Background of Rohingya ProblemKyaw Zan Tha, MA12/28/2008
Early Muslims in the Kingdom of Rakhaing (Arakan)
The territory, controlled by the Mrauk-U dynasty (1433-1785), the last dynasty in Rakhaing(Arakanese) history, stretched from Chittagong in the North to Thanlyin (Syriam) in the Southuntil it lost the whole of Chittagong down to the River Naaf (Nat River) to Mughal in 1666.1Some Chittagonian Muslims however remained settled in the Kingdom of Rakhaing (Arakan).These were the earliest Muslim settlers in the Kingdom of Rakhaing and known as the Kamans.
Muslim Immigration during Colonial period
During the colonial period Chittagonian Muslims or Bengalis came to the land of Rakhaingfreely to get employed in the developing cultivation there, which was part of the then Britisheconomic policy. In Sittwe (Akyab), for instance, from a few hundred inhabitants the populationhad steadily increased and even within the last decade of the 19th century the growth had beencontinuous as the census figures plainly show:
18721,92318813,39818913,7,9319019,114 No importance is to be attached to the slight falling-off shown at the last census, which isattributable to an unwanted paucity of coolies from outside at the close of the busy season inApril or May. The population is mixed one, Rakhaing of whom there are 11,531 predominatingover any other race in terms of numbers. Bamars (Burmese), Chinese, and natives of India,mainly Bengalis from the Chittagong coast, total 18,328.2According to a Health Ministry's report for the year 1930-31, about 40,000 Bengali coolies cameinto the land of Rakhaing and some of them did not return to their homes. The British authorities, being aware of the potential problems between the Rakhaing and the Bengali Muslims, formed aspecial Investigation Commission in 1939 to study the issue of Muslim immigration into land of Rakhaing with Commissioner (Mr. James Ester) as Chairman and U Tin Htut and Yangon(Rangoon) University Professor Desai as members.The Commission showed its concern and suggested to restrict the immigration of Bengalis to theextent necessary for cultivation. Their suggestion however did not materialize due to theoutbreak of the Second World War.
WARTIME RAKHAING- INDIAN RIOT
When the British retreated from Burma during the war they were said to have left some of their weapons behind with the Indians. Some Burmese nationalists considered this as an act of Britishdivide and rule policy. The armed Indians, mostly hosts and thus riots began.