Govt to Speed Up NVC Issuing Process

By The Irrawaddy 9 February 2017

RANGOON — The Burma government has formed a leading body to accelerate the process of issuing national verification cards (NVCs) to Rohingya waiting for citizenship verification under the 1982 Citizenship Law.

The President’s Office announced the formation of the six-member body on Wednesday, assigning it to speed up the process of issuing NVCs for stateless people in Arakan State.

The body is chaired by the minister of labor, immigration and population, and also includes deputy ministers for home affairs, defense and border affairs, the Arakan State minister for border and security affairs, and the director-general of the national registration and immigration department.

In the statement, the government avoided using the terms Rohingya or Bengali, and simply stated “those in Arakan State waiting for citizenship verification.”

As originally conceived, the scheme only permitted the state’s Rohingya population to apply for citizenship on the condition that they self-identify as Bengali—a term used by the government and much of Burma’s population, implying that they are interlopers from Bangladesh.

In June, a citizenship verification exercise was suspended when residents of a Rohingya village refused to accept the cards because they did not state the bearer’s religion or ethnicity.

The military regime previously issued white cards or temporary citizenship certificates to stateless minorities in Arakan State. However in Feb. 2015, former President U Thein Sein declared white cards invalid and announced a plan to replace them with national verification cards (NVCs).

When asked about the plan to issue NVC cards, chairman U Thar Aye of the Union National Development Party said those confirmed as living in Burma would be registered, which would serve as proof of identity and prevent illegal immigration. He added that it would also facilitate citizenship verification, which current NVC holders are still waiting for.

As of Jan. 16, NVCs had only been issued to 6,202 of 397,497 people who returned their white cards due to various difficulties, said the President Office’s statement.

The Union government and the Arakan State government have to work in cooperation and in seriousness to complete the NVC issuing process as quickly as possible, said the statement.

Rohingya politician U Thar Aye, however, is not in support of the plan to issue NVCs.

“I think it will cause complications if NVCs are issued to white card holders. It would be better to issue NVCs to people who have not yet been registered,” he said.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko