insein Township.

The government must not allow Muslims rescued from the Bay of Bengal in the past month to stay in the country, U Wirathu said. “They might let them just go into the villages,” U Wirathu warned. “If they do that, then they will launch a jihad against the local Rakhine Buddhists.”

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Wirathu’s brand of extreme Buddhist nationalism and anti-Muslim rhetoric are growing forces in the country’s politics, with monks treated with deference by the Buddhist majority. Myanmar is expected to vote in November in what could be its freest elections in decades, with Aung San Suu Kyi’s popular opposition, the National League for Democracy, expected to compete.

Four bills drafted by his Committee for the Protection of Race and Religion, better known as Ma Ba Tha, have been passed by parliament and signed into law. Critics say the new laws effectively legalize discrimination against the country’s minority Muslims.

In a separate set of recommendations issued by Ma Ba Tha on Sunday, the group also called for a ban on schoolgirls wearing Islamic headscarves and the ritual slaughter of cows during the Eid al-Adha festival. Ma Ba Tha said it will “urge parliamentarians to enact quickly the important laws for the security of Myanmar people such as interfaith marriage, religious conversion and polygamy”.

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Interaksyon  (h/t Robert S) Established two years ago, Ma Ba Tha sprang from the “969″ movement, a loose collection of monks linked to a wave of violence against the country’s Muslim minority in 2012 and 2013. Senior Ma Ba Tha officials said the 969 movement had raised awareness about threats to Buddhism from a burgeoning Muslim population

Now, a growing number of professionals are offering their expertise on everything from media relations to legislation, helping to shape Ma Ba Tha into a slick organization with popular support and real political clout.

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Myanmar’s revered and influential monks led many pro-democracy protests during nearly half a century of military rule in the Buddhist-majority nation. But after a quasi-civilian, reformist government took power in 2011, some outspoken monks claim Islam is eclipsing Buddhism and weakening the country.

The Ma Ba Tha-backed “race and religion” bills moved swiftly through parliament. One bill requires Buddhist women to seek official permission before marrying a non-Buddhist man. This will stop Muslim men “torturing and forcing (Buddhist women) to change religion,” Ashin Tilawkar Biwonsa said.

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PressTV (h/t Robert S) A senior Muslim member of Myanmar’s National League for Democracy (NLD) says the opposition party has totally excluded Muslims from its electoral list.

On Sunday, AFP quoted the anonymous NLD member as saying that “not a single Muslim” was among the party’s 1,000 candidates for Myanmar’s upcoming general elections in November. The decision has brought about major disappointment among the country’s Rohingya Muslims, who bear the brunt of centuries-long discrimination and marginalization.

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“It seems Muslims are not accepted at all. In a real democracy, we would have the right to choose,” said Khin Maung Win, a senior member of the Muslim community in Myanmar’s second largest city of Mandalay, adding that Muslims have always lent support to the NLD.

Meanwhile, Khin Zaw Win, an analyst in the Tampadipa Institute, a political think tank, said, “the NLD party’s “shift to the right is very worrying” for Myanmar, he underscored, warning that “it is a very bad omen for the Muslims of this country.” This is the first time the NLD is allowed to run in Myanmar’s elections following years of the junta rule.

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Back in March, Myanmar’s parliament ratified a law barring people without full citizenship from voting. The move disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims who are not recognized as Myanmar’s citizens by the government.

The government of Myanmar has fallen short of protecting the rights of the marginalized group, forcing thousands of Muslims to seek refuge in Thailand, India, Bangladesh and Indonesia where they live in appalling conditions.

Buddhist Police ignore anti-Muslim violence in Myanmar:

The reason for the crackdown on Rohingya Muslims is because they have been terrorizing Buddhists, raping their women, and killing their monks and innocent citizens for many years.

 Much more about the Muslim problem in MYANMAR