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Rakhine leaders object to voting rights for Bengali Immigrants

June 3, 2013

Ethnic Rakhine leaders demand the election commission to deny voting rights to immigrant Bengalis with temporary identity cards (white cards) in the upcoming 2015 Election.

Aye Thar Aung, chairman of the Arkan League for Democracy, said temporary card holders should be denied citizenship and voting rights according to the 1982 Citizenship Law and the 2008 Constitution.

“A complaint letter will be submitted to the election commission based on the 1982 Citizenship Law to prevent these card holders from voting in the 2015 Election,” said Aye Thar Aung.

Dr Aye Maung, chairman of Rakhine Nationalities Development Party, said the temporary identity cards were not included in the 1982 Citizenship Law and the authorities should investigate the rights given to temporary card holders.

“When citizen rights have been given to unworthy people, we need to review whether this seems to harm ‘Perpetuation of Sovereignty’ [one of the three Main National Causes outlined by the military government after 1988].”

“If temporary card holders were allowed to vote and form political parties, this would breach the 2008 Constitution and harm the country’s sovereignty. We plan to submit a rational complaint [to the election commission],” said Dr Aye Maung.

He added that the party will question whether the term temporary identity card’ mentioned in the Political Parties Registration Law is legitimate or not and try to remove this term from the Union Assembly Law, Upper House Law, and Regional Parliament Law.

Zaw Aye Maung, minister of Rakhine race affairs for Yangon Region, said even green card holders in the United States are not allowed to vote so the authorities should review voting rights granted to white card holders and amend the laws if necessary.

“The status of a white card is even lower than a green card. Actually, a white card is just for registering [the immigrants] who are living in the country. We don’t know where they come from. We need to inspect the white card holders to check whether they should be allowed citizenship or not,” said Zaw Aye Maung.

The previous military government issued these temporary identity cards to Bengalis in order to gain votes for the 2008 Constitutional Referendum.  Over 500,000 Bengalis in Rakhine State now hold these cards and most of them live in Buthitaung and Maungdaw areas, according to reports.

After Rakhine State’s temporary identity card holders were allowed to vote in the 2010 Election, many candidates from the Union Solidarity and Development Party won in the areas where the card holders reside. The Ministry of Immigration and Population is now making investigations after the Rakhine ethnic people complained about the citizenship rights of Bengalis.

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