Include the Rohingya in Elections

The following has been submitted in the format of an Oral Statement to the 45th session of the UN Human Right’s Council, and was prepared by Next Century Foundation Research Officer, Grace Cornish.

The Next Century Foundation asks the government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar to re-enfranchise the Rohingya minority in time for the upcoming elections on November 8 2020. By doing so, they would grant the Rohingya the status of a legally recognized ethnic minority. 

At present, the Citizenship Act of 1982 prohibits some 600,000 Rohingya from legal recognition, reinforcing their marginalization. 

The Next Century Foundation recognises the difficulties faced by the Myanmar government in dealing with Buddhist nationalist opposition to the assimilation of the Rohingya. In 2010, the Rohingya were briefly enfranchised, but only if they registered as Bengali at the cost of their ethnic identity.

We note the passing of the ‘Race and Religion Protection Laws’ in 2014, which reduced the autonomy of Rohingya to marry freely, have children and determine their lifestyle.

Underlining which, the inability to influence legislative outcomes has compromised the ability of the Rohingya to enjoy their social human rights. 

Taking note of the 2020 ruling by the International Court of Justice in “Gambia v. Myanmar”, the Next Century Foundation welcomes the consequent military reforms, but encourages the Myanmar government to implement all aspects of the ruling. 

Bearing in mind that UN General Assembly Resolution 69/248, adopted in 2014, demanded ‘equal access to full citizenship of the Rohingya minority’, we ask that Myanmar ratify the Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons. This recognises the right to a nationality provided for by Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which Myanmar is a signatory. 

The Next Century Foundation endorses the words of UN Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues, Fernand De Vareness, ‘Without citizenship, people who are stateless become humans without rights’. 

We ask that the Rohingya be given their due electoral rights. 

Burma: Two steps backward for one step forward

Oral intervention to be given by the Next Century Foundation at the 37th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. Item 4 Clustered Interactive Dialogue on 12th March 2018, the Fact Finding Mission on Myanmar:

Mr. President. The Next Century Foundation regards the Republic of the Union of Myanmar as having made great progress in terms of the democratic empowerment of its people and in terms of access given to the wider world. The Government of Myanmar is to be commended in this regard.

However, the rights of minorities still leave something to be desired.

Non-Buddhist minorities such as the Christians and others make up a total of some 13 percent of the population, but are often not allowed promotion to the higher levels of employment, particularly in government offices.

There are also concerns about the treatment of the people from Karen state who though predominantly Buddhist are ethnolinguistically different from the majority. When military posted to predominantly minority areas are underpaid they have a tendency to take their grievance out on the indigenous minorities.

Contrast other nations with multicultural societies. The Kingdom of Bahrain for example formerly had a Christian ambassador to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and currently has a Jewish ambassador to0 the United States of America. Minorities deserve our special concern.

Myanmar could be more tolerant of its minorities. Most particularly of its Muslim minority. The treatment of Rohingyas is a case in point. But there are other areas of historic concern such as the pockets of predominantly Muslim communities South of Mandalay.

If Myanmar fails to adopt more inclusive policies we may see the emergence of more radical ISIS style insurgencies as a force in Myanmar.

We call upon Myanmar to embrace an approach that promotes greater inclusivity. Thank you.