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The Plight on the Rohingya

The Plight on the Rohingya

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Published by: Ba Sein on Dec 19, 2011
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19 December 2011
THE PLIGHT ON THE ROHINGYA
By Nurul Islam (U.K)Introduction
The Rohingya are one of the most forgotten, persecuted, voiceless, and underrepresentedpeoples on earth. Their population is estimated to be more than 3 millions. Of them about 1.5millions are in diasporas particularly in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Malaysia,Thailand etc. They are still willing to return to their ancestral homeland of Arakan in Burma.Their settlement in Arakan dates back to latter part of 7
th
century A.D.
Muslim massacre in Arakan
The Second World War had major bearing on the inter-communal relationship between theRohingya Muslims and the Rakhine Buddhists. In April 1942 communal riots flared upbetween the two communities and about 100,000 unarmed innocent Rohingyas weremassacred while some 50,000 were forced to take refuge in Bengal or adjoining British Indianterritory. A British Commander in Arakan Major Anthony Irwin remarked, “The Arakanbefore the war had been occupied over its entire length by both Mussulman and Maugh. Thenin 1941 the two sects set to and fought. The result of this “war” was roughly that the Maughtook over the Southern half of the country and the Mussulman the Northern… it separatedtwo peoples into two distinct areas of influence.”
1
 
British colonial government ignored Rohingya
On 10
th
June 1942 the Rohingya Muslims declared North Arakan as ‘Muslim State’ and‘Peace Committee’ was entrusted for administration of the area
2
(Maungdaw, Buthidaung andRathedaung area). In December 1942 Brigadier C.E. Lucas Phillips of British 14
th
Army cameto Maungdaw….After hard negotiation, the Peace Committee formed by Rohingya Muslimsheaded by Mr. Omra Meah and Mr. Zahir Uddhin Ahmed allowed the British 14
th
Armyreentry through the Naf border town of Maungdaw. As per Public Notice No. 11-OA-CC/42dated 31
st
December 1942, the British Military Administration declared the former MuslimState as “Muslim National Area”….On 1
st
January 1945 Brigadier C.E. Lucas Phillipsbecame the Chief administrator of the area and appointed members of Peace Committee asadministrative officers of the area. This represents a landmark in the history of Burmeseindependence. The British recognized the Rohingya Muslims as a distinct racial group and theBritish officer-in-command promised the Rohingyas to grant autonomy in North Arakan.
3
Butthe fact was manifestly ignored by the outgoing British. Neither their case was recommendedto the British colonial government nor to the Burmese leaders.
Gen. Aung San’s word of honor
In March 1946 “Gen. Aung San came to Akyab and sought the cooperation of the Muslims of Arakan. He met the Muslim leaders at Youngman Society in Thet Kaybin, at Akyab.”
4
Heassured the Muslim Leaders, advocate U Pho Khine, advocate U Yasin, advocate U Khalilur
1
Anthony Irwin, “Burmese Outpost” Collins Clear-type Press: London and Glasgow, 1945, pp 22-23.
2
 
“Historical background of Arakan”, an article by Md. Ashraf Alam in Souvenir, Silver Jubilee Anniversary(1975-2000) Arakan Historical Society, Chittagong, Bangladesh p.44.In History of Maungdaw Township (in Burmese) compiled by Township People’s Council, Maungdaw, 1980,p.65.
3
Ibid. pp.44-45.
4
U Maung Tin, “Suggestion to Rohingya Consultation Forum”, Bangkok, Thailand, 2-3 August 2006, p.2
 
 2
Rahman and U Sultan Mahmood (Ex. Health Minister), of the full national rights in postindependence Burma.
5
Gen. Aung San also assured Muslim leaders saying “We wantMuslims to work together with us. I give (offer) you a blank cheque. We will live togetherand die together. Demand what you want. I will do my best to fulfill them. If native peopleare divided, it will be difficult to achieve independence for Burma”.
6
 It was unfortunate that Gen. Aung San and some of his colleagues were assassinated on 19July 1947. It is sad to say that “on the very day of Bokyoke Aung San’s martyrdom, he had aspecial appointment with Muslim M.L.Cs. from Northern Arakan, Mr. Sultan Ahmed of Maungdaw and Mr. Abdul Gaffar of Buthidaung, in connection with the nationality andpolitical status of Muslims or Rohingyas of Arakan. He (Bokyoke) had also assigned Mr.Sultan Mahmood and U Aung Zan Wai, to go Maungdaw and Buthidaung, so as to organizethe public there for Pa-Sa-Pha-La Anti Fascist People’s Federation League (AFPFL).
7
 The Rohingya people still believe that their full rights and freedoms would be guaranteed andundying if the father of the nation Aung San were alive. The Rohingyas in the rural areas stillsing with lamentation,
“If Aung San were alive the golden Burma would be in peace and the Rohingya would not be wretched but blissful.”
 
