Activists Face Violent Threats After Opposing Interfaith Marriage Bill

An activist’s phone shows messages from an anonymous sender asking where the activist lives. (Photo courtesy of Khon Ja)

RANGOON — Burmese activists who publicly opposed a controversial interfaith marriage bill say they are receiving violent threats from anonymous callers.

At least four activists have been targeted by threats after listing their contact information in early May on a public statement backed by nearly 100 civil society groups that objected to the bill.

Since then, they have received anonymous phone calls and online messages threatening violence. One activist was forced to change her phone number after her original digits were posted on a Facebook page advertising prostitutes.

Another activist, Aung Myo Min, says he has been urged to stop fighting the interfaith marriage bill, which places restrictions on marriages between Buddhist women and men of any other faith.

“Some messages were like, ‘You will regret it. Stop working for this issue. If you continue, don’t blame others for the consequences,’” the director of Equality Myanmar told The Irrawaddy.

Khon Ja, a well-known women’s rights activist from the Kachin Peace Network, said some anonymous callers have even used phone numbers from Thailand and Malaysia.

“They called saying, “If you dare come to Mandalay, you will be dead when we see you,” she said, adding that she wondered if the Association to Protect Race and Religion, a radical monk-led group promoting the bill, knew about the threats.

Zin Mar Aung, founder of the Rainfall Gender Study Group,says she has received obscene messages on Viber, a phone application. She said one Viber group has been created with the name, “We will kill those who destroy the race.”

May Sabe Phyu, senior coordinator of the Gender Equality Network, says she is reluctant to connect to the Internet on her phone due to negative messages. “Once I connect, lots of Viber messages come up instantly, with some asking to call so we can talk,” she says.

Burmese civil society groups have grown increasingly concerned about the interfaith marriage bill, which is part of a package of four bills to protect race and religion. The other three bills would ban polygamy, enact population control measures and restrict religious conversion.

The interfaith marriage bill calls for Buddhist women to receive permission from parents and authorities before marrying a man of another faith, who would be forced to convert to Buddhism.

Opponents have criticized the bill as undemocratic and discriminatory. Some say it prevents women from making their own choices, while others believe it is intended specifically to prevent conversions to Islam.

Aung Myo Min of Equality Myanmar said he is taking precautions with his safety following the threats.

“If they are courageous, they need to tell us who they are and why they are doing this,” he said of the callers. “It’s like they are threatening us from the dark.

“Our aim is not to destroy or disrespect race and religion. We also want to protect these. But there are some aims and concepts [in the bill] that we can’t accept.”

11 Responses to Activists Face Violent Threats After Opposing Interfaith Marriage Bill

  1. Hatred bears bitter fruits while LOVE bears sweet fruits. Interfaith Marriage Law is the outcome of hatred. Wirathu and Regime will eat bitter fruits soon.

  2. All this and many related problems about proposed Interfaith Marriage Bill was hatched by Mr Brainless U Wirathu Trouble Maker. Solely because of him and his blind followers, the country and its people are embroiled in

    a) religious hatred and riots, killing hundreds of innocent people, burning down their places of worship, house, shops and schools

    b) unnecessary debates and arguments from people level all the way up to Parliamentarians and lawmakers

    c) deprivation of basic human rights of Burmese people on both sides of the fence, men and women

    d) wastage of national resources, man-hours and intellectual energy and worst of all

    e) foreign investors, world community and international tourists get negative impression and message about the country, its people and Buddhism.

    I propose Mr Brainless U Wirathu Trouble Maker should be awarded the most highly distinguished “The Most Destructive Man Of 21st Century In Asia” prize!!!!

  3. Interfaith Marriage Law is against Democracy. Buddhist parents are responsible to raise their children to behave and to live like Buddhists. However, religious faith is very very personal. Every human being has the right to have his/her own choice of religion. No man or no government has the right to impose law/rule/regulation on my spiritual life. I have the right to worship God. At the same time, if I want to, I have the right to worship Vampire. It is none of regime’s business. Freedom of religion is freedom from government’s regulation. Today, Wirathu and military regime dump the sacrifice of students, monks and civilians who got killed while fighting for real democracy in Myanmar. If a Buddhist woman falls in love with me and I do the same, we will cross this line no matter what happen.

  4. The comments by Shwe Yoe, Burmeseblood, and Yoethar make a lot of sense.

    I hope our President U Thein Sein and our Speaker U Shwe Mann would read the comments, and act in the best interests of our people and our country.

    We rely of our good leaders to guide the country in the correct path so that we live in a just and peaceful society.

  5. In the face of Muslims teaching their children to wear veils, going to mosques five times a day, it is easy for any child so brought up to be 100 times more vulnerable to catch up extremist views and ways of life than the children from other faiths. There are thousands of such proofs even in such democratic giants as USA and European Union countries. For this reason, and because forcing others into Islam has been the prime teaching of the followers of Muhammad, it is inevitable that the people of Burma must have a law like the Interfaith Marriage Law (proposed). Even in the British laws that Burma underwent in the colonial days, there were certain elements that made it compulsory for both the parties concerned to follow. But who has followed them in Burma except the Muslims who onesidedly always took the law in their own hands? The Muslims of Burma are generally democratic, but if you come to Arakan, there are the Sunni Wahabis, and they are the extremist part of the deal.

  6. Violence, hatred and so on are no part of the Buddhist Teaching. Let that be clear from the start. One has to study thoroughly how this drive for the proposed bill came to existance.
    When a Buddhist woman marries a muslim, she MUST change religion. If one wants to change by free will that is okay. But knowing that this is a condition within the muslim faith one can understand the resistance.
    And let’s be clear: love is something that has a strange influence on a person. So don’t give me the idea that it is also the will of the woman to change.
    Even in Europe one can see this changing faith happening.
    But what happens if people divorce? Let’s face it: once a muslim Always a muslim. So leaving their faith is impossible and even punishable by death!. Talking about democracy: Who wants to change to such a undemocratic system!

  7. These hate-Muslim people are not true Buddhists, nor are they democrats.
    They use democratic rights to start a fight for a cause of their choice.
    And yet, they cannot allow their opponents the same rights.
    That is cowardice, particularly where women are their target.
    Shame to Wirathu and associates!!!

  8. Myanmar Taliban government is rising up high to fall hard and to be broken into pieces. Myanmar regime has done nothing right. So, let them play fire as much as they like, and the fire will consume them to ashes. Myanmar way to democracy is Taliban way of running Afghanistan.

  9. This kind of attitude of some “Burmese Buddhists” is one of the reasons why Burma was (and still is) ruled by totalitarian despotic war-lords.

  10. I agree with the points raised by “Burmese blood”. But I suggest another prize for Ven. Wirathu namely “Most destructive Buddhist Theravada Monk of the 21st century”.

    The century and the milleneum has just begun. But the damage to the good name of Theravada Buddhism is already tremendous. This kind of thinking, speaking and acting is directly destroying the true Sasana of Lord Buddha, and it is shameful to witness monks involved in it.

    However, they would not have success, if there were no supporters.

    Be careful to follow Lord Buddha’s advice: not to do evil, to do good, to purify your mind.

    Do not kill, Do not suppress others.
    Do not kill Muslims, do not suppress Buddhist women; Educate them, that is quite sufficient.

  11. It is a very good law. Conversions to Islam should be discouraged, as it is violent and oppressive towards women. Marriages should be allowed without conversion though.

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