Friday, August 21, 2015

Rakhines upset with citizenship verification for the Rohingya - what next?

It is not difficult to guess caustic impact of propaganda on a society that lives in a closed society. Myanmar has been a closed society since the military takeover more than half a century ago. Over the decades supremacy of the majority Burman race and hatred against each of the minority ethnic/ religious groups have been the main diet fed by the military regime. It was the old colonial strategy - divide and rule, which really worked in Burma. No one was immune from its toxic and deadly embrace, even the Nobel laureate Suu Kyi, who is now viewed as a joke around the globe for her silence on genocidal activities directed against the persecuted Rohingya since 2012.


The Rohingyas of Myanmar are denied all rights. They have no citizenship in their homeland. They are treated as outsiders from Bangladesh and termed ‘Bengalis’ in spite of their objections. Under the pretext of verifying their citizenship, the Myanmar government has taken away their ID cards, and many are forced to live in concentration camp-like IDP camps under horrifying conditions since the genocidal activities of 2012 were unleashed against them to totally annihilate them. Past nationality verification schemes in the state have been controversial, with local officials, often accompanied by police, requesting that families register as “Bengali” or be disqualified from the process, and have been widely criticized across the globe.


The citizenship verification process, a largely ill-defined scheme that involves non-nationals providing proof of Burma-born ancestry, has led to several disputes with protesting Rakhines in northern Arakan State. The ongoing citizenship verification drive follows the government’s decision to invalidate the temporary identification documents known as “white cards” earlier this year, disenfranchising up to 800,000 people nationwide. Most holders of the now defunct form of identification are Rohingya, a persecuted Muslim minority who are known as the worst persecuted people in our time.


The verification process has caused disquiet among the racist local Arakanese Buddhists or Rakhines. They claim falsely that immigration officials are overly accommodating of unwarranted claims of Rohingya minorities.


Persons may be able to apply for naturalized citizenship by providing “conclusive evidence” that he/she or his/her parents resided in Burma prior to January 4, 1948—the date of Burma’s independence. The Myanmar law outlines two additional categories of citizens: associate citizens and naturalized citizens. Persons may be eligible under the former category if they qualified for citizenship under the previous 1948 citizenship law.


According to government directives, Rohingya applicants can apply for citizenship and a national registration card if they can prove the required background, with proper documentation, in accordance with the 1982 act.


The Buddhist population who for long has been transformed into a willing partner in crimes against the Rohingya people does not like such measures that would one day grant the rights of voting to Rohingyas. They want them to be wiped out of the map, or forced to leave the Buddhist majority Myanmar, esp. its Rakhine state where the Rohingya comprise just below 50% of the population. Their loss or elimination is considered as a gain for the Rakhine Buddhists. So, the fascist Buddhist groups like the Arakan National Party (ANP), a major political party advocating for the interests of ethnic Rakhine Buddhists, are adamantly against any restoration or so-called concession of rights to the affected Rohingya people.


Even under international pressure and condemnation, nothing has changed in this den of intolerance!


You can read the latest story about citizenship verification process by clicking here.


As already noted, the situation is dire for the Rohingya and they need international help to stop their extinction.


Last May, the Peoples Under Threat index, produced by London-based Minority Rights Group International (MRG), ranked Burma as the eighth most dangerous country in the world for some ethnic and religious minorities, citing armed conflict in the country’s northeast and violence against Rohingya and other Muslims as urgent indicators of future peril.

The annual assessment is intended as an “early warning tool,” which identifies people and groups most at risk of genocide, mass killing or violent repression. While the purpose of the index is to assess and prevent future threats, “mass killing is already underway” in states that top the list, the report said. Burma shared the distinction of top 10 with Syria, Somalia and Afghanistan—the top three—settling at No.8 between Pakistan and South Sudan.

In light of a refugee crisis unfolding in the Andaman Sea, MRG’s morbid prediction probably already came true. Thousands of people from Burma are believed to be floating on rickety boats, abandoned by human traffickers and pushed away by authorities of three other ASEAN nations, in what Human Rights Watch has referred to as a “game of human ping pong.” The International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimated that as many as 8,000 people are at risk of dying on the boats, while about 1,000 are believed to have already died since 2014.

David Mathieson, senior Burma researcher for Human Rights Watch, agreed that the negligence of the Burmese government and all other relevant authorities would be tantamount to murder.

“In regards to Rohingya and Bangladeshi boat people, any government that orders pushbacks that result in large scale death is the perpetrator of a mass killing, knowing that a failure to give sanctuary will likely result in death,” Mathieson said.

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