Myanmar continues to deny Rohingya rights: Rights group

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Myanmar continues to deny basic citizenship rights to persecuted Rohingya community, a rights group said on Thursday.

The Bangkok-based Fortify Rights group revealed internal communications in the Myanmar government directing junior officials to issue National Verification Cards (NVCs) to Rohingya in internment camps.

"The document states the team would be tasked with issuing NVCs to 'Bengali people' -- a term often used by Myanmar officials to refer to Rohingya, implying that they are from Bangladesh and their ethnic Rohingya identity does not exist," the group said in a statement that included the testimonies of five Rohingya people.

The rights group demanded Myanmar take steps to "urgently restore full citizenship rights to Rohingya".

"New evidence collected by Fortify Rights […] confirms that Myanmar authorities are continuing to force and coerce Rohingya to accept National Verification Cards, which effectively identify Rohingya as foreigners and strip them of access to full citizenship rights," it added.

Fortify Rights also assessed a new strategy by Myanmar that it said sought to close camps for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).

"The document instructs authorities to facilitate citizenship verification in camps slated for closure," it said, asserting that, in practice, citizenship verification in Rakhine State where the majority of Rohingya reside was implemented through the NVC process.

The group said the strategy had been adopted last year by the country's Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement.

Rohingya, described by the UN as one of the most persecuted community in the world, has been facing systematic state persecution in the northern Rakhine state of Myanmar since early 1970s.

According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017, pushing the number of persecuted people in Bangladesh above 1.2 million.

ICJ verdict on Jan. 23

More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the OIDA report titled Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience.

Some 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar's army and police and over 115,000 Rohingya homes were burned down and 113,000 others vandalized, it added.

Due to its atrocities against the Muslim community, Myanmar faces three International probes -- at the International Court of Justice, at the International Criminal Court and at a court in Argentina.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) said in a statement on Wednesday that it would announce its ruling on a case filed by Gambia against Myanmar on the persecution of the Rohingya on Jan. 23.

Gambia last November filed a genocide lawsuit against Myanmar at the UN's highest court, a move described as a "historic achievement" by the Rohingya community.

The ICJ held hearings on the case and is now set to announce its decision.

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