U.S. English Foundation Research



Language Research

3. Language issues: Where does one observe language to be a problem in the country?

Ethnic minorities make up about a third of Myanmar’s population and live mainly in the mountainous regions bordering Bangladesh, China, India, Laos and Thailand. They have suffered persistent and gross human rights violations perpetrated by the Burmese army (the Tatmadaw) during its attempts to unify the multi-ethnic country by force.

Many thousands of people have been targeted simply because of their ethnic origin. The Rohingyas, Burmese Muslims who live in the northern state of Rakhine (Arakan), are not acknowledged as Burmese by the government, which has said on several occasions that there are “135 national races” in Myanmar and “this does not include the Rohingyas”. Under the provisions of the 1982 Citizenship Law most Rohingyas are denied full citizenship. The law provides for three types of citizens depending on how many generations have lived in Myanmar. As a result, the Rohingyas do not enjoy many basic rights, such as freedom of movement within the country.

Waves of refugees poured out of the country in two directions: eastwards, Karen, Mon, (110,000) Shan, Akha to Thailand and westwards, the Rohingya (250,000) to Bangladesh and the Chin to India.