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Monday, December 3, 2012

Myanmar verifying Muslim citizenship


Guarded by rifle-toting police, immigration authorities in western Myanmar have launched a major operation aimed at settling an explosive question at the heart of the biggest crisis the government has faced since beginning its nascent transition to democracy last year.

It's a question that has helped fuel two bloody spasms of sectarian unrest between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims since June, and it comes down to one simple thing: Who has the right to be a citizen of Myanmar, and who does not? A team of Associated Press journalists that traveled recently to the remote island village of Sin Thet Maw, a maze of bamboo huts without electricity in Myanmar's volatile west, found government immigration officials in the midst of a painstaking, census-like operation aimed at verifying the citizenship of Muslims living there, one family at a time.

Armed with pens, stacks of paper and hand-drawn maps, they worked around low wooden tables that sat in the dirt, collecting information about birth dates and places, parents and grandparents – vital details of life and death spanning three generations.

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