As June ends, widespread statelessness among Burmese Muslim migrants will become an urgent and serious issue in neighboring Thailand, according to a new report by the Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN).
Existence Denied, launched on Tuesday, highlights the insecurity faced by this community at home and in their host country. Its publication precedes a June 30 deadline set by the Thai authorities for migrant worker registration, which BHRN fears many Burmese Muslims will be unable to meet due to systematic discrimination by the Burmese authorities charged with implementing the process.
By this date, Thailand has required that all migrant workers obtain a verification of their nationality—known as a Certificate of Identity (CI)—from officials from their home country so that they can work in Thailand legally. Failure to do so will result in crushing fines, deportation, and a two-year ban on re-applying for a work permit.
Burma Human Rights Network has released a report titled “Discrimination and Corruption Plague Burmese Passport System” detailing systemic discrimination and corruption found throughout Burma’s passport office. The report details the multiple mechanisms used by the Burmese authorities to further burden the Muslim community living inside of Burma.
The authorities have forced Muslims to identify themselves as various non-Burmese nationalities on their ID cards and use these nationalities to then classify Muslims as ‘Mixed blood’. When Muslims apply for their passports faced systematic discrimination. Witnesses also reported instances of corruption where officials insisted on bribes by minority applicants to process their applications.
One of the most alarming details in the report is the use of Burma’s Special Branch intelligence police to investigate the home addresses and backgrounds of Muslim applicants for no apparent reason other than to intimidate and inconvenience them. Authorities justify this form of harassment by saying it is for security purposes.
A human rights report released today reveals ongoing and systematic persecution of Burma’s Muslim minority by the country’s government.
The Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN) conducted eight months of field work and more than 350 interviews. Testimony was collected from individuals in more than 46 towns and villages across the country, from Karen State in the east to Rakhine State in the west, and throughout central Burma.
Human rights violations, detailed in the report, include:
1. Problems for Muslims obtaining ID cards
Research by the BHRN reveals systematic refusal to allow Muslims to receive a government ID cards (known as ‘NRCs’). The way in which this manifests varies, but commonly reported problems include the flat-out denial of an NRC card to Muslims; the requirement that Muslims provide extensive, and often difficult to obtain, documentation that proves a family lineage dating back to before 1824; and the refusal by immigration authorities to register a Muslim person as solely Bama, the majority ethnicity in Burma. The denial of an NRC in Burma carries both material and ideological implications. Someone who fails to show an NRC when requested by police or another authority is likely to face harassment, and a penalty of a fine, or imprisonment, or both.