• Tuesday, Aug 20, 2019
  • Last Update : 10:11 pm

Myanmar citizenship: Rohingyas have only one option

  • Published at 03:12 pm August 5th, 2019
Rohingya repatriation
File photo of Hundreds of Rohingyas Reuters

That option is also not guaranteed due to several issues, including lack of goodwill of Myanmar government    

The Rohingyas, often described as the most persecuted community in the world, can at best have only naturalized citizenship of Myanmar under the country’s current law, according to senior Bangladeshi diplomats.

They told Dhaka Tribune that under the 1982 Citizenship Law of Myanmar, which has rendered the Rohingyas stateless, the Rohingyas cannot have full-fledged citizenship as they were not included in its list of 135 ethnic groups, people of which are entitled to citizenship.

If the Rohingyas are to be given full citizenship with full political rights, the law and the constitution both will have to be amended. But it seems almost impossible as the overwhelming majority of the country’s people, the government and most importantly the military hold an unfavourable attitude towards the persecuted community, said the diplomats.

Under the current circumstances, they added, Rohingyas will never be recognized as an ethnic group in Myanmar which is something that they have long been aspiring.

Striking a note of caution, the diplomats also said that there is still no guarantee that those who apply for naturalized citizenship will receive it. There are many issues, which include lack of documentation proving that Rohingyas have lived in Myanmar for a certain period and absence of the government’s goodwill which hinders the process.

Under the 1982 law, citizenship of Myanmar are divided into three categories — full-fledged, associate and naturalized.

The Rohingyas cannot be granted the full or associated citizenship. They can only apply for naturalized citizenship after fulfilling certain conditions.

For instance: if at least three generations — grandfathers/grandmothers, sons/daughters and grandchildren — have lived in Myanmar, Rohingyas will be eligible to apply for the naturalized citizenship status. Once the parents apply, their children and their offspring become eligible to apply.

Eventually, their sons, daughters and grandchildren will be entitled to full-fledged citizenship.

When asked if the Rohingyas should apply for naturalized citizenship, a senior Bangladeshi diplomat said: “It is for them to decide. I will just say that this is the only window of opportunity for them as of now.”

Agreeing with the official, another senior diplomat said: “The repealing of the Citizenship Law will be the most ideal situation for the Rohingyas. But, as we speak, it seems impossible as a majority of the people of Myanmar have a very negative view of the Rohingyas.”

“Look, it’s all about good intention of the Myanmar government. If they really want to solve this protracted crisis once and for all, there should not be any problem in amending the law or the constitution,” said another diplomat.

Referring to a recent two-day interaction between the Rohingya community leaders and a Myanmar government delegation in Cox’s Bazar, the official added: “Both sides have agreed to continue talks. During future talks, all aspects of citizenship will be discussed.

“The citizenship issue is going to be undoubtedly the most contentious in those talks”