News / Asia

    Myanmar Begins Controversial Citizenship Verification Process

    Rohingya Muslims sit on the ground at Da Paing camp for Muslim refugees in north of Sittwe, Rakhine State, western Myanmar, April 2, 2014.
    Rohingya Muslims sit on the ground at Da Paing camp for Muslim refugees in north of Sittwe, Rakhine State, western Myanmar, April 2, 2014.
    Gabrielle Paluch

    The Muslim stateless residents of northern Rakhine state have long identified themselves as “Rohingya,” a term recognized by the United Nations, and foreign nations, including the United States.

    But not by Myanmar’s government. Instead, authorities are asking them to register as “Bengalis.”
     
    Myanmar's immigration department plans to carry out a controversial citizenship verification process in Rakhine state where there have been deadly ethnic and religious clashes since 2012.

    The government said the process is aimed at determining who qualifies to become a naturalized citizen. But many of those being asked to participate express concern it will classify them as illegal immigrants.

    Shwe Maung, an ethnic Rohingya member of parliament, said those being asked to register are hesitant to do so because they fear registering as Bengali will negatively impact their chances for full citizenship.

    He said there is no trust in the process, which he said could officially classify more than 1 million people as stateless, some of whom have been living in Myanmar for generations.
     
    "If they are 'Bengali,' the process will be as for foreigners, according to the 1982 law, I think therefore, Myanmar border police want, as with the census, the people to write themselves in as Bengali," Maung said.

    Shwe Maung said he has raised concerns about partial citizenship rights in parliament, but the issue is pending.
     
    Registration with the immigration department begins the citizenship verification process, after which a government committee is sent to weigh evidence of each individual's eligibility for citizenship.

    Because most Rohingya do not have government-issued identification, the committees will largely rely on the testimonies of village elders.
     
    Many Rohingyas are skeptical that a government that already classifies them as Bengalis will grant them citizenship based on the testimonies of village elders.
     
    Washington has, in the past, pressured the Myanmar government on the 1982 Citizenship Law. And in its 2014 report on religious freedom, called on authorities to promote the rights of Rohingya Muslims and provide “durable solutions” for refugees outside the country.
     
    Matthew Smith, director of the international human rights group Fortify Rights, says giving Rohingya equal access to citizenship rights is crucial to preventing the conflict in the future. He says foreign nations should press the government more on the issue.
     
    "The fact that the immigration department is handling this issue is indicative of the perception that all Rohingya come from Bangladesh," Smith said. "Immigration is an issue on all of Myanmar's borders, but the wholesale denial of Rohingya citizenship, Rohingya ethnicity, has contributed to these abuses that we've been documenting now for two years."
     
    So far, Rakhine political leaders like Aye Maung, a member of the newly formed Arakan National Party, have been supportive of the citizenship verification process.
     
    In the past, Rohingyas have registered with the government and received "white cards," which conferred the right to vote, but few other significant citizenship rights.
     
    But according to Aye Maung, the Arakan National Party has submitted a bill to parliament that would disallow even national registration card, or "white card" holders to vote in 2015.
     
    "We also accept this process we also demand all Bengali to go with this existing citizenship law for their status, and some percentage will get registration card," said Aye Maung.
     
    So far this year, an estimated 80,000 Rohingyas have fled Myanmar by boat to neighboring Southeast Asian countries.
     
    Since 2012, violence between Muslims and Buddhists have flared up across the country, killing hundreds, and displacing hundreds of thousands living in prison-like conditions in camps.

    You May Like

    Chechen Suspected in Istanbul Attack, but Questions Remain

    Turkish sources say North Caucasus militants involved in bombing at Ataturk airport, but name of at least one alleged attacker raises doubts

    With Johnson Out, Can a New ‘Margaret Thatcher’ Save Britain?

    Contest to replace David Cameron as Britain’s prime minister started in earnest Thursday with top candidates outlining strategy to deal with Brexit fallout

    US Finds Progress Slow Against Human Trafficking in Africa

    Africa continues to be a major source and destination for human trafficking of all kinds -- from forced labor to sexual slavery, says State Department report

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Eitheri
    X
    Jim Malone
    June 29, 2016 6:16 PM
    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora