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Myanmar Blacklists Babies as Oppression of the Rohingya Continues

By The Arakan Project  •  January 19, 2012

Myanmar blacklists Rohingya babies as part of its continuing oppression of this stateless minority, The Arakan Project said today as the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) meets to review the situation of children’s rights in Myanmar, a State party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Despite signs of political reforms in the past five months, the Myanmar government has reaffirmed specific deeply discriminatory policies against this minority group on national security grounds, using justifications of ‘illegal migration management’ and ‘control on population growth’.  These policies are implemented through severe restrictions on movement, requirement for official marriage permission and a ‘two-child’ policy.  Marriage authorisations are only granted in exchange of high bribes and after long delays, and unauthorised marriages can be penalized with up to 10 years imprisonment.

In a submission to the CRC, The Arakan Project details how the Myanmar government punishes Rohingya children born out of unauthorised marriages or above the imposed limit of two children, by putting them on ‘blacklists’. It is estimated that more than 40,000 Rohingya children are unregistered. Since they do not exist administratively, they cannot obtain travel permits, attend school and, in the future, will be unable to marry.  Over the past two months, the authorities started a process of regularization of ‘black listed’ children but many parents fear that coming forward may get them prosecuted for unauthorised marriage.

Registered Rohingya children hardly fare any better as they remain stateless. All Rohingya children suffer unmitigated discrimination with regard to education, health care and access to food.  Illiteracy stands at 80%. They are exposed to preventable diseases due to chronic malnutrition and lack of access to health care. Child labour is prevalent and crucial to family survival.  Rohingya children are also subject to forced labour, which, together with poverty, keeps them out of school.

Twelve-year-old Rafique (not his real name) said: “In Burma, we don’t have freedom.  We cannot go to visit relatives outside the village without a travel pass.  We are prisoners in our own village.”  Eleven-year-old Karim Ali (not his real name) stated: “I could not go to school when there were emergency labour duties such as urgent road repairs.  On these occasions, I had to work as many as 3 days a week.”

“Rohingya children bear the full brunt of the state’s policies of exclusion, restrictions and arbitrary treatment,” said Chris Lewa, Director of The Arakan Project.  “These systematic policies gravely impair their physical and mental development as children and will affect the long-term future of their community.”

Myanmar has made no reference to the Rohingya in its State party reports to the CRC. Further, it has implemented none of the recommendations the CRC put to them in 2004.

Confirmation of these policies of exclusion by the new government during recent parliamentary sessions has demoralised the Rohingya community, resulting in increased refugee outflows since September 2011.

“The Myanmar government should build on its reform credentials and mark a break from past regimes by taking immediate steps to end all discriminatory policies and practices against the Rohingya.”, she added.

The Arakan Project submission to the CRC can be accessed here.

For more information, please contact Chris Lewa at: +41-78-723 4280 (Geneva) or chris.lewa@gmail.com

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This post is in: Press Release

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