Upper House Approves Ban on Politics for Non-Citizens

human rights, Rohingya, politics, Myanmar, elections, Muslim, Buddhist, conflict

A session of Union Parliament in Burma’s capital, Naypyidaw. (Photo: The Irrawaddy)

RANGOON — Burma’s Upper House on Thursday passed an amendment to a clause in the Constitution, removing the right of temporary citizenship card holders to form parties.

The decision could further reduce the rights of stateless Rohingya minority in Arakan State, many of who only hold such cards. The proposed amendment could also pose a problem for political dissidents who lack citizenship cards because they lived abroad for decades under the former military regime and are now returning to Burma during the democratic transition.

During a session Thursday, Upper House MPs did not object to the amendment put forth by the Arakan National Party (ANP), a proposal first suggested by ANP in August last year. The amendment will now have to be approved by the Lower House.

ANP Chairman Aye Maung, whose party represents the Buddhist Arakanese community in western Burma, said the decision was important to ensure that the political process in the country remained under control of those with full citizenship rights.

“We need to protect our ethnic rights to participate in politics. I am worried about those who are not citizens of Burma influencing power in the country,” he told The Irrawaddy.

“Those who run political parties in the future have to have citizenship. Those who hold white cards [temporary cards] should apply for citizenship,” said Aye Maung. He added that his party would soon ask Parliament to also remove the voting rights of those with temporary citizenship.

The current 2008 Constitution, written by the former military regime, allows people to form political parties, run for office and vote in elections if they possess a temporary citizenship cards, also called “white cards.”

Burma’s former military government issued white cards to many of the Rohingya population in northern Arakan State’s Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships. Even though the government maintains the approximately 1-million strong minority are not Burmese citizens and officially refers to them as “Bengalis” to suggest they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

The cards were issued to the Muslim group so that they could vote in support of a constitutional referendum in 2008, as well as for the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) in the national elections in 2010.

Recent reports in local media quoted the parliamentary bill committee information as saying that there are 850,000 white card holders in Burma.

Several USDP lawmakers in Parliament come from Muslim-majority constituencies in northern Arakan State. Despite this situation, the USDP-dominated Upper House did not stop the amendment from being passed on Tuesday.

All Mon Region Democracy Party MP Nai Banyar Aung Moe told The Irrawaddy that he had supported excluding white card holders from forming parties. “It’s very important to have this law, so that Chinese, Muslims and [Burmese] with English nationality who come from other countries cannot have influence and power,” he said.

Abu Tahay, A Rohingya leader and chairman of the Union Nationals Development Party, an organization from Buthidaung Township that the government has declined to recognize, said the new measure would pose problems for Rohingyas seeking exercise their political rights.

Abu Tahay said he could agree with the new amendment if Rohingyas would be given opportunities to obtain citizenship, adding, however, that this was nearly impossible. “People need to have full documents to become citizenship … [but] many of our people do not have full documents for many reasons,” he said.

The Rohingya in northern Arakan have faced widespread discrimination and human rights abuses at the hands of authorities and security forces in recent decades.

In 2012, violence flared up between Arakanese Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in the state. About 150,000 people were displaced and about 200 killed in communal violence in June and October 2012.

7 Responses to Upper House Approves Ban on Politics for Non-Citizens

  1. They are not stateless people. Their state is bangladesh. If a child is born in Japan by a burmese citizen couple, the child is burmese citizen, not Japanese citizen. Bengal I people in ra khine state are bangkadeshi, not burmese.

  2. All lawsa are subject to in line with democratic norms and also international standard. more over any parliament can not pass the laws against the democratic pricipals and which can lead greater violence in the name of laws against the discrimination of religion and faith. yeterday and to-day the peoples are coming from Awakyunt to Arakan can easily become citizens of Burma ( Myanmar ), why like this? Is it fair to say?

  3. I agree all the laws which are not against the democratic priciples.
    How can Bangali Buddhists are voting and electing as parliamentarians?
    The answer is that just because of their same religion and faith although they came recently from Bangaladesh Teaknaff and Awakyunt area.

    Please also take into consideration that Two Muslims lives had been given along with General Aung San for the Burmese independent and their toms are at Matyre Mosoleum in Yangon ( Rangoon ).

    • This is nothing to do with those who loved, served and sacrificed their lives for this country. Look into the issues differently. Illegal migrants and the matyres. It was nothing to do with what religious faith they follow.
      Not only Bengali Buddhists are voting. Open your eyes and find more facts in terms of religious faith. There are many Bengali Hindus, Bengali Muslims, Bengali Buddhists and Bengali Christians who are descendents of naturalised citizens of this country since independent. they are born and brought up here and serving for this country and still the citizens of this country. Yes, they are eligible to stand and vote in any election.

  4. Every country constitution clearly mention that only citizens are allow to vote and to elect. It is fair an square but in Burma ( Myanmar ), yesterday and to-day entering from Bangladesh Maghs Bangalis are getting citizenship is a wonder. Are they getting citizenship rights within few days is just because they are in same faith? Are they not danger for the country? who can give guarantee? Their peoples are doing anti government movement in abroad and many of their leaders attending anti government meetings in abroad., but authority never and ever takes action, why?

    OK, another factor is that these Maghs population especially in Sittwe and Rathaydaung is a big number migrated from Bangladesh Awakyunt. Why not both government Burma ( Myanmar ) and Bangladesh keeping eye blind and mouth shut up? Do OIC and UN know that fact? Be fair for the human beings, we are all equal by born. Never and ever make discrimination due to religion and faith.

    Beware of that majority Muslims are son of the soil, they fought Burmese Independent side by side with Bama and other ethnic group. Sayagyi Razak and Ye’baw Htwe’ of Mandalay are in Arzar-ni-gone, near Shwedagon Pagoda.

  5. I have never heard non-citizen has formed Political party and enter Election as candidate in any countries except in Burma.

    I live in Australia and only full citizen can vote for Council, State and Federal Election. Permanent Residences are not allowed to vote in any election. All Dual Citizenship candidates are not allowed to enter Election.

    Why former Military regime had allowed non-citizens to vote, occupied public office and form political party?

    We can see how former dictator Than Shwe regime was corrupted and illegal activity in Election, 2010. The Election in 2010 can be declared as invalid ground on unconstitutional activity.

  6. Please stop all biases relating to race and religion because all humans be treated equally.

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