Parliament chief says discrimination banned in Myanmar

Myanmar's influential parliament speaker vowed Thursday to press forward with democratic reforms but said the country already had laws against discrimination amid a furor over anti-Muslim violence.

Thura Shwe Man speaks in Naypidaw on October 16, 2012. Myanmar's influential parliament speaker vowed Thursday to press forward with democratic reforms but said the country already had laws against discrimination amid a furor over anti-Muslim violence.

Shwe Mann, a former general who is a key architect of reforms and is eyeing the presidency, was visiting Washington, where he said he hoped to study the US democratic system including the separation of government powers.

"For the interest of our people and the international community, we wish to see that a continuous democratic system is deeply rooted in Myanmar," he said at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars.

Leading a delegation of lawmakers, Shwe Mann said that he hoped to encourage reconciliation in the long conflict-torn nation and also to build a "more inclusive society."

But asked whether parliament needed to do more to protect the Rohingya Muslim minority following a wave of violence, Shwe Mann said that "actions will be taken" against anyone who violated existing laws.

"According to our law, discrimination does not exist whether you are a Rohingya or whether you call them Bengali, or even in religion," he said.

"There are still some weaknesses in terms of the rule of law. Therefore, we are working hard so that the rule of law will prevail in Myanmar," he said.

Myanmar's roughly 800,000 Rohingya are considered by the UN to be one of the world's most persecuted minorities. Myanmar does not consider them to be citizens, saying they are illegal migrants from Bangladesh, and local authorities have reimposed a ban on Rohingya having more than two children.

Up to 140,000 people -- mainly Rohingya -- were displaced in two waves of sectarian unrest between Buddhists and Muslims in Rakhine state last year that left about 200 people dead.

Myanmar has faced strong international criticism over the Rohingya, a stark contrast to the enthusiasm over reforms in recent years over democratic reforms that have included an easing of censorship and freeing of political prisoners.

Shwe Mann told Radio Free Asia while in Washington that he plans to run for president in 2015, making him the only declared candidate besides opposition icon Aung San Suu Kyi, who was freed from house arrest in 2010.

Shwe Mann met Tuesday with Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and discussed various topics including human rights and legal reform, a State Department official said.

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