Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi sent a letter of congratulations on Wednesday to U.S. president-elect Donald Trump, expressing her hope that the two countries maintain and strengthen their ties, while anti-Muslim leaders in the Southeast Asian nation did the same but for different reasons.
“Our people are happy with the mutually beneficial and dynamic relations that Myanmar shares with the United States, and I look forward to working closely with Your Excellency to further strengthen the existing friendship, cooperation and partnership between our two countries,” she wrote.
Aung San Suu Kyi, who also is Myanmar’s foreign minister and de facto leader, has enjoyed warm relations with U.S. President Barack Obama, who in early October lifted sanctions that had been in place against the country for almost two decades to isolate a former military junta noted for human rights abuses and corruption.
Obama decided to drop the sanctions because of political reforms that in the Southeast Asia country under the pro-democracy, civilian government that came to power in early April. Aung San Suu Kyi was instrumental in freeing detained students and other political prisoners and holding nationwide peace talks.
Aung San Suu Kyi paid an official visit to the U.S. in September during which she courted the American business community to drum up investment for Myanmar.
Free from jihadism
Ashin Wirathu, an outspoken figure in Myanmar’s ultranationalist Buddhist monk group Ma Ba Tha, took to on his Facebook page to congratulate Trump who has said he will ban Muslims from entering the U.S.
Wirathu, who has spoken out against the country’s Rohingya Muslims and their defenders, emphasized the need to ensure safety for American citizens and expressed his wish that the U.S. remain free from jihadism.
Founded in 2013, Ma Ba Tha has led frequent demonstrations against the Rohingya, and last year pushed for the passage of legislation known collectively as the Race and Religion Protection Laws, which restrict religious conversions, polygamy, interfaith marriages, and childbirth by Muslims. Rights advocates say the laws discriminate against women and Muslims in the conservative country.
Likewise, Aye Maung, chairman of the Central Executive Committee of the Arakan National Party (ANP) based in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state sent a letter to Trump carrying congratulations from the party and the Rakhine people.
“Being engulfed in Islamization and illegal immigration problems, we the Arkanese people look up to you as a new world leader who will change the rigged system being infested with jihadi infiltrators,” he wrote.
“We wish you two consecutive successful tenures and hope that your leadership will steer the U.S. and the world into a safer place without radical Islamic terrorism,” the letter said.
The ethno-centric ANP and Buddhist hardliners have denounced a government’s advisory commission on Rakhine state appointed by Aung San Suu Kyi in August, to examine the restive area’s religious conflict and human rights situation.
Rakhine is home to more than 1.1 million stateless Rohingya Muslims whom many Burmese call “Bengalis” because they consider them illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh. The Buddhist majority have long subjected the Rohingya to persecution and attacks and denied them basic rights, including citizenship.
Some state and national government leaders have blamed deadly attacks on border guard posts in northern Rakhine last month on a militant Rohingya group that received training and financial support from the Islamist terrorist organization Aqa Mul Mujahidin.
Last month, the ANP asked government ministers to protect ethnic Rakhine villages in Maungdaw township where the attacks and subsequent violence between security forces and armed groups occurred and to provide residents there with food.
Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.