By M.S. Anwar and Arham
Monday April 28, 2014
On 27th April 2014 afternoon, a delegation led by Immigration Department Director-General Maung Maung Than, director general of department of immigration and population U Myint Kyaing, Deputy Immigration and Population Minister Kyaw Kyaw Win and Rakhine State Immigration Head arrived in Maungdaw Township. They, together with District Immigration Head, held a meeting in the hall of Dewa Nadi located at Quarter One, Maungdaw. They summoned five Rohingya representatives each from Rohingya villages in the region. U Aung Myo Min @Mr. Jahanghir, a Rakhine State MP representing Maungdaw township, also attended the meeting.
In the meeting, U Kyaw Kyaw Win said “you didn’t take part in the population census. Now you try to do it. If you do it now, it will be a win-win situation for both the nation and your community. You will be granted citizenship sooner or later. And the nation will not lose its face before international community anymore.
We are no any longer asking you to accept ‘Bengali’ classification. If you don’t take part in the census, you will lose the chance to become citizens. We are now sincerely asking you to do it. We could force you to do as we want. But we are not doing it. We, one delegation after another, are coming to you to convince you about our sincerity and affections on you. You participate in the census.
Not participating in the census is like rebellion against the nation. Are Kachins and Karens, rebelling against the nation, successful in their rebellions against the nation? No one can succeed by rebelling against the government. Even if you are not rebelling against the nation by means of taking up arms, yet you are not doing it by means of politics. If you willingly participate in the census survey, you will have citizenships and all other rights.
Participate in the census in way that is accepted by the government, other ethnic people as well as your people.”
Rohingya community leaders in the meeting didn’t say anything in response to it. However, U Aung Myo Min did that on behalf of all Rohingyas present in the meeting.
U Aung Myo Min said “not participating in the census can’t be interpreted as rebellion against the nation. That’s because you have announced to the nation and the world that you would conduct the census according to the human rights norms, the international standards and the census law. You have not followed the law and the standards. That’s why our people refrained from it. Hence, it is not rebellion against the nation.
Nothing is on our people’s minds except for abiding by the international standards and the census law. According to the census law, those who understand the law of the census have the rights to explain them to those who do not understand them. Besides, according to the law, one can self-identify his/her ethnicity. Our people have abided by the law. Therefore, it’s not rebellion against the nation.
According to the current situation, if you have to conduct census against the census law in Maungdaw and Buthidaung Townships, we request the government of Myanmar to officially announce to the world that Muslims here can’t self-identify their ethnicity but have to accept a name chosen by the government. If the government does this, I hope people here will take part in the census. If the government can’t do this, I don’t think our people will participate in the census with a name not chosen by them but by the state.
And I am not putting my own opinion forward. I am an MP. I am representing and speaking on behalf of the people here. I am speaking of the desire of the people.”
The delegation gave Rohingya people time to think of the proposal until 5th May 2014. Afterwards, the meeting was over. According to the attendees to the meeting, the immigration officials looked dissatisfied with the response.
Earlier to the meeting in Maungdaw, they had a meeting with Dr. Bashir Ahmed and U Myo Win, Rohingya MPs of Rakhine state representing Buthidaung Township. In the meeting, they asked the MPs if Rohingyas were ready to take part in the census keeping space of ethnic category in the census form BLANK. They (the MPs) replied “we tried to persuade Rohingya people for that. But they firmly say that they would take part in the census only when the government allows them to practice according to the census law and to self-identify their ethnicity.” Then, the authority ended the meeting saying “we give you one more week time to think of it.”
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