The Rohingya are an ethnic group, the majority of whom are Muslim, who have lived for centuries in the majority Buddhist Myanmar. Currently, there are about 1.1 million Rohingya in the Southeast Asian country. They are not considered one of the country’s 135 official ethnic groups and have been denied citizenship in Myanmar since 1982, which has effectively rendered them stateless.[i]
Nearly all of the Rohingya in Myanmar live in the western coastal state of Rakhine and are not allowed to leave without government permission.
Due to ongoing violence and persecution, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have fled to neighbouring countries either by land or boat over the course of many decades. It has been their native place since they were born. Myanmar gained independence but that does not imply that these people do not deserve their citizenship.
During the more than 100 years of British rule, there was a significant amount of migration of labourers to what is now known as Myanmar from today’s India and Bangladesh. Because the British administered Myanmar as a province of India, such migration was considered internal.
After independence, the government viewed the migration that took place during British rule as “illegal”, and it is on this basis that they refuse citizenship to the majority of Rohingyas which is so dishonourable to the whole community. The government was being illegitimate to the Rohingyas and their lives went on stakes since then.
Rohingyas were initially given such identification or even citizenship under the generational provision. After the 1962 military coup in Myanmar, things changed dramatically for the Rohingya. All citizens were required to obtain national registration cards. The Rohingya, however, were only given foreign identity cards, which limited the jobs and educational opportunities they could pursue.
In 1982, a new citizenship law was passed, effectively rendering the Rohingya stateless. Under the law, Rohingya were again not recognised as one of the country’s 135 ethnic groups.
Rohingyas as a community had begun to suffer a lot post-Independence. They were not getting the citizenship of the place they belong to which left them no option but to migrate to an another region for survival as the government had made up their minds about vanishing the Rohingyas completely not leaving even a speck of them. They were supporting this decision of theirs by migrating some of them to Malaysia, Bangladesh and other south-Asian countries and during such times the refugees have reported certain cases of rape, killings and assault against the Myanmar armed forces which have gone unnoticed.
Myanmar and UN agencies signed an agreement that might eventually lead to the return of some of the 700,000 Rohingya Muslims who fled brutal persecution by the country’s security forces and are now crowded into makeshift camps in Bangladesh.[ii][iii]
The memorandum signed today promises to establish a “framework of cooperation” that aims to create the conditions for “voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable” repatriation of Rohingya refugees.
Myanmar and Bangladesh agreed in November to begin repatriating Rohingya, but refugees feared their lives would be at risk in Myanmar without international monitoring. This clearly indicates that the government of Myanmar has already agreed to grant them the citizenship earlier but because of their ill practices the refugees could not feel safe returning to their country. The history may seem to get repeated again in future because of the happenings which took place in the past.
Rohingyas deserve their country’s citizenship from the very beginning itself but they couldn’t access it.
Even today the same government doesn’t really seem to want to make their lives any better.
[i]Aljazeera.com 18 April, 2018
[iii]Times Of India June 6, 2018