Use Controversial Citizenship Law to Assess Rohingyas’ Rights: Govt Report

The commission presents the findings of its long-awaited Arakan investigation report (Photo: Simon Roughneen / The Irrawaddy)

RANGOON—A long-awaited government report on last year’s violence between the Muslim Rohingya and Arakanese Buddhists recommends that the government upholds the controversial 1982 Citizenship Law and that it beefs up its security presence in Arakan State, while also tightening immigration controls along Burma’s border with Bangladesh.

It calls for examining the Muslim group’s citizenship status in accordance with the Citizenship Law, which does not recognize the Rohingya as an ethnic minority.

However, the Muslim minority in northern Arakan State, which is estimated to number about one million, claim they are called Rohingyas and say that they are Burmese citizens as they have lived in the region for many generations.

The report only refers to the Rohingya population in Arakan State as “Bengalis” from Bangladesh and said the group’s supposed rapid population growth had led to the communal clashes with Buddhist communities. It recommends implementing voluntary family-planning programs among the “Bengalis.”

“One factor that has fueled tensions between the [Arakan] public and Bengali populations relates to the sense of insecurity among many [Arakanese] stemming from the rapid population growth of the Bengali population, which they view as a serious threat,” the commission wrote.

In August 2012, President Thein Sein ordered the 27-member investigation commission, which comprises government officials, activists and a journalist, to investigate the sectarian violence, which has flared up twice since June 2012. The report said the violence left 192 dead, 256 injured, 8,614 houses damaged, while displacing nearly 100,000 people.

During a media briefing on Monday at the Myanmar Peace Center, the commission secretary Dr Kyaw Yin Hlaing, insisted that his team was “independent,” adding that it had traveled to Arakan State numerous times to interview officials, politicians and members from both communities.

“It’s a very complex and broad issue. We tried to collect data as correct as we could,” he said, adding that by seven committees appointed by the government would implement the report’s recommendations.

“All we could do is just make suggestions and submit what we have found. We have to wait and see to what extent they could implement it,’ he said. “Mr. President agrees with our recommendations for he doesn’t want to see that kind of violence again.”

Ko Ko Gyi, commission member and a leader of the 88 Students Generation activists, said the report wants to promote peaceful co-existence between two communities and resolve the refugee issue, but he added that the citizenship status of the Rohingyas should be decided on the basis of the controversial 1982 law.

“To grant the citizenship to Bengalis, we’ve recommended to stick to the 1982 Citizenship Law,” he said, adding that communal tensions would also lessen if the Muslim minority in Arakan State would change its attitudes. “If they are more liberal and loyal to the country they are living in, then peaceful co-existence will surely materialize faster,” he claimed.

The commission said it interviewed hundreds of members of both communities to ask what they believed had caused the violent clashes.

Among 1,200 Arakanese respondents, 96 percent said they felt that the government had failed to protect their communities and that “corrupt government officials take bribes from Bengalis to let them across the border” from Bangladesh into Arakan State.

Ninety-two percent of the 800 interviewed Rohingyas said the violence was sparked by “Arakanese feeling superiority” towards the Rohingya community.

The report recommends that the roughly 100,000 displaced persons, which are mostly Rohingyas, receive “urgent” humanitarian aid so that they can get “access to safe and secure temporary shelters prior to the monsoon season.”

Other recommendations that it puts forth include that “the government needs to ban the use of hate language against any religion, to ban extremist teachings and activities.”

The commission puts a heavy focus on strengthening the security government forces in Arakan State and control immigration from Bangladesh into the state, located on western Burma’s border.

“Border security must be increased. A skilled force especially trained and prepared in preventing and resolving conflicts needs to be put in place,” the report says, while also advising that “A Special Team comprising a civil-military mix needs to be established and made responsible for gathering intelligence on extremist organizations and violent groups.”

An investigation by the New York-based group Human Rights Watch, released last week, accused Thein Sein’s government of “ethnic cleansing” and crimes against humanity, and it said government security forces, local Buddhist monks and Arakanese politicians, had played a key role in the violence.

HRW alleged that government security forces had failed to end and in some cases supported Buddhist attacks on Rohingya communities during the violence on October, while they were also actively blocking aid deliveries to Rohingya refugee camps.


14 Responses to Use Controversial Citizenship Law to Assess Rohingyas’ Rights: Govt Report

  1. In a few decades, Bengali population in Rakhine alarmingly exploded. If it keeps growing like this, the Rakhines will be minority on their own land. Rathetaung and Mawngdaw townships are already occupied by Bengali and the Rakhines have been pushed away. I feel so sad that the Rakhines are defenseless. Unless the government contains illegal immigration issue there, conflict will grow there and Bosnia-like fighting may happen in the near future.

    • The media always twist the population proportion to the need of their articles.
      I hope the media will not mention that the Bengalis are a minority that is being bullied. If you take the number of Bengalis against the Rakhines in the entire Rakhine State, yes, the Bengalis are a minority, however, since the Begalis are mostly limited to Buthitaung and Maungtaw regions and not present widely across the Rakhine State, the media is be not be correctly making a proportionate comparison.
      If you take the Bengali population in the Buthitaung and Maungtaw regions against the Rakhine population, then the media will come to understand that that are about one Rakhine to every 20 Bengalis.
      I hope the media will make logical comparisons and not twist the numbers to sum up false accusations of who’s bullying who in that area.

  2. Use of the Controversial Citizenship Law to Assess Rohingya’s Rights is a step in the right direction, rather than have no law to address the Rohingya’s. But the Rohingya’s claim to have lived in the region for many generations befuddles me; which calendar are they following – the Georgian or the Muslim Calendar? Quite frankly, I have never heard of the name Rohinghyas until the late mid 90’s and now the name has mushroomed into a million.

