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Myanmar: UN expert urges Government to act on local regulations targeting Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State

GENEVA (31 May 2013) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, Tomás Ojea Quintana, today said that the Government must respond unambiguously to the revival of a local order limiting the number of children that Rohingya Muslims can have to two. Contraventions can result in fines and prison sentences under section 188 of the Myanmar Penal Code.

“This local order in the Northern Rakhine State townships of Buthidaung and Maungdaw is a clear-cut human rights violation targeting a particular ethnic and religious group,” Mr. Ojea Quintana said. “The Central Government must provide an unequivocal response.”

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which Myanmar has ratified together with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, obliges state parties to respect and protect the right of women and men ‘to decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of their children and to have access to the information, education and means to enable them to exercise these rights.’ Also, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has called on the Government not to restrict the number of children of Rohingya people.

“Not only is the local order a violation of Myanmar’s international human rights obligations and commitments, it also goes against the recommendations of the Investigation Commission set up by the President last August, which urged the Government to refrain from implementing non-voluntary family planning measures that may be seen as discriminatory or that would be inconsistent with human rights standards,” the expert said.

“It is the role of the state to provide information to the public on family planning and to provide contraception and other reproductive health services to women and men throughout Myanmar,” Mr. Ojea Quintana said. “It is not the role of the state to introduce discriminatory and coercive measures such as these.”

The Special Rapporteur went on to emphasise that the Government had an obligation to review and revoke all orders which violate international human rights standards: “This local order is one of many that have been introduced by local Rakhine State authorities that violate the basic human rights of Rohingya Muslims, including with regard to freedom of movement, marriage, and registration of new-born children.”

“These orders provide further ammunition to local authorities, including the border security force Nasaka, to discriminate against and persecute the most vulnerable and marginalised group in Myanmar. They also enable local authorities to threaten and bribe the Rohingya Muslims, who have no recourse of action available, forming the basis of what amounts to an extortion racket,” the expert warned, noting that the vast majority of the 800,000 Rohingya Muslims are without citizenship and are stateless, making them extremely vulnerable to human rights violations.

The Special Rapporteur* has previously highlighted that the discrimination and marginalisation of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar is one of the underlying causes of the communal violence that erupted in Rakhine State last year and is fuelling the spread of anti-Muslim violence across the country, including this week in Lashio (Shan State) and in Meikhtila (Mandalay Region) last March.

“Only by addressing this discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities can the Government of Myanmar hope forge integrated communities that live together in equality, peace and harmony,” he underscored.

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Mr. Tomás Ojea Quintana (Argentina) was appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council in May 2008. As Special Rapporteur, he is independent from any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity.

(*) Check the Special Rapporteur latest report on Myanmar: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/RegularSession/Session22/A.HRC.22.58_AUV.pdf

UN Human Rights, country page – Myanmar: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/MMIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Daniel Collinge (+41 22 928 9173 / dcollinge@ohchr.org)

Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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