Washington, DC – The international community has so far failed to force Myanmar to accept its responsibilities to minority groups. In its latest field report, Myanmar: Act Immediately to Protect Displaced People’s Rights, Refugees International (RI) urges donor countries to change their approach by including humanitarian and human rights issues in any bilateral negotiations with Myanmar, and also seeking concrete steps toward better treatment of the Rohingya and Kachin populations.

“Myanmar cannot execute sustainable and inclusive reforms while it is driving stateless Rohingyas into ghettos and blocking aid to displaced Kachins,” said RI President Michel Gabaudan. “These policies are both abusive and counterproductive, and Western donors cannot just accept them as the cost of doing business. Consistent and coordinated pressure has helped Myanmar to change course in the past, and it can do so again.”

It is vital that Myanmar be pressed to allow humanitarian access all parts of Rakhine and Kachin States, lift movement restrictions that are leading to the segregation of Rohingyas, end impunity and prosecute individuals who have committed human rights abuses, and present a clear plan for ending the movement restrictions in Rakhine State, developing Rakhine State in a way that benefits all of its residents, and allowing stateless people to access citizenship.

RI’s research in Rakhine and Kachin States also uncovered significant concerns about Myanmar’s census, which begins on March 29. Many displaced people are still unaware of the census or confused about its purpose. Unclear guidance, a lack of trained enumerators, and widespread mistrust among local communities could lead to significant problems in Rakhine State, where many Rakhine Buddhist leaders object to any use of the term “Rohingya” in the census. And if an agreement between the government and rebels is not reached in Kachin State, tens of thousands of people may not be counted at all.

“The risk of tensions during the census is very high,” said RI Senior Advocate Melanie Teff. “The census has raised the hopes of many Rohingyas that they will be allowed to claim their own identity. But there is reason to fear that this may not happen and that the census could cause further insecurity. At the very least, a ‘crisis cell’ should be created to respond to any unrest caused by the census or major violations of census rules. The main donors to the census and the United Nations should form the cell and bring in key ministries of the Myanmar government.”

Click here to view the full report as a pdf.