Govt Accuses Opposition, Nationalists of Scaremongering on Issue of Adoption

By Moe Moe 8 July 2019

NAYPYITAW—President’s Office Spokesperson U Zaw Htay has accused certain organizations of exploiting the public’s lack of knowledge about the Children’s Rights Law to score political points.

“Ordinary people do not clearly understand this law, and have therefore been misled. [Certain organizations] are seeking to take advantage of this politically,” U Zaw Htay said at the bimonthly press conference at the President’s Office on Friday.

The Union Parliament on June 7 passed a bill to amend the Children’s Rights Law despite serious criticisms of some of its provisions, particularly those regarding adoption. The amendment was followed by a series of protests led by nationalists and the opposition Union Solidarity and Development Party in Yangon and Naypyitaw.

The USDP and nationalists are concerned that the law will pave the way for the children of non-Myanmar nationals to become citizens.

In June, the USDP and its allied parties said in a joint statement that provisions relating to adoption in the Children’s Rights Law override or violate the 1982 Burma Citizenship Law.

They are unhappy that the Union Parliament approved the amendments to the Children’s Rights Law according to the recommendations made by Kofi Annan’s Rakhine State Advisory Commission. The commission recommended that the 1982 Burma Citizenship Law be amended because it does not meet human rights standards and norms.

“We are not fishing in troubled waters. We are not seeking political advantage. This concerns the interests of all citizens. We are concerned because there could be unforeseen consequences. We have no reason to exploit the Children’s Rights Law just to seek advantage,” USDP spokesperson Daw Yin Min Myint Swe told The Irrawaddy.

While Article 73 of the Burma Citizenship Law does not grant any type of citizenship to a foreigner adopted by a citizen, an associate citizen or a naturalized citizen, Article 33(b) of the Children’s Rights Law states that “An adopted child shall get rights that they can inherit from adoptive parents in accordance with the law concerning adoptive parents or traditional law as other children, [who are citizens, would get from] their adoptive parents.”

Under Myanmar law, full citizens are nationals such as the Kachin, Kayah, Karen, Chin, Burman, Mon, Rakhine or Shan and ethnic groups who settled before 1823 and the British invasion. Associate citizens are people who applied under the 1948 Citizenship Act, which is a looser concept of citizenship; a foreigner could then be granted citizenship if they had been living no less than five years in Burma, spoke an indigenous language and respected the law of the land. Naturalized citizens are those who arrived prior to 1948, but not necessarily before the British invasion, and who did not apply to become citizens before 1982.

U Zaw Htay dismissed those concerns, saying citizenship is subject to existing laws. “I want to make it clear that registration of adopted children will not automatically grant citizenship to them,” he said.

Government leaders share the public’s concerns and exercise caution regarding citizenship eligibility, he said.