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Myanmar defends decision barring Rohingya from voting

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (right) meets with Myanmar's Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin ahead of the United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. headquarters in New York Thursday, when the Myanmar minister defended his country's barring of ethnic Rohingya from voting. (Photo: REUTERS)

By Mattew Pennington
September 24, 2015

WASHINGTON — Myanmar has defended a decision barring 800,000 ethnic minority people from voting in November elections by saying that green card holders can't vote in U.S. elections either.

Foreign Minister Wanna Maung Lwin drew awkward laughter Thursday in New York at the Council on Foreign Relations when he likened the situation of foreign citizens permitted to live and work in the U.S. with Myanmar's so-called "white card" holders, many of them stateless Rohingya Muslims.

In March, Myanmar declared the temporary identification cards invalid. Those who held them could vote in the last national elections in 2010, but they won't be able to vote this time.

That's drawn international criticism. It is the latest sign of discrimination against a persecuted, stateless minority. Many Rohingya have lived in Myanmar for decades.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday met Wanna Maung Lwin and expressed concern about the disenfranchisement of previously eligible minority groups, mostly Rohingya.

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