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Sunday, June 6, 2021

Rohingya Citizenship: Myanmar’s NUG to draft new charter to ensure it

The Daily Star
June 05, 2021

In a significant development, Myanmar's National Unity Government has announced drafting a new constitution and committed to ensuring citizenship and fundamental rights of all ethnic groups, including the Rohingyas.

It also pledged to repatriate Rohingyas from Bangladesh and other neighbouring countries, revoke the controversial 1982 Citizenship Law and National Verification Card, and invite them to join the shadow government in overthrowing the military junta.

"We invite Rohingyas to join hands with us and with others to participate in this Spring Revolution against military dictatorship in all possible ways," said a statement by the National Unity Government (NUG) Thursday.

The NUG, Myanmar's shadow government in exile, was formed by the ousted parliamentarians of National League of Democracy (NLD) in early April, more than two months after the military took control of the Southeast Asian country, alleging gross anomalies in the November 2020 elections. The NLD had won the election and was in the process of forming a government.

A national disobedience movement across Myanmar faced brutal military crackdown and it has left more than 800 people dead since February this year.

The NUG, meanwhile, is seeking international recognition. It is also taking into cognisance various ethnic rebel groups that have long been fighting the military junta-led governments for autonomy.

In the process, the NUG is committing to grant equal rights to Rohingyas who have been living in Myanmar for centuries but denied citizenship, ethnicity and many other fundamental rights since the 1970s.


Facing persecution, they fled to neighbouring countries. In the most brutal crackdown against them in Rakhine State in 2017, some 750,000 Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh and joined some 300,000 others who had fled following the previous waves of violence since 1970s.

Myanmar now faces a genocide case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), while Rohingya repatriation has not been possible as conditions in Rakhine were not conducive.

Against this backdrop, the NUG in the statement uploaded to Twitter by its Minister for International Cooperation Sasa said in honour of human rights and human dignity and to eradicate the conflicts in Myanmar, the Unity Government intends to build a prosperous federal democratic union where all ethnic groups can live peacefully.

"All citizens who swear allegiance to the Union regardless of their ethnic origins are considered to have full enjoyment of citizens' rights. The National Unity Government will not tolerate any form of discrimination."

The NUG also invited all people of Myanmar to participate in the process of drafting a constitution. Promising amendment to the 1982 Citizenship Law, which denies Rohingya citizenship, it said the new act must base citizenship on birth in Myanmar or birth anywhere as a child of Myanmar citizens.

The NUG also committed to abolishing the process of issuing National Verification Card (NVC) that the military used against Rohingya and other ethnic groups coercively.

It also committed safe, voluntary and dignified repatriation of Rohingyas following the agreements signed with the neighbouring countries, including Bangladesh, and take up a special programme as soon as possible.

The NUG also pledged justice for Rohingyas and accountability of the military. NLD government State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi had defended the military actions at the ICJ.

Asked about the NUG statement, Free Rohingya Coalition Co-Founder Nay San Lwin said they welcomed it, especially the points of Rohingya citizenship, amending 1982 Citizenship Law, repatriation, revoking NVC and Rohingya justice.

"However, it is not clear whether the Rohingya will be recognised as an ethnic group," he told this correspondent from Germany.

He hoped that the ethnicity issue would be cleared while drafting the new constitution.

"Most people in Myanmar have changed their mind on Rohingya. This is a significant change. Our common goal is to overthrow the military junta," Lwin said.

Burmese Rohingya Organization UK President Tun Khin said this was a welcome step towards solving the Rohingya issue and something that would help their common cause in ending the military dictatorship.

"This has been an inclusive process by the NUG Myanmar, but it needs to clarify its position on ethnic rights."

As the indigenous people of Myanmar, Rohingyas need the same ethnic rights like everyone else, which is crucial for political representation, Tun Khin said.

"We also need to see clearer commitments on international justice, including support for the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice."


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