Rohingya refugees say they have been pressured by Myanmar into accepting the National Verification Card (NVC) even though it does not mention their religions and ethnicities.
It also does not guarantee citizenship, but will allow the holders to apply for citizenships at a later date.
Myanmar says the NVC is first step before the scrutinisation of citizenship in accordance with the 1982 law, which defines citizenship based on ethnicity.
Shamsu Alam, a Rohingya refugee who arrived in Bangladesh on Friday from Buthidaung’s Taung Bazar, told the Dhaka Tribune that the NVC also barred them from owning properties above 50,000 kyat.
“They threatened to kill us if we refused to accept the NVC,” he said. “They planned to give us ‘temporary citizenship’ without our ethnic identity and grab our properties.”
Shamsu’s village was burned to the ground on the eve of the Eid festival. Many villagers were killed and women were raped, while the army also cut off the food supply.
“The NVC is a temporary document. We will have to apply later for permanent citizenship but will not be identified as Rohingya,It is just a mockery,” said Shamsu.
Rohingya people have been objecting to NVC projects dating back to the previous military government. At that time, it was mandatory for the Rohingya to identify as “Bangali” on the card, to imply that they were illegal Bangladeshi immigrants.
Myanmar does not recognise the Rohingya, often considered to be one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.
More than 600,000 of the stateless group have fled to Bangladesh since late August, when the Myanmar military claimed it launched a “clearance operation” in response to insurgent attacks on security forces.
The UN has described the Myanmar violence as “ethnic cleansing” and said the systematic crackdown had been designed to permanently drive the Rohingya away from their home in the Rakhine state.
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“The Rohingya will lose everything if they accept the card,” refuge seeker Bashir Ahmed told the Dhaka Tribune over phone from a shoal along the border, where he was waiting to cross into Bangladesh.
Bashir, from Maungdaw’s Sikdarpara village, dubbed NVC a public stunt.
More than 7,000 people had been given NVC in Rakhine state, the government said
Barakat, another Rohingya, said he did not take the NVC. “Some of my neighbours went to get it but came back after hearing the terms and conditions,” he said.
Rohingya refugee Salim said he had recently made a secret visit to his home village of Sudhapara in Maungdaw. He called his friend Yasir Arafat on Sunday.
“The villagers are being threatened to accept cards or face action,” he told Arafat.
U Aung Min, director of the Rakhine State Immigration and Population Department, said that villagers had been advised “to hold NVC as long as they live in Myanmar.”
Rehana Begum, from Buthidaung’s Changnama village, had joined Shamsu’s group with her husband and four children, and said the army and local Moghs had closed the village markets and shops.
Once the villagers ran out of food, they offered relief.
“They would give us relief materials and pose for photos but would snatch the goods from us after that,” Rehana said.
On October 17, the army ordered the villagers to take the NVC and told them that nobody would be allowed to live in Rakhine without them, she said.
“They threatened us with serious consequences as nobody wanted the cards,” Rehana said. “We chose to flee.”