YANGON, Myanmar – Authorities in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state have introduced a two-child limit for Muslim Rohingya families in an effort to ease tensions with the Rohingya’s Buddhist neighbors after a spate of deadly sectarian violence, an official said Saturday.
T Officials said the new measure – part of a policy that will also ban polygamy – will 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.
The measure was enacted a week ago after a government-appointed commission investigating the violence issued proposals to ease tensions, which included family planning programs to stem population growth among minority Muslims, said Rakhine state spokesman Win Myaing. The commission also recommended doubling security forces in the region.
The population growth of Rohingya Muslims is 10 times higher than that of the Rakhine (Buddhists), Win Myaing said.
Sectarian violence in Myanmar 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.
Since the violence, religious unrest has morphed into a campaign against the country’s Muslim communities in other regions.
Containing the strife has posed a serious challenge to President Thein Sein’s reformist government as it attempts to institute political and economic liberalization after nearly half a century of harsh military rule. It has also tarnished the image of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been criticized for failing to speak out strongly in defense of the country’s embattled Muslim community.
Win Myaing said authorities had not yet determined how the measures will be enforced, but the two-child policy will be mandatory in Buthidaung and Maundaw.
Muslims account for about 4 percent of Myanmar’s roughly 60 million people.