London, UK — Burma Human Rights Network is proud to announce the launch of our new report “Free and Fair For Some: Discrimination and Hate Speech in Burma’s General Election Campaign.” The report is based on a months-long investigation into hate speech on social media, discrimination against minority voters, and the disqualification of Muslim candidates on baseless and racist claims against their ancestry. Burma’s general election is set to take place on 8 November 2020.
The report documents 39 cases of hate speech and misinformation on social media by Burmese users. The comments, some of which are shared thousands of times, contain vile accusations against Muslims and largely seek to discredit Aung San Suu Kyi and her NLD party. Similarly, BHRN documented comments from party members and candidates against Muslims that violate Burmese law. On top of all of this, BHRN also documented several instances of violence at campaign events, targeting Muslims or NLD supporters.
“Burma remains plagued with bigotry, hate speech, and exclusion. The government aspires for a seat at the table of free nations but refuses to earn its place there. Our report details Burma’s failures to its citizens, by enabling and participating in hate speech, restricting the rights of minorities, and denying representation to them. It is an uncomfortable truth that the results of this election cannot be viewed as fully legitimate without the inclusion of all of Burma’s people but acknowledging this may be the only way to ensure that the next election will be free and fair for all,” said BHRN Executive Director Kyaw Win.
.During the campaign, several Muslim candidates have had their candidacy disqualified because of unfounded claims against their citizenship. These claims deny the fundamental human rights of Muslims in Burma to have full rights and citizenship in the country based on their religious identity. What may be most important is that millions of Muslims are effectively being denied representation in their government when Muslim candidates are prohibited from running for office.
BHRN also found instances of NLD members, including Aung San Suu Kyi herself, fanning the flames of bigotry during the campaign as a way to address the accusations against them. Many of these comments are in relation to the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya who still live in Burma and are denied the right to vote, among countless other fundamental human rights. One post, shared over 2,000 times, detailed a conspiracy theory where Aung San Suu Kyi would retire and transfer power to a notable Rohingya activist after she won the election
BHRN found many of these incidents in Burma in violation of both Burmese and international law. Yet, BHRN found Burma only enforces the law to silence peace activists or those questioning the government and military. With free speech being a pressing issue, it is remarkable that Burma suppresses the free speech of those seeking peace, yet enables those who spread hate speech.
The 34-page report, launched on 4th November, draws serious questions about the legitimacy of elections in Burma and the election process as a whole. These doubts are worsened by the Election Commission’s recent abrupt decision to ban voting in several areas in ethnic regions under the pretext of risk to the safety and integrity of polling places. BHRN calls on the international community to ensure that Burma’s next government addresses all the inequities in the election process and guarantees the rights of all Burma’s people in order to truly be considered democratic and given the privileges of a free and fair country.
Background on the Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN)
BHRN is based in London and operates across Burma/Myanmar working for human rights, minority rights and religious freedom in the country. BHRN has played a crucial role in advocating for human rights and religious freedom with politicians and world leaders.
Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN)
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