International Desk: A senior Myanmar official has told Western diplomats that a proposal to review a citizenship law that effectively renders most Rohingya Muslims stateless could not be implemented, five people present at the meeting in Denmark in early June told Reuters.
At a meeting in Copenhagen on Jun 8, Myanmar's Social Welfare Minister Win Myat Aye told a group of diplomats, analysts and members of a commission chaired by former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan that eight of its recommendations - including one that asks authorities to take steps to amend the 1982 law - were problematic in the current political climate and could not be immediately fulfilled, the people present said.
"He made it very clear that citizenship reform was a non-starter," said one of the people at the meeting. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because Myanmar had requested the talks be confidential.
Win Myat Aye and government spokesman Zaw Htay did not answer calls seeking comment.
Amending the law, which largely restricts citizenship to members of what it terms "national races" - the 135 ethnic groups deemed by the state to be indigenous - was a key recommendation of the Annan commission.
Buddhist-majority Myanmar does not recognise the Rohingya as an indigenous ethnic group and refers to them as "Bengalis", a term they reject as it implies they are interlopers from Bangladesh, despite a long history in the country.
The Annan commission was created by Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi in 2016 to find long-term solutions to deep-seated ethnic and religious divisions in Rakhine. A day after the panel issued its report in August 2017, Rohingya insurgents launched attacks on security forces, provoking a military crackdown the UN has called a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing".
The admission by Win Myat Aye, who is overseeing plans for reconstruction in violence-ravaged Rakhine state, casts further doubt on plans to repatriate the roughly 700,000 Rohingya currently sheltering in crowded refugee camps in Bangladesh.
Many Rohingya refugee leaders say they won't return without guarantees of citizenship.
However, Myanmar's National Security Adviser Thaung Tun, who was also at the meeting in Denmark, told Reuters authorities were implementing the Annan commission's recommendations "to the fullest extent possible and as expeditiously as we can".
"Over 80 recommendations have been carried out in less than 10 months," he said in an email.
Referring to the recommendations that had not been implemented, he said they were "also being looked into".
Annan's spokesman referred questions to the Myanmar government.
Refugees have reported killings, burnings, looting and rape by members of the Myanmar security forces and Buddhist vigilantes in Rakhine. Myanmar has rejected accusations of ethnic cleansing, and dismissed most accounts of atrocities.
risingbd/Dhaka/Jun 27, 2018/Nasim