The ever largest Refugee Exodus Awaits as Myanmar drafted Rohingya plan” Accept the term Bengali or be detained”
By Nurul Islam
Rohingyas have lived in Arakan for generations and are part of a small minority in the predominately Buddhist Burma. Many writers claim their ethnic origin on Arab traders who have settled in Bengal and Arakan 785-957 AD. They claim that Rohingya ethnic ancestry is a mixture of those Arab traders and local population and the language is similar to Chittagonian dialect with a slight variation. For example, Dr Abid Bahar on his note:www.netipr.org/policy/download/20100101_timeline-of-rohingya-history.pdf “785-957 Arab traders began to settle both in Arakan and Chittagong of present Bangladesh. Inter mixture 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, Persi, Portuguese combined together eventually formed the Chandra-Rohingya dialect which is similar to the Chittagonian dialect with their slight variations.”However, there are specific attempts by Rohingya writers of past and present to broaden above ethnic identity definition to include Karmans,Heins-slaves and, even to a point that, any historic ethnic identity which may be of Islamic Faith and that known to have resided in Arakan are of being the “Rohingya” (see NDPHR report quoted below; )The Rohingya campaigners have been putting forward the claim that the Bengali-Muslim migrants entered Arakan after 1824 are indeed that of the refugees returning their home land who in earlier periods had fled to Chittagong area from violent and oppressive Burmese rules. For example,NDPHR’s paper (pp.23):www.netipr.org/policy/downloads/19890101_Short-History-Of-Arakan-NDPHR.pdf “. After British conquest of Arakan, there were 60,000 Arakanese and 30,000 Muslims. The ratios of Arakanese vs. Muslim is 2 to 1. The Muslim population (ratio) was small because there were those who fled to Bengal and Central Burma because of the ightings.(my translation)”Dr. Habib Siddiqui also quoted the same figure in his report (pp 13):www.netipr.org/policy/downloads/20111029_analysis-of-demography-inaraka….”… soon after the annexation of Arakan by the East India Company in 1826, Mr. Paton, prepared report… the total population of Arakan did not exceed 100,000 of which 60,000 were Maghs (Arakanese Buddhists) and 30,000 (Rohingya) Muslims.” “It is totally misleading and ill-motivated to allege that bulk of the Muslims entered Arakan during British era. The fact is that many Muslim families, who had earlier been driven out by the Burmans, have returned to their homes in Arakan when peace prevailed there as explained by Phayre.” Rohingya campaigners are, in fact, also denying that majority of Rohingya/Bengali are migrants. Despite evidences from various British censuses, they keep insisting no large scale settlement of Bengali- Muslims into Arakan. For example, on a note by U Kyaw Min:www.netipr.org/policy/downloads/20120809_who-is-rohingya-by-u-kyawmin.Pdf “Para 15. Those Muslims who living in Arakan are not illegal immigrants from India(Bangladesh). Unlike those Indian(Bangladeshi) who go to Burma proper, who usually are traders and civil-servants, those who entered Arakan are seasonal workers. Because their native land is so close, they usually return home at the end of working season. It might be called as floating population.”
Since 1960s the ethnic minority Rohingya community has been encountering state-sponsored discrimination and persecution across Myanmar. Again, since 2012, Rohingya people had fallen into destitution as the quasi-military regime headed by President Thien Sein governs the state through political trick. To maneuver the militarism, President Thien Sein plotted to make tense situation through religious violence or racial clashes or communal violence or racial clashes or communal violence in fact known as theocracy. Uncountable Rohingya people were massacred, minor aged and elder women were molested, homes and religious buildings were razed to the ground, numerous were missed and more than 140,000 were kept in concentrated and squalid camps where the internally displaced people face unprecedented difficulties for daily existence.
Every UN delegation expressed that the situation inside camp is appalling after observing the camps in Arakan state. It is a great devastation today that international community turned a blind eye to such ongoing crimes against Rohingya in Myanmar and other ethnic minorities of ruling Myanmar quasi-military regime. Ahead of US Secretary of State John Kerry arrival in Myanmar, from one IDP camp known as Thandawlee camp, a Rohingya was killed on 6th August 2014 and two were injured and some were arrested including women.
