12 Jan Rohingya demonstrate in favour of voting rights

Written by Kay Zue Published in Rohingya Issues Read 5030 times
 Yanghee Lee (3-L), United Nations Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, arrives as Muslim children demonstrate with posters at Thet Kel Pyin Muslim Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp near Sittwe of Rakhine State, western Myanmar, 08 January 2015. EPA/NYUNT WIN
Ms Yanghee Lee (4-L), United Nations Special Rapporteur for Myanmar, arrives as Muslim children demonstrate with posters at Thet Kel Pyin Muslim Internally Displaced Persons camp near Sittwe in Rakhine State, January 8, 2015. Photo: Nyunt Win/EPA

Rohingya living in refugee camps in Sittwe Township in Rakhine State staged a demonstration Saturday asking for the right to vote in the upcoming 2015 general elections during the visit of UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar.

Ms Yanghee Lee visited refugee camps in Myebon and Sittwe townships on her fact-finding visit. She also met with civil society groups in the capital, Sittwe.

U Aung Win, a leader of the Rohingya in one of the camps, said: “Although we are still holding white cards, we have been living here for three generations. Therefore, the general election is of concern to us.”

Muslim Rohingya are not officially recognized by the Myanmar government, which refers to them as Bengali immigrants. Under the 1982 Citizenship Law, Rohingya are note recognized as Myanmar citizens. White cards indicate temporary citizenship, many of which were given out in the run-up to the 2010 general election.

Ms Lee was in the state to assess the human rights situation. Around 80,000 refugees are now taking shelter in Rakhine State following the deadly communal riots in 2012.

An official of the citizenship scrutinizing committee in the state said the election commission will decide who will be eligible to vote, while his committee is focused on scrutinizing refugees for voting rights in accordance with the 1982 Citizenship Law.

Controversy surrounds the issuing of white cards. The election commission has reportedly notified Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy to clear white card holders from her party.

The Myanmar government has said it is willing to offer citizenship to people who declare they are Bengali, not Rohingya. Human rights groups claim the government’s failure to offer citizenship to the Rohingya, many of whom claim their families have lived in the region for generations, is leading to permanent segregation and forcing many to flee the country.

Last modified on Monday, 12 January 2015 11:35