The main focus of arguments over the amendment bill, which was approved by the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (Assembly of the Union) on June 7, is the right to adopt a child officially. The amended bill has been forwarded to the president to sign.
The Union Solitarily and Development Party (USDP) and nationalists say it will pave the way to adopt Muslim children in northern Rakhine State. They said they oppose it because if approved, it would open the door to other nationals becoming Myanmar citizens.
A coalition of 26 political parties led by the USDP issued a statement on June 16 that said the assembly’s approval abides by the recommendations made by Kofi Annan’s Rakhine State Advisory Commission.
The coalition said section 33(b), which the assembly approved, states that, “An adopted child shall get rights that they can inherit from adoptive parents in line with the law regarding adoptive parents or traditional law as other children of their adoptive parents.”
“If the adopted child is not a Myanmar citizen, if the child is a foreigner, will he or she own land because of an inheritance? Some say that child registration and citizenship is separate. I don’t accept that,” said USDP spokesperson Daw Yin Min Myint Swe. According to the bill, adopted children can have inheritance rights like blood-related children and can get other rights as well, she said.
The USDP protested against the bill at a rally attended by 300 people at a football pitch in Shwe Nan Thar ward, Nay Pyi Taw, on Saturday. Another protest by nationalists was held in Yangon on Friday.
National registration isn’t concerned with citizenship, said U Myat Nyarna Soe, secretary of the Amyotha Hluttaw (Upper House) Bill Committee. The law’s aim is just to protect children from labour exploitation, sexual, physical, educational, and health issues and to provide them with medical care and an education, he said.
Daw Sein Sein Shwe Latt, MP in Bago Region’s Upper House, responded to criticism of the bill by saying, “They have not read the law carefully but are using it for political gain.”
“They are trying to mislead the people with citizen rights. They are misleading the public by saying that child registration can automatically grant citizenship,” she said.
The law aims to help every child enjoy their rights fully, U Thein Swe, Myanmar minister of Labour, Immigration and Population, told reporters at a workshop on the 2019 interim census in Nay Pyi Taw on Tuesday. He said there is no need to worry because the right to citizenship will be decided by the citizenship law.
“The enactment of the law aims to provide full rights for children in line with international criteria. The right to citizenship will be verified by the citizenship law. It can’t be dangerous for the country, if we do it according to the law,” U Thein Swe said.
Myanmar has ratified the United Nations Convention on Rights of the Child, which includes four core principles – non-discrimination; devotion to the best interests of the child; the right to life, survival and development; and respect for the view of the child.
The criticism is groundless and a form of political attack on the National League for Democracy-led government, said Daw Aye Mya Mya Myo, Pyithu Hluttaw (Lower House) MP for Kyauktan township, Yangon.
Four conditions are specified for adoption of children without a parent or guardian, and the adoption application will have to be submitted to the township chief officer under the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, she said.
“The fact is that, at teashops and restaurants all over Myanmar, people are having their breakfasts served by children workers. In ethnic regions, children are losing their rights due to continuing conflicts, poverty, and low employment rates,” Daw Aye Mya Mya Myo said.
The criticism and allegations will be soon be dealt with, said U Win Myat Aye, Myanmar minister for Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement. Regarding the law, a discussion will be held with relevant organisations and agencies, he said.
The comments and confirmation of the president will be carried out according to legislative procedures at the parliamentary session on July 15, U Win Myat Aye said, but there will be no major changes in the law. Only the use of words will be modified.
“Further changes will be made at the parliamentary session before it is signed by the president,” said U Win Myat Aye.