USDP-led Coalition Accuses NLD of Abusing Religion For Political Purposes

By Tin Htet Paing 14 November 2017

YANGON — A coalition of 27 political parties headed by the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) accused the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) of abusing religion for political purposes by organizing interfaith rallies around the country.

The coalition is led by main opposition party the USDP—the previous ruling and current military proxy party started by former generals—and comprises 26 other parties, the majority of which are currently unrepresented in Parliament, including the Democratic Party Myanmar, National Democratic Force, the National Development Party, and some small ethnic parties.

The coalition issued a joint statement on Monday stressing that the usage of pictures of NLD leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the party’s flag and logo at interfaith rallies organized in different cities across the country last month violated the military-drafted 2008 Constitution and the Political Parties Registration Law and called for action to be taken against the NLD.

“Interfaith rallies organized by the NLD can be considered as gatherings that showed support for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and political assemblies that would only promote image of the party’s leader,” the joint statement read.

“We strongly oppose the act of involving political deception in the interfaith rallies organized by the NLD,” it continued.

Interfaith rallies were organized in the wake of communal divisions after August attacks and subsequent clearance operations in Rakhine State. Thousands of people including NLD-appointed chief ministers of Yangon, Mandalay and Irrawaddy divisions and regional parliamentary speakers attended the rallies.

Article 364 of the 2008 Constitution forbids the abuse of religion for political purposes. Any political party shall be forced to dismiss if there is such act of abuse according to the Political Parties Registration Law.

The USDP and several other small political parties issued multiple joint statements in recent months, expressing criticism of the government’s action surrounding the Rohingya crisis and the need for the government to hold a National Defense and Security Council (NDSC) meeting in order to lay down a security policy for Rakhine State.

U Nyan Win, a member of NLD secretariat, told The Irrawaddy that interfaith events were organized with an intention for harmony and cannot be considered as abuse of religion.

“We have a different concept from them—organizing interfaith events is not an abuse of religion,” he said. “It’s also up to us whether we use pictures of our [party’s] leader at the events or not.”

The statement also mentioned that the coalition would try to submit parliamentary proposals and discussions concerning the issue in the near future.