Officials ‘investigating’ after hundreds of monks sign petition against Muslim NLD candidate

Officials are investigating after hundreds of Buddhist monks signed a petition urging the National League for Democracy (NLD) to bar a prominent Muslim activist from running in this year’s election, a lawmaker said.

Win Mya Mya, who was injured during an infamous attack on Aung San Suu Kyi’s convoy in 2003, is one of just two Muslim candidates who will represent the party out of more than 1,100 vying for seats in November. 

But the party’s decision to allow any Muslims to run, a reversal on its total ban in 2015, has angered nationalists. 

Hlaing Win, an NLD MP in Singaing, where Win Mya Mya will run, said officials are interviewing “witnesses” because some of the signatures on the petition are fake. 

“We are not going to sit idly by and watch if they violate election laws and use religion and nationalism for their own benefit,” he told Myanmar Now. 

The petition, dated August 25 and addressed to the NLD’s central executive committee, calls for Win Mya Mya to be replaced by another candidate as soon as possible. 

“We don’t need to stand against it if an Islamic candidate runs in places like Buthidaung or Maungdaw, where most of the residents Muslim,” the petition said.

“But choosing an Islamic candidate for Singaing, where our Buddhist people have lived through successive eras of our ancestors… is totally unacceptable,” it added.  

It added that Win Mya Mya is not a native of Singaing but of nearby Mandalay. 

More than 130,000 people are registered to vote in Singaing township. 

One resident, who asked to remain anonymous, said a monk named U Pandika started the petition after an abortive bid to protest against Win Mya Mya’s candidacy. 

“U Pandika is quite popular on Facebook,” the resident said. “He came here a week ago to organize a rally. Then someone said his holiness was wrong to protest, and advised him to collect signatures and petition within the law.”

Most signatures on the petition are those of monks (Photo- Yan Moe Naing/ Myanmar Now)

Duplicate signatures

Among the almost 500 signatures on the petition, which is mostly signed by monks, there are several duplicate signatures. 

Pinnya Zawta, of the Kyatshar village monastery, told Myanmar Now he signed the petition because he was “confused”. 

Someone told him over the phone that they were collecting votes within the Sangha community because a non-Buddhist candidate would be running in Singaing, he said. 

“I didn’t know about the parties. They didn’t mention that. I was confused,” he said.

Some signatures on the petition were duplicates

Zaw Myint Maung, the NLD’s second vice chair, said Win Mya Mya’s candidacy was in accordance with election rules. “We have selected a non-Buddhist candidate in a country where the right to freedom of religion is practised,” he told Myanmar Now. 

The party decided to allow Muslim candidates since it had already selected Christian candidates, he added. 

Win Mya Mya, 71, serves as the NLD’s vice chair for Mandalay region. She still has deep scars from being injured during the 2003 Depayin massacre, where a convoy carrying Aung San Suu Kyi was attacked by suspected military-backed thugs. She was later imprisoned for her involvement in the 2007 Saffron Revolution.

She declined to comment on the petition.

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