ISSN 2330-717X

Burma: Call To Put Rohingya In Refugee Camps


Burma’s President Thein Sein has asked the U.N. refugee agency to place ethnic Rohingyas living in the country in refugee camps or send them abroad, a stunning proposal rejected immediately by the agency.

In a statement posted on the government Thursday following deadly ethnic violence between Muslim Rohingyas and Buddhist Rakhines in western Burma last month, Thein Sein said that the Rohingya are not welcome in his country.

“We will take care of our own ethnic nationalities, but Rohingyas who came to Burma illegally are not of our ethnic nationalities and we cannot accept them here,” he said.

The statement said Thein Sein told the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres in a meeting Wednesday that the Rohingyas should be placed in U.N.-sponsored refugee camps.

“The solution to this problem is that they can be settled in refugee camps managed by UNHCR, and UNHCR provides for them. If there are countries that would accept them, they could be sent there,” he said.

Guterres rejected the proposal, telling reporters that resettling or taking care of the Rohingyas in camps is not the refugee agency’s job.

The U.N. says Rohingyas in Burma are displaced within their own country and insists they be treated as citizens. It considers Rohingya a stateless people and one of the world’s most persecuted minorities.

Some 800,000 Rohingya live in Burma, nearly all of them in Rakhine state. They live alongside ethnic Rakhines, one of Burma’s seven recognized minority nationalities.

The Burmese government considers the Rohingyas illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, even though many of them have lived in Burma for generations.


In his statement, Thein Sein outlined the legal distinction between those who came to Burma before the country’s independence in 1948—often called “Bengalis”—and those who came after.

“In Rakhine state now, there are two distinct generation groups. The first group is those born from the pre-1948 Bengalis. Another generation group, under the name Rohingya, came to Burma later.”

He said those who were brought over to Burma during British rule between 1824 and 1948 were welcome in the country.

“Before 1948, the British brought Bengalis to work on the farms, and since there were ample opportunities to make a living here compared to where they came from, they didn’t leave,” he said.

“According to our laws, those descended from [the Bengalis] who came to Burma before 1948, the ‘Third Generation,’ can be considered Burmese citizens,” he said.

He added that current situation involving the Rohingyas living in Rakhine illegally was “threatening the country’s stability.”


The violence between Rohingyas and the Rakhines that flared in June has left some 78 people dead and 90,000 displaced and living in camps, according to government statistics.

The clashes were sparked after an ethnic Rakhine woman was allegedly raped and killed by three Rohingya men in late May. On June 3, a group of Rakhine vigilantes attacked and killed 10 Rohingyas on a bus they believed were responsible for the woman’s death.

On June 8, thousands of Rohingyas rioted in Maungdaw, destroying Rakhine property, burning homes, and causing an unknown number of deaths. In the aftermath, Rohingyas carried out similar attacks on Rakhines elsewhere around the state.

Hundreds of Rohingyas have fled across the border to Bangladesh, though many have been forced back to Burma.

New York-based Human Rights Watch has accused Burmese security forces of responding with mass arrests and “unlawful force” against the Rohingya.

“The Burmese government needs to put an immediate end to the abusive sweeps by the security forces against Rohingya communities,” Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at HRW, said in the statement.

Reported by RFA’s Burmese service. Translated by Ko Win Naing. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.

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Radio Free Asia’s mission is to provide accurate and timely news and information to Asian countries whose governments prohibit access to a free press. Content used with the permission of Radio Free Asia, 2025 M St. NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20036.

2 thoughts on “Burma: Call To Put Rohingya In Refugee Camps

  • July 13, 2012 at 10:40 am

    So-called Rohingya Bengalis are not displaced within their own country. They are intruding illegal immigrants Bengali from Bengaladesh.

  • July 13, 2012 at 12:30 pm

    A Response to the coalition of 31 international NGOs calling for the immigration law reform in Burma

    As the Burmese political activists residing in overseas for more than two decades, we take the minority issue seriously. First of all, we would like to clarify that the recent crisis in Arakan state was not based on the race or religion but the crimes committed by both parties. The lack of rule of law and corruptions employed by the military rule for decades were to be blamed for it.

    The question here for the coalition of 31 international NGOs that suggests what the lawmakers in Burma should do with regard to the immigration law reform is that does it really think that more than 80% MPs made up of the cronies and goons of the military will listen to what they ask for? Of course not, it already knows it. If the coalition of 31 international NGOs thinks it might work to push the opposition MPs, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, made up of less than 20% in the whole parliament, in this case, there is something wrong with these NGOs.

    Let’s say if Burma is a well established democracy, should the lawmakers in Burma listen to their constituents or a bunch of NGOs from overseas? Representative, in its own definition, is to represent the will of the constituents. Don’t the NGOs think? Also, is it so premature to suggest the lawmakers what should/ should not be inserted in the reform law that has not yet been set in the agenda to discuss in the parliament? Remember, no minority’s rights is still guaranteed under 2008 constitution in Burma.

    If the coalition of 31 international NGOs thinks it has moral responsibility to craft the other nation’s laws, our question here is that how many of these NGOs members have involved in the law making process in their own country?

    The fallacy of these NGOs begins with quoting the UN institutions that always have left the loopholes for the superpower nations and their cohorts to do whatever they want in the end. Let’s have a look at the most dangerous institution called R2P. Why did the superpowers use R2P against Libya? And, why don’t they use it against Syria, and why not? Does the coalition of 31 international NGOs think it should write a draft resolution or suggestion – “one size fit it all”, a universal approach – in this regard and send it to the UNSC? Anyway, the point we would like make here is that no law is perfect in this world. And, all of the laws must at least reflect the will of the majority people in the nations of their own.

    Here is another example. The most powerful nation on earth called the US has signed the NDAA law during the Christmas Eve of last year, and maintained the Guantanamo prison for years. One violates the 4th amendment of the US constitution and the other violates the international law. Does the coalition of 31 international NGOs think it should write a draft and send it to the US lawmakers and others? And, may we ask them why/why not? Still, we are in serious doubt that the lawmakers in the US will pay attention to it.

    If the coalition of 31 international NGOs thinks it can issue whatever statement it wants to Burma, one of worst trouble-spot nations on earth, without learning the opinion of the majority of the people in Burma in this regard, there will be a tremendous backlash and setback on these NGOs’ effort for democratization of Burma sooner rather than later.

    Forum of Burmese in Europe (FBE) represents the network of Burmese across Europe from various countries such as UK, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Poland, Czech, Finland, Belgium and France. The FBE is advocating for democracy, social justice and human rights in Burma. The FBE strongly rejects military dictatorial rule in Burma and has been closely working together with the democratic forces around the world.


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