Burma Territorial Force’s carnage (1948-49)
Throughout the independence struggle and in post independence period, the Rakhine leaderstried their utmost to harm the Rohingyas and to influence the Burmese national leaders intoexcluding them from country’s politics. Since independence on 4 January 1948, theRohingyas had been alienated. To the great grief of them, a Burma Territorial Force wasformed in 1948 with hostile Rakhine youths. Under the pretext of looking for rebels, theytook the law in their own hands, burnt down number Rohingya villages, arrested, inhumanlytortured and killed or gunned down hundreds of Rohingya villagers. The Rohingya leadersstrongly protested this carnage inside and outside parliament.
Parliamentary government and ‘divide and rule’ in Arakan
However, during the parliamentary rule (1948-1962), the Rohingya, by and large, enjoyedfundamental rights and freedom to some extent, although serious discrimination existedagainst them. Despite that the Rohingya were recognized as one of the many ethnicnationalities of the Union of Burma.It is grossly offensive to decency and morality that the two sister communities of MuslimRohingya and Buddhist Rakhine have been at loggerheads under ‘divide and rule policy’ of the government and due in part to the ‘policy of exclusion’ of the xenophobic Rakhinepoliticians and academics imbued with illusory perception that Arakan and Buddhism aresynonymous and the Rohingya or Muslims are outsiders. Today this campaign has becomemore vigorous under the patronage of the administration.
Burma Citizenship Law of 1982
The civilianized military government of U Thein Sein continues to reject Rohingya. In 1982,Ne Win redefined the citizenship through enactment of a notorious Burma Citizenship Lawand the Rohingya are now legally considered illegal aliens in the country. This law violates
5
Towards Understanding Arakan History, p.99
6
Prof. Dr. Aung Zaw, “
Tineyin MuslimsSapyusasu
 
Poggu-kyawmya-2”
(Indigenous gazetted Muslim elite-2), (inBurmese), 2009, p.188.In Autobiography written by advocate U Pho Khine, Akyab.
7
Towards Understanding Arakan History, p.99.
 
 3
several fundamental principles of customary international law standards and has effectivelyreduced the Rohingya to a position of 
statelessness.
It is an oppressive law injurious todemocracy and human rights. Shockingly, the Rakhine academic Dr. Aye Kyaw wasinstrumental to framing this discriminatory racist law under infamous Ne Win. Citizenship isthe social and legal link between individuals and their democratic political community.
Statistical genocide and communal strife
The regime is making statistical genocide in an effort to make Rohingya people look few,small and insignificant as a part of an evil design to deny them of their rights and prepare theminds of the people of the world for appalling consequence of slow-burning genocide. Theregime launches frequent drive operations and makes forced relocation to sweep off theRohingya inhabitants. The authorities in connivance with the state patronized non-state actorsstir up occasional communal strife in Arakan and other parts of Burma resulting in the heavyloss of Muslims’ lives and properties. From 1983 the townships of Gwa, Ponnagunt andTaung-gut in southern Arakan have been turned into a ‘Muslim free zone’.
‘Rakhine State’ is attributed to the Buddhist Rakhine only
Under his Burma Socialist Programme Party (BSPP) regime’s socialistic constitution formerDictator Ne Win had granted statehood of Arakan in 1974 changing its name to “RakhineState” to attribute it only to the Rakhine or the Buddhist community of Arakan, at theexclusion of the Muslim Rohingya. The uncompromising Rakhines had manned anddominated the ‘Rakhine State Council’, which ruthlessly strived to implement Ne Win’sTwenty Year Plan (a secret plan) to exterminate the Muslims from Arakan.‘Arakan’ is the name of the place or country, not the name of its people. But in recent yearsthe Rakhines are using “Arakan” as their racial name (despite their official name ‘Rakhine’)with intent to deny the existence of Rohingya in Arakan.
Settler villages and demographic changes
Planned increase in Buddhist settler villages built on the Rohingya lands dotting pagodas inevery nock and corner of the Rohingya homeland has caused serious demographic changes. Ithas systematically exterminated the Rohingya population. Vast tracks of their lands wereconfiscated and allotted to the Buddhist settlers invited from inside the country andBangladesh. Some of them are drug addicts, ex-convicts and stray people and are hostile tothe Rohingya villagers. They go on rampages through the surrounding Rohingya villages andcommitted loot, robbery, extortion, kidnapping and theft of cattle and movable propertiesunder the patronage of the administration. These have forced the Rohingyas to becomeincreasingly landless, internally displaced and to eventually starve them out to cross theborder into Bangladesh.
Restrictions on the freedom of movement
The Rohingyas are banned from traveling from place to place, even within the same locality,without a pass. They cannot visit their friends and relatives, buy food from markets, visithospitals and doctors, attend the funeral of their loved ones, send their children to schools,and work on their farmland outside their locality. Without paying a bribe travel permission isnot issued. These restrictions on their freedom of movement and residence within the bordersof the country have coerced many Rohingya families to live away from each other. EvenMembers of the Parliament and servicemen are not spared from this humiliation. On 29 July2005, U Kyaw Min (alias) Shamsul Anwarul Haque, who is a Rohingya M.P. was sentencedto 47 years in jail, under Emergency Provision Act and Nationality Law. His wife and threechildren were also sentenced to 17 years each for traveling and residing in Rangoon.

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