Burma Citizenship Act, The

The Burma Citizenship Act of 1982 granted citizenship to individuals residing in Burma who could trace their family residency to prior to 1823, that is, the year of the first British military campaign on Myanmar and with it, a wave of immigration from India and China. The law was deeply problematic, as for many families of various ethnic groups, transnational ties were common and there was rarely documentation to prove whether a person had deep roots in Myanmar.

The law was part of a series of actions taken by the nationalist Burmese government meant to shore up Burmese ethnic power. The law created three categories of citizenship: the first category applied to ethnic Burmans and members of the Kachin, Kayah, Karen, Mon, Arakan Buddhists, Shan, and any other ethnic group present in Myanmar prior to 1823 (though they did not include Rohingya Muslims, rendering them stateless), granted them full citizenship.

The second category granted partial “associate” citizenship to the children of mixed marriages where one parents fell into the first category, as well as to individuals who had lived in Myanmar for five consecutive years, or to individuals who lived in Myanmar for eight out of the ten years prior to independence. Associate citizens could earn an income, but could not serve in political office. The third category applied to the offspring of immigrants who arrived in Myanmar during the period of British colonial rule.


Moshe Yegar, Between Integration and Secession (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2002).