Union Minister for Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement Dr Win Myat Aye announced on April 19 that Begalis in Rakhine state who hold National Verification Cards (NVCs) will be granted free movement nationwide, lifting strict travel restrictions binding them for decades.
Dr Win Myat Aye made the remarks during a press meet on his two-day visit to Bengali refugee camps near Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh on borders with Myanmar. The minister said that Bengalis who fed violence in Rakhine state were free to travel if they accept the NVC and fll out a related immigration form at the meeting, which was held at the National Reconciliation and Peace Centre in Yangon.
“We are working to ensure the freedom of movement of the NVC holders. When NVC holders want to travel, they just need to fll out Immigration Form No. 4 and submit it to immigration offcials. After that, they can travel wherever they want,” said Dr Win Myat Aye, albeit recognizing the problems in providing Bengalis with the cards.
The minister continuously urged the Bengalis to accept the NVC, saying that anyone who holds the card can apply for citizenship and can become a citizen within five months after they were scrutinized according to the law.“We already have many people who became citizens within fve months. Those who are entitled to become citizens will become citizens,” Dr Win Myat Aye added.
For Bengalis in Rakhine state, Myanmar defnes the NVC as the frst step before the scrutiny of citizenship in accordance with the 1982 Myanmar Citizen Law, accompanied by the 1949 Myanmar Citizens Registration Act and the Registration of Residents in the Union of Myanmar Act-1949.
During the visit to refugee camps in Bangladesh, Dr Win Myat Aye told refugees that his government had been working to repatriate them as soon as possible. “We focus to start the repatriation process as soon as possible because the monsoon is very near and we are very worried for those who fed to Bangladesh,” the minister told the April 19 press conference, emphasizing concerns about very poor conditions in the refugee camps . His stance has caused a major uproar in the social media, with almost all citizens protesting the NVC and Bengalis’ right to citizenship. The Bengalis have never been part of 135 ethnicities recognized under Myanmar constitution. The Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), the current opposition, has held a press conference and said it will vehemently protest against such move.