ISSN 2330-717X

Just And Fair Elections: 2020 And Rohingya Right To Vote – OpEd

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Myanmar is scheduled to hold general elections on November 8, 2020. The Arakan Rohingya National Organization (ARNO) is concerned about the fact that issues relating to Rohingya citizenship have not been addressed and in particular that the Myanmar government has not rectified the disenfranchisement of Rohingya voting rights that took place in 2015.

The Rohingya, who are in fact citizens of Myanmar, had participated in all past elections held in Myanmar since voting system was first introduced in 1936 by the British colonial government. They had actively participated in the elections processes and voted their representatives to Parliaments and State Assemblies up until the 2010 elections. Rohingya people had even taken part in 2008 military held referendum for the adoption of the State Constitution.

Despite the fact that in December 2014, The United Nations in Resolution 69/248 called upon the government to give “equal access to full citizenship for the Rohingya minority” in 2015 the leadership took a further step backwards and deprived the Rohingya of their right to vote. This opportunity created opportunities for further hate campaigns to be launched against the Rohingya, already suffering with the ongoing perpetration of genocide and crimes against humanity.

Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights holds that everyone has the right to take part in the government of their country; everyone has the right of equal access to public service in their country; the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot or by equivalent free voting procedures.

Consistent with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Myanmar must make the democratic process in Myanmar all inclusive – thereby incorporating the Rohingya people, including those that have been forced to flee as a result of genocide.  

ARNO urges Myanmar and its entities, such as the Election Commission of Myanmar to:

a.    Grant full citizenship rights to the Rohingya people. 
b.    Compile a Rohingya voter list based on the “household list” of 2010 and give these people the right to participate in the 2020 elections. 
c.    Compile, with the assistance of the UNHCR, a valid voter list of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. Grant the Rohingya refugees the right to participate in the 2020 elections. 
d.    Register all Rohingya people inside Myanmar so that they may choose to participate in public office. 
e.    Allow for independent international observers to monitor the election process so that violence will not be used as a tool to further disenfranchise Rohingya people from voting.
f.    Review all mechanisms, create and enforce laws to prevent unfiltered attacks and hate speech against the Rohingya, so that they are not exploited during the 2020 election cycle. 

*ARNO is the Arakan Rohingya National Org.

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