“We are trapped,” Khin Maung Win said last week. He said authorities started setting up police checkpoints outside his village, Kyee Kan Pyin, in mid-September, preventing people from leaving even to shop for food in local markets, work in surrounding paddies or take children to school.Authorities sealed off villages in Burma’s only Muslim-majority region and in some cases beat and arrested people who refused to register with immigration officials, residents and activists say, in what may be the most aggressive effort yet to force Rohingya to indicate they are illegal migrants from neighboring Bangladesh.Almost all Rohingya were excluded from a UN-funded nationwide census earlier this year, the first in three decades, because they did not want to register as Bengalis. And Thein Sein is considering a “Rakhine [Arakan] Action Plan” that would make people who identify themselves as Rohingya not only ineligible for citizenship but candidates for detainment and possible deportation. Chris Lewa of the Arakan Project, which has been advocating on behalf of the Rohingya for more than a decade, said residents reported incidents of violence and abuse in at least 30 village tracts from June to late September. While the weeks-long blockades have since been lifted, arrests continue, with dozens of Rohingya men being rounded up for alleged ties to Islamic militants in the last week.
Tensions surrounding the family registration campaign in northern Arakan State rose steadily after it began four months ago, with most of the resistance felt in Maungdaw Township. Many villages were placed under lockdown, with police checkpoints set up to make sure only those who have cooperated could leave, more than a dozen residents confirmed in telephone interviews with The Associated Press.In other villages, the names of influential residents were posted on community boards with verbal warnings that they face up to two years in jail if they fail to convince others to take part in the registration process, Lewa said. Other Rohingya say officials forced them to sign the papers at gunpoint, or threatened that they would end up in camps like those outside Sittwe if they didn’t comply, she said. In some cases residents say authorities have shown up after midnight and broken down doors to catch residents by surprise and pressure them to hand over family lists. Denied citizenship by national law, even though most of their families have been living in Arakan from the time immemorial , members of the religious minority are effectively stateless, wanted by neither country. They feel they are being systematically erased. Rohingya said they didn’t want to register family members because they worry the information might be used to deny them citizenship. The plan, shared with Reuters by sources who have received copies of the draft, proposes Arakan authorities “construct temporary camps in required numbers for those who refuse to be registered and those without adequate documents”. As international pressure mounts to end abuses against Rohingya, the government has agreed to provide citizenship to anyone who qualifies. But many Rohingya say they cannot meet the requirements, which include submitting documents proving that their families have been in Burma for at least three generations. And under the plan Thein Sein is considering, even that would not be enough for people who insist on calling themselves Rohingya rather than Bengali. Rights advocates say it could potentially put thousands of Rohingya, including those living in long-settled villages, at risk of indefinite detention.
Accepting the term Bengali could leave the Rohingya vulnerable should authorities in future attempt to send them to Bangladesh as illegal immigrants, said Phil Robertson, deputy director for Asia at Human Rights Watch. “So it’s no wonder that the Rohingya completely reject the national government’s efforts to classify them as ‘Bengalis’ because they know that is the starting point for an effort to confirm their statelessness and eject them from Myanmar.” The draft plan states that the authorities would request the UN’s refugee agency, the UNHCR, to “resettle illegal aliens elsewhere”. That might leave them facing indefinite detention, Robinson said, as the UNHCR would be unable to assist.
Complying with the government request would be impossible, because the UNHCR only resettles “recognized refugees who have fled persecution and conflict across international borders”, said Medea Savary, a UNHCR spokeswoman in Burma.Almost all Rohingya were excluded from a United Nations-backed census earlier this year after refusing to list their identities as Bengali. In May, U.S. President Barack Obama, who is due to visit Burma in November, 2014 cited abuses in Arakan State as one reason for maintaining some economic sanctions.IINA – Human rights groups in Yangon condemned on Friday a Myanmar government plan that could force thousands of minority Rohingya Muslims into detention camps indefinitely if they do not qualify for citizenship. The US and some other embassies in Myanmar had raised their concern with the government about some aspects of the plan, a US official told Reuters. Myanmar`s drafted plan, Forcing Rohingyas to Accept the term “Bengali” must effect neighboring country, Bangladesh because it is the only nearest country to Rakhine state. The Thein Sein`s trick and ploy is to force Rohingyas to flee Myanmar. But Bangladesh already restricted its border from intruding any refugee from Myanmar. Bangladesh as dense populated and under developing country not possible to host more refugees on its soil. To halt the controversial Rohingya plan in Myanmar, international stern action is most crucial and inevitable.
1.The Plights of the Stateless Rohingya by Imtiaz Ahmed, Dhaka University
2. Burma` missing Dots by DR. Abid Bhar, Canada,
3. Report on current situation in Arakan by Chris Lewa of Arakan Project,
4. Report on current situation in Arakan by Chris Lewa of Arakan Project,
5. Historical Background of Rohingya Muslims in Arakn by Dr. Habib Siddiqui and Dr. Abid Bahar
6. The Irawwady News 27th September, 2014 and 9th October, 2014.