Rohingya: The Persecuted Or The Persecutor – OpEd


Is the Diaspora Bengali, the brains behind the Rohingya Movement, indirectly cooperating with the Burmese military to suppress democracy and federalism in Burma? They have succeeded in compelling the Myanmar military to build up a formidable force that is by-passing the ruling government.

At the same time it has given a green light to the well-equipped 1,000 Rohingyas militants to launch coordinated attacks on two dozen police stations killing 32 people, including 11 police, as a gesture of greeting the Kofi Anan Commission. By these well synchronized actions it has proven that Myanmar military is the real government and is out to implement its final solution to the Rohingya problem.

The Most Persecuted

The Rohingya still speak their original Chittagonian dialect and have refused to learn the lingua franca, a compulsory subject for any migrant in any country with no effort to identifying themselves with the local’s customs and culture. The colonial British of the early 18th Century had encouraged them to migrate to the fertile lands of northern Arakan region at a time when Burma was considered as part of the British-Indian Empire. They stayed in that prosperous land, easing out the local Arakanese.

But in 1948 when Burma was about to gain independence from Britain, these Chittagonian Bengalese, at that time labeling themselves as Mujahids (A Mujahid an Arabic:Urdu word مجاهد Mujāhid is one who struggles for the sake of Allah and Islam) could not comprehend at the idea of living under the Arakanese Buddhists. Under the leadership of Jami-a-tul Ulema-e Islam, went over to Ali Jinnah ; ج ناح ع لی محمد leader of Muslim League and founder of Pakistan, to incorporate the northern part of the Arakan State composing of the existing Buthidaung, Maungdaw and Ratheedaung townships (about one third of the Arakan State) into what was then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).

On the failure of this attempt they fielded 27,000 guerillas to fight the Burmese government. The then Prime Minister U Nu was forced to send a Karen General Smith Dun (before the Karen insurrection) to suppress these Mujahids. Many of them surrendered, but the majority ran away into East Pakistan and at the peace deal a consensus was reached that the new name of Rohingya was coined (U Rachid brokered a deal in 1950 with the Burmese ambassador to US/Canada, U Chan Htun as witness) and a ten minute Radio broadcast from the Burma Broadcasting Corporation was also permitted. However, the Rohingya allegiance was still to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, rather than their political affinity of participating in the construction of modern state of the Union of Burma.

When the Bangladesh Liberation War (মুক্তিযুদ্ধ Muktijuddho), of 1971 these Rohingyas fought on the side of the Pakistan Phatans (Pakhtun) acting as scouts and informers. Hence Bangladeshis knowing their treachery, did not want them, and many Rohingyas returned to Burma, while some of them went over to India and mixed with the Indian Bengalis although they could not get along with their local customs and traditions either.

So it was not surprising when India, which has an estimated 40,000 Rohingya including those registered with the UN, revealed its plan to deport them, as according to Reuters. Thailand, Australia, Malaysia, Indonesia and nobody wants them why? The answer is simple, they could not go along with anyone except their own.

Burma has a record of ethnic uprisings, but none of them ever wanted to incorporate their territory into any other foreign country, they are just struggling for autonomy. Even at the height of the Burmese Junta’s persecution in 2004, when the Burmese Muslims were targeted, more than 10,000 Muslims ran to the Thai-Burma border and the Burma Muslim Liberation Army was formed with the help of KNU, not a single Rohingya participated. Hence how can they be considered as one of Burma’s myriad ethnic nationalities. Being considered as foreigners themselves they are the first to urge the Nobel Committee to take back the Nobel Peace Prize from Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, which no Burmese would ever think of.

To the Persecutor

I met U Maung Tin (former President of the Rangoon University Muslim Students Associations), a prominent faithful Muslim who joined the struggle against the Burmese Junta in the 1980s and urged the Rohingya to throw their lot in with the other Arakanese against the tyranny of the military. Because he dared to speak out the truth, the Rohingya attacked his camp and since his head was wanted both by the Junta and the Rohingya he had no choice but to seek political asylum in Canada.

According to U Maung Tin there was a Rohingya Pala (village), the most conservative type of Chittagonian Muslims, who looked down on the average local Muslims as infidels. Burma has officially 135 ethnic nationalities that fall into eight major groups. But the Rohingya refused to be categorized as one of Arakan’s numerous groups even though they have been residing there for nearly two centuries. Simple logic seems to be missing. Instead they want the world to change the name of Arakan to Rohan. This explains why the Burmese Junta adopted the horrible method of ethnic cleansing.

The crux of the problem is that the government has no inkling for compromise or a vision for the innocent mass of Rohingyas, and seems to be following the philosophy of a rude Burmese proverb that, “Once the beggar’s stomach is full, his penis stood up.”

Additionally, the government does not have a central committee to negotiate for peace, nor does it mention “Conflict Resolution.”

The average Burmese believes that someone is supplying cash and supporting the Rohingya rebels. The Myanmar military as usual has responded with continued searches and gross human rights violations and frequent blockades to keep out food and other essential supplies.

What is happening in Rakhine State is a side effect of the current worldwide outbreak of Islamic radicalism and terrorism. The Burmese fear the Rohingya will be a source of Islamic terrorists as ISIS has openly declared PARIS (Palestine, Afghanistan, Rohingya, Iraq and Syria) as their main targets. Now that ISIS has lost its base in the Middle East it is looking for a sanctuary somewhere in Southeast Asia, and it has narrowed its focus on this weak part of Southeast Asia.

The Rohingya’s sympathizers are experts in psychological warfare and international affairs, which now coupled with the naivety of the Burmese Juntas, this has propagated it in such a way that the Rohingya situation has dominated international headlines.

Everybody knows that Myanmar Military poses a substantial threat to democracy and is more of an obstruction to the democratization in Burma, which has been helped by its several military operations against ethnic nationalities.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s reluctance to engage with UN’s attempts to investigate the atrocities that have been committed and her lack of success in bringing stability to northern Burma indicates that bringing peace to the country is no longer her primary concern.

That said, Suu Kyi has attempted to solve the Rohingya problem via the neutral Kofi Anan Commission whose recommendation has already made public by accepting what U Mg Tin has often said, “To accelerate the citizenship verification of the qualified Rohingyas followed by socio economic development coupled with freedom of movement and community participation and representation. In addition security must be given to all people residing in Arakan, encouraging their cultural development and inter-communal cohesion.”

Now that the UN have whole-heartedly supported Kofi Anan’s recommendation one will have to wait and see if it will be implemented in a country where the government is driving for national reconciliation without truth, and jails any person who dares to report the truth, and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi herself has endeavored to please the military at the expense of the majority non-Myanmar ethnic nationalities whose population is nearly double that of Myanmar (Burman) with the Myanmarnisation goal of, one country, one religion and one race. As such, the Rohingya problem will be a headache not only for Burma, but also to the world.

Kanbawza Win

Kanbawza Win is a political scientist based in Canada

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