The National Unity Government (NUG) released a statement on Thursday in an effort to dispel doubts about its position on the status of the Rohingya in Myanmar.
In the statement, the NUG suggested that the country’s 1982 Citizenship Law, which has been blamed for reducing the Rohingya to statelessness, could be repealed once a new constitution has been drafted.
In its place, it said, would be a new law that would “base citizenship on birth in Myanmar or birth anywhere as a child of Myanmar Citizens.”
“The Rohingyas are entitled to citizenship by laws that will accord with fundamental human rights norms and democratic federal principles,” the statement added.
The 27-member NUG has faced growing pressure to address the issue since it was formed in mid-April by ousted MPs and other prominent figures opposed to military rule.
During a hearing on the ongoing crisis in Myanmar held by the US House Foreign Affairs Committee on May 4, the NUG was challenged to commit to recognising the Rohingya as citizens of the country.
“Will this government provide citizenship documents to all Rohingya born in Burma or refugee camps?” congressman Brad Sherman asked Kyaw Moe Tun, Myanmar’s permanent representative to the United Nations, during one exchange.
Speaking on behalf of the NUG, Kyaw Moe Tun appeared to suggest that the parallel government’s policy would be based on the existing law, albeit in amended form.
“For you to say ‘we’re going to carry out existing law’ would be like a post-Nazi government saying we’re going to carry out existing German law,” Sherman replied.
The statement also addressed another issue that plagued the previous National League for Democracy (NLD) government—how to handle atrocities committed by the military during “clearance operations” that forced hundreds of thousands of Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh in 2017.
Seeking to distance itself from the NLD’s stance, which was to defend the military against charges of genocide, the NUG said it would be willing to refer the matter to an international court.
“We intend if necessary to initiate processes to grant International Criminal Court jurisdiction over crimes committed within Myanmar against the Rohingyas and other communities,” it said.
The move was likely to stir some controversy among anti-regime activists, as a broad cross-section of Myanmar society is staunchly opposed to recognising the Rohingya as one of the country’s so-called “national races”.
However, the NUG seemed to believe that under the current circumstances, many might be more receptive to the Rohingyas’ calls for justice and claims to citizenship.
The entire nation, it said, is “sympathetic to the plight of the Rohingya as all now experience atrocities and violence perpetrated by the military.”