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The Present Government and 1982 Citizenship Law

September 25, 2014

Aman Ullah

September 24, 2014


The draft of the 1982 Myanmar Citizenship law was approved and passed by the third session of the Third Pyithu Hluttaw and promulgated by the Chairman of the Council of State, on 15 October 1982, “after long six years deliberation within the top echelons of party and state as well as extensive consultations with officials and party leaders of all levels.” It contains 8 Chapters and 76 sections recognizes three categories of citizens, namely citizen, associate citizen and naturalized citizen, Under that law, citizenships is decided based on prescriptions of laws, not on racial and religions.


Reportedly, since the draft law was published in April 1982, at least six members of the 475 strong People’s Assembly—selected in 1982—have resigned because of their foreign ancestry they perhaps feared state appraisal if their origin was exposed later. Under the Section 18 of this Law the penalty for falsifying racial identity is up to ten years of imprisonment and fine of kyats fifty thousand.


It was said that, this law is ingeniously designed to preserve the purity of the Burmese nationality although General Ne Win himself and many of his deputies were Chinese or Chinese origin.


Under the section 3 of this law it is mentioned that, “Nationals such as the Kachin, Kayah, Karen, Chin, Burman, Mon, Rakhine or Shan and ethnic groups as have settled in any of the territories included within the State as their permanent home from a period anterior to 1185 B.E., 1823 A.D. are Burma citizens”. 


And under the section 4, “Every national and every person born of parents, both of whom are nationals are citizens by birth.”


In the section 6, A person who is already a citizen on the date this Law cones into force is a citizen. Action, however shall be taken under section 18 for infringement of the provision of that section.”


As par section 18 any citizen who has acquired citizenship by making a false representation or by concealment shall have his citizenship revoked, and shall also be liable to imprisonment for a term of ton years and to a fine of kyats fifty thousand.


According to the speech in Parliament of U Khin Yi, Union Minister for Immigration and Population, on 18 June 2013, “There are two kinds of citizens—citizens by birth and citizens by law. According to section 3, nationals such as the Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Chin, Burma, Mon, Rakhine and Shan and ethnic groups as have settled in any of the territories within the State as their permanent home from a period anterior to 1185 M.E., 1823 A.D. are Myanmar citizens by birth.


According to section-5, every national and every person born of parents, both of whom are indigenous nationals are citizens by birth


Section 6 of the 1982 Citizenship Law states that according to The Union Citizenship (Election) Act, 1948 and The Union Citizenship Act, 1948, a person who is already a citizen on the date this Law comes into force is a citizen by law”. 


The citizenship issue was a settled issue and the Muslims of Arakan who identify themselves Rohingya are citizens by birth. As they, their parents and their grandparents were born and bred in Burma and most of them were indigenous, under the sub clauses (i), (ii) and (iii) of Article Before the colonization of Burma by the British 11, of 1947 Constitution of Union of Burma.


Indigenous peoples were the descendants of those peoples that inhabited a territory prior to colonization or formation of the present state. In the report of the Mr. Panton, the Muslim population of Arakan was about 30,000 on the eve of the colonization of Burma by British. Thus, the descendants of those 30,000 must be included in the indigenous races of the Union of Burma. There are also many Muslim of Arakan who can claim to be citizens under section 4 (2) of the Union Citizenship Act of 1948 on the ground of their descent from ancestors who for two generations have made Burma their permanent home, and whose parents and himself were born in Burma.


Being bona fide citizens of Burma, the Rohingyas were enfranchised in all the national and local elections of Burma including under the Gen. Ne Win also. After the enactment of 1982 Citizenship Law, the immediate election was held in 1986.


However, before that election, in 1985 the government published and distributed to the peoples of Burma a form called ‘Nain-2’, a 25 pages form including 5 appendix pages. This form has three Chapters; Chapter-1 for at the age of 10 year to 18 year, Chapter-2 for at the age of 18 year and Chapter-3 for at the age of 30 year and 45 year. The applicant needs to give all the particulars information including the history of his/her education and occupation and submit the form with his/her fingerprints of both hands and toe prints of both legs. He/she has to give the particular information of his/her siblings; his/her parents and their siblings, his/her grandparents of both fraternal and maternal sides and their siblings, the parents of all their grandparents and their siblings, the applicant’s children and their children. The particulars, including name, date of birth, place of birth, race & type of citizen, identity card No., and if death– date and place of the death.


Each and every one of the Rohingya of Arakan timely submitted to the concerned authorities after completely filling the form with Rohingya as their identity. However, no action or reaction was made by the government. But the Rohingyas had enjoyed the right to vote and the right to be elected as people’s representatives to the Organ of State power at different levels in that election in the said election of 1986.


Under the 1974 Constitution and 1973 Election Law, ‘citizens born of parents both of whom are Union nationals and citizens born of parents both of whom are Union citizens, have the right to be elected people’s representatives to the People’s Assembly or People’s Council at different levels. Persons who are not citizens of the Union of Burma have no right to vote.’


