UN presses Myanmar on Rohingya citizenship rights

sources by : http://www.dw.de/un-presses-myanmar-on-rohingya-citizenship-rights/a-18080451

Citizenship

UN presses Myanmar on Rohingya citizenship rights

A UN rights committee called on Myanmar to grant citizenship to Rohingya Muslims. A resolution ramps up pressure on the Southeast Asian country to scrap a controversial identity plan for the minority group.

The General Assembly’s human rights committee welcomed the political and economic reforms in Myanmar but expressed “serious concern” over the plight of the Rohingya community in the country’s Rakhine state.

A resolution adopted on Friday urged Naypyidaw to allow “equal access to full citizenship for the Rohingya minority” and ensure their equal access to all services.

Myanmar’s government has so far refused to grant citizenship to Rohingyas. It views the estimated 1.1 million people as illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh. An estimated 140,000 people – mostly Rohingyas – have been living in camps in Rakhine since violent clashes broke out between the majority Buddhists and Rohingyas in 2012.

Myanmar’s representative in the General Assembly has objected to the use of the term “Rohingya” in the resolution and said it would stoke ethnic tensions in the western coastal state.

“Use of the word (Rohingya) by the United Nations will draw strong resentment from the people of Myanmar, making the government’s effort more difficult in addressing the issue,” the envoy told the media.

Controversial ‘verification process’

Myanmar recently confirmed to the UN that it was ready to grant Rohingya Muslims citizenship if they identified themselves as Bengalis – a term which members of the minority group object to strongly.

Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin told the news agency Associated Press last month that his government had started a “verification process” to enable the stateless minority to become naturalized citizens. But he said the government had no intention of recognizing Rohingyas as a separate ethnic group.

In an interview with DW, Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch (HRW), criticized the government plan, saying that the verification process, which is based on a 1982 citizenship law, was “arbitrary and opaque.”

Calls for equal rights

On a visit to Myanmar earlier this month, US President Barack Obama had called on Naypyidaw to give equal rights to Rohingya Muslims.

The UN classifies the group – which has been living in Myanmar for many generations – as one of the world’s most vulnerable stateless populations.

According to the UN, at least 86,000 Rohingyas have fled the country in the past two years. Many of them travel to Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, where they often get deported or fall prey to human traffickers.

shs/nm (AFP, Reuters, AP)

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