Myanmar is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the region, and ethnicity is a
complex, contested and politically sensitive issue where ethnic groups have long believed
that the Government manipulates ethnic categories for political purposes.
ethnic minorities make up an estimated 30-40% of the population, and ethnic states
occupy some 57% of the total land area along most of the country’s international
The Constitution makes no reference to ethnic minorities. It instead uses the
term “national races”. However this term is not defined by the Constitution, and is generally interpreted by applying the 1982 Myanmar Citizenship Law, which defines the
135 national races in its 1983 Procedures.
Under the Citizenship Law, nationals of
Myanmar include the “Kachin, Kayah, Karen, Chin, Bamar, Mon, Rakhine or Shan and
ethnic groups as have settled in any of the territories included within the State as their
permanent home from a period anterior to 1185 B.E., 1823 A.D.”
Almost all Rohingya
are denied citizenship under the 1982 Citizenship Law
either because they do not meet
its stringent and discriminatory citizenship requirements, or where they do, because they
lack the documentary evidence required. People of Chinese, Indian or Nepali heritage are
mostly denied full citizenship under this law because they do not automatical
under “national races”....
The Online Burma/Myanmar Library (OBL) is a non-profit online research library mainly in English and Burmese serving academics, activists, diplomats, NGOs, CSOs, CBOs and other Burmese and international actors. It is also, of course, open to the general public.