News / Asia

Burma's '2 Child Policy' for Muslims Criticized as Discriminatory

An internally displaced Rohingya woman holds her newborn baby surrounded by children in the foreground of makeshift tents at a camp for Rohingya people in Sittwe, northwestern Rakhine State, Burma, May13, 2013.
An internally displaced Rohingya woman holds her newborn baby surrounded by children in the foreground of makeshift tents at a camp for Rohingya people in Sittwe, northwestern Rakhine State, Burma, May13, 2013.
Daniel Schearf
Rights activists are calling for Burma to end a two-child policy imposed on the Muslim minority Rohingya people to control their population growth in western Rakhine state.  Burma's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has for the first time sided with the Rohingya, calling the revived policy discriminatory and against human rights. 

Rights groups said a limit of two children for Muslims is one of a number of continued violations against the rights of the Rohingya.

The birth restriction, and a limit of one wife, is being implemented in two districts of Burma's western Rakhine state on the border with Bangladesh.

Buddhists were not to be affected by this policy, but it is not clear if it would be enforced on Muslims in other areas of Rakhine state.

The birth limits for Muslims are not new, but Human Rights Watch said they have only been enforced since 2005. 

Human Rights Watch deputy Asia Director Phil Robertson said Burma should revoke the policy and end other restrictions against the Rohingya.

"When people apply for permission to marry, and that's required for Rohingya, they must undertake a written obligation to only have two children.  Any more children than that are not registered and therefore not able to go to school, receive any sort of education, other services from the government, not able to apply for permission to move with their parents.  They become unregistered children of stateless people, possibly the worst situation you could possibly imagine," he said.

Authorities in Rakhine state said they are merely implementing recommendations of the Rakhine Commission.

The presidential commission investigated last year's communal unrest between Rakhine Buddhists and Muslims. 

It recommended, among other things, family planning to reduce high birth rates of Muslims that some Rakhine Buddhists fear will soon make them the minority.

The mob violence in Rakhine state last year left 200 people dead and 140,000 displaced, most of them Rohingya Muslims.  Human Rights Watch has labeled the violence ethnic cleansing and cited evidence of involvement by security forces and mass graves.

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Monday gave a rare defense of the Rohingya, telling journalists a two-child limit is a violation of human rights. 

But her National League for Democracy still refuses to recognize the Rohingya as an ethnicity or as citizens.

Her party spokesman Nyan Win said they would be willing to accept citizenship for the Rohingya, but only if the law is changed and they are called Bengalis, a term that implies illegal migration from Bangladesh. 

"NLD never call them Rohingya because of there is no history [of them] in Burma.  That is why," he said.

The Rohingya are considered one of the world's most persecuted minorities and are not recognized as citizens in Burma, despite many living there for generations.

Aung Naing Oo is a Rakhine Commission member.  In an interview in April, he told VOA Burma would have to eventually accept the Rohingya.

"Judging from the statements of the president and other important figures within the government, and it is clear, there is no way.  Where we going to send them to?  They have nowhere else to go.  Bangladesh is not going to accept them.  So basically, there is only one way.  They need to be a part of this country," he said.

A year after the violence many Rohingya are still living in relief camps or confined to their villages.

Doctors Without Borders deputy head of mission for Burma Vickie Hawkins said many Rohingya are afraid to move around, but authorities are not providing enough security and are limiting Muslims to only one hospital.  As a result their health is suffering.

"We know of many cases where the mothers have died due to a lack of referral possibility," she said. "We have also encountered people who have suffered from trauma, some kind of accident, who have needed hospital services and been unable to reach it."

Hawkins says patients have had treatment for tuberculosis cut short, threatening not only their health but also raising concerns of development of resistant strains of the infectious disease.

She said Doctors Without Borders wants to offer higher levels of health care inside the relief camps, but authorities in Burma have refused.

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Comment Sorting
by: Tu from: Bangkok
May 30, 2013 10:38 PM
Be human you guys all the commenter.

by: Kyaw Zayar Win from: Singapore
May 30, 2013 10:39 AM
First of all, I don't like to read the clause " Aung San Suu Kyi has for the first time sided with the Rohingya". Our leader Daw Su always side with Myanmar Citizen whoever is Buddhist or Muslim. Secondly, she just said that two-child policy is against the human right. No matter how apply to Muslim or others. Don't twist the words.
In Response

by: Tony from: HK
May 31, 2013 1:30 AM
Ms Kyi sided with the US who are against 2 child policy. The USA which kills sorry adorts one million of it's own children a year. Kills children with drone strikes. Supports the organistions who support strict sharia practices. The US have no right to dictate policy. The Sangha can be asked for their opinion, it's a Buddhist country. Secondly, there will be nearly 5 percent muslims soon in Burma. Muslims that no other muslim country wants.

At 5 percent historically muslims will begin to create socila and political problems. Surely after waiting under house arrest Ms Kyi should be aware of these dangers and focus on her people. She never left Burma in order to help her people. Now she supports further growth of islam at a time of social change to her beloved people whilst I am sure she is aware of the troubles ceylon has had with muslims. And London, Paris, Boston, Madrid, Bradford, Luton, Milan, and Southern Thailand with 5000 dead buddhist in a few short years. I could go on but Islam has destroyed every country it has entered- take a look at India, Afghanistan. No more Buddhist or any other religion.

The Buddha taught compassion he also taught one has to grab a snake by the head and not tail. He taught clear comprehnsion of purpose and suitability. It is not suitable to listen to the USA. They are the snake. Ms Kyi purpose is to help the Burmese and having muslims in your country wont help, in fact it will lead to the deaths of burmese. It's wonderful to be tolerant and compassionate but tell that to the 5000 buddhists killed in Thailand how compassion worked out for them.

by: Kyle
May 30, 2013 9:46 AM
Does US allow polygamy?
Why prohibition against having more than one wife is human rights violation?
You might ask it is only for Muslims not for Buddhists.
Duh... no Buddhist have more than one wife.
Too much hypocrites in this world.

by: ali baba from: new york
May 28, 2013 4:51 PM
who will feed the overpopulation?

by: Main from: USA
May 28, 2013 2:07 PM
Don't like it? Just leave... What make you all hesitating?
In Response

by: Chan from: Myanmar
May 30, 2013 9:04 AM
Yes, live in the field, eat supply from UN, follow by Sharia law (gov's rules can't reach there), refuse to pay respect to our Nation's flag(they say coz of Quran), One family have at least 25+ family members(still growing, don't believe refer yourself), Do nothing for living, No education. That all? No! the worse parts are, raping and killing (other regional people) then run into Bangladesh, asking for their own state (according to our stupid gov's law, they are allow to vote) and many many more. I don't want to judge about that just decide yourself and find what is real information. One good thing is, if Bangladesh invade to Myanmar, we don't need to defend too long and their army also no need to pass their border, just send gun containers across the border. Thank you for human right!
In Response

by: Alvin from: USA
May 28, 2013 9:14 PM
Who can support this leaving?don't u see where they live?camps,relief camps!

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