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Is Myanmar’s Democracy Champion Sidelining Muslim Candidates?

(Photo: Reuters)

By Editors
September 9, 2015

Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese Nobel Laureate who spent 15 years under house arrest for supporting democracy, has no Muslim candidates for November elections.

The November polls in Myanmar will be the first general election since a civilian government was introduced in 2011.

And while it may be an historic or landmark election, as most news reports are putting it, it’s definitely not a democratic because candidates belonging to the second-largest religious population in the country – Myanmar is a Buddhist majority – are being sidelined.

Among some 6,200 candidates running for office for 92 parties in Myanmar, not one candidate from the Muslim community has been selected by party chiefs.

But even more alarming is the fact that not even Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese Nobel Peace Prize winner who spent 15 years under house arrest for her pro-democracy activism, has chosen a single Muslim among 1,151 candidates of her political party, National League for Democracy.

The NLD hasn't offered any reason for the exclusion of Muslim candidates or whether it's intentional. However, it’s believed the move is part of the rampant anti-Muslim sentiment in the Southeast Asian nation.

(Photo: Reuters)

Although no proper government stats are available to confirm this fact, Islam is generally considered the second largest religion in Myanmar.

But Burmese Muslims, who unlike Rohingya are not considered stateless and have been living in the country for generations, have long complained of facing discrimination by the Buddhist majority.

It’s believed the anti-Islam hate-mongering perpetrated by Burmese "Buddhist Bin Laden" Ashin Wirathu and his supporters has not only affected the status of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar but also created problems for Muslims in general.

And the situation has only deteriorated because of the criminal indifference shown toward the issue by President Thein Sein, who allegedly doesn’t want to upset hardline Buddhists.

But even worse is the deafening silence from Suu Kyi. Despite being known and awarded for her advocacy of human rights, she has been criminally silent over the genocidal campaign against the Rohingya community that has caused hundreds of deaths and displaced more than 140,000 members in almost three years.

Her deliberate attempts to ignore the issue have led many to believe that Suu Kyi is also trying to appease hardline Buddhists. And now, her failure to choose a single Muslim candidate is cementing those rumors.

It might be a historic victory on NLD’s part to finally be able to participate in November’s election. The exclusion of Muslim contenders, however, is certainly not democratic.

But does Suu Kyi care? Only time will tell.

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