Elections in Myanmar
EU-funded App discriminates against minorities (Press release)
For the elections due to take place in Myanmar on 8 November, an app, "mVoter 2020", was recently published that allows users to call up details of all the candidates. Among the categories of information included are "Race" and "Religion". Gesellschaft für bedrohte Völker (GfbV) /Society for Threatened Peoples is critical of the way the app describes the few Rohingya candidates still listed as "Bengali", a derogatory description in Myanmar. "This simply denies the Rohingya's existence as a distinct ethnic group“, says Jasna Causevic, GfbV/STP's Genocide Prevention and Responsiility to Protect specialist." The states funding this should not allow antagonism to be stirred up through the inclusion of unnecessary categories or let candidates from ethnic minorities be put at a disadvantage. The discriminatory categories must be removed from the app. Political positions and merit should be central to the elections, not ethnic origin.
According to Justice for Myanmar, funding for the app's development was provided by the EU-financed STEP Democracy Project, one of whose beneficiaries is Myanmar's Election Commission (UEC). However the main implementing organisation is International IDEA, acting on behalf of the EU Member States and with Germany as one of its funders. "International IDEA has responded to criticism of the app by removing records of IDEA's role in the development of the app and the EU funding behind it from the internet and social media ", Causevic observes. "IDEA's Head of Mission has since claimed that media and human rights groups are spreading misinformation". One of STEP Democracy's partner organisations , which is providing institutional support to the UEC with EU funding, is Germany-based Democracy Reporting International.
GfbV/STP calls on the EU to try to ensure an election observing democratic standards and respectful of international human rights." EU States and international organisations are unnecessarily making themsleves complicit in the elimination of the Rohingyas' identity", according to Causevic."Instead they should be insisting that their funds contribute to progress towards democracy and the equal rights of all nationalities in the election process." The EU should not allow itself to be used to advance the interests of the civilian government and the military. It should instead be actively working to combat racism, nationalism and Islamophobia in Myanmar in the same way as in Europe.
Yadanar Maung, press spokesperson for Justice For Myanmar, told GfbV/STP, "Urgent action must be taken before the publication of this racist and discriminatory information causes further harm. We expect Germany as an EU Member State and supporter of IDEA to press for the app to be taken offline – until the categories of "Race" and "Religion" are fully removed. Otherwise Germany becomes complicit in the denial of Rohingya identity".