Following article is the response, or a declaration rather, of The Rights Honourable U Shwe Maung, the MP elect of Buthidaung Township in Rakhine State, about which the Burmese Government's recent controversial move to take back the "White Cards" or "Temporary Registration Cards (TRCs)" from the section of Rohingya/Bengali community. As we all know, there had been a mass exodus of Rohingya/Bengali from Rakhine state in 1992 under the late General Saw Maung's military government. The returnees from this exodus were being issued with TRCs at the request of UNHCR in 1995. The circumstances that led to the issuance of TRCs were discussed details in this 1996 Human Rights Watch Report (www.netipr.org/policy/downloads/19960901_HRW-Rohingya-Report.pdf).
RAKHINE PARTY'S POSITION AND 1982 CITIZENSHIP LAWS
The Rakhine Parties (formerly RNDP) appear to accept the possibility that some of those TRCs holders may be eligible for Burmese citizenship. They are supportive of the government granting citizenship to those eligible Rohingya/Bengali TRC holders. Whilst this can be a good start, the RNDP appears to be insisting that only the 1982 Citizenship Laws, but no other mechanism, are to be allowed on granting of Burmese citizenship. The Rakhine MP's interview and report summary in Burmese language can be found here at this YOUTUBE LINK (http://youtu.be/ahc9jx4DbKE).
U Shwe Maung, an ethnic Rohingya himself, is referring to the 1948 Burma Citizenship Act and insisting that they (all Rohingya/Bengali) are already Burmese citizens.
COMMUNITY'S BEST KEPT SECRET
The MP U Shwe Maung is not entirely correct in saying they (i.e all Rohingya/Bengali) are citizens since 1948. We can agree that some section of White Card holders may, indeed, found to be Burmese citizens as he has described. However, there are another section of White Card holders who are the descendants of the 'foreigner-residents' in 1953 census. According to the Burma Census of 1953, there were 60% foreigners (Pakistanis) in Buthidaung Township and 45% in Maungdaw Township. (Detail discussion with references can be found at http://www.netipr.org/policy/node/43 ) . We can assume that most of them have been staying in Rakhine State throughout these decades. These are the people who have been excluded, intentionally, by the 1982 Burmese Citizenship Laws, for which they consequently become the stateless persons (White Card holders).
Understandably, we cannot expect the leaders of Rohingya community to come out making revelations about these 'foreigner-residents' of 1953. This is partly because, as the responsible community leaders, they would be trying to keep cohesion amongst their own migrant community. On the one hand, this Rohingya/Bengali migrant community had been severely threatened and too traumatised at all the times in these years since the enactment of 1982 Citizenship Laws that their leadership wouldn't even dare to speak out about this particular truth.
APOLITICAL HUMAN RIGHTS/HUMANITARIAN ISSUE
The statelessness, in essence, is strictly of human rights issue and is apolitical in nature. As such, U Shwe Maung, a Government MP himself, and those other Rohingya/Bengali community leaders should work together for the betterment of these White Card holders. As the responsible leadership, they must unite and guide the community in the right direction re: citizenship. For many years, the 1982 Citizenship Laws had been the biggest barrier for the Rohingya/Bengali community to integrate into the Burmese society. As one saying goes, "when there is a will, there is a way". To help out these stateless people, suggestions had been made to side-step the 1982 Citizenship Laws which can be found in my report "Burma and Bengladesh: A Strategy to Combat Statelessness" (http://www.netipr.org/policy/node/42). All our Rohingya friends, this is the time for unity and the time for action. Help these unfortunate stateless people!
U Ne Oo, Australia.
Burma Times: 19 Feb 2015, Shwe Maung MP
We are citizens of Myanmar according to Section 11 of 1947 Constitution, Section 4(2) of 1948 Citizenship Act. Therefore, we are citizens of Myanmar according to 1974 Constitution.
1982 Citizenship Law can NOT deny our citizenship rights as we are already citizens. Becuse 1982 Law is securing citizens who are already citizens according to 1948 Citizenship Act. Moreover,1982 Law is not consistent with 1974 Constitution as it introduced three types of citizenship and thus it should be ammended.
We are also citizens according to Section 345 of 2008 Constitution as we are citizens according to 1948 Citizenship Act.
We should not refer only 1982 Citizenship Law whenever we talk about citizenship and we must talk about 1948 Citizenship Act as well. Because 1982 Citizenship Law itself is telling us those are citizens who are already citizens according to 1948 Citizenship Act.
If someone urges others to respect 1982 Citizenship Law, he/she should also respect what 1982 Citizenship Law tells about Citizenship.
Be logical, be consistent and then it will be legal.
Shwe Maung MP
Pyithu Hluttaw Representative for Buthidaung