Burmese Govt Resumes Citizenship Verification of Rohingyas

citizenship, Rohingya

Rohingya women are pictured at the Thae Chaung camp for internally displaced people in Sittwe, Arakan State, on April 22, 2014. (Photo: Reuters)

RANGOON — Burma’s government has resumed a process of verifying the citizenship status of some members of a minority group in the country’s west known internationally as the Rohingya.

In late 2012, on the heels of sectarian violence between Rohingya Muslims and Arakanese Buddhists that left about 120,000 people displaced, government immigration officials began verifying the citizenship of Muslims in limited parts of Arakan State. It appears the process stalled last year, amid resistance to requirements that the Rohingya identify as Bengali.

The government refers to the Rohingya as Bengali, suggesting that they came to the country illegally from Bangladesh, though many trace their family roots back to Burma for generations.

Now, immigration officials have restarted their verification process in parts of Arakan State where most Rohingyas agreed to identify as Bengali two months ago during the nationwide census, after being told that they would not be counted if they did not identify this way.

As a pilot project in Myebon Township, immigration officials are accepting citizenship applications from anyone who identifies as Bengali, according to Maung Maung Than, director-general of the Department of Immigration and National Registration.

About 3,042 Muslims live in the township, the department says. Of these, 47 people have already applied for citizenship, according to Maung Maung Than, who added that applications would be considered according to the 1982 Citizenship Law.

The law has been criticized internationally for making it nearly impossible for the Rohingya to receive citizenship.

“The applicants will need to show the citizenship cards of their grandparents or parents, or at least family registration so we can check whether he or she is a citizen or not,” Maung Maung Than told The Irrawaddy on Monday.

Later, he said, immigration officials will check the identification papers of all Bengalis in the township. In cases where the paperwork may have been falsified, the central government will make a decision and take action according to the 1982 Citizenship Law, which prescribes a fine or jail time for anyone found to be in possession of false identification.

The verification process will later be expanded, but only to townships where people identified as Bengalis in the census, Maung Maung Than said.

The state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported that national ministers met in the Arakan State capital of Sittwe on Friday with state-level officials, town leaders and civil society representatives. The ministers explained “matters concerning the scrutinizing of citizenship for Bengalis under the Myanmar Citizenship Law of 1982,” the newspaper reported, adding that a preliminary survey had already begun at “a Bengali relief camp in Myebon.”

Last week Immigration Minister Khin Yi visited Arakan State along with the information minister, the minister of border affairs and national races, and President’s Office ministers, the newspaper reported.

About 1 million Rohingya people are believed to live in Arakan State, where they face government-imposed restrictions that make it nearly impossible for them to access health care, education and other basic services. A majority of victims from the 2012 violence were Rohingya, and today they continue to live in squalid camps for internally displaced people (IDPs).

The Arakan National Party, representing Arakanese Buddhists, has called on the government to verify the citizenship of Muslims in Arakan State since 2012, according to Khin Maung Gyi, a member of the party’s central executive committee.

“It is necessary that decisions are made correctly on every stage of the citizenship scrutiny process, without any bribes,” he told The Irrawaddy.

Mohamed Salim, a Rohingya spokesman for the National Development and Peace Party in Rangoon, criticized the verification process as biased.

“We do not accept the term ‘Bengalis.’ The Muslim people in Arakan State are Rohingya,” he told The Irrawaddy. “If they want to conduct an examination based on the 1982 law, they need to first amend the law in accordance with international standards, since it currently includes much discrimination, and after that they can exam us.”

4 Responses to Burmese Govt Resumes Citizenship Verification of Rohingyas

  1. What is 1982 citizenship law? It is totally undemocratic and one party has decided to make Muslims all over Burma to be alien. According to this law Ne Win himself becomes alien, not citizen of Burma ( Myanmar ). Why making innocent peoples bias decision? Just because they are Muslims. Why not the authority taking any action against those Buddhists came from Bangladesh during the time of U Nu and also Ne Win? International community and also UN are the responsible for this matter, because 1982 law is not international standard.

    Why up till now Kyaukpyu Arakanese Muslims and Kaman Muslims have to stay as IDPs in various places in Sittwe, Kyaukpyu, Ramree and other townships in Arakan region? Citizens Muslims have to suffer due to bias peoples are ruling this country. How long they have to stay like IDPs through out the country? UN, US and England are keeping silent on this issue. China now is inviting RNDP or Arakan National Party ( ANP ) leaders to visit China for negotiation how can get CNG from Arakan region. Does China has any hidden agenda with Arakanese leaders rather than Burmese leaders? Every one has its own interest, but Muslims has to suffer, is it not?

  2. No matter how many generations of your ancestors were squatting in the Apache Indian Reservation…. that does not transform you into a member of that tribe.

    Ever since forever, Rakhine State has been the ethnic homeland of the Rakhine-speaking tribe.

    Colonialism is finished, and no one can tell indigneous Rakhine-speaking people of Rakhine State that they must accept a Bangalee-speaking tribe into their ethnicity.

    Anyone who wants to assimilate himself into Rakhine-speaking society may do so.

    But there is ==not== a human right to establish a Bangalee-speaking colony in the Rakhine homeland.

    I do feel sorry for the Bangalee-speaking people now stuck in Rakhine. However, if they want to live in their own ethnic homeland – there are already two: West Bengal State of India, and the Peoples Republic of Bangladesh

  3. Arakan was ruled by Muslims, did any body know that period. Many Arakanese Buddhist historians wrote in the Arakan Histroy stated that there were period diffrent faith peoples ruled in Mrauk-Oo era. These historians feel ashame that Muslims were ruled in Mrauk-Oo to be stated in Arakan history. In those days of Muslims rule were only short period, due to lack of Buddhists Royal to be made as kings of Arakan. Once Muslims soldiers found suitable persons from Buddhists circle, they immediately made Buddhist Kings. That was the acustom of Arakan. Why Arakanese kings were using Persian language as an official court language? That shown that there were Muslims influences in the court of Arakan. Where is Arakanese Charactors in those days? Can it be shown as alphabetically? Cannot show, why ? Because it never exist. Only Sansikrit, Bangagli charactors were using in those days of Arakanese kings. If there is no Rohingya existance in Arakan, why a quarter ( an area ) given name in Sittwe as ” Rohingya Para “?

    It is better to be treated as human being to all mankind.

    Could be Buddhist, Hindu, Christian and Muslim
    Un Divided India:
    All are Indian …..
    Un Divided China
    All are Chinese…..
    General Ne Win Chinese postal clerk and Khin Nyut
    Chinese Gestapo/Double Agent
    Did they apply for Burmese Citizen / Burma
    Review their Status:
    Please Irrawaddy
    What a farce
    Shame! Shame!
    Thein Sein (De Frock Soldier)

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