RANGOON — Adding to religious tensions in Burma, about 200 senior Buddhist monks have presented a draft law seeking restrictions on marriages between Buddhist women and Muslim men, a move widely criticized by the country's Muslim minority.
"In terms of human rights, this type of restriction would be an abuse," Kyaw Khin, secretary of the All Myanmar Muslim Federation, told the Irrawaddy news site on Thursday, June 13.
Myint, a senior lawyer and member of the Myanmar Lawyers' Network, warned against passing a prohibitive religious rule into law, adding that the proposed law would violate basic human rights.
|OIC Urges UN Action on Burma Muslims|
He cited the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 16 which states that "Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family."
The draft law first came to light during a Thursday convention in Rangoon attended by about 200 senior Buddhist monks.
The meeting, held ahead a two-day conference, discussed a new draft law preventing interfaith marriage between Buddhist women and Muslim men.
According to the monks, highly revered in Burma, the law would resolve ongoing tensions between Buddhists and the country's Muslim minority.
"We hold this meeting with the intention of protecting our Buddhist race and our religion, and also to have peace and harmony in our community," said U Dhammapiya, a senior monk and a spokesman for the convention.
U Wirathu, an extremist nationalist monk who has led numerous vocal campaigns against Burmese Muslims, said he was delighted with the plans.
"I have dreamed of this law for a long time. It is important to have this law to protect our Buddhist women's freedom," he said during a press conference.
Wirathu leads the controversial 969 campaign that is being implemented all over Burma that encourages Buddhists not to do business with Muslims and only support fellow Buddhists' shops. Burma's Muslims -- largely of Indian, Chinese and Bangladeshi descent -- account for an estimated four percent of the roughly 60 million population.
Muslims entered Burma en masse for the first time as indentured laborers from the Indian subcontinent during British colonial rule, which ended in 1948.
But despite their long history, they have never fully been integrated into the country.
Citing examples in Singapore and Malaysia, the monks said they would collect signatures to pressure Burma's Parliament to adopt the law.
"We found that there was peace and harmony in Singapore after they ratify this law in their country," U Dhammapiya told reporters.
"This is why we should not have a problem [passing a similar law] in our country."
The monks added that they would send letters to President Thein Sein, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and all other lawmakers.
Yet, Muslims confirmed that the law would find little support in the parliaments, denouncing it as violating basic human rights.
"There would be a long way to go, if it is to be passed in Parliament," Myint, a senior lawyer and member of the Myanmar Lawyers' Network, said.
"I believe it won't happen."
Burma's government, he said, "should be careful not to pass a law just to protect one particular religion," he added at a monastery in Rangoon's Hmawbi Township.
The new law comes at a time of growing sectarian tensions between Burma's Buddhists and Muslims.
More than 200 people were killed last year in sectarian violence between Buddhist mobs and Bengali-ethnic Muslims, known as Rohingya in western Burma.
The violence has forced thousands of Rohingya Muslims to flee their homes and stay in refugee camps.
Human rights groups have accused Burmese police and troops of disproportionate use of force and arrests of Rohingya Muslims.
Human Rights Watch has accused Burmese security forces of targeting Rohingya with killing, rape and arrest following last year's unrest.