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Anti-Slavery International

Thomas Clarkson House, The Stableyard,

Broomgrove Road, London SW9 9TL

Tel:.+ 44 (0)20 7501 8920 Fax: +44 (0)20

7738 4110


Sixtieth session
15th March – 23rd April 2004

Oral intervention delivered by Anti-Slavery International on 7th April 2004

Item 13 – Rights of the Child

Anti-Slavery International would like to draw the attention of the Commission to the specific
situation of the Muslim children of Northern Rakhine State in Myanmar. They belong to a
group widely known as the Rohingya. They are born stateless, discriminated against from
birth on the basis of their ethnicity. The 1982 Citizenship Law deprives them of citizenship
rights and perpetuates statelessness. The SPDC has started issuing “white identity cards” to
the Muslim population of Rakhine State, but this is no more than a temporary residence
permit clearly stating that it cannot be used as a proof to claim citizenship.

The regime’s policies of exclusion against the Rohingya Muslim children

of Northern Rakhine State are being implemented through a series of measures designed to
impede child development and family growth.

Among them, I would cite:

- Restrictions of freedom of movement, as Rohingya children and their parents are virtually
confined to their village tracts. The need to obtain travel passes limits their access to health,
education and employment, thus severely affecting the livelihood of the family.

- In the field of health and education, they are particularly neglected. 60% of the Muslim
children of Northern Rakhine State are said to suffer from malnutrition and the level of
illiteracy is extremely high.

- Restriction of access to food through a series of constraints, including arbitrary taxation and
extortion, is the main strategy of the regime to encourage departure, and a major root cause
of the ongoing exodus toBangladesh.
- Increasingly, measures are being imposed to control birth and to limit expansion of the
Rohingya population. Unlike other people of Burma, the Rohingyas must apply for
permission to get married, which is only granted in exchange for high bribes and can take up
to several years to obtain. To register their children’s birth, parents are charged fees that
significantly increased in 2003. Moreover, building a new house or repairing or extending an
existing dwelling also require authorisation, resulting in overcrowded and precarious living
conditions, affecting women and children.

Many Rohingya children are subject to forced labour. Cultural practices in the Rohingya
community prevent women from participating in activities outside of their homes. As male
adults are busy earning the daily wage to feed the family, the burden of carrying out forced
labour duties often falls on children.

Mr. Chairman,

What kind of future can these stateless children hope for? An answer to this question can
only emerge when the policies of discrimination and exclusion end, allowing the creation of
an environment conducive to children’s development. Myanmar acceded to the Convention
on the Rights of the Child in 1991, but the treatment accorded to Rohingya children is in
blatant breach of its obligations. We request the Commission to address such discriminatory
practices with the Government of Myanmar and strongly urge it to ensure respect for the
fundamental rights of these children.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.