    Secure the Borders between Bangladesh and Myanmar and restrict traffic only for official use; all others apply at the Myanmar Embassy in Dhaka and fly into Yangon International Airport. This is the only way to stem the rise of the Rohingyas who look nothing like the rest of Myanmar.

  3. There is a way to solve this problem. Exchange the population.
    Send Rohingya to Bangladesh and similarly send Buddhist Rakhine of Bangladesh to Burma.

  4. As i said before commission report is totally bias against rohingya ethnic,as almost all members are radical,extremist directly and indirectly involved ethnic cleansing against rohingya in arakan.how inhumane these commissions members are, justifying ethnic cleansing in arakan.nazi minded commission members failed to face reality with rohingya ethinic rightful name branded as bangali is insult,discrimination ,dehumanize as rohingya are facing since 1962 under rogue dictator Ne win,evil Dr maung maung and rakhine magh.their report is not match with reality.Myanmar peace center or Myanmar violent support center,secretary kyaw yin hlaing ,the way you presented the report,the civilize community just laughing at you.zagarnar,ko ko gyi better you join RNDP Rakhine magh Dr. aye maung who is more then wild animal.hundred of thousand rohingya ethnic killed,runway by boat,displaced, disappeared, force to immigrate to other country, how bias commission reported rapidly rohingya increase alarm rakhine magh.former rohingya simi -autonomous Mayu District where rohingya ethnic densely populated because since 1962 through out the country rohingya ethnic come to may yu district,settle there for save life from rakhine magh,government killing.forcing only rohingya ethnic for family planning , it is double standard,every ethnic in country should implement family planning.

    Rohingya lost ethnic status mostly faith,religion not 1982 act which directly promote anti establishment, like communist,Nazism, fascism attack democracy.our police, immigration,Nasaka,hluntin,magh militia who made rokhine state as hell state for rohingya ethnic,still not enough our inquiry commission recommended rakhine STATE similar to holocaust of Europe,then rakhine magh,evilest thein sein, khin yi, khin nyunt, thugs monks will proud for rohingya ethnic dis appear from arakan map.report failed to state ethnic cleansing committed by Buddhist monks,government force,rakhine magh as HRW report,which is independent,balance ,professional.brading rohingya ethnic as bangali is unacceptable,continue forcing to brand as Bengali by government force should make crime by international community,UN ,domestic civil society.Rohingya will liberal,more moderate then rakhine magh, bama if they have chance to attend school,higher study do business travel independently , unfortunately under apartheid rule rohingya ethnic are totally marginalized politically,socially,economically which commission failed to state free and fairly.for rohingya traveling in the country is like North-south korea,former East-West Germany.taungok Lynching of 10 innocent muslin in broaday light,then celebrated by magh,
    commission made mockery not reporting authoricity committed by magh rakhine.this commission is using by Government to justify ethnic cleansing against rohingya in arakan,DE-recorganized rohingya ethnic status with thousand years of colorful,legitimate record.this is 21 century mockery,justice system ,abuse rohingya ethnic suffering under apartheid rule.

  5. We are independent country we can choose whatever appropriate to us. For democracy of our country we will choose western democracy method. For Rohingya we will use 1982 citizenship Law of dictator Ne Win . We can say Burmese way to Democracy. Is not it funny?.
    Some people who are ignorant of historical fact, heard the word Rohingya from 1990. BBS broadcasted program in Rohingya Language till 1965. But one thing is sure, this Govt. does not discriminate Muslims, only allowed to burn Muslims houses, loot muslims property and killing. Now there are some concentration camps in Arkan and Mikittila.for Muslims. HRW, UN and UNDP all are bias, in racists Burmese mind because to them UN and others favor Muslims and Rohingya.They do not know that UN and others are following the international norm for human being.

  6. it is a kind of solve between Muslim and Buddhist that name of Rohingya Muslim change Arkan- Muslin .

  7. A trivial factoid: Yin Yin Nwe, the only lady on the panel, is a Shan Princess (descended from Kengtung Sawbwas), who was once married to Ne Win’s son, Sandar Win’s brother and the only son of Katie Ba Than (and perhaps people still remember how Sandar Win got into trouble when she tried to bring down Than Shwe with a putsch attempt?). Anyway Burma is ruled by a small oligarchy connected by intermarriages and cliques fighting for power. The rest of the population either has no say or are just manipulated (or even brainwashed). I wonder what Yin Yin Nwe thinks about the exploitative invasion of Burma by illegal Chinese immigrants, based on her ex-father-in-law’s 1982 Citizenship Law and especially her views on the half-Chinese UWSA who are carving out a big independent territory near Kentung where her ancestors used to rule!
    caveat lector: I am just a pea-brained homo-sapiens (who refuses to be characterised by any kind of racial classification), allegedly descended from poor Burmese peasants so I can only ask stupid questions!

    • There is no Chinese. All are Burmese. Ne Win, Khin Nyunt all are Burmese. No body can prove them. They have flat nose and fair color. And China is strong now. Not like as before to bully them . Even famous Chinese drug lords are enjoying luxury lives in Rangoon. They got speciat citizenship status from Junta

  8. Isn’t it an example of history’s irony that the 1982 Citizenship Law, the brainchild of U New Win, is being upheld by those who opposed Ne Win’s rule? Ne Win is dead but his legacy lives on. The Rohingya fact-finding can be best handled by a qualified group of anthropologists, at least to achieve a level of objectivity. I greatly respect the members of this commission for their struggle for democracy, but this is a no-brainer that this subject is out of their league. This is like asking a group of Chinese or Muslims in Rangoon to write a report on Myanmar Culture and Buddhism.

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