Bangladesh and Rohingha Issue
Bangladesh and Rohingha Issue
The Rohingya whom the BBC calls “ one of the world’s most persecuted minority groups”,are an ethnic, linguistic and Muslim people who reside in the Rakhine (historically known as Arakan) State , a geographically isolated area in western Burma, bordering Bangladesh. They are related to the Indo-Aryan people of India and Bangladesh. As of 2012, 800,000 Rohingya live in Myanmar. The origin of the term “Rohingya” is disputed. Some Rohingya historians like Khalilur Rahman contend that the term Rohingya is derived from Arabic word ‘Rahma’ meaning ‘mercy’.
Burmese historians such as Khin Maung Saw have claimed that the term ‘Rohingya’ was unknown before the 1950s. Nonetheless,an article on the “Burma Empire” published by the British Francis Buchanan-Hamilton in 1799 states, “the Mohammedans, who have long settled in Arakan,” call themselves Rooinga, or natives of Arakan. “ The Rohingya people profess Sunni Islam with elements of Sufi worship and are distinct from the majority Burmese population who are of East Asian stock and mostly Buddhists. Mosques and religious schools are present in most villages.
Since Burma’s independence in 1948, the Rohingya have gradually been excluded from the process of nation-building. Historical background of decades long persecution: Cruelty toward the Rohingyas is not something new. It was When the Burmese conquered Arakan in 1785, that transformed this once vibrant kingdom into an oppressed peripheral region. After this, many haunting tales began to circulate of Burmese soldiers rounding up the Rohingya in bamboo enclosures to burn them alive, and marching thousands to the city of Amarapura to work, effectivley as slave labour, on infrastructure projects.
As many as 35,000 Arakanese people fled to the neighbouring Chittagong region of British Bengal in 1799 to avoid Burmese persecution and seek protection from British India. The Burmese rulers executed thousands of Arakanese men and deported a considerable portion of the Arakanese population to central Burma, leaving Arakan as a scarcely populated area by the time the British occupied it. According to the ‘The International Observatory on Statelessness’, British incorporated the region after an 1824-26 conflict and encouraged migration from India.
Since independence in 1948, successive Burmese governments have considered these migration flows as illegal. Claiming that the Rohingya are in fact Bengalis, they have refused to recognize them as citizens. Shortly after General Ne Win and his Burma Socialist Programme Party (BSPP) seized power in 1962, the military government began to dissolve Rohingya social and political organizations.. With the rise to power of the military junta in 1962 under General Ne Win, a policy of “Myanmarisation” was implemented as an ultra-nationalist ideology based on the racial purity of the Myanmar ethnicity and its Buddhist faith.
And in the view of US government experts, heavily discriminated against minorities like the Rohingya and Chinese Muslims. Successive Burmese governments have been accused of provoking riots against ethnic minorities like the Rohingya and Chinese.  The 1974 Emergency Immigration Act snatched away Burmese nationality from the Rohingya. The Rohingya, as both Muslims and non-Myanmar, were stripped of their legitimacy and officially declared foreigners in their own native land. With the passage of the unta’s 1982 Citizenship Law, they effectively ceased to exist legally.  The resulting military campaign under Operation Naga Min, or Operation King Dragon led to widespread killings, rape, arbitrary arrests, desecration of mosques,, destruction of villages and confiscation of lands among the Rohingya people.
Officially this campaign aimed at “scrutinizing each individual living in the state, designating citizens and foreigners in accordance with the law and taking actions against foreigners who have filtered into the country illegally. In the wake of this violence, By 1978, more than 200,000 Rohingya had fled to Bangladesh , many of whom were later repatriated to Myanmar where they faced further torture, rape, jail and death. The Burmese authorities claimed that their flight served as proof of the Rohingya’s illegal status in Burma. During 1991-92 a new wave of over a quarter of a million Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh because of a second push, known as Operation Pyi Thaya or ‘Operation Clean and Beautiful Nation’ launched with the same purpose .
They reported widespread forced labor, as well as summary executions, torture, and rape. Rohingyas were forced to work without pay by the Burmese army on infrastructure and economic projects, often under harsh conditions. Many other human rights violations occurred in the context of forced labor of Rohingya civilians by the security forces. Non-governmental organizations from Europe and North America estimate that 300,000 Rohingya refugees remain in Bangladesh, with only 35,000 residing in registered refugee camps and receiving some sort of assistance from NGOs.
As of 2005, the UNHCR had been assisting with the repatriation of Rohingya from Bangladesh, but allegations of human rights abuses in the refugee camps have threatened this effort. 2012 Rakhine state riot: Decades-old tension and a series of on going conflicts between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in coastal Rakhine state have exploded with new ferocity in June,2012 after weeks of sectarian disputes and have been condemned by most people on both sides of the conflict.
