Mon 16 Jun 2014
Filed under: DASSK,Inside Burma,News
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has urged human rights activists who have received death threats for criticising controversial new religious laws to go to police.
She made the comments following a meeting between the Pyithu Hluttaw Rule of Law, Stability and Peace Committee, of which she is the leader, and 10 rights activists in Nay Pyi Taw on June 11.
Activists who took part in the meeting said Daw Aung San Suu Kyi expressed concern over the threats and told them to keep a record to facilitate eventual investigation.
“Daw Aung San Suu Kyi advised us to record these threats and open a file so we could resolve the matter through legal means,” Ma Thin Thin Aung of the Myanmar Women’s League told The Myanmar Times after the meeting.
Ma Zin Mar Aung of the Rainfall Gender Study Group said she would file a complaint with her local police station but said she was not convinced police would really track down those responsible.
“We are entitled to protection under the law. If the police don’t care, the threats will continue,” she said.
The threats were made in relation to the stance activists have taken on four controversial bills – concerning religious conversion, interfaith marriage, monogamy and population control – written by a monk-led group called the Committee for the Protection of Nationality and Religion, which is closely linked to the “969” movement.
The president set up a 12-member commission in March, headed by Deputy Attorney General U Tun Tun Oo, to draft the religious conversion and population control bills by June 30. On May 28, the draft religious conversion bill was published in state newspapers inviting public comment.
The interfaith marriage bill has drawn the most criticism, with more than 100 civil society organisations publishing a statement denouncing the proposed legislation and criticising it as undemocratic and discriminatory. Later, some received death threats in the form of anonymous letters, messages, phone calls and even online messages. One reportedly said, “When you come to Mandalay, you will be dead when we see you.”
On June 7, United States ambassador to Myanmar Derek Mitchell said he was extremely concerned about the threats.
“Threats of violence to suppress speech and peaceful dissent are unconscionable and dangerous for the health of this nascent democracy, and should not be tolerated,” he said.
“Anyone favouring a new civil society of openness and dialogue should be standing up for these women, denouncing these threats, and not only protecting but encouraging the free expression of ideas and opinions without fear.”
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has previously criticised the interfaith marriage law, which would ban Buddhist women from marrying men of other faiths.
Ma Thin Thin Aung said the National League for Democracy leader had promised to oppose any new or existing law that would not have positive effects for the people and the state.
“We didn’t have high expectations of the meeting, but we did our duty as citizens,” she said. “We explained why we oppose the laws and why we feared the consequences if these laws were adopted. We don’t know how parliament will decide or how the government will respond.”