Lack of NRCs in remote areas of Kyaikmayaw Township strip residents of voting rights, access to government services

July 26, 2019

According to the venerable Monk Pan Ti Ta, Abbot of Kaw Zwel village, Kyaikmayaw Township, nearly 50 percent of all residents in remote areas of Kyaikmayaw township do not hold a National Registration Card (NRC).

In short, NRCs are issued as identity cards to citizens, associate citizens, and naturalized citizens of Burma. Each card records an individual’s name, gender, religion, national race, father’s name, and NRC number. Further information on Burma’s labyrinthine citizenship regime, and the difficulties this regime creates for ethnic minority groups throughout Burma, can be found here.

People from remote villages in southern and eastern parts of Kyaikmayaw Township don’t have NRCs. Many of them are reluctant or unwilling to apply for their NRC because immigration officials intimidate them by asking too many questions, and because the application process is so complex people have to use brokers who demand too much money from them to assist with the process. Because of this, nearly half of the population in each village doesn’t have an NRC,” said venerable Monk Pan Ti Ta.

As stated by a spokesperson from the Ministry of Ethnic Affairs, those who do not hold an NRC will not be able to vote in the 2020 general election, thus greater support must be provided to such individuals if their right to vote is to be fulfilled.

Due to the lack of NRCs, people don’t have the right to vote, and they can’t open bank accounts. This also prevents them from accessing government services. Most of [Burma’s] ethnic minorities have lost their rights because so many of these communities don’t have their NRCs. Those who have lost their NRC or have never applied for one should apply immediately,” said Nai Mon Raja, a member of the Ministry of Ethnic Affairs.

For villagers living in remote areas of Mon State, a Mon–Burmese language barrier together with the prohibitive cost of transportation to Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population offices prevent many from applying for an NRC. Moreover, the complexity of the application process, the cost of hiring a broker to negotiate the process, and the amount of time the process takes further combine to discourage many from initiating the process.

If villagers in Kyaikmayaw Township want to apply for their NRC, they have to rely on brokers. They don’t speak Burmese well enough to meet with immigration officials, so they pay anywhere from 10,000 to 50,000 kyat (US $6.62 to US $33.14) to have a broker do it for them. This is why so many people aren’t interested in applying for their [National Registration] card,” said venerable Monk Pan Ti Ta.

Most villagers aren’t aware that they lose their rights if they don’t have a card,” continued the venerable monk.

When speaking of the forthcoming 2020 general election, Nai Mon Raja warned that the Union Election Commission will soon begin to collect lists of citizens who are eligible to vote, and that those who are without an NRC will lose their voting rights if they do not soon apply. However, Nai Mon Raja believes the recently formed Immigration and Human Resources Ministry can do much to address the lack of NRCs in remote areas.

As previously reported by HURFOM, approximately 20,000 Mon individuals were prohibited from voting in the 2015 general election because they were unable to produce an NRC.

According to statistics collected by Mon State government officials during implementation of the Mon State government’s ongoing Loyalty Project (Thit Sar) — a project targeting rural populations, students, and migrant workers from other areas of Burma who are without NRCs— 85,150 NRCs have thus far been granted to children between the ages of 10 and 17, while another 99,014 have thus far been granted to individuals who are at least 18-years-old. The Loyalty Project commenced on May 1st 2016.

Despite these efforts, it is still commonplace for villagers living in remote areas of Mon State, or areas of Mon State under the control of an Ethnic Armed Organization (EAOs), to not hold an NRC.

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