It is being widely reported that (and as previously considered), ‘The Organisation for the Protection of National Race and Religion’ (OPNRR) is having four bills in the form of draft legislation presented to parliament.
Headed by the Buddhist monk Ashin Tilawka Biwuntha the four bills are the Faith Conversion Bill; the Marriage Bill; the Monogamy Bill; and the Population Control Bill.
In an interview with the Democratic Voice of Burma former political prisoner Htet Myat stated that:
‘The aim of the race protection laws was to address problems in Arakan State. I cannot accept these bills. I would like to say, frankly, that these bills are unnecessary. What we are seeing today is reminiscent of the 1960′s; They are trying to make Buddhism the national religion.
But these laws will prohibit the rights of women in Burma. When I read the meeting minutes of the monks who proposed the bills, I realised that not only does it prohibit women’s rights but also abuses the right to freedom of religion. I think at this moment, we don’t need this in our country. There is no such threat against Buddhism. I believe that the bills should not be approved at this time. I can’t accept this legislation.’
He went on to state his misgivings about the four bills and the repercussions for Aung San Suu Kyi:
‘I think there are movements to launch propaganda against Aung San Suu Kyi, to prevent her from becoming President in the 2015 elections. The monks who proposed these bills are also organising against the amendment of Article 59 (f) [which disqualifies Suu Kyi for presidency]. It is co-incident with the submission of these bills. The election is only one year away. I am very suspicious about these moves.’
Each of the bills will be dealt with by a different ministry in Burma:the religious conversion law by the Religious Affairs Ministry; the marriage and monogamy laws by the Union Supreme Court and the population control law to the Immigration and Population Ministry.
Lower House MP Nan Sae Hwa spoke in favour of the bills:
‘We really need laws related to monogamy and marriage as our country is based on Buddhism. We welcome the laws. But they are not necessary for other religions. They are only for Buddhists. I think members of other religions will not object to the laws because they already have some. This cannot lead to religious discrimination, either.’
Aung San Suu Kyi herself has simply stated that she supports the legislation going trough parliament in the correct way and has not indicated her opinion on the content of the draft bills:
‘I support the speaker’s message [Thura Shwe Mann]. This is in line with the law and suitable for the needs of our nation. Parliament has to make its review depending on the reply from the government. We need to seek consultation from the related ministries to decide whether it is important to promulgate those laws.’
See also the report in The Irrawaddy on 7 March 2014 titled Thein Sein Orders Commission, Court to Draft ‘Protection of Religion’ Law.