‘Black’ laws threaten national unity, warns cardinal

Cardinal Charles Maung Bo has called for a review of the four controversial race and religion laws, warning that they threaten the “dream of a united Myanmar”, UCA News has reported.

The Yangon cardinal called for the review in a letter to President U Thein Sein on September 10, the website of Hong Kong-based UCA News said.

“Parliament was coerced by a fringe group of religious elite to enact four black laws, virtually fragmenting the dream of a united Myanmar,” the cardinal said in the letter, UCA News reported.

“That these four bills were conceived not by the elected representatives of the Myanmar people, but by an extra-constitutional fringe element … is a dangerous portend for the fledgling democracy,” he said.

The last of the four bills was signed into law by President U Thein Sein on August 31.

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The legislation was proposed by an ultra-nationalist group of Buddhist monks, the Association for the Protection of Race and Religion.

The laws impose restrictions on Buddhist women wishing to marry outside their religion, set stringent conditions for religious conversion, impose mandatory birth spacing between pregnancies and proscribe polygamy.

“Taken together, rights groups and faith leaders fear the laws are a barely concealed attempt to target Myanmar’s Muslim minority, particularly the often persecuted Muslim Rohingya,” UCA News said.

The cardinal’s concerns were echoed by the top US diplomat for East Asia, who said last week that rising religious intolerance threatened the unity of Myanmar, the Associated Press reported.

The government needed to “push back against the infusion of religious intolerance to the religious scene,” Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel said in Washington on September 11.

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