Press Release
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No: 204/SK-KontraS/IV/2014
Subject: The Government of Myanmar Must Stop Discrimination against  Rohingya


To the Embassy of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar in Indonesia

On behalf of Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS) – a Human Rights organization in Indonesia – we intend to condemn the discrimination practice by the Government of Myanmar against Rohingya in relation to Myanmar population census that took place on 30 March to 10 April 2014.

Far-away before the census started, the Government of Myanmar has said that the census will be held in accordance with international standards and allow the country's citizens express their ethnic origin. However, the Myanmar government suddenly change the decision just one day before the census was started on Sunday (03/30/2014). At that moment, the Government of Myanmar says that ethnic "Rohingya" will not be accepted by census officials. Kyaw Yin Oo, director of Rakhine State Immigration, said: "We explained there is no such term as the Rohingya in the country. We can not write down the name 'Rohingya' on the census. 'You have a choice of writing down' Bengali 'race or skipping your identity. We ask them to think about it. And if they want, we can come back (to fill out the form again).”

The practice of the first census after 30 years by the Government of Myanmar has deviated from the standards and procedures set out by the United Nations. The launch of the decree of the Government of Myanmar that confirms every minority in Rakhine ethnicity should not be registered as Rohingya is such an attitude that is very disappointing. Especially, because its decree taken to quell the anger of the majority in Rakhine who are concerned to decline any official recognition for minorities because it means will also lead to the recognition of political rights.

By carrying out the population census in discriminatory way as described above, Myanmar has violated few international agreements related discrimination against civilians. They are:

Article 4 Point 1 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)

“ In time of public emergency which threatens the life of the nation and the existence of which is officially proclaimed, the States Parties to the present Covenant may take measures derogating from their obligations under the present Covenant to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation, provided that such measures are not inconsistent with their other obligations under international law and do not involve discrimination solely on the ground of race, colour, sex, language, religion or social origin.

Article 24 Point 1 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)

“ Every child shall have, without any discrimination as to race, colour, sex, language, religion, national or social origin, property or birth, the right to such measures of protection as are required by his status as a minor, on the part of his family, society and the State.

Article 26 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)

“ All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law. In this respect, the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. “

Article 1 of Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)

“ For the purposes of the present Convention, the term "discrimination against women" shall mean any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.

Article 2 of Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)

“ States Parties shall respect and ensure the rights set forth in the present Convention to each child within their jurisdiction without discrimination of any kind, irrespective of the child's or his or her parent's or legal guardian's race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status.

“ States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that the child is protected against all forms of discrimination or punishment on the basis of the status, activities, expressed opinions, or beliefs of the child's parents, legal guardians, or family members.


Ultimately, discrimination practice by the Government of Myanmar against Rohingya in context of this population census also not appropriate with the agreement of Myanmar stated in its position as the ASEAN countries. As seen on ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (AHRD), mentioned that ASEAN member states should always uphold the principles of impartiality, objectivity, non-selectivity, non-discrimination, non-confrontation and avoidance of double standards and politicisation in the realisation of the human rights and freedoms contained in this declaration.

Thus, there is no more chance for the Government of Myanmar to argue, Government of Myanmar should immediately launch the concrete action to solve the ethnic conflicts that have sacrificed thousands of lives Rohingya people until today – and making  them one of the most ‘forgotten’ population groups in the world. And the census carried out by a country should allows everyone to participate in fair, and free from all forms of intimidation and discrimination.

Through this letter, we would like to urge the Government of Myanmar to cancel the decree that had been forced and discriminates against Rohingyas to pose as 'Bengali' - an identity that is not their true identity. We urge the Government of Myanmar to stop and realize that other forms of discrimination and intimidation imposed on the Rohingya as happened in this census, it is disappointing and contributed to the resignation of efforts towards democracy – especially in this case, considering the position of Myanmar as ASEAN chairman that should prioritize the promotion of human rights and democracy in the country rather than making it backward.

Jakarta, 7 April 2014

Haris Azhar

Executive Coordinator