Myanmar official: Rohingya likely allowed to apply for citizenship


Myanmar is likely to allow Rohingya Muslims to apply for citizenship, subject to verification, once they return, a senior Myanmar official said on Thursday, after hundreds of thousands from the ethnic minority group fled to neighbouring Bangladesh last year.

They must enter the national verification process, as per Myanmar law, to file the nationality application, Win Myat Aye, a cabinet minister for social welfare, relief and resettlement, told reporters after a meeting with two Bangladeshi ministers in Dhaka.

"The verification was previously very slow. Now we have sped up the process," said Aye, who has also talked to a number of refugees at a camp in the southern Bangladeshi district of Cox's Bazar during his two-day official visit.

Rohingya Muslims, an ethnic minority group in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, were stripped of citizenship in 1982 and subjected to persecution and deprivation of other rights in Rakhine state.

Dhaka and Naypyidaw have been working together, as per an agreement inked in November, to begin refugee repatriation after nearly 700,000 Rohingya fled a crackdown in Myanmar's Rakhine state in August.

"If they get citizenship, they get the chance at same rights in Myanmar. If not, it will be according to their status," Aye said, adding that his government wanted to begin the repatriation process as soon as possible.

The minister refrained from commenting on whether Myanmar would recognise the ethnic group's Rohingya identity. He said his government will shortly allow UN agencies to visit Rakhine state, where access for aid agencies has been restricted.    (dpa)

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