Chittagong, Arakan State: Rohingya political groups had welcomed the European Parliament resolution (2012/2604(RSP)) of 20 April 2012 which called for changes to the 1982 law on citizenship to ensure due recognition of the right to citizenship of the Rohingya ethnic minority in Burma, according to press release of the Arakan Rohingya National Organisation (ARNO).
“The resolution also called for the release of all political prisoners without delay and conditions, and access of ICRC and international human rights bodies to Burma’s prisons; to introduce amendments to the 2008 constitution; to guarantee free and independent media; to initiate legal reforms in order to ensure a truly independent and impartial judiciary and to establish process of justice and accountability for past human rights abuses.”
The Rohingya groups - the Arakan Rohingya National Organisation (ARNO) and the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK).
“The whole Rohingya people feel encouraged by this resolution,” said Nurul Islam, the President of ARNO.
“While cautiously welcoming the recent positive changes in Burma, including mutual rapprochement between President U Thein Sein and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the resolution expresses concerns on the policies and discrimination against Rohingya people, and issues concerning human rights and other important matters,” the press release said.
The Burma citizenship law of 1982 was designed by former BSPP dictator General Ne Win to exterminate Rohingya Muslims from Arakan. It violates several fundamental principles of customary international law standards, has deprived the Rohingya of their Burmese citizenship rendering them ‘stateless’ in their own homeland. 1982 citizenship law effects to Rohingya in their all activities such as restriction on movement, marriage, and education and so on, according to BROUK press released.
The law promotes discrimination against those who do not belong to so-called racially pure-blooded 135 ethnic groups that the government accepts as Burmese nationals and deliberately denies citizenship to Rohingya who had previously been recognized as citizens and ethnic group in Burma, according to ARNO press release.
The rejection of Rohingya’s citizenship rights and ethnic rights by the government of Thein Sein is the main contributing factor to the growth of the refugee problem and the boat people crisis in the region. The Junta’s policy towards Rohingyas has been intolerable. The extreme situation has forced them to prefer to take perilous voyages by rickety boats across seas and oceans rather than live in their homeland; as a result hundreds of Rohingya boat people drowned over the years, according to Tun Khin, the president, BROUK.
Therefore, we urge upon the international community and governments to set the ‘issue of Rohingya citizenship’ as one of the benchmarks for lifting sanctions on the Burmese government as the 1982 citizenship law largely ignores state’s ‘obligation to respect the right to nationality’ and it does not oblige the state to protect stateless persons.
The resolution also calls on the Burmese authorities, among other things, to completely end the decade-old internal armed conflicts, to take more positive measures for peace negotiations towards political and democratic reforms.
Similarly, the Christian Solidarity Worldwide has welcomed the European Union’s decision to suspend sanctions against Burma for a year, which called for “substantially improved” access for humanitarian assistance, especially for those affected by the conflict in Kachin State and along the eastern border, as well as moves towards improving the welfare of the predominantly Muslim Rohingya people who live in northern Arakan State but are denied citizenship and are subjected to severe restrictions and persecution.