Expulsion of 51 Rakhine workers from Shan State is racial discrimination: Rakhine National Network

Nyan Lin Hein

The expulsion of 51 ethnic Rakhine working in Kengtung Township, Shan State, has shown racial discrimination and may harm national unity, Thein Shwe from Rakhine National Network told a press conference held at the organisation's office in Yangon on August 30.

The 51 workers—31 males and 20 females—from Kyaukphyu, Minpya, Ponnakyun, Pauktaw and Mrauk-U townships in Rakhine State went to Shan State to work on agricultural farms. Upon arrival in Kengtung Township, they were arrested by authorities.

"Particularly, we Rakhine people holding national registration cards (11/…) face discrimination like this. We are not violating the law. Arresting those innocent and not allowing them to travel freely are racial discrimination. This can harm national unity which is one of Our Three Main National Causes policy adopted by the government. I hereby demand the government to allow free travelling and not to show racial discrimination," said Thein Shwe.

Those workers went from Rakhine State to Kengtung Township on August 24 and they were arrested by officials from the township immigration and population department citing order by the military commander as the reason. They were then asked to go back home, said Khaing Thiha, one of the workers.

"All those holding national registration cards (11/…) were asked to get off the bus. They didn't mention the reason. But they said it was order from the commander. Our registration cards were taken. When we arrived in Taunggyi, our cards were returned. We are saddened by such action because we have no chance to travel freely in the country though we are citizens. This is why we hold a press conference to present the matter," said one worker Ye Thiha.

Kengtung Township Immigration and Population Department was contacted but there was no reply. The expelled 51 Rakhine workers are now at a monastery in Mingaladon Township, Yangon, under the care of the Rakhine ethnic affairs ministry and Rakhine charity organisations. Preparations are being made to help them get jobs.