[JURIST] Myanmar’s legislature, the Assembly of the Union [official website, in Burmese], passed a new law on Monday granting temporary citizens the right to vote in a constitutional referendum later in 2015. The law will enfranchise approximately 1.5 million temporary citizens, known as white card holders because of the temporary ID they are issued. Lawmakers passed the legislation [Irrawaddy report] by a vote of 328-79, with 19 abstentions. Almost 1 million Rohingya Muslims [The Diplomat backgrounder] were stripped of their citizenship when the 1982 Citizenship law [HRW backgrounder] was passed by the former junta, and they are generally viewed as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Critics of the measure argue the new law will undermine national security. The upcoming constitutional referendum may include up to 95 proposed constitutional revisions and it is tentatively scheduled [Global Times report] for May 2015, before a general election in October or November.
Reform [BBC timeline] in Myanmar [JURIST news archive] has happened slowly in the four years since the dissolution [BBC report] of the nation’s military government and transition to a civilian regime in 2011. In November Myanmar’s parliament announced that it will consider amending the country’s 2008 constitution [text] following talks between Myanmar President Thein Sein [BBC profile] and top army officials and opposition leadership. In July a provincial court in Myanmar sentenced four journalists [JURIST report] and the chief executive from the Unity Journal to a 10-year prison sentence and hard labor for publishing a story in January in violation of the national State Secrets Act, a British colonial law dating back to the 1920s. In February of last year Fortify Rights, an independent human rights group based in Southeast Asia, issued a 79-page report claiming evidence the Myanmar government ordered policy discrimination against Rohingya Muslims.