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Citizenship

A vulnerable community is losing the fight for their rights

Flickr: EU/ECHO/Pierre Prakash

“If we lose the right to vote, we will be zero.”

These are the words of Wai Wai Nu, a Rohingya activist and human rights defender. She’s referring to the fact that over the years, the Rohingya people have been deprived of several basic rightsincluding the right to travel without permission or to receive a higher educationand now, they’re losing the right to vote.

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About 1 million Rohingya people currently live in Myanmar (still known as Burma in some places) where they experience systemic violence and persecution. The minority Muslim group faces intense discrimination from Buddhists that dominate the region. In the past several years, the rise of a Buddhist nationalist movement has left the Rohingya with limited opportunities for acquiring basic rights or living peaceful lives.  

And now, their ability to advocate for peace and equality is growing weaker. Just this weekend, the country’s election commission ruled that despite four years in office, a current Rohingya member of the government, Shwe Maung, is not allowed to run for reelection in November. Apparently, he is not currently recognized as a citizen of Myanmarthough he was considered a full citizen in 2010.

It appears that this news came as a shock to Shwe Maung. He says that both of his parents were citizens prior to his birth in 1965 and his father served as a member of the Myanmar Police Force.

Many of the Rohingya people who voted for Shwe Maung in 2010 are facing similar assertions and are being told they will not be able to vote in the upcoming election.   

So, why is this happening? Here’s a little history on the topic:

In 2010, many of the Rohingya people were given temporary citizenship documents, more commonly known as white cards. However, earlier this year, the documents were nullified after President Thein Sein faced pressure from Buddhist nationalists who opposed the cards. Now, the Rohingya people must undergo a citizenship test to obtain new cards.

The move essentially disenfranchises hundreds of thousands who have lived in the country for generations. If nothing changes, the Rohingya people will be destined to live with no rights and nothing but dangerous options for fleeing the country. Thousands of Rohingya people have fled to countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand under extremely unsafe conditions. Many of these migrants have died or have been left out to sea with little food or water.

Part of tackling poverty requires supporting vulnerable communities that live in unstable areas or are marginalized by their governments. The Rohingya certainly fall under this category.


You can help vulnerable communities by getting behind the Global Goals that will guide international development over the next 15 years to end extreme poverty.

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