Rohingya refugees walk through a market inside a refugee camp in Ukhia, Bangladesh on April 6. (AFP)
Rohingya refugees walk through a market inside a refugee camp in Ukhia, Bangladesh on April 6. (AFP)

Unity promises Rohingya citizenship, repatriation


The parallel National Unity Government on Thursday called on the Rohingya minority to help it overthrow the junta, promising citizenship and repatriation for the persecuted Muslim community in a future democratic Myanmar.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the military overthrew the Daw Aung San Suu Kyi-led National League for Democracy government in a February 1 coup.

A brutal crackdown on dissent by the junta has since killed more than 800 people, according to local monitoring group the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

A group of ousted lawmakers, mostly from the NLD, joined ethnic leaders to establish the National Unity Government in April as a parallel government to the military regime.

The junta has classified the NUG as “terrorists”, meaning anyone speaking to them, including journalists, can be subjected to charges under counter-terrorism laws.

“We invite Rohingyas to join hands with us and with others to participate in this Spring Revolution against the military dictatorship,” the group said in a statement.

The Rohingya have been denied citizenship, rights and access to services for decades under what Amnesty International calls apartheid-like conditions in Rakhine State. 

The NLD government had avoided using the term “Rohingya”, which is widely rejected in Myanmar in favour of “Bengali”, which implies they are interlopers from Bangladesh.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s administration instead called them “Muslims living in Rakhine”.

The NUG also promised to abolish the 1982 Citizenship Law, which discriminates against the Rohingya and other groups considered non-native to Myanmar.

It promises that after the junta is overthrown, all those born in Myanmar or to a Myanmar citizen would be granted citizenship. 

The NUG also said it was committed to repatriating all Rohingya languishing in camps in Bangladesh “as soon as repatriation can be accomplished voluntarily, safely and with dignity.”

More than 740,000 Rohingya fled over the border into Bangladesh after a bloody military campaign in 2017 that the United Nations condemned as ethnic cleansing. 

The military claimed its operations were justified to root out Rohingya insurgents following a series of deadly attacks on police posts in Rakhine and has denied all allegations of wrongdoing. 

Aung San Suu Kyi defended the army’s conduct and even travelled to The Hague to rebut charges of genocide at the UN’s top court, the International Court of Justice.

More than 600,000 Rohingya are estimated to remain in northern Rakhine state without citizenship, restricted to either camps or their villages, many unable to access medical care.

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