Monks' plan to curb Buddhist-Muslim marriages violates human rights, says Suu Kyi

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 June, 2013, 9:59pm


Myanmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has criticised a proposal by nationalist monks to restrict marriages between Buddhist women and men of other faiths, describing it as a violation of human rights, a report said yesterday.

"This is one-sided. Why only women? You cannot treat the women unfairly," Radio Free Asia quoted the Nobel laureate as saying in an interview.

"I also understand that this is not in accordance with the laws of the country and especially that it is not part of Buddhism," the veteran activist said. "It is a violation of women's rights and human rights."

Under the proposal - spearheaded by the controversial Mandalay cleric Wirathu - non-Buddhist men wishing to marry a Buddhist woman would have to convert and gain permission from her parents to wed or risk 10 years in jail.

The idea was raised at a recent meeting of more than 200 monks called to discuss a surge in Buddhist-Muslim violence in the former junta-ruled country.

Wirathu said the law was needed "because Buddhist girls have lost freedom of religion when they married Muslim men".

Senior clerics have distanced themselves from the proposal, while women's rights groups have voiced opposition.

Deadly sectarian attacks, mostly targeting Muslims, have laid bare deep divides that were largely suppressed under decades of military rule that ended two years ago in the Buddhist-majority country.

Radical monks, once at the forefront of the pro-democracy movement, have led a campaign to shun shops owned by Muslims and only to visit stores run by Buddhists. Some were also involved in the religious unrest.

Suu Kyi has been accused by some international human rights activists of failing to clearly condemn the anti-Muslim violence.

Dozens of people were killed in clashes in central Myanmar in March, while about 200 people died last year in sectarian unrest in the western state of Rakhine.

Last month Suu Kyi criticised a controversial ban imposed on Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine having more than two children.