Mandalay Muslims hope election brings equal rights

MANDALAY — Members of the Muslim community in Mandalay said they hoped Sunday’s election will bring change and an end to discrimination.

“I hope that this election will bring a new government that will govern equally and fairly,” said U Htwe, a resident of the heavily Muslim Amyaut Tan Quarter on Mandalay’s eastern outskirts.
“We hope that the next government will allow everyone – the country’s majority and minority groups – to have equal rights,” he said.

Sitting in one of the quarter’s tea shops, U Chit Than, a Muslim, said he voted for the National League for Democracy in the lower and upper houses of the Union parliament and for National Congress Party candidate U Khin Maung Thein in the regional parliament.

“He is the only person in Mandalay Region who represents Muslim interests,” said U Chit Than. “If he is elected, he plans to make an organisation that would work for Muslim rights. He will make a connection between the government and Muslim communities. We hope that this election will bring change and more freedom for us.”

Sitting at the same table in the teashop, U Soe Lwin, expressed a similar sentiment.

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“We do not have freedom of religion,” he said. “After the violence [in Mandalay] last year, mosques were burned down and we have not been given permission to re-build them. This government does not work for Muslim rights.”

“Only the NLD can bring our issues to the government. From what we know, the NLD has made a commitment that they will ensure freedom of religion if they come to power,” he said.

U Soe Lwin was referring to communal violence in Myanmar’s second biggest city in June last year that left two people dead and mosques and other buildings razed in arson attacks.

The violence erupted after social media circulated reports about a Buddhist woman having lodged a complaint with police about being raped by two Muslim brothers.

The claim was later found to have been fabricated and resulted in the woman and four others receiving lengthy jail terms.

By Oliver Slow

By Oliver Slow

Oliver Slow is a Southeast Asia-based journalist. He is a former Chief-of-Staff at Frontier, and is writing a book about Myanmar's transition.
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