Muslim men in Yangon face charges for keeping cows without permission
THREE Muslim men have been arrested and are on trial for keeping 92 cows in a Yangon field without prior permission, according to officials from the Shwe Pyi Thar township police station.
The cows were intended for consumption during the religious ceremony Eid al-Adha. The religious festival has been a flashpoint of contention in recent years, with some regional governments instituting severe restrictions on cattle slaughter ahead of the event.
U Myo Myint, U Khin Soe and U Hla Myint Oo were arrested and detained at Insein Prison following a lawsuit filed by the Shwe Pyi Thar township development committee administrator. According to AFP, the source of the initial complaint was a local monk, Pa Mouk Kha, who claimed the cows had been imported illegally.
The three men were brought to an initial trial hearing yesterday, according to U Bo Bo Htut, the deputy police officer in charge of Shwe Pyi Thar township.
U Bo Bo Htut said that the suspects had been keeping the cows at a pasture without formal permission. They have been charged under the 2012 Essential Supply and Services Act.
Township MP U Yan Aung Min (NLD; Shwe Pyi Thar 1), said he believes there could be an ulterior motive for the complaint filed against the men, and called on the police to investigate.
“If there is a case against them of course it will need to be investigated and the judge will be the one to decide right and wrong,” he said.
U Kyaw Nyein, leader of local Muslim group Ulama Islam and chair of the Muslim Lawyers Association, told The Myanmar Times that the case is religiously motivated, and would not have happened if observant Muslims were openly allowed to celebrate their religious traditions with ease.
“There are always a very small number of permitted places for us to observe this religious ceremony. The Muslims who would like to observe the event have to negotiate each year with the regional authorities to do it,” he said.
Also known as the Feast of the Sacrifice, Eid al-Adha marks the willingness of the prophet Abraham to sacrifice his son, Ismael, out of religious devotion. However, the sacrificing of animals is contentious in Myanmar because a central tenet of Buddhism forbids the taking of life, and nationalist monks have lobbied to outlaw the annual sacrifice.
U Kyaw Nyein asked the government to reconsider whether criminal charges against the three men were necessary since they were only trying to observe a religious festival, and had no intention of disturbing others.
“I just want to request the authorities to take lighter action. But of course, we have to wait and see the results,” he said.