The at least two generations to apply for identity

The
Rohingya are an ethnic minority group, majority of them being Muslim, who have
lived for centuries in the majority Buddhist country of Myanmar. There are
approximately 1.1 million Rohingya who live in the country. Yet, they are not
considered one of the state’s 135 official ethnic groups and have been denied
citizenship in Myanmar since 1982. Nearly all of the Rohingya in Myanmar live
in the Rakhine state, which is one of the poorest states in the country, with
ghetto-like camps and a lack of basic services and opportunities.

The
Rohingya have lived in what is now Myanmar “from time immemorial,” according to
the Arakan Rohingya National Organization. During the years of British ruling
(1824-1948) there was a significant amount of migration of workers from what is
today’s India and Bangladesh, which was viewed negatively by the majority of
the native population. In addition, after their independence from the British,
the new government saw the aforementioned immigration as “illegal, and it is on
this basis that they refuse citizenship to the majority of Rohingya.”

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Shortly
after Myanmar’s independence in 1948, the Union Citizenship Act was passed,
which outlined what ethnicities could gain citizenship. The Rohingya were not
included were not included in the act, however it did allow those whose families
had lived in Myanmar for at least two generations to apply for identity cards.

However, in the 1962 military coup, Army Chief of Staff, Ne Win, became head of
state as Chairman of the Revolutionary Council, suspending the constitution and
dissolving the legislature, marking the beginning of the heavy dominance of the
army in nearly all areas of the country, which continues to this day. This coup
changed things dramatically for the Rohingya, as citizens were required to get
national registration cards, however, the Rohingya were only given foreign
identity cards, which meant that any job and educational opportunities that
they could pursue and obtain were entirely limited.

In 1982, a
new citizen law was passed in which the Rohingya were not recognized as one of
the country’s 135 ethnic groups, leaving them stateless. This law established
that in order to obtain the most basic lever of citizenship, there must be
proof that the person’s family had lived in Myanmar prior to 1948, as well as
fluency in one of the national languages. Many Rohingya lacked such paperwork
as it was either unavailable or denied to them. As a result of this, their
rights to study, work, travel, marry, practice their religion and access health
services have been and continue to be restricted. They cannot vote, and there
is a limit placed on how many of them can practice professions like medicine,
law or running for office.

Since the
1970s, a number of on-going attacks to the Rohingya in the Rakhine State have
forced hundreds of thousands to flee to neighboring states such as Bangladesh,
Malaysia, Thailand and more Southeast Asian countries. During these attacks,
refugees have reported cases of rape, torture, arson and murder by Myanmar
security forces, the latest being in late August, in which Rohingya fighters
attacked police posts, provoking a military crackdown, which has called the
attention of the international community for their “clearly disproportionate”
and disregard of “basic principles of international law” as well as the UN
accusing the Myanmar government of ethnic cleansing.

 

 

 

 

 

Investigative Analysis:

 

Since
Myanmar’s independence from the British, several central governments have
fought against a number of ethnic insurgent groups within the country. Over the
past years of conflicts, accompanied by serious human rights abuses, such as is
the case of the Rohingya, have displaced millions of people from ethnic areas.

The military has been attempting to unify Myanmar under a single territorial
sovereignty with a brutal central government, whilst minority groups keep
fighting for political autonomy. This military strategy seeks to undermine
ethnic minority political and military organizations by targeting their
civilian support base, thus causing armed conflicts that damage human and food
security throughout the country, therefore impoverishing large parts of the
civilian population. To this day, the army remains a major political force and
controls several cabinet portfolios, such as defense, foreign, border, and home
affairs.

Civilians
living in ethnic areas are the worst affected by the country’s ongoing civil
wars. The UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar
says that between 1996 and 2006, the conflict has generated an estimated 1
million internally displaced persons (IDPs), many of whom belong to minority
groups within the country. Citizens are also forcibly relocated to state-run
and heavy militarized villages where their human rights are severely violated
by Burmese Army Soldiers.

Due to
these violations of their human rights, the Rohingya have been forced to flee
as refugees into neighboring countries. An estimated of 785,000 people have
immigrated to Bangladesh, where they mostly live in makeshift camps, although
the latter consider the refugees as “illegally infiltrated” into the country
and has often tried to prevent them from crossing its border. Bangladesh’s
foreign minister has labelled the violence against the Rohingya as “a
genocide,” as well as its Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina calling the UN and the
international community to pressure Myanmar’s government to allow the return of
the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya after visiting a refugee camp, adding
that she would offer them temporary shelter and aid, but that Myanmar should
soon “take their nationals back.” In contrast, refugees in Bangladesh have said
that the government’s aid so far has been insufficient, with many saying they
haven’t received help at all.

The
response from the Myanmar government has been unsatisfactory thus far, as State
Chancellor Aung San Suu Kyi, who is also the de facto leader, has not been able
to address the magnitude of the situation or condemn the unfair force used by
troops, stating that “ethnic cleansing is too strong an expression to use for
what is happening.” The government also insists that military action in the
Rakhine state is a proportionate response to the violence and has repeatedly
denied accusations of its human rights violations.

The
response of The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has been a critical
condemnation of the violence that been spreading, calling it “textbook ethnic
cleansing” and has issued a Presidential Statement pressuring the Government of
Myanmar to take responsibility of the actions of the military and to help the
Rohingya, which is the strongest council pronouncement of Myanmar in nearly ten
years, as well as calling upon the Government to “ensure no further excessive
use of military force in the Rakhine State”. The UNSC has not been able to
provide more substantial help as any stronger resolution that are legally
binding has been strongly opposed and vetoed by China, a neighbor and ally of
Myanmar. The council has also demanded that the government grant “immediate,
safe and unhindered access to United Nations agencies and their partners” so
that they are able to bring more substantial aid to those in need.

 

Recommendations and Limitations:

 

The United
Nations Security Council strongly condemns the violence that has happened in
Myanmar and it believes that the Government of Myanmar has a responsibility to
protect its population, therefore it is incredibly important to reform the
security and justice sectors as the country continues to transition into democracy.

The UNSC “urges the Government to also work with Bangladesh and the United
Nations to allow the voluntary return of refugees in conditions of safety and
dignity to their homes.” Although this might result in more displays of
violence against the Rohingya as the Government has little to no control over
the military and the majority Buddhist people do not care much about the
Rohingya. This is why the UNSC urges the Government of Myanmar to start a
reconciliation. They could start by rebuilding their burnt villages, ensuring
that they have decent and proper living conditions and opportunities when they
come back. Although the poor economic conditions of the country would not allow
it, international communities and agencies, such as the UN, could organize to
send volunteers to help and peacekeepers to oversee the violent aggressions
that may occur and particularly to bring humanitarian partners to pay special
attention and aid to women and girls who need specialized medical and
psychosocial services as survivors of sexual violence., but for that to happen,
the government has to open the roads to the Rakhine State to allow these
organizations to help.. The UNSC stresses the importance of a transparent
investigation into the allegations of human rights violations and to hold
account those responsible. A problem with suggestions could be that the
government or military would not allow for this intervention to happen easily,
as it would imply external organizations going into the country and there is no
full access to the Rakhine State. Another urgent suggestion is to finally
address the root causes of the crisis and recognize the Rohingya people as an
official ethnic group and grant them citizenship in Burma, which might help
them in the protection of their human rights without any discrimination and
allow them access to basic services.

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