Myanmar’s 1982 citizenship law that made a Muslim ethnic minority stateless does not need to be amended, but should be applied fairly, a commission set up to assess last year’s sectarian violence in the Rakhine State said Monday.
Fighting that broke out between Buddhist and Rohingya communities in the state killed at least 192 and left about 1,25,000 homeless.
The government-appointed commission called for improved law enforcement, protection of human rights and a ban on “hate language” and “extremist teachings.” It stopped short of recommending an amendment to the law that many claim is at the heart of the problem.
“International organizations are trying to criticize the 1982 citizenship law regarding the Bengalis but the law is very suitable for us,” commission member Yin Yin Nwe said.
“But the enforcement of the law is not clear because of the corruption of the local immigration officials,” he added.
The law classified eight races and more than 130 ethnic minority groups which could qualify as Myanmar nationals, but excluded the Rohingyas from the list.
The latter insist they are a separate ethnic minority whose ancestors have lived in the country for generations. The government views the Rohingya as Bengali migrants who were brought to the western state by the British colonialists as farmers.
The commission pointedly referred to the Rohingyas as Bengalis.
“It was not because of government pressure,” commission member Kyaw Yin Hlaing said . “Our intention is to bring about reconciliation and if we use Rohingya, we can’t achieve that goal because of the high emotions of the people, not only in the Rakhine but also in the other parts of the country.” Myanmar is a predominantly Buddhist country, in which Muslims are a small minority.
Much of the violence against the Rohingyas, along with attacks last month against Muslims in central Myanmar, was allegedly orchestrated by militant Buddhist groups.
“The government needs to ban the use of hate language against any religion,” the commission’s report said. “In particular, it needs to ban extremist teachings and activities.”