Myanmar election app goes offline, has been criticized over label for Rohingya

Myanmar election app goes offline, has been criticized over label for Rohingya
A man wearing a protective face mask walks on the street amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) spread, in Yangon, Myanmar, October 2, 2020. (Reuters)
Short Url
Updated 02 October 2020

Myanmar election app goes offline, has been criticized over label for Rohingya

Myanmar election app goes offline, has been criticized over label for Rohingya
  • The mVoter2020 app labels at least two candidates belonging to the Rohingya ethnic group as “Bengali”
  • The term implies they are immigrants from Bangladesh and is rejected by many Rohingya

YANGON: A smartphone app produced for Myanmar’s Nov. 8 election with help from international organizations appears to have been removed from circulation and may be amended after criticism over its use of a label for Rohingya Muslims that the Rohingya view as derogatory.
The mVoter2020 app, launched on Tuesday and aimed at improving voter awareness, labels at least two candidates belonging to the Rohingya ethnic group as “Bengali”, a term that implies they are immigrants from Bangladesh and is rejected by many Rohingya.
The app was not available to download for mobile and a web version was inaccessible on Friday, bringing up an error message that read “Server is temporarily closed.”
Marcus Brand, the country director of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA), which is based in Stockholm and helped develop the app, said he understood it had been removed while discussions were ongoing but did not have further details.
Brand said the group was advising the removal of contentious words used to identify candidates’ ethnic background.
“We are advocating the electoral authorities to remove this information from the app in order to ensure candidate security and… increase the integrity of the process,” he told Reuters, adding he hoped the app would go back online soon.
The app was developed by Myanmar’s Union Election Commission (UEC), with support from STEP Democracy, a European Union-funded project implemented in Myanmar by International IDEA, and the US-based Asia Foundation.
Pierre Michel, public diplomacy adviser to the EU’s Myanmar mission, told Reuters the EU “should have been warned about the inclusion of discriminatory data” in the app and was “considering all options” as to how to respond.
The UEC and Asia Foundation did not respond immediately to requests for comment.
Brand said International IDEA’s role was to digitize candidate registration forms for a database and that it did not have “technical nor editorial control” over the app’s content. The UEC requires applicants to submit citizenship documents that classify them by their race and religion.
“We do not generally think that advertising the ethnic and religious identification of candidates is advisable in the Myanmar context,” Brand said.
Activist group Justice for Myanmar said in a statement on Wednesday that the app risked “inflaming ethnic and religious nationalism during the election”.
Aye Win, one of the Rohingya candidates, told Reuters he was informed by the UEC on Friday that he was being disqualified, although it was not clear if this was related to the app.


World leaders welcome US transfer of power

World leaders welcome US transfer of power
Updated 20 January 2021

World leaders welcome US transfer of power

World leaders welcome US transfer of power

PARIS: Several world leaders said they were looking forward to Wednesday’s transfer of power in the United States, where Democrat Joe Biden will be sworn in as president after four turbulent years under Donald Trump.

President Hassan Rouhani did not miss the opportunity to hail the departure of “tyrant” Trump, with Tehran repeatedly calling on Washington to lift sanctions imposed over its nuclear drive.
Biden’s administration wants the United States back in the landmark Iran nuclear accord which Trump withdrew from, conditional on Tehran’s return to strict compliance.
A “tyrant’s era came to an end and today is the final day of his ominous reign,” Rouhani said.
“We expect (the Biden administration) to return to law and to commitments, and try in the next four years, if they can, to remove the stains of the past four years.”

Top EU officials voiced relief that they would soon have a friend in the White House again.
“Let’s build a new founding pact for a stronger Europe, for a stronger America and for a better world,” said Charles Michel, president of the European Council.
“This time-honored ceremony on the steps of the US Capitol will be a demonstration of the resilience of American democracy,” added European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
“And the resounding proof that, once again, after four long years, Europe has a friend in the White House.”

NATO said it hoped to boost transatlantic ties under Biden.
“We look forward to working with President-elect Joe Biden to further strengthen ties between the United States and Europe, as we face global challenges none of us can tackle alone,” the military alliance’s chief Jens Stoltenberg wrote on Twitter Tuesday.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was looking forward to “working closely” with Biden.
Johnson, who has faced criticism over his close relationship with Trump, cited a host of policy areas in which he hoped to collaborate with Biden.
“In our fight against COVID and across climate change, defense, security and in promoting and defending democracy, our goals are the same and our nations will work hand in hand to achieve them,” he said in a statement.

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev called for Russia and the United States to repair their strained ties.
“The current condition of relations between Russia and the United States is of great concern,” Gorbachev said in an interview with state-run news agency TASS.
“But this also means that something has to be done about it in order to normalize relations,” he said.
“We cannot fence ourselves off from each other.”