As Myanmar gears up for general elections on Nov. 8, 2020, thousands of the persecuted Rohingya community face uncertainty over their right to vote.
Around one million Rohingya from the country’s western Rakhine state who held “white cards” could vote in the 2010 general elections and three Rohingya from the Union Solidarity and Development Party(USDP) were elected as lawmakers during 2011-2015.
In 2013, Rohingya people, with temporary white-card identity documents that previously allowed them to vote, were stripped of voting rights. It was the move of the then-president Thein Sein, a former general, who ruled the country from 2011-2016 before handing power to the Aung San Suu Kyi-led government.
A controversial 1982 law states that only ethnic nationalities whose families entered the country before 1823 are entitled to Myanmar citizenship. The Rohingya have thus been denied citizenship and accompanying rights, and have been marginalized in access to education and other government services.
Furuk, a Rohingya and camp leader at Dar Paing internally displaced persons (IDPs) camp near Sittwe, the capital city of Rakhine, said he got a chance to vote in 2010 elections but he couldn’t cast a ballot in the 2015 polls.
“As a citizen of Myanmar, I have a desire to vote and I feel it’s a duty of everyone living in the country,” Furuk told UCA News.He said people from the camps have little knowledge about the upcoming elections and no idea whether they will be able to vote.“Local authorities were collecting household lists in the camps, but we have not been informed about the development of the voting list,” Furuk said.
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