NAYPYIDAW - A Burmese policy limiting Muslim Rohingya families to two children in an effort to curb their population growth is sparking outrage as a brazen discrimination against the minority and a violation of human rights.
"They shouldn't discriminate, Burmese opposition leader and pro-democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi told reporters, Reuters reported.
This is against human rights.
Local officials in two townships, Maungdaw and Bu Thee Daung, in the western Rakhine state have put into force a policy that limit Rohingya families to only two children.
"Under this directive, Bengali men are allowed to have only one wife and each married couple can have two children, a senior immigration official told Reuters, using the term Bengali to refer to Rohingya.
Where there are more than two children, they are considered illegal.
Burma has introduced a policy in 1994 to ban Rohingya Muslims from having more than two children.
The policy, however, has not been enforced until recent weeks following sectarian tension between the Rohingya and the Buddhist majority in Rakhine.
One government policy that is enforced requires that Rohingya get official permission to marry. Their access to education and employment is limited.
A commission appointed to look into last year's violence recommended in an April 29 report that if the government went ahead with the policy, it should "refrain from implementing non-voluntary measures which may be seen as discriminatory or that would be inconsistent with human rights standards".
The immigration official said authorities in Maungdaw District had decided to enforce the directive "following the recommendations in the report".
"As far as I know, there are also plans, according to the recommendations, to encourage Muslim women to go to school and to educate them on the benefits of restricting family size."
Suu Kyi said that the two-child policy was a brazen example of discrimination against Rohingya.
If true, this is against the law, the Nobel laureate said.
It is discriminatory and also violates human rights.
Suu Kyi has been heavily criticized for not speaking up for the Rohingya rights, even after clashes with Rakhine Buddhists last year in which at least 192 people were killed and 140,000 made homeless.
Most of the victims were Muslim Rohingya and many remain in camps they are not allowed to leave.
Rights groups have accused the Burmese security forces of killing, raping and arresting Rohingyas following the violence.
Human Rights Watch also denounced the two-child policy as outrageous and discriminatory.
"This a policy that is clearly discriminatory, HRW deputy director for Asia Phil Robertson said.
It's a policy that has existed for a number of years ... There have been township regulations, limiting births particularly of newlywed couples, and also marriage restrictions
These processes have been highly embarrassing and discriminatory against the Rohingya, he said.
Described by the UN as one of the world's most persecuted minorities, Burma's ethnic-Bengali Muslims, generally known as the Rohingya, are facing a catalogue of discrimination in their homeland.They have been denied citizenship rights since an amendment to the citizenship laws in 1982 and are treated as illegal immigrants in their own home.