The National League for Democracy (NLD) is calling for government action against an anonymous social media user who published a fake NLD statement with potentially inflammatory comments about religious unrest in Mandalay.
The statement—which included the NLD party logo and letterhead—was widely viewed on Facebook on Wednesday afternoon, blaming Buddhist mobs and a poor government response for two nights of violence in the country’s second-biggest city.
“The NLD is fully backing the Muslims, and if Muslim properties are destroyed the NLD will help prosecute the Buddhist rioters,” read the fake statement, which was shared by more than 300 Facebook users.
“The Muslim kalar have become victims, thanks to the lack of rationalism among the Burmese,” the statement added, using a derogatory word for Muslims. “The government cannot properly handle the situation, which has been somewhat ignored, so it is very evident that the government is behind the riot.”
“If Aung San Suu Kyi were president, this type of riot would not happen,” it added, referring to the NLD chairwoman.
It is the latest attempt to brand the NLD as pro-Muslim, perhaps in a bid to alienate the party from voters in the Buddhist-majority country that has seen rising anti-Muslim sentiment over the past year. Last month, a fake photo of Suu Kyi in an Islamic headscarf was also widely shared on Facebook. Nationalist Buddhist monk Wirathu, based in Mandalay, has also accused the NLD of being pro-Muslim.
But while the fake photo of Suu Kyi had few ramifications, the fake NLD statement about the Mandalay riots has raised concerns among party leaders who fear it could lead to further outbursts of anger and violence. After two nights of rioting, at least two people have been killed, while 14 others were injured.
Political observers, lawyers and NLD supporters said use of the party’s logo or letterhead for the purpose of agitation was an infringement of law.
“If we knew who did this, he or she could be brought to court for violating criminal laws as well as the Electronic Act,” said NLD spokesman Nyan Win. “Faking our statement is fraud.”
He added, “We believe this is a new strategy to attack us like before. We are seeing more attacks because the NLD’s political organizing has improved and become more effective.”
Earlier this week, the NLD announced that it had collected more than 3 million signatures for a campaign to end the military’s veto over constitutional amendments.
“The fake statement obviously shows that the NLD is being attacked politically, nationally and racially,” political commentator Yan Myo Thein told The Irrawaddy. He called on the government to investigate the fraud.
The fake statement was put out shortly after the NLD released a legitimate statement calling for caution to avoid further violence in Mandalay.
The NLD said the rioting that began on Tuesday night was caused by rumors. The party said it “urged the public to be careful because it worried about the possibility of further riots.”
It called on the government to “take action immediately on those spreading riots in Mandalay, and to protect public security.”
Nyan Win, the NLD spokesman, said attacks against his party would not stop their momentum. “Instead, our people will work harder to achieve our goals,” he told The Irrawaddy.