Suu Kyi sees worrying anti-Muslim sentiment in Myanmar election campaign

October 8, 2015
(Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi gives a speech as she campaigns for the upcoming general election, in Loikaw capital city of Kayah state September 11, 2015. Suu Kyi on Thursday urged voters to opt for "real change" in the first general election since the end of military rule. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun)

(Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi gives a speech as she campaigns for the upcoming general election, in Loikaw capital city of Kayah state September 11, 2015. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun)

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has expressed worries over an increase in anti-Muslim sentiment in Myanmar and religion being used for political means, saying that there were, “very, very worrying signs of religious intolerance which we did not have in this country before.”

Her National League for Democracy (NLD) party has been criticized for not putting up any Muslim candidates in its field of over 1,100 parliamentary and regional assembly hopefuls in Myanmar’s Nov. 8 election, but Suu Kyi had until now remained quiet on the issue.

She told the Indian television channel, India Today TV  said that the one Muslim candidate the NLD tried to field was disqualified by the electoral commission.

When asked if she was sorry about not having any Muslim candidates, she said that she was sorry that religion had become an issue in the election.

Nationalist monks, particularly the Committee for the Protection of Race and Religion, better known as Ma Ba Tha, have sharply criticized the NLD for what they see as its failure to sufficiently protect Buddhism.

Suu Kyi said that this worried her, but that it was difficult for her party to fight back because the constitution forbids the mixing of religion and politics.

“It is a fact that this government certainly has not taken much action against those who are using religion to attack the NLD although that is against the law,” she said, when asked if government policy had contributed to the increasing role of religion in politics.

One of the most outspoken leaders of Ma Ba Tha, Wirathu, endorsed President Thein Sein, and said the NLD members “were full of themselves” and unlikely to win the election.

Suu Kyi reiterated her defense to criticism that she has said little about Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims, around 140,000 of whom remain stateless in Rakhine state following clashes with Rakhine Buddhists in 2012.

She is scheduled to visit the state later this month.

“I have talked about it, but people are not interested,” Suu Kyi said.

“Because what they want me to do is to condemn the Rakhine. I can’t condemn the Rakhine for the simple fact that the Rakhine have many grievances as well.”

Suu Kyi also said she plans to lead the next government if the NLD comes to power in the election, despite being barred from becoming president.

The NLD is expected to do well in the election, billed as the country’s first free and fair contest in 25 years, but Myanmar’s military-drafted constitution blocks Suu Kyi from becoming president because her late husband and two sons are not Myanmar citizens.

There is no earmarked deputy to the Nobel laureate in the NLD and the party’s failed efforts to amend the constitution to allow Suu Kyi to be president have led to speculation about who would lead an NLD majority government.

“I’ve made it quite clear that if the NLD wins elections and we form a government, I’m going to be the leader of that government whether or not I’m the president,” Suu Kyi told India Today TV in her┬ámost detailed comments on her post-election ambitions.

 

via Suu Kyi says hopes to lead Myanmar despite constitutional ban | Reuters.

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