A town in Myanmar votes against the freedom of worship

31st, March 2019

A damaged mosque in Chauk township

– People in central Myanmar town voted against reopening of mosques in what they call referendum, a sign that show some groups in Buddhist majority country are not willing to accept freedom of worship which is officially enshrined in the country’s constitution.

Mosques in Chauk, Salin and Sinphy Kyun Townships of Sagaing Division were set alight or destroyed by Buddhist mob in the anti-Muslim riot broke out in 2006 at the time of military regime.

Last year, local Muslims in Chauk Township sent a request letter to authorities asking for permission of reopening two Mosques which were seriously damaged in 2006 riot without repairing. Officials from Sagaing Regional government have decided to approve the request in the regional meeting held in October 2017 and instructed township authorities in November 2017 to follow the order.

Approval letter to reopen tow mosques

But township officials delayed the implementation. In March 30th 2019, two neighborhoods – where two damaged mosques are situated – held what they called ‘referendum’ to decide whether local Buddhists agreed or not the government approval. According to the Facebook group of Chauk News – where the voting result is posted – most of the voters rejected the reopening of the mosques. Officials from General Administration Department, Police forces and Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population were participated in so called referendum that goes against the constitution.

Although Myanmar’s 2008 constitution officially guarantees freedom of worship, in some places especially in rural areas of Myanmar, there are many attempts to bar religious practice of followers of Islam. Authorities are still failing to uphold the right that enshrined in country’s constitution.

Muslims in Myanmar view referendum as a violation of their freedom of worship and worry this kind of illegal campaign spreading other parts of the country to restrict their religious practice.

Ballot paper used in so called referendum

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