Parliament Votes Down Ethnic DNA Proposal

By Htun Htun 30 August 2017

NAYPYITAW — The Lower House on Tuesday voted down a proposal to develop DNA profiles of each ethnic group in Myanmar.

The motion was put forward by Mandalay Region’s Meiktila Township lawmaker Dr. Maung Thin who argued that keeping such a DNA profile would contribute to medical research and citizenship verification processes.

Of the lawmakers who voted, 150 voted in favor, 222 against and six abstained.

Military representative Maj Win Min Tun said: “Keeping DNA profiles will contribute a great deal to the anthropological study of the origins of Myanmar people today as well as genetic characteristics and related fields.”

The proposal comes at a time of a stalled citizenship verification process for the stateless Rohingya population in Rakhine State who many—including the government—refer to as Bengali to infer they are interlopers from Bangladesh.

Maj. Win Min Tun said the military is ready to cooperate with civilian technicians in developing genetic profiles of Myanmar’s eight major ethnic groups—Kachin, Karenni, Karen, Chin, Mon, Arakanese, Shan, and Bamar.

Asian countries such as China, India, Vietnam and the Philippines keep DNA records of some of its ethnic groups.

The Myanmar government has formed a DNA supervisory board which has made little progress in developing genetic profiles of ethnicities living in the country, said lawmaker U Hla Htun Kyaw of Maungdaw Township, Rakhine State.

“Neighboring countries have started to systematically record their races. This is a very important issue, and necessary. Myanmar has a high risk of problems connected with citizenship and ethnic identity,” said U Hla Tun Kyaw, who is also member of the Lower House Ethnic Affairs and Internal Peace Implementation Committee.

Shan State’s Pyin Oo Lwin Township lawmaker Dr. Aung Khin said much needs to be done to develop DNA profiles at a national level such as hiring technicians, building hi-tech labs, and developing a law in place in case of controversy.

Union health minister U Myint Htwe also called for consultations with technicians first to discuss the viability of the plan as it has legal and human rights implications, as well as being costly.