Election 2020

Ex-Candidate From Myanmar’s Opposition Party Sued for Racially Charged Campaign Speeches

By San Yamin Aung 23 November 2020

YANGON—A lawmaker for Myanmar’s military proxy opposition party from Sagaing Region’s Min Kin Township has been sued under Article 58(c) of the Election Law for allegedly using racial and religious rhetoric while campaigning against the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) as he sought re-election in the Nov. 8 election.

Those convicted of violating the article face one year’s imprisonment, a 100,000-kyat fine (about US$76.50), or both.

U Kyaw Min Aung, a member of the NLD’s legal team in the township, said the team had filed two cases against U Maung Myint of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) for making campaign speeches based on race and religion in two villages in Min Kin.

Article 58(c) prohibits any utterance, speech, declaration or instigation to vote or not vote based on race or religion, or the abetment of such acts.

U Kyaw Min Aung said the team was not acting out of any personal animosity toward the lawmaker; rather, he said, the NLD had to act in accordance with the law, as it had received evidence of U Maung Myint’s wrongdoing.

U Maung Myint, who served as industry minister under the USDP-led government, falsely claimed while campaigning in his constituency in early October that the NLD had put forward 42 Muslim candidates for office in this year’s election. A video of one of his speeches went viral on Facebook.

“Just make your own judgment on the party that had three Muslim candidates in 2010 [the USDP] and the other with 42. To be exact, Kalar Sithu Maung in Yangon’s Pabetan Township,” he said in the video, singling out one of the two NLD Muslim candidates. The word “Kalar” is considered offensive by many Muslims as religiously discriminatory.

“Which side you are on?” he asked the constituents, referring to the USDP’s inclusion of only three Muslim candidates in 2010.

In the Nov. 8 election, the lawmaker lost his seat to Deputy Construction Minister U Kyaw Lin of the NLD by more than 10,000 votes.

The NLD’s Min Kin legal support team has also filed six other cases over alleged electoral offenses in the township, including an attempt to hurt an NLD candidate, and a USDP supporter who worked at a polling station and allegedly fraudulently voted on behalf of four people.

A local administrator has also opened 12 cases against 19 USDP party members and supporters under Article 505 of the Penal Code for alleged incitement using hate speech during a campaign, according to the team.

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