US official raps Myanmar’s ditching of temporary ID cards
|US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Mr Tom Malinowski (L) and National League for Democracy Chairperson Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (R) meet in Nay Pyi Taw on January 15, 2015. Photo: NLD|
A tops US official has stepped into the controversy over the Myanmar government’s invalidation of temporary ID cards, saying the move did not help with reconciliation.
US Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Mr Tom Malinowski, sent out a tweet on February 12 in which he said invalidating the white cards for Rohingya in Myanmar is counter to reconciliation in Rakhine State and the inclusive elections the Myanmar government says it wants.
Myanmar President U Thein Sein declared on February 11 that the temporary ID cards, held by about 1.5 million people, would be invalidated on March 31, calling on holders to hand in the cards..
The about-face happened after an earlier decision that would have allowed white card holders to vote in the upcoming constitutional referendum. Many Buddhist nationalists took to the streets to protest, angry that minority Muslim Rohingya, whom they refer to as Bengali, would be allowed to vote.
Both the Rakhine State authorities and the Myanmar government have acted with anger over foreign criticism and claimed interference into the status of Muslim Rohingya or Bengali, as the government refers to them, who make up over 1 million out of the 3 million or so inhabitants of the state.
Communal violence in 2012 led to hundreds of deaths and around 140,000 taking shelter in refugee camps.
Mr Malinowski has previously raised his concerns with the Myanmar authorities over the dangers posed by stoking religious divisions and the problem of keeping a part of the population disenfranchised.