Rohingya MP and Mandalay Doctor Barred From Contesting November Election

By Zarni Mann 24 August 2015

MANDALAY — Two prospective lawmakers—including a Rohingya Muslim man who has served in Burma’s Parliament for the past five years—have been barred from competing in an upcoming election on the grounds that their parents are not citizens.

Shwe Maung, who represents Arakan State’s Buthidaung Township for the Lower House, and Dr. Win Myint, who planned to run for the National League for Democracy (NLD) in Mandalay’s Chan Aye Thar San Township, both plan to appeal the district-level rejections to the Union Election Commission.

Elected in 2010 as a member of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), Shwe Maung recently left the party and announced his candidacy as an independent. He is one of the few voices in Burma’s Parliament to speak on behalf of the Rohingya, a stateless Muslim minority residing in western Burma’s Arakan State.

Rejection of his bid to contest in the majority-Rohingya township was just the latest blow for the beleaguered group, which recently saw many of its members stripped of their right to vote in the midst of a protracted and oft-criticized citizenship verification process.

Despite Shwe Maung’s current position as a lawmaker, the commission reportedly turned him down on the grounds that his parents were not Burmese citizens, a claim that he maintained was untrue.

Physician Win Myint, a candidate for the NLD, was similarly rejected on the grounds that his father was a Chinese national living in Burma with a foreign registration card. The nominee’s lawyer told reporters, however, that his father had attained naturalized citizenship in 1976.

“His father received the nationality [card] in accordance with the law. Dr. Win Myint himself is a Burmese national and has carried out his civic duty as a doctor; rejecting Dr. Win Myint is unfair and we will submit an appeal to the Union Election Commission,” the lawyer said at a press briefing in Mandalay on Monday.

Win Myint was present at the briefing but was unwilling to field questions from the media due to a recent request by NLD leadership that candidates abstain from talking to the press. The order was instated to prevent prospective candidates from making any disqualifying errors while the election board scrutinized candidate lists, according to a party spokesperson.

Burma’s upcoming general election, which will be widely viewed as a barometer of reforms initiated in 2011, are set to be held on Aug. 8. The pre-election period has already been tarnished by concerns of mass disenfranchisement and flawed voter lists, while recent flooding—believed to be the nation’s worst in decades—has compromised voter outreach and capacity of local election commissions.