Myanmar new President 2016Burma New President 2016
A new president in Myanmar, but equal prosecution of Rohingya?
Burma's parliamentary assembly on March 15, 2016 voted Htin Kyaw as Myanmar's first civil president in 53 years. This was an historical celebration for the Myanmar population and for the democratic process in a conflict-ridden state that has been under the control of the army since 1962. The Kyaw elections are a significant departure from Myanmar's past in politics and economics, but an important issue remains:
So what does this mean for the Rohingya group? Rohingya have been living in West Burma for centuries; however, the 1982 Rohingya Nationality Act states that the Rohingya are foreign nationals living on Burma's soil and forbids the Rohingya from gaining nationality. The Rohingya have no legal safeguards and are state free without the right to vote politically, economically and socially.
Some 140,000 Rohingya have been expelled to the centre of Rakhine and several hundred thousand have escaped to neighbouring states, at least 231,000 of them in Bangladesh, at least 15,000 in Malaysia and many more in Thailand and Indonesia. Rohingya crowd tombs were found near the Malaysia frontier in 2015, and accounts show that human smugglers claimed $2,000 in ransom from the victims' family.
Rohingya have experienced significant forms of socioeconomic, political and humane discriminatory behaviour, among them indiscriminate detentions, hard labour, limits on travelling outside their place of domicile, limits on admission to higher learning and a ban on working as officials, whether as physicians, nursing staff or schoolteachers. Burma's junior executive has demanded that Rohingya be officially allowed to get married and has introduced a two-child visa only for the Rohingya people.
Although Kyaw will act as president of Myanmar, the true leader will be Aung San Suu Kyi. Indeed, the only justification why Kyaw was chosen, and not Suu Kyi, is a discrimination bill that prevents anyone who has a son with non-Suu Kyi nationality and addresses Suu Kyi specifically from taking over the chair.
Suu Kyi has consistently denied condemning the prosecution of the Rohingya ethnic group, despite her declared support for them. Suu Kyi answered a number of inquiries about the Rohingya crisis, TIME said: It is not a matter of overdoing small issues in large and large ones to such an extreme degree that they are completely intransparent.
From this point of views, Suu Kyi has not denounced the repression of the Muslim Rohingya because it would threaten to alienate the Buddhaist minority that voted for her group. However, her silences on this subject could be a sign that she really does not believe that the Rohingya tribe should be defended under Burma's laws.
This latter reading of its acts would be a clear violation of the principles of the democratic system for which it has been so praised. Asked whether Rohingya should be given nationality, Suu Kyi replied: "The Chinese authorities are now reviewing nationality under the 1982 Nationality Act.
There is no sign of a drastic shift away from the sufferings of the situation, nor does it indicate that the NLD and Kyaw will be better for the Rohingya group. In order for Myanmar to be regarded as a democratic legitimacy, the Rohingya tribe must be recognised as civic leaders, involved in policy making and have the same level of health care, literacy and essential service provision as any other Myanmar national.
Genuine democracies are majoritarian governments that protect the right of minorities. This policy can encourage the setback of the Buddhaist elite and constitute a critical test of Myanmar's democratic and constitutional state. However, effective governance often demands courageous and determined actions against the opposition. Over the next few month, the real nature, power and determination of the NLD and its leader will be evident in the way they are treating the Rohingya people.