Myanmar to consider 'naturalised citizenship' for Rohingya Muslims


Rohingya Muslims who fled Myanmar to neighbouring Bangladesh after a brutal military crackdown might be able to apply for citizenship if they return to the country, a top Myanmar official said on Sunday.

Myanmar's permanent foreign secretary, U Myint Thu, was leading a 10-member delegation to Bangladesh for talks on the repatriation of Rohingya, many of whom remain in Bangladeshi refugee camps.

Addressing a news conference after visiting Rohingya camps in Bangladesh's south-eastern beach town of Cox's Bazar, Thu said that Rohingya may be entitled to apply for the category of "naturalised citizen" in his country.

"We are trying to explain to them (Rohingya Muslims) what the possibilities of citizenship are," the delegation chief told reporters after a series of meetings with the Rohingya.

Myanmar stripped Rohingya Muslims of their citizenship in 1982 after passing a new citizenship law that labelled them "illegal immigrants from Bangladesh."

Thu said that, according to the law, they may not be entitled to full-fledged citizenship, but could seek "naturalised citizenship" instead, while their children could be entitled to full citizenship.

The two Asian countries signed an agreement in November 2017 for the voluntary return of refugees, but the repatriation process has stalled.

Bangladesh has blamed Myanmar's reluctance to take them back, while many Rohingya fear they will face persecution if they are not considered citizens of Myanmar.

Nearly 750,000 Rohingya Muslims crossed into Bangladesh during the military crackdown in Buddhist-majority Myanmar in August 2017. The UN and other human rights groups have accused Myanmar's government of ethnic cleansing and genocide.    (dpa)

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