Myanmar's Ex-President Tells Voters to Protect Race, Religion, Military in 2020 Election

By San Yamin Aung 7 January 2020

YANGON—Myanmar’s former president U Thein Sein has warned that the country is facing growing threats to territory, race and religion and called on citizens to vote for candidates who will protect the country in the upcoming general election.

The ex-president said Sunday that Myanmar would face both internal and external threats in 2020. “It’s because our country is likely to be devoured by outsiders, under excuses of democracy and human rights. It is as if the country is unknowingly approaching the den of a wild beast,” said the ex-president at an annual event organized in his honor at the headquarters of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) in Naypyitaw.

“It is also a known fact that every effort is being made to weaken the military that protects the country,” the retired general told his supporters at the event.

He said it is time to take care of race and religion as well as the military, which tirelessly fulfills its national duties.

U Thein Sein, chairman of the military-backed USDP, took office in 2011 following the flawed 2010 election, which was boycotted by the National League for Democracy (NLD) and many ethnic political parties. He served as head of state until March 2016. After being soundly defeated by the NLD in the 2015 general election, he stepped down as USDP chair.

The ex-president said on Sunday that looking back on 2019, the year was full of unpleasant things—armed clashes, violence, killing, abductions, rapes, thefts and robberies—but in 2020, the country is facing continuing threats against its race and religion and the loss of its territories.

“We also have a good opportunity in 2020, that this year, there will be a multiparty general election,” he said.

“A vote can be for the good of the country but it can also create negative impacts. It is important that the person we choose needs to be someone with good morality, good education and goodwill for the country. More than that, the person must be someone who will protect our race and religion and look out for the military,” he said.

The USDP has positioned itself as a protector of Buddhism as the country’s majority religion. After the 2010 general election, the USDP-led government adopted a package of four controversial race and religion laws. The Association for the Protection of Race and Religion, better known by its Burmese acronym, Ma Ba Tha, which was banned under the NLD government but is now called the Buddha-Dhamma Parahita Foundation, applauded the USDP’s laws as a success for nationalism.

You may also like these stories:

“Buddhism Under Threat”: Thai Election Gives Platform to Radicals

Ex-Gov’t Figures Back Together—and Back in Uniform—for a Day

‘I Am Not a Turncoat’: Thura Shwe Mann