The immediate cause of the riots is unclear, with many commentators citing the rape and killing in late May of a Buddhist woman as main cause, for which the police reportedly detained three Muslims. Suspicion and rumor was directed to the Rohingya community prompting hundreds of Buddhists to drag 10 Rohingya from a bus, murdering them: another cycle of violence erupted. That was followed by mob attacks on Rohingyas and other Muslims that killed dozens of people. Whole villages have been “decimated”.
Over three hundred houses and a number of public buildings have been razed,what appears to be, in my opinion, a form of state-sponsored ethnic cleansing. It is believed that hundreds, if not thousands, of Rohingya men have been arrested, many feared dead. Countless more have been reported missing and have not been seen since the conflict erupted. According to the Myanmar authorities, the violence, between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims, left 78 people dead, 87 injured, and thousands of homes destroyed.
It also displaced more than 52,000 people.  The harsh Law which made Rohingya stateless : the Burmese constitution closes all options for Rohingyas to be citizens, on grounds that their ancestors didn’t live there when the land, once called Burma, came under British rule in the 19th century ,a contention the Rohingyas dispute. In 1982, Burma’s military rulers brought in a new Citizenship Law repealing the proceding Union Citizenship act of 1948whivh was introduced just after the independence of Burma..
This new Citizenship Law was promulgated shortly after the refugee repatriation of 1979 from Bangladesh and deliberate non-inclusion of Article 3 and 4 of the 1948 Citizenship Act which may strongly indicate that the law was specifically designed to exclude Rohingya. Although the word ‘Rohingya’ has never been mentioned in the 1948 Act, the law appears to have acknowledges Rohingya as citizens. Unlike the preceding 1948 Citizenship Act, the 1982 Law is essentially based on the principle of jus sanguinis and has designated three categories of citizens: (1) full citizens, 2) associate citizens, and (3) naturalized citizens. According to the 1982 Citizenship Law, Rohingya were neither declared “national” nor “foreign residents”. The Burmese government also objects to describe them as “stateless persons” but appears to have created a special category: ‘Myanmar residents’, which has no legal status. However, on several occasions, government officials have described them as ‘illegal immigrants from Bangladesh’.
In 1998, in a letter to UNHCR, Burma’s then Prime Minister General Khin Nyunt wrote: “These people are not originally from Myanmar but have illegally migrated to Myanmar because of population pressures in their own country. ” And a February 2009 article in the government-owned New Light of Myanmar newspaper stated that “In Myanmar there is no national race by the name of Rohinja”. More than 700,000 Rohingya in Northern Rakhine today are effectively stateless due to lack of documentation required by the 1982 Law, although they have resided in Burma for four generations.
Being stateless in their own land, the Rohingya found their lives in confinement. Restrictions placed from the right to own land or property, repairing their decaying places of prayers, receiving an education in any language or even marrying and having children without rarely granted government permission. Rohingyas are not allowed to use mobile phones by the Government. Infringement of these stringent rules can result in long prison sentences.  . Basic rights of a citizen have officially been stripped of from them.
The Rohingya have also been subjected to modern-day slavery, forced to work on infrastructure projects, such as constructing “model villages” to house the Myanmar settlers intended to displace them, reminiscent of their treatment at the hands of the Burmese kings of history.  For the Rohingya, the compounded effect of these various forms of persecution has driven many into dire poverty and their degrading conditions have caused mental distress, pushing them to flee across the border to Bangladesh.
UN and Myanmar’s ‘solution’ to the Rohingya Issues: The Burmese government has, over the years, denied the entire existence of a “Rohingya problem”, and even the Rohingya themselves. Myanmar’s formerly military government and its state-run media have strictly avoided the word “Rohingya”, referring to the group instead as “Bengali Muslims”, implying that the people are not indigenous and have migrated to Myanmar a few decades ago. The Myanmar immigration minister has repeatedly said that there are no Rohingyas in Myanmar. After a long silence, Myanmar’s Presidential Office recent announcement surprised and shocked people around the world. It is impossible for Burma to accept people who are not ethnic to the country and who have entered illegally”, he told UNHCR chief Antonio Guterres, according to the president’s official website. Myanmar suggested refugee camps or deportation was the only answer for nearly the country estimate 800,000 to a million Rohingya Muslims. The Rohingya should be put in camps for a year, at which time they could be taken to a third country. The UN, quite rightly, were quick to reject Thein Sein’s kind offer, explaining that communities cannot be repatriated from their own country.
While the UN may have, for now, endorsed the Rohingya presence in Myanmar, the government’s intentions were made very clear to the world. It was the most transparent, clear cut message that the Myanmar government is now hell-bent on ridding Myanmar of the Rohingya people by any means possible. It suggests that the long-term fallout from recent violence could be even more damaging than the bloodshed. This is not sectarian violence; it is state-supported ethnic cleansing, and the nations of the world aren’t pressing Myanmar’s leaders to stop it. Even Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi has not spoken out.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 27 September 2016
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