Myanmar: Muslim first to be charged under new religious laws

19th Sep 2015
Myanmar: Muslim first to be charged under new religious laws

By Joshua Carroll

 

YANGON,  (AA): A Myanmar Muslim man faces up to seven years in prison on being the first to be charged under a set of religious laws passed recently after a campaign by ultra-nationalist Buddhist monks, local media reported Friday.

Myint Soe Aung, from the southern Ayeyarwaddy division, has been charged under the new monogamy law because he was caught living with a Buddhist woman while still married to someone else.

Supporters of the extremist Ma Ba Tha group informed police after hearing rumors that the 37-year-old had been staying with the woman, who is 22-years old and also married, according to the Myanmar Times.

“We wouldn’t have any problem if they were single. But we were worried that this young Buddhist woman would be cheated,” Thaw Bi Ta, a Ma Ba Tha supporter who lives in the same township as the pair, told the newspaper.

“He broke the rules by living with another woman while he was still married.”

Myint Soe Aung faces up to seven years in prison under the law, part of a package of four bills written by lawyers from Ma Ba Tha, also known as the Organisation for the Protection of Race and Religion.

President Thein Sein signed off on the last of the four bills in late August, prompting Ma Ba Tha to announce that it would hold a two-week victory celebration.

The celebrations began Monday.

The bills also restrict religious conversion — requiring people to seek permission from local authorities before changing faiths — and allow for “birth spacing” in areas deemed overpopulated.

Rights groups and activists say the bills are sexist and effectively legalize discrimination against religious minorities.

A rising wave of Buddhist nationalism has engulfed Myanmar in recent years. In 2012 anti-Muslim riots erupted in western Rakhine state and ultimately spread throughout the country, leaving hundreds dead.

Firebrand monks including the well-known Wirathu have become notorious for anti-Muslim sermons and been accused of fomenting the violence.

Nine embassies in Myanmar warned on Tuesday against religion being used as a “tool of division and conflict” in the run up to a landmark general election in November that is seen as a test of the country’s democratic reforms.

[Photo: Distressed mother named Shamijder (age 30) holds onto her twins aged 1 year whom both suffer from malnutrition. An estimated 110,000 ethnic Rohingya live in an overcrowded IDP camp in the outskirts of Sittwe. According to the UN the Rohingya are one of the most persecuted minorities in the world. Sittwe, Rakhine State Myanmar on July 17 2015. Photographer: Asanka Brendon Ratnayake/Anadolu Agency]

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