March 19, 2019
1. For many decades, members of the minority Islamic and Hindu religious communities and those who belong to Rohingya, Kaman, and Christian Lisu minority ethnic groups in Myanmar have faced arbitrary delays and hardships in applying for citizenship documents and identification cards.
2. During a public meeting with State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in Bago on March 15, 2019, a local community member raised the issue that Muslims and Hindus were facing discrimination in the citizenship application process and were being asked to pay bribes to authorities in order to obtain documents. In response, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said that she would urgently try to address the discrimination against members of religious minorities so that they could exercise their rights as prescribed in the Constitution.
3. After the meeting, local authorities summoned the trustees of the mosques in Bago, through a verbal order, to the Township Immigration Office. The trustees were asked to sign a written note declaring that “the Office of Labour, Immigration and Population does not practice discrimination against members of the Islamic faith in their applications for their citizenship scrutiny cards.”
4. BHRN strongly urges the government to launch an investigation into the conduct of the Bago Township Immigration Office and appropriately punish those responsible for putting this pressure on the people. Their actions are an attempt to conceal long-held discriminatory and corrupt practices and to facilitate the reporting of misinformation to senior leadership.
5. We believe these practices to be a misuse of power and inherently oppressive to minorities. It is an attempt to exploit the provisions in Articles 347 and 348 of the Constitution concerning equality guaranteed among all citizens irrespective of their race or religion.
6. We call on the government of the National League for Democracy to take responsibility to prevent similar cases of coercion by the authorities from being perpetrated against religious organizations, the trustees of religious sites, and other respective individuals.
7. An MP from Chaungzon, Mon State, asked in state parliament on February 22 if people who held National Registration Cards were allowed to apply for citizenship scrutiny cards during a government campaign to issue citizenship documents. An official answered by saying that the parents would first need to apply for citizenshipscrutiny cards of their own, and only then would their children become eligible. It would take significant time for their children to get their own citizenship scrutiny cards.
8. BHRN urges the government to address such violations of citizenship rights at the grassroots level, including corruption, red tape, and unnecessary or arbitrary delays faced by people in obtaining rightful documentation.
9. Moreover, the members of religious minority groups—including Hindus and Muslims—are categorized as “mix-blooded people” in the citizenship application process, a designation that effectively classifies them as second-class citizens. If they are granted a citizenship card, the “race” of the members of Islamic community are mentioned with the names of other countries--such as India, Pakistan or Bangladesh—to signify that they are “foreign.” No matter where their ancestors were from, these individuals are also frequently classified as “Bengali.” We urge the authorities to amend the 1982 Citizenship Law in accordance with recommendations made by the Kofi Annan Commission, and the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Myanmar, to end these discriminatory practices.
10. Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states that everyone has right to a nationality and that no one shall be arbitrarily deprived his or her nationality, nor declined the right to change their nationality. Therefore, we strongly urge the authorities to implement a citizenship statute that is written in accordance with the UDHR, so as to guarantee equality and prevent the denial of citizenship rights in Burma.
BHRN is based in London, operates across Burma and works for human rights, minority rights and religious freedom in Burma. BHRN has played a crucial role advocating for human rights and religious freedom with politicians and world leaders.
Kyaw Win, Executive Director
Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN)
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