Banal Statelessness in and from Myanmar: A Comparative Study of Non-Rohingya Muslims

Dr Nyi Nyi Kyaw2, Dr Vanessa Lamb3

2ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute, Singapore, Singapore, 3University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia

This paper introduces the concept of ‘banal statelessness’—defined as the statelessness and/or undocumentedness of one or more populations that becomes so banal and unnoticed that it is consequently off radar of academic and policy scholarship—which may result in misunderstanding the broader problem of statelessness in Myanmar and beyond. This banality of statelessness of non-Rohingya Muslims in and from Myanmar is comparatively constructed from the case of ‘hot statelessness’ of the Rohingya—defined as the statelessness and/or undocumentedness of one or more populations that becomes so hot and repeatedly highlighted that it is constantly on the radar of academic and policy research. What we present in this paper, as a complement to the growing work focused on the Rohingya, are the other forms and cases of ‘statelessness’ faced by non-Rohingya Muslims, who are ‘eligible’ for citizenship under the Myanmar Citizenship Law but have been unable to attain identity cards or be recognised as citizens of Myanmar. Through analysis of experiences of statelessness or undocumentedness of non-Rohingya Muslims, the paper combines doctrinal analysis and real-life, outside-court cases, different from usual doctrinal research and court cases employed in statelessness research.


Dr Nyi Nyi Kyaw is a Visiting Fellow with the Myanmar Studies Programme at the ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore. Dr Vanessa Lamb is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Geography at the University of Melbourne. They have common research interests in state-society relations and political geography in Southeast Asia including Myanmar.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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