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Election commission rejects Muslim candidates en masse

Eighteen Muslim candidates in northern Rakhine State have been rejected from running in the election on citizenship grounds – including one MP-elect from the 1990 election. Rakhine State had the largest number of candidates barred from standing, accounting for about two-fifths of the 49 candidates rejected nationally. (Thiri/The Myanmar Times)

By Ei Ei Toe Lwin
September 1, 2015

Nineteen election candidates in northern Rakhine State have been barred from running by the district sub-election commission, which called into question their residency status and the citizenship of their parents.

Applications were submitted by 378 potential candidates representing a range of political parties across five districts in Rakhine State – Kyaukpyu, Sittwe, Maungdaw, Thandwe and Mrauk Oo.

Of these, 19 candidates were rejected in Maungdaw district, where the majority of the population is Muslim Rohingya, who are officially referred to as Bengalis.

“Most [of the disqualified nominees] are Bengalis,” district election officer U San Win Tun told The Myanmar Times yesterday.

Among them, nine are from the Democracy and Human Rights Party, six are from the National Development and Peace Party, one is from the National League for Democracy, and three are independents.

“We rejected them according to sections 8(a) and 10(e) of the elections laws,” said U San Win Tun. Section 8(a) says a person is ineligible to run for office if their parents were not citizens of Myanmar at the time of his birth, while section 10(e) stipulates that a candidate must have lived in the country for the past 10 years continuously.

U Kyaw Soe Aung, general secretary of the Democracy and Human Rights Party, said his party proposed 11 candidates: nine from Maungdaw and two from Sittwe.

“All of our Maungdaw candidates were rejected because the sub-commission said their parents were not citizens when they were born,” U Kyaw Soe Aung said, adding that the party has not received any information about its Sittwe candidates.

U Kyaw Min, one of the rejected Democracy and Human Rights Party candidates, said he did not understand the sub-election commission’s decision, especially since he was elected to parliament in the 1990 election.

U Kyaw Min won the seat of Buthidaung for the National Development and Democratic Party, and later became a member of the Committee Representing the People’s Parliament. He has now been rejected from running for the Buthidaung seat in the Pyithu Hluttaw. “I think the commission rejected us under orders from the Union Election Commission because we are Rohingya,” he said.

“When I was a candidate in the 1990 election my parents were recognised as citizens, but now I have lost my citizenship rights under this so-called democratic government,” U Kyaw Min said, adding that all the rejected nominees plan to appeal and show citizenship evidence to the Rakhine State election commission. “We don’t want to lose our basic rights,” he said.

Meanwhile, NLD candidate U Tun Min Soe, who had planned to contest Rakhine State Amyotha Hluttaw constituency 2, which encompasses Maungdaw, was dismissed because he lived in Bangladesh in 2006.

On August 22, the election commission office in Maungdaw also sent a letter to U Shwe Maung – a sitting Pyithu Hluttaw representative who self-identifies as Rohingya – notifying him that he was ineligible to run because his parents were not citizens when he was born, a claim he denies.

Also known as Abdul Rezak, the MP said a Muslim candidate for the Amyotha Hluttaw, Daw Khin Khin Lwin, had also been disqualified.

The sub-commission said they had no specific intentions when they scrutinised the candidate selection process.

“The candidates were rejected according to the law. We sent letters to them on August 29. If they are dissatisfied with our decision, they can appeal to the state election commission within one week,” said U San Win Tun.

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