No re­lax­ation of cit­i­zen­ship law for Kokang: min­is­ter

The Myanmar Times - - News - SWAN YE HTUT swanye­htut@mm­times.com – Trans­la­tion by Zar Zar Soe

COULD the is­sue of cit­i­zen­ship doc­u­ments to Kokang res­i­dents in Shan State open the back door to in­fil­tra­tion from China? That ap­peared to be the im­pli­ca­tion floated by Myan­mar’s im­mi­gra­tion min­is­ter yes­ter­day when he spoke to MPs of the progress of reg­u­lar­is­ing cit­i­zen­ship in the self-ad­min­is­tered zone.

Union Min­is­ter for Labour, Im­mi­gra­tion and Pop­u­la­tion U Thein Swe told the Amyotha Hlut­taw that he re­fused to re­lax the pro­vi­sions of the controversial 1982 Cit­i­zen­ship Law when it came to iden­ti­fy­ing Kokang res­i­dents. The min­is­ter said the risk of “false rep­re­sen­ta­tion or con­ceal­ment” by those ap­ply­ing for cit­i­zen­ship was too great.

He was re­spond­ing to a ques­tion from U Kyaw Ni Naing (USDP; Shan 11), who had asked about the pos­si­bil­ity of re­lax­ing the rules when is­su­ing new iden­tity cards for eth­nic Kokang res­i­dents.

Kokang was ruled by the Com­mu­nist Party of Burma for more than 30 years and its eth­nic lead­ers signed a cease­fire agree­ment with the gov­ern­ment in 1989, said U Kyaw Ni Naing. He said that as a Myan­mar eth­nic group, the peo­ple of Kokang should en­joy the same rights as those of other eth­nic mi­nori­ties un­der the con­sti­tu­tion.

U Thein Swe said, “The lan­guage, ap­pear­ance and tra­di­tions of the peo­ple of Kokang are very sim­i­lar to those of the cit­i­zens of a neigh­bour­ing coun­try who can eas­ily im­mi­grate to Myan­mar. There is a con­cern over the pos­si­bil­ity of mak­ing false rep­re­sen­ta­tion or con­ceal­ment to ac­quire our cit­i­zen­ship. There­fore, we can­not re­lax any pro­vi­sion of the law be­cause cit­i­zen­ship is part of our sovereignty. We are very care­fully work­ing with the law to en­sure that any mis­takes in is­su­ing cards are elim­i­nated. We are tak­ing our time and car­ry­ing this out on a step-bystep ba­sis.”

The min­istry may owe its caution in Kokang to the sit­u­a­tion in Rakhine State, where the Arakan Na­tional Party has called on the gov­ern­ment to care­fully scru­ti­nise the el­i­gi­bil­ity of so-called “cer­tifi­cate” hold­ers, and to pun­ish any un­sub­stan­ti­ated cit­i­zen­ship claims.

“We can­not just say peo­ple hold­ing cer­tifi­cates are cit­i­zens al­ready, be­cause they may have be­come cit­i­zens through false rep­re­sen­ta­tion or by cor­rup­tion. There­fore, we are com­plain­ing to the gov­ern­ment and ap­peal­ing that the [1982] law be im­ple­mented ex­actly,” said Daw Aye Nu Sein, a high court lawyer and the vice chair of the ANP. Penal­ties un­der the law in­clude im­pris­on­ment for up to 10 years and a fine of K50,000.

Ac­cord­ing to the lat­est cen­sus data, a to­tal of 283,431 eth­nic Kokang aged 10 or older are el­i­gi­ble to ap­ply for reg­is­tra­tion cards. Of those, 91,733 hold Ci­ti­zen Scru­ti­n­is­ing Cards, 104 hold Cer­tifi­cates of As­so­ciate Cit­i­zen­ship, 135 hold Cer­tifi­cates of Nat­u­ralised Cit­i­zen­ship, 75,465 hold Na­tional Reg­is­tra­tion Cards and 5245 hold cer­tifi­cates that have yet to be scru­ti­nised, the min­is­ter said.

Photo: Zarni Phyo

Eth­nic Kokang civil­ians gather af­ter be­ing dis­placed by fight­ing in the Kokang re­gion in Feb­ru­ary 2015.

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