Survey looks into why people lack IDs

A survey is being conducted of the problems faced by people applying for national registration cards, said U Ohn Maung, a high court lawyer and member of a non-governmental organisation.

Working committees in townships will study the obstacles to getting household certificates and registration cards, U Ohn Maung said.

“Many people in Kayin and Mon states, and Shwe Pyi Thar and Hlaing Tharyar townships in Yangon have no registration cards. In some places, whole village have no cards. They are not illegal. They have lived here for many years. They are of different races and religions. Some are from ethnic groups,” said U Ohn Maung on Wednesday.

“All people who are entitled to citizenship under the law should have registration cards. For children, they should have birth certificates and they must be added to household lists. Many people don’t have such papers,” he added.

According to the 2014 census, out of the 57 million people in Myanmar, over 11.2 million don’t have a registration card. As the population has increased, the number of people without the cards can also be expected to have risen.

At a talk on the issue on March 28, human rights activist Ma Su Chit said that common problems in applying for the cards include people from minority religions being classified as “mixed blood” and having to choose a country of origin based on their religion.

For example, Christians need to choose Germany, Muslims need to choose India or Pakistan, and Hindus have to choose India regardless of whether they are from there.

Another problem faced by ethnic people is having their race changed when applying for cards. For example, a Phint Li Su is changed to Kho Lone Li Shaw and Ta’ang (Palaung) is changed to Shan.

There is also a problem of adding Myanmar names to ethnic names on the cards.

Yay La Mi Sayadaw, the chair of a philanthropic organisation, who is ethnically Lisu, said that he himself faced these problems, and although his children have finished school, they still can’t get jobs because of problems with their IDs.

Part of the problem is that for 130 years, between 1823 and 1948, when the Citizen’s Act was in force, people were not required to have ID cards.

As more foreigners entered Myanmar, the Foreigners Registration Act was enacted in 1940.

When the Rules of Foreign Nationals Registration Law appeared in 1949, only foreigners had to have registration cards, while citizens, including ethnic people, were not required to have them.

Although there were plans to issue “Form 12,” a form of identity document, after the Registration Act of 1951 came into force, a national registration card was not issued until 1956.

“There are still many problems with obtaining and renewing national IDs, and application fees.

“The issues must be continuously highlighted so they can be solved. The survey may last for another three months, then recommended reforms and amendments to laws will be submitted to the president and the Assembly of the Union,” U Ohn Maung said.


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