Rakhine Chief Minister U Maung Maung Ohn told the VOA Burmese Service that since the programme began in 2014, only 40 Muslims were given citizenship and more than 200 were granted temporary citizenship because only those who identified themselves as Bengali were accepted.
Controversy surrounds Myanmar’s handling of citizenship calls for the Rohingya Muslims, who the government calls Bengali, implying they are illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh. Nay Pyi Taw has criticized United Nations officials for using the term Rohingya, and accused them of interfering in the country’s internal affairs.
U Maung Maung Ohn told VOA that the situation is “too complicated” in Rakhine State.
“The verification process is difficult since applicants are applying with an identity which does not exist in the country,” he said, referring the designation of Rohingya.
Clashes between Myanmar’s Buddhist majority and Muslim minority in Rakhine State in 2012 led to hundreds of deaths and the displacement of about 140,000 people.
Many Rakhine Buddhists oppose citizenship registration for temporary white card holders, who they claim are illegal Bengali immigrants, and are protesting against a parliamentary vote that has given white card holders the opportunity to vote in an upcoming referendum on changing the constitution.