Burma: HRW calls for revocation of Rohingya two child policy

Bangkok, May 28 (ANI): Burma's government should publicly revoke a discriminatory population control regulation that restricts Rohingya Muslims to having two children, Human Rights Watch said today.

Implementation of this policy is consistent with the wider persecution of the largely stateless Rohingya, violating international human rights protections, and endangering women's physical and mental health.

The Arakan State spokesperson, Win Myaing, told the media on May 26 that local authorities had reaffirmed a 2005 regulation for Rohingya Muslims in Buthidaung and Maungdaw townships in northwestern Arakan State along the Bangladesh border.

The discriminatory two-child rule has been enforced alongside regulations that require Rohingya couples seeking to marry to obtain permission from the authorities by paying hefty bribes.

Couples often have to wait for extended periods, sometimes as long as two years, before receiving permission. Officials have also forced many women to undergo pregnancy tests as part of the marriage application process.

"Implementation of this callous and cruel two-child policy against the Rohingya is another example of the systematic and wide ranging persecution of this group, who have recently been the target of an ethnic cleansing campaign," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

He added: "President Thein Sein says he is against discrimination. If so, he should quickly declare an end to these coercive family restrictions and other discriminatory policies against the Rohingya."

Rakhine State Spokesperson Win Myaing claimed local officials sought to implement a recommendation by the government Inquiry Commission on the Sectarian Violence in Rakhine State, a 27-member body appointed to examine the causes of last year's deadly violence between ethnic Arakanese (Rakhine) Buddhists and Rohingya and Kaman Muslims.

The commission's summary report, released on April 29, 2013, called for "implementation of family planning programs amongst Bengali [Rohingya] communities" to address its "rapid population growth."

However, the report said that "government and other civil society organizations should refrain from implementing mandatory measures which could seem unfair and abusive." The commission included political leaders of Arakanese Buddhists but did not include any Rohingya members.

The two-child regulation is a further example of state persecution of the Rohingya, Human Rights Watch said.

Government security forces, local Arakanese political party officials, and Buddhist monks participated in crimes against humanity during a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Rohingya and other Muslims in June and October 2012.

To date, no one has been held accountable for these crimes. Should further widespread or systematic attacks be carried out against the Rohingya population, enforcement of the two-child policy could amount to crimes against humanity. (ANI)

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