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New NLD Religious Affairs Minister Calls Muslims “Associate Citizens,” Visits Extremist Monk

The new Burmese minister of religion, Aung Ko (former member of the military regime), has in the span of two days created a storm of controversy. Yesterday, Burma Task Force confirmed with the Burmese Voice of America service that Ko described Muslims as associate citizens,” implying they are not “full citizens.”

This is inconsistent with the Burmese Constitution and is yet another blow to beleagured Muslim minorities. One group of Muslims, the Rohingya, already have a long historical experience of persecution and their citizenship being put into question; indeed they were completely stripped of citizenship in 1982 and were rendered stateless, even though Rohingya Muslims are indigenous people living in their ancestral land. And now there are fears that all Burmese Muslims will likewise face the same injustices.

And today it has been revealed that Ko went so far as to meet with the extremist Buddhist monk, Wirathu, leader of Ma Ba Tha, a group blacklisted by the US government and which has stoked violence and spread Islamophobia throughout Burma. The Ma Ba Tha was instrumental in lobbying for the passage of discriminatory legislation that “reduce the reproductive rights of the religious minority and restrict interfaith marriage.” Instead of cozying up with extremist Buddhist nationalists, the newly appointed religious affairs minister of the democractically elected NLD should work towards marginalizing such voices of hate.

Action Items:

• Ask the Party leader Aung San Suu Kyi to repudiate the statement and meeting with Wirathu and to reaffirm the NLD’s commitment to Religious Freedom and Democracy for all Burmese religious and ethnic groups.

• Demand the resignation of Minister of Religion Aung Ko for his inflammatory remark or that he clarify his statement.

Contact Information:

National League for Democracy (central) office: Contact 01-555516, No. (97 / B), West Shwegondine Road, Bahan Township, Yangon.

Central Online Media Team: Hotline 09 261773380 • Viber Message 09 261773381 • email

Talking Points:

• Rohingyas are indigenous people living in their ancestral lands.

• Seven Noble Peace Laureates have declared it a textbook case of genocide.

• There is no country in the world with the funny term “associate” citizenship.

• Burma must restore Rohingya citizenship and preserve the citizenship of non-Rohingya Muslims as the first class citizens.

• All world relief organization must be provided free access to help Rohingya.

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