Muslim Lawyers Association Launches

By Zue Zue 10 June 2016

RANGOON — Burma’s first Muslim lawyers association launched in Rangoon with 70 attorneys on June 4, according to the group.

The Myanmar Muslim Lawyers Association Chairman Kyaw Nyein told The Irrawaddy that Burma is a diverse country with many different races and religions, and the group intends to advocate for equal rights, freedom and justice for all Muslims in the country.

“We formed this association to work within the rule of law to find a way to maintain community unity while still practicing religious diversity,” said Kyaw Nyein.

The new group will work together with other lawyers and will still operate under the umbrella of the Myanmar Lawyers’ Network, he said.

Some lawyers are worried about the formation of the new group and have criticized the move, which they say will create divisions among lawyers, according to Kyi Myint, founder of the Myanmar Lawyers’ Network.

“There are lawyers who are Hindu, Muslim, Christian, and Buddhist [in the Myanmar Lawyers’ Network],” said Kyi Myint. “We are worried there will be divisions among lawyers or even among the people. What if Muslims only trust Muslim lawyers?”

Burma saw deadly outbreaks of anti-Muslim violence during the rule of former President Thein Sein’s government from 2011-16, causing some Muslims to feel their rights were not fully protected.

Many Muslims in Arakan State, who are still living in camps outside of their hometowns after violence broke out in the region in 2012, have repeatedly asked the Burmese government to resettle them back home, to no avail.

“We will work to protect our human rights, to stop discrimination against the Muslim community, and we will cooperate with anyone who has similar goals,” said Kyaw Nyein.

The Myanmar Muslim Lawyers Association will open its first office in Rangoon’s Botahtaung Township this month and it plans to apply for official registration soon.

This article was translated from Burmese by Lawi Weng.