Two-child limit imposed on some Muslims in western Burma

Khin Maung Win/AP - A man walks in a site where a building once stood before sectarian violence between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Muslim Rohingya in western Myanmar which started last year, in Meikhtila, central Myanmar, Tuesday, May 21, 2013.

RANGOON, Burma — Authorities in Burma’s western state of Rakhine have imposed a two-child limit for Muslim Rohingya families, a policy that does not apply to Buddhists in the area and comes amid accusations of ethnic cleansing in the aftermath of sectarian violence.

Local officials said Saturday that the new measure would be applied to two Rakhine townships that border Bangladesh and have the highest Muslim populations in the state. The townships, Buthidaung and Maundaw, are about 95 percent Muslim.

Contrails from jet planes passing overhead intersect the National Museum of Art in Washington, Thursday morning, April 17, 2014. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Contrails from jet planes passing overhead intersect the National Museum of Art in Washington, D.C.

Photos of the day

Scenes from Holy Week events, South Korean ferry search efforts, macaw conservation and more.

More world coverage

Palestinian Christians kept from holy site, U.N. envoy says

Israeli police say the annual Saturday of Light event in Jerusalem’s Old City proceeded “respectfully.”

Divers unable to reach bodies in sunken S. Korean ferry

Divers unable to reach bodies in sunken S. Korean ferry

The sightings were the first in a rescue operation that has been unable to get inside the craft.

In Afghanistan, losing candidates could decide president

In Afghanistan, losing candidates could decide president

As the votes are counted, two front-runners seek support from six candidates viewed as likely to lose.

The unusual order makes Burma perhaps the only country in the world to impose such a restriction on a religious group and is likely to fuel further criticism that Muslims are being discriminated against in the Buddhist-majority country.

China has a one-child policy, but it is not based on religion and exceptions apply to minority ethnic groups. India briefly practiced forced sterilization of men in a bid to control the population in the mid-1970s when civil liberties were suspended during a period of emergency rule, but a nationwide outcry quickly shut down the program.

Rakhine state spokesman Win Myaing said the new program was meant to stem rapid population growth in the Muslim community, which a government-appointed commission identified as one of the causes of the sectarian violence. Although Muslims are the majority in the two townships in which the new policy applies, they account for only about 4 percent of Burma’s roughly 60 million people.

The measure was enacted a week ago after the commission recommended family planning programs to stem population growth among Muslims, Win Myaing said. The commission also recommended doubling the number of security forces in the volatile region.

Sectarian violence in Burma first flared nearly a year ago in Rakhine state between the region’s Rakhine Buddhists and Muslim Rohingya. Mobs of Buddhists armed with machetes razed thousands of Muslim homes, leaving hundreds of people dead and forcing 125,000 to flee, mostly Muslims. Witnesses and human rights groups say riot police stood by as crowds attacked Muslims and burned their villages.

The central government has not made any statement about the two-child policy, which was introduced at a local level. Calls seeking comment Saturday from two government spokesmen were not immediately returned, but Rakhine state official Myo Than said that all local policies require “consent from the central government.”

 
Read what others are saying