South Asia

Myanmar: Election Commission Rejects Candidacy of Four Rohingya Muslims

The nominations of five candidates of the Democracy and Human Rights Party were rejected because of the citizenship status of their parents.

New Delhi: The Election Commission of Myanmar’s Rakhine state, which has been accepting nomination papers from contestants for the general elections slated for November 8, has rejected the candidature of four Rohingyas, aside from another Muslim person due to the citizenship status of their parents.

As per section 10 (e) of the country’s Election Law, both parents of the candidate must be Myanmarese citizens at the time of their birth.

According to an August 18 Irrawaddy report, the persons whose candidature was rejected by the state election sub-commission wanted to contest the Buthidaung and Sittwe lower house seats and two state assembly seats in the Buthidaung township.

The sub-commission’s secretary U Thurein Htut told the newspaper, “They were rejected mainly because their parents and grandparents were not citizens when they were born.”

While the four Rohingya candidates had submitted their papers as candidates of the Democracy and Human Rights Party (DHRP), the fifth candidate, the report said, was an independent. In all, DHRP had fielded seven candidates in the state, out of which the nomination of only three has been accepted. The candidates whose nomination has been accepted are contesting the Maungdaw parliamentary seat and two seats from the Thaketa and South Dagon townships in the Yangon regional parliament.

Stating that DHRP would appeal the sub-commission’s decision in the matter, the party’s general secretary U Kyaw Soe Aung accused the Central government led by the National League for Democratic president Aung San Suu Kyi of “discriminating” against them.

Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Yangon, July 19, 2020. Photo: Ye Aung Thu/Pool via REUTERS

U Kyaw Soe Aung is quoted in the report saying, “They were approved as candidates in previous elections and were allowed to cast votes and stand for election in 2015. I can’t understand why they are disqualified now due to citizenship status. This has raised a question about the citizenship law.”

“There was discrimination by the U Thein Sein government before 2015, and we feel sorry that the democratic government is also discriminating. We have serious doubts about the (National League for Democracy’s will) to support democracy.”

This is not for the first time that DHRP has faced such a situation. In the 2015 elections too, 15 of its 18 candidates were rejected by the election commission. Just before the elections, the government had brought in legal restrictions on the Rohingyas’ right to vote and contest polls.

DHRP was originally formed in 1990 as the National Democratic Party for Human Rights (NDPHR). It fielded eight candidates in the 1990 general elections, with four of them winning. In 1991, the army regime banned the party. In 2013, DHRP was registered as a party. According to the news report, it has about 10,000 members.

Among those candidates rejected by the Election Commission on August 18 is Kyaw Min who heads the party. He was one of the four candidates to have won the 1990 elections, under the army regime, which did not bar Rohingyas from contesting elections or voting on citizenship grounds. The U Thein Sein government had annulled those results, following which Kywa Min joined hands with the Aung San Suu Kyi’s pro-democracy party. In 2005, Kyaw Min was arrested along with his family for opposing the government’s actions against the Rohingyas and was released only in 2012.

However, when he sought to contest the polls in the 2015 general elections, his candidacy was rejected, citing the new rules.

In a statement on August 18, Shyana Bauchner from the Asia division of Human Rights Watch said, “The authorities’ unwillingness to recognise the Rohingya’s place in government sadly – and dangerously – has made it all to easy to blot out their place in Myanmar society altogether.”

In total, 1,171 national, state and regional seats would go to polls on November 8, in which Suu Kyi’s party is seeking a crucial re-election. As per local news reports, the voting will take place in all townships including in conflict zones and areas which are self-administered.