The Associated Press
YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Authorities in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state have introduced a two-child limit for Muslim Rohingya families in an effort to ease tensions with the Rohingya’s Buddhist neighbors after a spate of deadly sectarian violence, an official said May 25.
Local officials said the new measure — part of a policy that will also ban polygamy — will be applied to two Rakhine townships that border Bangladesh and have the highest Muslim populations in the state. The townships, Buthidaung and Maundaw, are about 95 percent Muslim.
The measure was enacted a week ago after a government-appointed commission investigating the violence issued proposals to ease tensions, which included family planning programs to stem population growth among minority Muslims, said Rakhine state spokesman Win Myaing. The commission also recommended doubling the number of security forces in the volatile region.
“The population growth of Rohingya Muslims is 10 times higher than that of the Rakhine (Buddhists),” Win Myaing said. “Overpopulation is one of the causes of tension.”
Sectarian violence in Myanmar first flared nearly a year ago in Rakhine state between the region’s Rakhine Buddhists and Muslim Rohingya. Mobs of Buddhists armed with machetes razed thousands of Muslim homes, leaving hundreds of people dead and forcing 125,000 to flee, mostly Muslims.
Since the violence, religious unrest has morphed into a campaign against the country’s Muslim communities in other regions.
Containing the strife has posed a serious challenge to President Thein Sein’s reformist government, as it attempts to institute political and economic liberalization after nearly half a century of harsh military rule. It has also tarnished the image of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been criticized for failing to speak out strongly in defense of the country’s embattled Muslim community.
Win Myaing said authorities had not yet determined how the measures will be enforced, but the two-child policy will be mandatory in Buthidaung and Maundaw. The policy will not apply yet to other parts of Rakhine state, which have smaller Muslim populations.
“One factor that has fueled tensions between the Rakhine public and [Rohingya] populations relates to the sense of insecurity among many Rakhines stemming from the rapid population growth of the (Rohingya), which they view as a serious threat,” the government-appointed commission said in a report issued last month.
Predominantly Buddhist Myanmar does not include the Rohingya as one of its 135 recognized ethnicities. It considers them to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and denies them citizenship. Bangladesh says the Rohingya have been living in Myanmar for centuries and should be recognized there as citizens.
Muslims account for about 4 percent of Myanmar’s roughly 60 million people.