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More than 300,000 white cards returned: government

(Photo: Irrawaddy)

By Lun Min Mang
April 29, 2015

Rakhine State immigration officers have collected more than 300,000 white cards in the past four weeks, state immigration department director U Khin Soe told The Myanmar Times yesterday.

He said that figure represented half of all of the white-card holders in Rakhine.

In February, the President’s Office announced that the cards, which have been distributed to temporary citizens, would be invalid from March 31. Holders have been given until May 31 to return them. The decision followed protests prompted by parliament’s decision to allow white-card holders to vote in a planned referendum.

More than 83 percent of white-card holders live in Rakhine State, and most are held by Muslims who identify as Rohingya.

The handback began slowly, but has gathered speed since, said immigration director U Khin Soe.

“As of today, we have received 300,432 white cards, nearly half the 660,000 issued in Rakhine State. We believe we can recover them all by the end of May,” U Khin Soe said yesterday.

“In some camps, they are still afraid of surrendering their cards. But as soon as they clearly understand that the current white cards are useless, I am sure they will give them up,” he added.

In collecting the cards, the authorities check the number against ministry records.

“If the card numbers don’t match our records, we will not take them. Otherwise, we will accept all cards even if the photo is unclear or the card is torn,” U Khin Soe said.

Collection began across the country on April 1.

It is not yet clear what document, if any, will eventually be given to the former white-card holders. The issue may again become contentious in the context of the referendum to be held on amendments to the constitution, as well as the November election.

According to the ministry, there are 797,504 white-card holders around the country. Only Kayah State and western Bago Region have no white-card holders.

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