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Access to citizenship in transitional Myanmar: Seeking Rohingya rights the wrong way?

Citation: Parker, Laura Access to citizenship in transitional Myanmar: Seeking Rohingya rights the wrong way? [Discussion or working paper]

The Rohingya have been de jure stateless since Myanmar’s 1974 Constitution and 1982 Citizenship Act excluded them as a ‘national race,’ denying them citizenship and its contingent rights. Racial and religious persecution has intensified, producing intractable displacement and ‘in-placement’ (containment) of the Rohingya population. I examine why, despite the democratic transition ostensibly underway in Myanmar, access to any measure of justice seems ever less conceivable for the Rohingya. A discussion of the interplay between statelessness, refugeehood and citizenship guides an enquiry into the challenges for leveraging the transitional moment in Myanmar for Rohingyas to exercise their rights. Terms such as ‘protection space’ and ‘humanitarian space’ are critiqued, so as to shift focus away from static notions of place and territoriality, and onto the dynamics of disenfranchisement and processes of exercising human rights. I conclude that barriers to accessing rights are exacerbated by the policies and institutional structures of international human rights actors, but that solutions are ultimately political and inter-personal, and hinge upon Myanmar’s navigation of its potential new role as an opening democracy, conditioned as it is by the exclusionary inclusion of the nation-state paradigm.

Creators: Parker, Laura and
Subjects: Human Rights & Development Studies
Keywords: Myanmar, Rohingya, human rights, statelessness, citizenship, refugeehood, UNHCR, space.
Divisions: Human Rights Consortium
Refugee Law Initiative


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