The Myanmar government has lived up to expectations and rejected an appeal by the United Nations to grant citizenship to its stateless Muslim Rohingya population, who the government insists are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
The appeal came through a resolution put forward by the UN General Assembly human rights committee earlier this week and was rebuked by government spokesman Ye Htut, who reportedly said that his country would not be pressured into granting citizenship to people who are not entitled under their laws.
Ye Htut prefers to call the Rohingyas “Bengalis.”
Burma does recognize about 130 ethnic groups under its 1982 citizenship laws. However, Myanmar’s Rohingyas, who have lived in the country for generations, are not among them and have been subjected to harsh outbreaks of violence blamed on militant Buddhists that has left about 250 people dead.
Buddhist Monk Saydaw Wirathu, a self-styled Buddhist bin-Laden, has rejected claims that his radical 969 ultra-nationalist group was behind the ant-Muslim violence which has also caused another 240,000 to flee their homes.
The government of President Thein Sein, and the opposition led by Aung San Suu Kyi, have also been accused of ignoring their plight, putting forward home-spun arguments that the Muslims lack sufficient documentation to prove their heritage and as such cannot substantiate their claims.
Earlier this year, the government caused an international outrage by insisting it would re-impose a two-child limit on Rohingya couples, that can be traced back to 1994, amid dubious official attempts to blame the riots and violence in the country’s north on an increase in the Rohingya population.
The state-sanctioned oppression prompted a recent tour of Myanmar by the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), which included the troubled state of Rakhine. The OIC is now demanding a direct line of communication with the government and Myanmar’s Muslims to avoid future misunderstandings.
Militant Buddhists objected to the tour while the government has baulked at attempts by the OIC to open an office in-country.
On Wednesday, Myanmar police said they had arrested three people suspected of planning bomb attacks on mosques. This follows a string of explosions in October, including one at the renowned Traders Hotel in Yangon.
No-one claimed responsibility for those attacks, although the government has continually struggled to live up to its own hype and promises to find a peaceful resolution to decades of violence among the country’s warring ethnic groups.
Those groups are recognized as Myanmar citizens, and as such there is room for optimism that some kind of deal with the government could be struck. The same cannot be said for Myanmar’s Muslims.
Luke Hunt can be followed on Twitter at @lukeanthonyhunt.