Rohingya: Two Children Policy and Media Loose Cannons

On the so-called "Rohingya Two-Child Policy", I was watching with interest about how the media might behave on that kind of news. First, that "news item" was "invented" by Irrawaddy on 20/5/2013. It is somewhat clear from its writing, however, that the Burmese government (or) Parliament had not (yet) been authorising on such policy.


Such is a sensational issue, the international media does pick it up. For example, on 26/5/2013 Washington Post 'selectively' reproduce that piece in a 'subtly' imbalanced way. The Aljazeera Network had faithfully chimed-in raising this issues with exile groups, as if that policy has already been enforced 26/5/13. In exception to VOA (29/5/13), nobody seems to bother checking the veracity of the report. The whole thing becomes like a media circus! Is Irrawady proud of its creation? I suggest they shouldn't.


Unfortunate thing about such sensational but un-substantiated news is that they can be used to belittle oppressed Rohingyas. On the one hand, such news can be used to make noises against Burmese government. One might says the latter case would be better than former; but I would say in both cases our resources are being wasted upon an unreal issue.

Regards, U Ne Oo.

Govt Sets Two-Child Limit for Rohingyas in Northern Arakan
By PAUL VRIEZE and ZARNI MANN / THE IRRAWADDY| Monday, May 20, 2013 |

RANGOONAuthorities in the north of Arakan State added another measure to the restrictions imposed on Rohingya Muslims last week, by introducing a regional order that sets a two-child limit for local families. The directive, which is effective in Maungdaw District, also bans polygamy.

Regarding family planning, they can only get two children, Arakan State government spokesperson Win Myaing said on Monday, adding that only monogamous marriages would be recognized.

The rule is only for certain groups For Buddhist people, we dont need that rule, because Buddhist people only have one wife, Win Myaing said. Its being implemented to control the population growth, because its becoming too crowded there.

Maungdaw District authorities, he said, will not use force, but if people want to marry [or register newborn children] they have to submit forms to relevant local authorities and gain permission.

In Maungdaw District, located in northern Arakan State along Burmas border with Bangladesh, the majority of the population is Rohingya and there is a small Arakanese Buddhist minority.

Burmas central government, Arakan State authorities and Arakanese politicians have long claimed that the Muslim population in the region is rapidly growing and pushing out local Buddhist communities.

Arakan nationalist leaders said the new regional order had been adopted on May 12 on instructions from the central government in Naypyidaw.

The two-child policy is only for Bengali fathers and mothers who have no citizenship. They have no ID, they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, Than Tun, of the Arakan Social Network, said during an interview in Sittwe last week. The order came from the president and it was implemented as a regional notice.

Shwe Maung, a northern Arakan State MP with the ruling Union, Solidarity and Development Party, said he could not confirm that Naypyidaw had ordered the implementation of a two-child policy in Maungdaw. If this is from the Union Parliament it should be publicly released. But I didnt find any information about it, he said.

Last month, a government report claimed that high population growth among the Muslim population had contributed to last years clashes between Arakanese Buddhists and Rohingyas. It recommended voluntary family-planning measures among the Muslim population.

Inter-communal violence in June and October 2012 killed almost 200 people and displaced about 140,000 people, mostly Rohingyas.

The new order will add to a range of government restrictions imposed on the Rohingya population, such as limits on freedom of movement and access to government services, and existing conditions on recognition of marriages and children.

Burmas government does not accept the Rohingyas as citizens and terms them Bengalis, suggesting that they have come from Bangladesh in recent decades. The Rohingyas claim they are native to Arakan State.

Human Rights Watch has alleged that the government has been complicit in the killings and ethnic cleansing of Rohingyas last year. The US-based group said that since then, the Burmese government has tightened its discriminatory restrictions on the Rohingya, although many of the policies have been in place for decades.

Myo Thant, a Rohingya politician from the Democracy and Human Rights party, which is based in Maungdaw District, said that the new two-child policy was based on false allegations by government officials.

They accuse us of being responsible for an explosion of the Muslim population in Maungdaw District, but this has always been a Muslim majority area with a dense population, he said.

Myo Thant said Arakanese leaders and the central government had long contrived to control the Rohingya population and limit their rights.

Since 1988, they have tried to control the birth rates, he said, adding that families in Maungdaw District had been subject to the authority of local battalions of the Burmese border security force, the Nasaka, which has the power to approve registration of Rohingya newborns and marriages.

(Additional reporting in Sittwe by Htet Naing Zaw)

Burma Government to Review Birth Restrictions for Muslim Rohingyas
VOA // Daniel Schearf // May 29, 2013

BANGKOK Burmese authorities say they will review a policy in western Rakhine state that imposes birth limits on Muslims to control population growth. The policy, which limits Muslim Rohingyas to only two children has been condemned by rights activists and Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

In a Skype interview with VOA, Burmese presidential spokesman Ye Htut said central authorities first learned of the two-child limit for Muslim Rohingya from reports in foreign media. "We didn't have any information about this order. Only, we saw it on the international media," Ye Htut stated. "So, we will check with the state government on this issue."

Restrictions only for Muslims

The birth restriction on Muslims and a limit of one wife, when the religion allows for four, were first reported last week in Burmese media.

Authorities in western Rakhine state say it is being implemented in two districts on the border with Bangladesh, where Rohingya Muslims are in the majority.

The birth limits are only for Muslims and date back to the previous military government, although enforcement varied.

State spokesman Win Myaing said the new push on the limitations is part of efforts at family planning recommended by a presidential commission in April to reduce tensions between Buddhists and Muslims.

But Human Rights Watch Deputy Asia Director Phil Robertson said, since 2005, Rakhine state border guards have sought to more strongly implement the rules.

"I think what they're trying to do is control the terms of debate, that they are saying this is 'what we've done and it's justified by the national government of Burma.' It falls on the national government of Burma to now respond and say whether this is their policy or not," added Robertson.

The Rakhine Commission is investigating the root cause of clashes between Buddhists and Muslims last year that left 200 dead and 140,000 displaced, most of them Rohingyas.

Controlling over population

The commission said a fast-growing Muslim population had raised Rakhine Buddhists' fears that they could soon be outnumbered and overruled in Burma's emerging democracy. It recommends better assimilating Muslims and family planning to limit the growth. But the commission warns any non-voluntary measures could cause more tensions.

Spokesman Ye Htut said President Thein Sein has not yet decided if he wants to support the birth restrictions. He says he will announce a position after talking to Rakhine authorities and studying the commission's recommendations.

"Up to now, we cannot say whether we support or not because we have to review all the recommendations made by the Rakhine commission on every issue. So, I cannot make that comment on particular case, whether we will (be) doing or not," said Ye Htut.

Human Rights abuse?

Rights groups condemned the two-child policy as one of many ongoing abuses against the Rohingya, who are not recognized as citizens in Burma despite many living there for generations.

Human Rights Watch said Rohingya's who want to register their marriage must promise to only have two children. Any more than two, or children born out of wedlock, are not able to go to school or receive government services.

The rights group said anyone caught breaking the two-child rule faces fines and jail time. To avoid the punishment, it said some Rohingya women have resorted to unsafe abortions.

Ye Htut dismisses the concerns of Human Rights Watch and its call for the policy to be abolished. "Most of their comment[s] are based on their one-sided information. So, what we are now trying to do is to implement the recommendation by the Rakhine commission and we will consider every aspect on these issue[s] from a human rights aspect and other local law and order, and also from the international norm[s] and standard[s]," Ye Htut said.

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Monday said the two-child limit is discriminatory and a violation of human rights.