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Sittwe: Ethnic Kaman living in Arakan State have been unable to travel freely despite the new government led by President Thein Sein coming into power in accordance with the new constitution, said U Thein Shwe, a Kaman leader in Minbya Township in Arakan.

He said, "Kaman is an ethnic nationality among the 135 ethnic nationalities of Burma, but we have not been able to travel freely in Burma like other ethnic nationalities because we are Muslim. There is discrimination against the Muslim community in Burma. Because of this, we can not travel with national ID cards, and we have to travel with Form No. 4 even though we have genuine national ID cards."

The No. 4 traveling form is for those people who do not have national identity cards or are not citizens of Burma. The form must be submitted to high officials step-by-step from the township authority to the state authority in order to get permission to travel.

"If we Kaman want to travel to other parts of Burma from Rakhine State, we have to submit the No. 4 traveling form to the township immigration along with village authority testimonials. The township immigration department submits the form again to the Arakan State immigration department. After the immigration department issues permission with the No. 4 form, we can travel wherever we need in Burma. We have to wait at least one or two months to get travel documents from the authority," he explained.

Since the Kaman are an ethnic nationality of Burma, the government issues them with national identity cards the same as the other ethnic groups, but they have deprived them of the freedom to travel since the military came to power in 1988.

"We had the right to travel freely around Burma even in General Ne Win's period. The freedom was taken when the military government came to power. Since then, our people have not been able to travel freely without the authorities' permission," he added.

The new government came to power with the constitution drafted in 2008. The Kaman people hoped that the authority would provide freedom of travel for them the same as other nationalities in Burma.

"In the past during the military government period, there was no constitution in Burma. So the military government ruled Burma with verbal orders however they liked. Now the new government comes into power with a constitution. In the new constitution of Burma, all citizens of Burma should enjoy equal rights, but the reality is different. We have not received the right to travel like other nationalities," U Thein Shwe said.

The Kaman community in Arakan State has submitted appeal letters to high government officials including President Thein Sein to remove the travel restriction imposed on them, but there has not been any response from the high authority.

U Zaw Win, president of the Kaman National Progressive Party, said, "Our party is a legal political organization despite having lost in the last election. We have a duty to carry out our people's interest. So, we have submitted an appeal letter to the current government to reconsider the travel restrictions on our people."

"Now the government is elected with the 2008 constitution and has a duty to rule Burma in accordance with the constitution. Even though we are an ethnic nationality of Burma, we are restricted by authorities in travel. We want equal rights like other nationalities in Burma. So we appeal to the government to remove the unnecessary travel restrictions imposed on our people," he added.

The authority has restricted not only Kamans from travel, but also other national identity cardholders who are Muslim and living in the Districts of Thandwe, Kyauk Pru, and Sittwe in Arakan State for many decades.

Many Muslims in Arakan State are disappointed with the new U Thein Sein government because it is not ruling Burma in accordance with the new constitution that was drafted by the current power-holders when they were part of the military junta.
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