YANGON (dpa) – Citizenship verification resumed in Myanmar’s troubled Rakhine state, home to nearly 1 million stateless Rohingya Muslim people, authorities said Wednesday.
“The citizenship verification process for Bengali Muslims here will be twice a year. We are now starting the process as we saw the pilot project was achieved,” said Khin Soe, the official in charge of the Rakhine state immigration and population department.
Authorities late last year granted citizenship to 40 Bengalis while another 169 became naturalised citizens. More than 1,000 people applied for citizenship during the pilot project in Myae Bone township.
“They agreed to be listed as Bengali because they realised it is the chance to lead them to better conditions,” Khine Soe said.
But it is still unclear whether the new citizens will be able to fully enjoy the rights to move freely around the country, attend university and hold political office, among others.
“They can go and settle anywhere in the whole country, but most are still living in the camps until now,” state government spokesman Win Myaing said.
The UN General Assembly last week approved a resolution urging Myanmar to provide full citizenship to more than 1.3 million Rohingyas in Rakhine state.
The central government has officially categorised them as Bengalis, implying that they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
“The citizenship verification is according to the 1982 Citizenship Law, and no one is allowed to apply under the ethnic category of Rohingya,” Khine Soe said.
Sectarian conflict broke out in 2012 in the western state between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims, leaving around 300,000 of the latter in need of humanitarian aid.
About 140,000 of them are still living in temporary camps, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.