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    Learning with the times: Rohingya plight tied to Myanmar’s citizenship law

    Beatings, extortion
    and the seizure of their homes in Burma forced these women and 120 families
    from their village to flee Burma in early 2009. Picture: Greg Constantine.

    Who are Myanmar’s
    Rohingya people?

    Often dubbed as one
    the world’s most persecuted ethnic groups, the Rohingya are Muslims of Myanmar.
    Roughly about 8 lakh Rohingya live in Myanmar. Ethnically, they are much closer
    to the Indo-Aryan people of India and Bangladesh than the Sino-Tibetans that
    constitute the majority of Myanmar’s population. They live in Rakhine state in
    the country’s western coast. There is a controversy over their history in
    Myanmar. The Rohingya claim to have lived in the country for centuries, but the
    ruling military junta considers them recent immigrants. Ethnic groups also
    consider them outsiders

    How did the 1982
    citizenship law affect them?

    According to the
    United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the 1982 citizenship law
    deprived the Rohingyas of Myanmar’s citizenship . The law violates several
    fundamental principals of customary international law. The Myanmarese
    government has also issued identity cards which have to be carried at all time
    and are required for virtually everything from buying tickets to travel,
    registering children in school, staying overnight outside one’s own council,
    applying for any professional post, buying or exchanging land and so on. This
    has resulted in deprivation of fundamental rights and persecution on the basis
    of ethnicity.

    How bad is the

    They are subjected to
    forced labour and required to work for the government for no pay. The UNHCR
    also notes that since 1991, their freedom of movement is restricted and they
    are not allowed to find work in cities. Since most of them are unskilled
    labourers, even a few days of work without pay has a huge impact on their
    livelihood. They are also subjected to arbitrary taxation and forced
    relocation. Between December 1991 and March 1992, over 2 lakh Rohingya Muslims
    fled to Bangladesh . A similar exodus happened in 1978. These refugees live in
    miserable conditions and are often forcefully repatriated. Stories of Rohingya
    Muslims fleeing to Thailand, Malaysia, etc, keep appearing in newspapers.

    What is the current

    Since 2012, Myanmar’s
    Rakhine state is the site of ongoing riots between the Rakhine Buddhists and
    the Rohingya Muslims. The series of riots is believed to have been triggered by
    the rape and murder of a Buddhist woman and it has claimed several lives.
    Thousands of homes have been torched and Amnesty International estimates there
    might be between 50,000 and 90,000 displaced people. It’s very difficult to
    know the exact status in the extremely secretive state.

    Source by Times of