Yangon: Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, rights groups and Islamic leaders expressed dismay on Monday over plans by authorities in western Myanmar to revive a two-child limit on Muslim Rohingya families, a policy that does not apply to Buddhists and comes amid accusations of ethnic cleansing.
Over the weekend, authorities in strife-torn Rakhine state said they were restoring a measure imposed during past military rule that banned Rohingya families from having more than two children.
Details about the policy and how it will be enforced have not been released, sparking calls for clarity and concerns of more discrimination against a group the UN calls one of the world`s most persecuted people.
"If true, this is against the law," said Suu Kyi, the opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Suu Kyi has faced criticism for failing to defend the Rohingya following two waves of deadly sectarian violence last year. She told reporters she had not heard details of the latest measure but, if it exists, "It is discriminatory and also violates human rights”.
The policy applies to two Rakhine townships that border Bangladesh and have the highest Muslim populations in the state. The townships, Buthidaung and Maungdaw, are about 95 percent Muslim.
The order makes Myanmar perhaps the only country in the world to level such a restriction against a particular religious group, and is likely to bring further criticism that Muslims are being discriminated against in the Buddhist-majority country.
China has a one-child policy, but it is not based on religion and exceptions apply to minority ethnic groups. India briefly practiced forced sterilisation of men in a bid to control the population in the mid-1970s when civil liberties were suspended during a period of emergency rule, but a nationwide outcry quickly shut down the program.
For years, the Rohingya in Myanmar have faced a variety of heavy-handed restrictions. They needed permission to travel outside their villages, couples were required to have permission to marry, and were then limited to having two children.
Any offspring that exceeded the regulation were "blacklisted" and refused birth registrations, and denied the right to attend school, travel and marry, according to a report by the Arakan Project, a Thailand-based advocacy group for the Rohingya.