Thu 13 Sep 2012
Filed under: Inside Burma,News
Rohingyas born in Burma are eligible to apply for citizenship if at least two generations of their families have lived in the country, Immigration Minister Khin Ye told the Radio Free Asia Burmese Service on Wednesday.
He said that those who met these requirements “have the right” to apply for citizenship in Burma, where many of them have lived in Rakhine State along the Bangladesh border for generations.
“Foreigners, like the Bengalis, have the right to apply for citizenship if they want to,” Khin Ye said, citing an amendment to the country’s constitution in 1982 during the rule of the former military regime.
“The requirements are that their grandparents and parents must have lived here and died here, that the applicant was born here and can speak the Burmese language, and that he or she wants to live here, among other things,” he said.
He maintained that the Rohingya, which he referred to as Bengalis from neighboring Bangladesh, were first brought to Burma as laborers during British occupation from 1824 until the nation gained its independence in 1948.
Khin Ye also explained why the government does not treat the Rohingya as an ethnic group in Burma, the RFA said.
During the colonial era, Khin Ye said the Burmese “had no right to protect and manage our country,” meaning that the Rohingyas were never invited to stay by the country’s citizens.
“So unless they are blood-related with our people, there is no way they [can be automatically considered] our citizens,” he said.
Khin Ye said that some of the Rohingyas “have become citizens according to the law,” but said that most Burmese frequently assume that they have obtained their documentation through corrupt immigration officials.
The minority is not officially recognized as one of the more than 100 ethnic groups of Burma. The country’s last two official censuses in 1973 and 1983 also did not list them amongst the population.
But he said he agreed with the international community that more must be done to address the root causes of the ethnic violence that shattered Rakhine State in June.
“When I met with international organizations and with the US ambassador yesterday, we never disagreed on the Rohingya issue,” he said.
“Mostly we discussed how to avoid this kind of conflict in the future and what needs to be done.”