Friday, August 18, 2017

Ban on Muslim lawyers network sought

Lawyers from Mandalay have appealed to the Ministry of Home Affairs to abolish a newly formed Muslim lawyers association for fear that it will create problems and divisions.

An attorney of the Lawyers Network for Upper Myanmar collected signatures and sent a formal request to the Home Affairs Ministry, according to U Thein Than Oo, the secretary of the Independent Lawyers Association of Myanmar.

“I haven’t signed it even though I disagree with forming a Muslim lawyers network, because they have the right to form an association,” the Mandalay-based lawyer said. U Thein Than Oo added that he was concerned the issue would reignite tensions between Buddhist and Muslim communities.

The Ministry of Home Affairs confirmed receipt of the letter asking it not to permit the Muslim association to register. “We have no plan to take action on this because we haven’t received any registration request by the association described in the letter,” said U Ye Naing, the spokesperson for the ministry.

The Myanmar Muslim Lawyers Association was formed in Yangon by 70 attorneys in early June. Preparations are being made to register with a 15-member central executive committee at the end of this month.

National League for Democracy legal adviser and lawyer U Ko Ni, who acts as the patron of the association, said the lawyers had not acted against any laws or against the constitution. He added that all Muslims in the country should have legal assistance to protect them. “I don’t understand why people criticise us when they hear the term ‘Muslim’. We don’t cause any trouble to others. We just want to give assistance to our Muslim minority people who have long suffered under military rule,” he said.

U Khin Maung Cho, the secretary of the association, told The Myanmar Times that the group plans to legally protect the Muslim minority who are losing their rights, don’t enjoy equal education and are being discriminated against in social affairs. He added that the lawyers will also support the rule of law in the country and give legal advice to parliament.

“We are not making any problems – we protect against problems,” he said, adding that legal assistance will also be given to non-Muslims if they face politically motivated religious discrimination.

Well-known human rights lawyer U Robert San Aung spoke against the new association. “They shouldn’t mention any religion if they really wanted to help the people,” he said. “I won’t accept forming the Muslim lawyer association because I think their way is wrong.”

U Myo Aung, the secretary of the Mandalay lawyer’s network, told The Myanmar Times that he also did not agree with the formation of the association, because he worried that it would create more conflicts between communities and divisions among lawyers.