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Register as Bengalis or…. A ploy to deprive Rohingyas of citizenship

October 1, 2014

The Daily Star Editorial

Monday, September 29, 2014

 

ACCORDING to a news report carried in this paper on Sunday the Myanmar government has drafted a plan to offer the Rohingyas an option to register as ‘Bengalis’ or face detention in camps. This either-or-option for an ethnic group that has been living in that country for several centuries and suffering unbridled persecution there for a long time is really asking them to choose between the devil and the deep sea.

 

Bangladesh has a real concern about the Rohingyas and their plight in Myanmar. The world community has been aware of Myanmar government’s effort to rid their country of the Rohingyas who has been living in the Rakhine State of Myanmar for centuries. Several hundred thousand of them had crossed over to this country on several occasions in the past. As of now more than half a million unregistered Rohingyas are living in Bangladesh about whom the Myanmar government doesn’t seem to be interested in. And more than 30 thousand registered ones are still awaiting repatriation.

 

The apparent aim of promoting sectarian harmony and peaceful coexistence and resolving the issue of statelessness through citizenship verification is a sinister ploy to reclassify the Rohingyas and forfeit their Myanmar citizenship. Not only will it make Rohingyas living in Myanmar stateless, it will also be a great disincentive for those Rohingyas in Bangladesh awaiting repatriation to Myanmar.

 

For any Rohingya living in Myanmar for generations to register as Bengalis would be acknowledging that they are illegal immigrants and risk being in a limbo for rest of their lives. This is a recipe for continued sufferings of the Rohingyas, which neither the Myanmar authorities nor the international community can risk overlooking.