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Myanmar's ruling NLD rejects calls to ditch Muslim candidate

Daw Win Mya Mya

The National League for Democracy (NLD) says it is standing by its Muslim candidate, despite complaints from nearly 600 Mandalay residents and Buddhist monks who have asked the party to pick a Buddhist candidate.

The NLD picked Daw Win Mya Mya to run for the Lower House seat in Sintgaing Township, Mandalay Region. She is one of the few Muslim candidates picked by the party to run in the November general election.

A letter sent to the NLD central executive committee from residents and monks said she was inappropriate because she is Muslim, not from Sintgaing and not a university graduate.

Myanmar has been facing rising Buddhist nationalism for several years with increasing anti-Muslim rhetoric from right-wing monks claiming Myanmar’s Buddhist foundations are under assault. During the general election in 2015, some monks openly campaigned for nationalist parties while attacking NLD leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi for marrying a foreigner.

NLD vice-chairman Dr. Zaw Myint Maung rejected the complaint against the Muslim candidate.

“We made careful selections based on the party’s principles. We want the critics to understand properly that besides Buddhism, other faiths can be practiced in our country and we only select those who meet the eligibility criteria to stand for election as well as the principles of our party,” Dr. Zaw Myint Maung told reporters at the Mandalay Region’s parliament on Thursday.

The party applies two main criteria when selecting candidates: they must support party policies and must be party members. The party picked Daw Win Mya Mya based on those criteria, said Dr. Zaw Myint Maung, who is also Mandalay’s chief minister.

The NLD will field 1,134 candidates in November.