Submitted on Wed, 27 May 2015 - 10:55 AM
JAKARTA, 27 May 2015 – The Myanmar government’s passage of a controversial new “population control” law is yet another in a long line of restrictive and illegal measures as part of a policy of persecution and ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya population, ASEAN lawmakers said today.
Rooted in Myanmar’s rising Buddhist-nationalist extremism, the Population Control Act will likely be used to enforce targeted reproductive restrictions against vulnerable minorities. The Act was signed into law by President Thein Sein last week and would allow authorities to mandate three-year birth spacing in specific areas of the country.
“This law, which is rooted in discrimination and is likely to be implemented in a discriminatory fashion, provides a clear basis for the government to continue its targeted persecution of minority populations, including Rohingya and other Burmese Muslims,” said APHR Chairperson Charles Santiago, a member of parliament in Malaysia.
“In the context of a climate in which the rights of minorities have been systematically trampled upon, this law threatens to move Myanmar further along a path toward ethnic cleansing and serves as a warning sign for potential genocide.”
Genocide, as defined in Article 2 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, relates to any of a number of acts committed with intent to destroy - in whole or in part - a national, ethnic, racial or religious group including “Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group” (Article 2d). The Convention has become a norm of customary international law.
ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) warned that the Population Control Act amounts to unnecessary restrictions on reproductive rights and could contribute to increasing persecution and violence against ethnic and religious minorities in Myanmar, particularly Rohingya Muslims, and is considered a violation of international law.
The act also violates women’s rights by placing restrictions on the freedom of women to make choices about when to have children, APHR said.
The Population Control Act is one of four so-called ‘Race and Religion Protection’ bills originally proposed by Buddhist extremists from the National Organization for the Protection of Race and Religion, or Ma Ba Tha. APHR remains concerned about the three other bills, which restrict interfaith marriage, religious conversion and polygamy, and are currently being debated in parliament.
The Population Control Act’s approval could not have come at a worse time for Myanmar’s Rohingya, APHR stressed. Temporary identification documents, which are held by many Rohingya, were invalidated at the end of March and are due to be collected by the end of May, depriving holders of any identification and access to state services.
Furthermore, APHR underlined the regional migrant crisis that has unfolded during May demonstrates the impact of sustained persecution against Rohingya in Myanmar. This persecution has fuelled their exodus and is likely to intensify with the passage of the new law.
“In the midst of a regional crisis that is a direct result of the systematic, state-sponsored persecution of Rohingya in Myanmar, the Myanmar government has taken the almost unbelievable step of doubling down on its discriminatory policies,” said Santiago.
APHR reiterated its call for ASEAN to pressure the Myanmar government to end its persecution of Rohingya.
“Despite all that has happened in the past month, the Myanmar government continues to press ahead with its efforts to entrench discrimination,” Santiago added.
“This just puts an exclamation point on the need for other ASEAN governments to act.”