Dear honorable Editor, You are earnestly requested to publish this article from humanitarian ground,Thanks and waiting a responsive reply. Best regards Nurul Islam
Rohingyas: caught in a crisis of existence
November 9, 2014
If the existing situation of the Rohingyas in Burma continues, one day all the Rohingyas will be exterminated from their ancestral land of Arakan, Burma and in no time, the entire Rohingya population will disappear from the horizon, writes Nurul Islam
Myanmar ethnic Rohingya Muslims living in Japan stage a rally outside the Myanmar embassy in Tokyo on Tuesday. — AFP photo The Rohingyas are not originally from Bangladesh. They are children of the first settlers of Arakan, which is part of Burma (Myanmar). Their ancestors lived in Arakan since time immemorial. Many writers claim their ethnic origin to be from Arab traders who settled in Bengal and Arakan in 785–957AD. They claim that the Rohingya ethnic ancestry is a mixture of those Arab traders and local people and the language is similar to the dialect of Chittagong with a slight variation because during this period, Arab traders began to settle both in Arakan and Chittagong. Intermixing with the local population led to the first Chandra-Rohingyas of Arakan. During this time, in both Arakan and Chittagong, the influence of Sanskrit, Pali, Arabic, Persian, and Portuguese together eventually formed the Chandra-Rohingya dialect, which is similar to the Chittagonian. In spite of the extermination campaign against the Arakanese Muslims when the British occupied the territory in 1824, 30 per cent of the population was Muslim, who are now known as Rohingya. After Burma was declared an independent state by the British administration in 1948, the territory of Arakan, with a sizeable population, was, sadly, let to remain as part of Burma. The British governance planted the seed of today’s trouble for the Rohingya people who had collaborated with the regime during World War II against the Japanese and were abandoned when the country was declared independent. During the war, the Buddhist majority Rakhines of Arakan collaborated with the Japanese army, embittering the relationship between the two major groups — the Rohingyas and the Rakhines. The Rohingyas are one of the most persecuted people on our planet because of their religion — Islam — and ethnicity, which is similar to many in South Asia. The world community needs to advocate for and restore their integration as citizens of Myanmar on an equal footing. Recently, the government of Myanmar put forward a new Rohingya plan to the United Nations by way of which the oppressed minority, the Rohingyas, will be left with two options. The first is to take Bangladeshi citizenship, securing a right of citizenship, and then under the law of 1982, they can later take Myanmar citizenship. The second option is for the Rohingyas declining to do so and be held in camps under frightful conditions. At first sight, the first option might be regarded as the Myanmar government’s making citizenship available for Rohingya Muslims. However, according to activists, this seems to be a plan to expel the Rohingya Muslims from the country entirely. Rohingya Muslims taking Bangladeshi citizenship would then be regarded as foreigners in their own land. In order to be regarded as citizens again, they will need documents to prove their ancestry. Most of the Rohingya people who live in camps have, however, no documents referring to their past, or they may have lost such documents in the uprising of 2012. The passage to citizenship will, therefore, be impossible. The Myanmar government would shortly thereafter send these people to camps, on the basis that they are ‘foreign,’ or expel them from the country entirely. Those people who take Bangladeshi citizenship would also not be recognised by Bangladesh because they were not born in that country. At the end of the day, this law is actually not binding at all on Bangladesh. Meanwhile, the Rohingyas who refuse to take Bangladeshi citizenship would be taken from the towns and villages where they live and would be detained in refugee camps. Under the plan, these people will be swiftly expelled from the country, and the Myanmar government may apply to the United Nations to send these people overseas as refugees. The problem is that the United Nations does not recognise these oppressed people as refugees. Under the plan in question, one million Rohingyas will face that terrible end. A new UN draft resolution calls on the country to abandon plans to force Rohingya Muslims to identify themselves as ‘Bengali,’ a term used to brand them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. The resolution also urges Myanmar to grant the largely stateless Rohingyas ‘access to full citizenship.’ ‘Almost every General Assembly resolution on Burma in the past decade has called for action on the Rohingya and the Burmese government has not only ignored these calls but stepped up repression,’ Mark Farmer, director of rights group Burma Campaign UK, said. The United Nations has previously described the Rohingya as one of the world’s most persecuted minorities. They face severe restrictions on the freedom of movement and they live in fear of arbitrary arrests and violence in the predominantly Buddhist country. Around 1,40,000 are confined by armed guards and checkpoints to squalid camps on the outskirts of the Sittwe, the capital of the north-western Rakhine state, after mob attacks on their villages in 2012 forced them to flee their homes. Since then, more than 1,00,000 have fled Myanmar on overcrowded, rickety boats. The Rohingyas have ironically seen their lot worsen under president Thein Sein’s government, as new freedom emboldened Buddhist extremists. The government wants to register Myanmar’s roughly one million Rohingyas as part of an ‘action plan,’ and says that those who register as Bengalis will have the chance of obtaining citizenship. Those who refuse will face possible detainment and deportation. The UN resolution, drafted by the European Union, urges the government to ‘allow self-identification’ for the Rohingyas and to allow them ‘freedom of movement and equal access to full citizenship.’ After a visit to Rakhine, the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights, Yanghee Lee, during a press conference at Yangon International Airport on July 26 stated that she was ‘repeatedly told not to use the term “Rohingya” as this was not recognised by the government.’ But she countered that ‘the rights of minorities to self-identify is related to the obligations of states to ensure non-discrimination against individuals and groups. The resolution is now before the General Assembly. Even though it is non-binding, it is hoped that it will add to pressure on Myanmar’s government before a visit of the US president Barack Obama to Myanmar for a regional summit to be held by mid-November. If the existing situation of the Rohingyas in Burma continues, one day all the Rohingyas will be exterminated from their ancestral land of Arakan, Burma and in no time, the entire Rohingya population will disappear from the horizon. To salvage this rootless population from being from exterminate, the world community should pressure Myanmar to drop its non-transparent and illogical ‘Rohingya Identification Plan’.