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BUDDHIST RAGE: Myanmar Passes Extreme Religion Bills Targeting Muslim Population

AP_39445237285-1125x635Myanmar’s nationalist Buddhist monks shout slogans during a protest rally in Yangon, Myanmar, Wednesday, May 27, 2015. About 300 protesters, led by radical Buddhist monks, rallied claiming boat people washing onto Southeast Asian shores were not Rohingya Muslims, a religious minority the government and many others in the predominantly Buddhist nation say “do not exist.”

Myanmar’s parliament passed two bills on Thursday that are widely believed to offer further legal cover to the country’s harsh policies toward its Rohingya Muslim population. Proposed by hardline Buddhist nationalists who claim that their traditions are threatened by the country’s Muslims, the bills regulate religious conversion and polygamy.

While details about the bills have not yet been released, advocates believe the measures targeting the country’s Rohingya, who are denied citizenship despite the fact that many of them have lived in Myanmar for generations.

“These discriminatory draft laws risk fanning the flames of anti-Muslim sentiment,” Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, told ThinkProgress in an email.

The bills are particularly vexing ahead elections which are slated for early November.

“Parliament has not only shown disregard for basic human rights norms, but turned up the heat on Burma’s tense intercommunal relations and potentially put an already fragile transition at risk, with landmark elections right around the corner,” Roberston added.

The election is expected to be the freest and fairest seen in Myanmar for decades. The country has been transitioning from military rule towards democracy since 2011.

Aung San Suu Kyi, an opposition leader and Nobel Laureate who lived under house arrest for 15 years, is expected to win the upcoming elections.


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