According to the 1974 Constitution, ‘citizens are those who are born of the parents whom are nationals of the Socialist Republic of Union of the Burma and who are vested with citizenship according to existing laws on the date of this constitution comes into force.’


Former Minister for Mines Dr. Nyi Nyi and Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Minister U Win Ko had to resign from the position of the members of cabinet and People’s Assembly, as they could not fulfill the requirement of the said law. No Rohingya who had either been elected or who had applied for the nomination had neither been challenged nor barred from participation or asked to resign after being elected.


Moreover, SLORC held multi-party general election in May 1990. Under the1989 Section 7 and 8 of 1989 Pyithu Hluttaw Election law, ‘all citizens, associate citizens and naturalized citizens are permitted to vote, but only the citizens are allowed to stand for election. No foreign residents were allowed to vote.’


The Rohingya were not only allowed to vote but also, in their exercise of franchise, elected four Rohingya members of Parliament. U Chit Lwin (a) Ebrahim, Mr. Fazal Ahmed, U Kyaw Min (a) Shomshul Anwarul Haque, and U Tin Maung (a) Nur Ahmed have been elected as members of the Parliament.


In fact the Rohingyas were not only permitted to vote but also to form their own political parties during the May 1990 election. Two parties were formed the Students and Youth League for Mayu Development and the National Democratic and Human Rights (NDPHR). The NDPHR won all four seats in Maung Daw and Buthidaung constituencies, and in each constituency votes for the two parties counted for 80 per cent of the total votes cast. Moreover, the turnout in both constituencies equaled the national average, at 70 per cent of eligible voters. The NDPHR also fielded candidates in four other constituencies; Kyuk Taw-1, Minbya-1, Mrauk U -2 and Sittwe -2, and they gained an average of 17 per cent of the votes while the Government- backed National Unity Party got only 13 per cent.


Although the name of Rohingya was not permitted to use in the party title, the NDPHR was allowed to produce a booklet in Burmese called ‘Arakan and the Rohingya people: a short History’ on August 31, 1991. According to the NDPHR sources, the permission to print this booklet was rescinded two months later.


Even in the 2010 Election, which was held under the SPDC, the Rohingya were not only allowed to vote but also to be elected, in their exercise of franchise. Under the laws of that election, all Hluttaw representatives must have been residing in Burma for a minimum of at least 10 continuous years prior to the election. Residency exemptions are provided for individuals residing overseas in an official capacity for the government. In addition, both of the candidate’s parents must have been Burmese citizens at the time of their birth.


A total of 37 political parties contested in this election, which included two Rohingya political parties also contested – - National Democratic Party for Development (NDPD) and National Democratic and Peace Party (NDPP). Some independent Rohingya candidates also contested in the election.


Out 33 Rohingya contested in the polls, 21 contested with NDPD ticket, 6 with USDP ticket, 3 with NDPP ticket and 3 independent candidates. U Htay Win (a) Zahidur Rahman with USDP ticket was elected for the Nationalities Parliament. U Aung Zaw Win (a)Zakir Hussain and U Shwe Maung (a)Abdu Razak both with USDP tickets were elected for the People’s Parliament. U Aung Myo Myint (a) Jahan Gir with USDP ticket, U Aung Myint (a) Zahiddullah and U Bashir Ahmed both with UNDP tickets were elected for the State Parliament. The Rohingyas of Arakan were overwhelmingly gone to vote with average turnover of more than 90% of over six hundred thousand eligible Rohingya voters.


Thus, their eligibility to vote and to stand for all these national elections must be upheld as a measure of recognition for the Rohingyas as full citizens in accordance with the 1982 Citizenship Law. They are neither associate citizens nor naturalized citizens and they never need to apply for their citizenship.


Although the 1982 Citizenship Law was enacted in 1982, the authorities never show their serious concern to implement it during Ne Win times or SLORC and SPDC period. However, after coming to the power by the present government became very serious on this matter.


They try to implement the Citizenship Law only on the Rohingya. Although, there are more than a half million of Bangladeshi Buddhist who have entered in Arakan, during post independent day, they government did nothing against them. There are more than 20 million Chinese legally and illegally entered into Burma since SLORC regime. They are super class citizens of the country. They can do and can’t do anything they want. The whole Burma is now their father-in-law’s home.


U Khin Yi, the Union Minister for Immigration and Population Affairs, in his speech in Parliament on 18 June 2013, he mentioned that, “Even though they are Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Chin, Burma, Mon, Rakhine and Shan, they are not national races if they permanently live in other countries, not in Myanmar. Same national races who have settled in Myanmar after 1824 are not indigenous races. So they are not citizens by birth. The law also states that national races who acquire citizenship of other countries and persons born of parents, both of whom are those foreign citizens cannot become Myanmar citizens”. But he and his government do not make any concern to these Chinese and Bangladeshi Buddhists issue. Their only interest is to wipe out the identity and existence of Rohingya from the soil of Arakan.


*The writer is a graduate of Rangoon University and prominent Rohingya activist based in Bangladesh