Burmese presidential spokesman Ye Htut
By Voice of America
November 21, 2013
Burma has rejected a U.N. resolution urging it to grant citizenship to Rohingya Muslims, a stateless ethnic minority group.
In a Facebook message published Thursday, Burmese presidential spokesman Ye Htut said Burma will not be pressured into giving citizens’ rights to people who are not entitled to them under the law.
Under a 1982 citizenship law, the majority-Buddhist country recognizes about 130 ethnic groups as Burmese. But the list does not include the Rohingya, whom the Burmese government refer to as “Bengalis” or illegal migrants from Bangladesh.
A U.N. General Assembly human rights committee passed the resolution on the situation of the Rohingya on Tuesday. It also called for Burma to end violent attacks on the Muslim minority by Buddhist extremists.
Buddhist-Muslim violence erupted in Burma’s western Rakhine state last year and has since spread to other parts of the country. The sectarian fighting has killed at least 240 people and displaced 140,000 others, mainly Rohingya.
Thousands of Rohingya have fled Burma’s unrest by boat, hoping to reach Muslim-majority Malaysia or other destinations.
Burma’s citizenship law says members of any officially-recognized minority must be able to prove their ancestors lived in Burma before the British invaded Rakhine in 1823.
The British occupation of Rakhine prompted a large migration of Muslims into the area from neighboring Chittagong, then part of British-ruled India and now located in modern-day Bangladesh.
Many of Burma’s hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims say their ancestors have lived in Burma for generations. But the impoverished minority group lacks the documentation to prove it.