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ICC Note: This disenfranchisement of the Rohingya in the upcoming election in Myanmar shows yet another example of government-sponsored discrimination against an ethnic and religious minority. 

By John Zaw

06/23/2015 Myanmar (UCA News)

Thousands of Rohingya Muslims who cast ballots in previous elections were left off the voting lists published in Rakhine state this week.

The move was expected after the Myanmar government earlier this year stripped Rohingyas of temporary “white-card” identity documents that previously allowed them to vote, though did not permit them to access state services or other rights granted to citizens. The fact that Rohingya were allowed to vote in the 2010 election has remained a point of contention with majority Rakhine.

Kyaw Hla Aung, a Rohingya community leader from an IDP camp near Sittwe, said the move effectively disenfranchises hundreds of thousands who have lived in the country for generations.

“My father and I worked as government servants but we are regarded as foreigners. We have lived here for generations but we are yet to get national citizenship cards. And my two daughters who are former white-card holders will lose the right to vote in the election,” Kyaw Hla Aung told on Wednesday.

The government and the Buddhist Rakhine community do not recognize Rohingya as one of the country’s official ethnic groups, and instead require them to identify as ‘Bengali’ because they are considered illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh.

An independent non-governmental group based in Brussels, the International Crisis Group (ICG) said in April that: “disenfranchisement of most Muslim votes in Rakhine severs the last link that many Muslims in Rakhine state feel they have with political life, with potentially serious implications for medium-term stability in that region”.

The ICG also warned that in Rakhine state and parts of central Myanmar, there have been serious inter-communal and inter-religious tensions in recent years, which could resurface in the “politically charged atmosphere of an election”.

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