The Myanmar government needs to seek a prompt legal solution to replace current temporary identity cards with suitable ones, as the number of people holding temporary identity cards in Rakhine State has exceeded 850,000, the parliamentary bill committee said on Wednesday (March 12).
Temporary identity cards, also known as “white cards” in Myanmar, are temporary by their nature. Individuals are legally prevented from holding these cards for a long time. The government needs to review the cardholder’s file to determine whether or not the individual  should receive citizenship, the committee said.

There are six kinds of identity cards in Myanmar. According to statistics, the number of guest citizenship and associate citizenship card holders remains fairly small, but the numbers of national registration card and temporary identity card holders are quite large, the committee remarked.

Counting residents above the age of 10, there are 36.6 million holders of national registration cards, 36,000 of guest citizenship cards, 1.3 million of associate citizenship cards, 590,000 of national registration cards, 850,000 of temporary identity cards, 32,000 of foreign registration cards and 1.2 million who hold no identity cards, said the committee.

A recently proposed amendment to the Political Parties Registration Law targets a clause concerning those who wish to establish a political party. The requirement that these people must be either “citizens, guest citizens or naturalized citizens or those holding temporary citizenship cards (white cards)” should be changed to require that they must be “citizens” in accordance with the constitution and other relevant acts, the proposed amendment says.

A “citizen,” again, can be a born citizen or a legally prescribed citizen, the committee added. According to the 1982 Citizenship Law, every person who belongs to an indigenous race or has parents of an indigenous race is a born citizen.

There are many reasons behind a large number of temporary identity cards. If the authorities can verify them and issue national registration, associate citizenship or guest citizenship cards, the number of temporary-identity-card and national-identity-card holders will not grow that much, the committee noted.
The committee also pointed out that those who legally become a kind of citizen have their own rights, although Myanmar still lacks a law to prescribe the rights of temporary identity card holders.

The committee urged the Union Election Commission to follow the amendment bill of the Political Parties Registration Law in scrutinizing those who apply to establish a political party.

In the proposed bill amendment, it was recommended that the section that says, “those wishing to establish a political party must apply together with their name, father’s name, occupation, home address, date of birth, citizenship scrutiny card, national registration card, guest citizenship card and naturalization card or white card” prescribed under Section 5 Sub-section (d) should be amended to say: “citizenship scrutiny card” only. Five MPs including MP Win Htay from Rakhine State supported this amendment at the parliament.

“I want to criticise nothing about MP Htay Win’s discussion. Do Bengalis accept the scrutiny? Even those went to their village had to lose life, especially policemen. Who would take responsibility for the scrutiny process? After approving this law, this matter will always have to be carried out. There are some cards that are different from citizenship scrutiny cards. The sovereignty of the country should be only in the hands of our citizens,” said Ba Nyar Aung Moe.

“Those who hold white cards are about 850,000 in number and they are Muslims in our region. They were selected as Members of Parliament in the successive eras and they had the right to cast a vote. Some were government servants. They had the chance during the period of the Myanma Socialist Programme Party, and they still have a similar chance up to now. We have been in this position due to the correct policy of the State Peace and Development Council. The Ministry of Immigration and Population also accepted this policy and practiced it.

Ba Nyar Aung Moe said that many of his family members are government servants who have lived in Rakhine for a long time. Starting from 1993, national registration cards were replaced with the white cards under the special project.

“Such substitution led to problems. Replacing with the white cards goes against the law. Only by recognising a suitable card can the problem be solved. I don’t mean to object to the law. They will lose opportunities if they are not issued recognised cards after the law is approved. Only after the white card matter has been settled, should the law be approved,” said MP Htay Win (No-7 Rakhine).