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.
Interviews with and surveys of Muslim migrants revealed often insurmountable obstacles put forward by Burmese officials in order to obtain a CI, including the procuring of additional documentation not required of other groups. BHRN’s research indicated that twice as many Burmese Muslims were rejected as were accepted when attempting to have their nationality verified through the CI process.
“Bias by the Burmese state against Muslims has now spread to the way Burmese officials issue CIs to migrants in Thailand,” BHRN executive director Kyaw Win said. “While we demand fundamental structural changes in Burma, we also urge Thailand to partner with rights groups to determine a system of documentation that would allow all migrant workers in the country to live and work with dignity.”
Nearly 80 percent of Burmese Muslims interviewed by BHRN had never been issued citizenship documents in their home country, and many were experiencing at least the second generation of statelessness in their families.
Through ongoing discrimination and limitations on citizenship, Existence Denied draws attention to “a concerted effort by Burma to render [the Muslim] community invisible.” BHRN points out that this “political strategy…continues to gather momentum under the current National League for Democracy administration” headed by State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.
“Without the adoption of a citizenship scheme based on human rights norms and a new, democratic, federal Constitution that removes the military from any political role in the country, Burma’s most marginalized will continue to struggle to live with dignity within and outside the country’s borders,” the report states.
Background on the Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN)
BHRN is based in London and operates across Burma/Myanmar working for human rights, minority rights and religious freedom in the country. BHRN has played a crucial role in advocating for human rights and religious freedom with politicians and world leaders.
Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN)
T: +44(0) 740 345 2378
BHRN FULL REPORT PDF