Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Myanmar Shouldn't lead the Rohingyas to secession

If the Myanmar government doesn’t accept the Rohingyas as their citizen let a separate independent state for the Rohingyas be created in the Arakan region.

 Myanmar President U Thein Sein’s open confession that he desires to expel all the Rohingyas from Arakan uncovers one true that it was the Myanmar government that perpetrated the recent episode of communal rioting that killed and wounded and displaced unspecific number of people. According to Mr. Thein Sein, as “the Rohingyas don’t belong to their ethnicity so they are illegal and hence would be deported if any third country would accept them” and in his language “This is what we are thinking in the solution to the issue.”

Such irresponsible utterance of Mr. Thein Sein indicates that he and his associates is the main architect of the planted massacre against the relatively peaceful Rohingyas. The episode of so-called rape of a Buddhist woman allegedly by Rohingya youths was nothing but a pretext. Such conclusion is further strengthened seeing role of Myanmar security forces, who instead of protecting the Rohingyas sided with the Buddhist rioters. It means it was a state-sponsored massacre and the entire government of the Thein Sein should be prosecuted in the International Court of Justice for their crime against humanity.

On the other hand, claim of Myanmar President is contrary to history. There are enormous historical evidences and records to disprove his claim that the Rohingyas are illegal intruders. Arakan virtually is an extended cultural, linguistic and religious unit of ancient Bengal. As a natural Physiographic unit, the whole region of Arakan is separated from the rest of Myanmar by Yuma range running north to south. It is close to Bengal in comparison to mainland Myanmar where Muslims reside since over one thousand years. The medieval Bengali literature flourished in Arakan. The literary works of Daulat Kazi, Alawal, Mordon, Nassrulla Khan, etc., bear the testimony of Bengali Muslim predominance in the region.

Earlier The Arab Muslims first came in to contact with Arakan through trade and commerce during the 8th century A.D. and since then Islam started spreading in the region. After the advent of Islam in Arabia, Muslim traders, preachers, pirs, saints, darvish from Arabia, Iraq, Persia and other regions of central Asia gradually thronged the region. Moreover, the legendary Hanifar Tanki and Khayafurir Tanki (both are shrines) in the Mayu territory between the rivers Kaladan and Naf, the shrines of “Babazi Shah Monayam of Ambari” and “Pir Bader Shah” (Badr-al-Din Allamah), situated on the coast of the Bay of Bengal at Akyab, all bear evidence of the arrival of Muslim saints in Arakan in the early period of history. Muslim traders and preachers settled in the region that subsequently spread Islam among the locals in Arakan. The Rohingyas are the descendants of those Muslims. History says, Arakan was an independent country for centuries and the Burmese Buddhists invaded Arakan and during the British rule the region remained with Rangoon.

So the Rohingyas are not newcomers or intruders in Arakan. They are Muslims, they speak Bengali, still there is no scope that they originated from the territory which comprises Bangladesh today. But a few people of Bangladesh territory went to the region in search of work who married the local women and fathered children.

No government, other than Thein Sein, earlier ever claimed that the Rohingyas were illegal intruders in Myanmar. In fact, there is no scope to brand them as illegal intruders, as they are the original residents of this region, which was engulfed by the Buddhist settlers after Burmese invasion. Most importantly, the Rohingyas actively participated in the independence movement of Burma. Like all other Myanmar nationals they participated in all national and regional elections held in different phases of time. Even the former successive Myanmar governments signing agreements with Bangladesh facilitated the return of most Rihiingya refugees who crossed the border in 1978.

Now Thein Sein cannot reverse or bury history. In fact, he invokes a fatal game. If the Rohingyas, due to their marginality in all respects, including population and economy, are treated as illegal intruders in Arakan where they live for over thousands of years, then none is legal anywhere in the world. If his utopian theory is accepted it will be an example and whole world will face unprecedented chaos and rivalry as the majority will claim that the minority people are illegal intruders. His audacious statement to confine the Rohingyas to refugee camp and ultimately to deport them to a third country simply invites problem not for Myanmar, but for other countries, particularly for Bangladesh. Despite repeated anti-Rohingya genocide since 1942, they remained clam and loyal to Myanmar Union. But the irresponsible utterance of Thein may change entire scenario. He simply provokes the Rohingays to be armed and unruly to wage war against the non-Rohingyas now living in Arakan.

The expansionist powers around the world may avail of the situation that will seriously cause Myanmar and beyond. Sein should come to his sense that he doesn’t live in an age of darkness or barbarity or isolation. He should leave his military, better to say, dictatorial mindset and communality and stand for democracy, humanity and human rights, above all reality. He should repent and seek apology for such aggressive and inhuman utterance and take appropriate step immediately to rehabilitate all the Rohingyas in their homeland with equal status and privileges who are scattered in many countries of the world, including Bangladesh and end all types of discriminatory draconian laws and rules that were imposed on them in recent years.

The Myanmar leadership should come to its sense. They made crime snatching away all the rights of the Rohingyas, including their state-identity, voting rights, rights of having children, marriage, and all other privileges what they should enjoy as the nationals of Myanmar. Their problems seldom get international media coverage as they are marginal in number (around one million), and Muslims in faith. The international community remained, as if, ignorant of their problems, for decades. International community cried for democracy even awarded a Nobel Peace Prize to Aun Sun Shuki for her struggle for democracy, but paid no heed to the causes of the Rohingyas that led the Rohingyas to be persecuted by the predominantly Buddhist community under a so-called democratically elected government of Sein. Now the time has come to solve this problem once for all.

If the Myanmar government doesn’t accept the Rohingyas as their citizen let a separate independent state for the Rohingyas be created in the Arakan region with its capital in Akyab. Such tiny state has already been created for the religiously and ethnically minority people of East Trimor. The international community should ask Myanmar government what option they prefer whether they are ready to accept the Rohingyas with full status as Myanmar nationals or form a separate state in Arakan out of Myanmar. There is no other solution to the problem. If they choose the first option they (Myanmar government) are to pledge with a guarantee that such massacre will never occur again against the Rohingyas or any other marginal community now living in Myanmar.

Being a neighboring country Bangladesh can’t ignore the tragic state-sponsored persecution against the Rohingyas. Bangladesh government should genuinely evaluate the inner mindset of Myanmar and lodge strong protest against it, as Myanmar President points his finger towards Bangladesh as their ancestral abode what is totally contrary to historical facts and documents. There is little scope for Bangladesh to remain silent or try to solve the problem through bilateral dialogue that will simply prolong the problem and misery of the Rohingya people. Bangladesh should mend and warm up its cold relations with the Muslim and democratic world, ASEAN region, Japan and Australia and particularly ask China to bridle Myanmar. Initiative should be taken to table the issue before the regional and international forums. It is no longer a bilateral issue. Our passive role and tolerance made the Myanmar arrogant and believe that we are too weak to face Myanmar in any level. We should reverse such fancy conclusion of the Myanmar rulers. Rohingyas have rights to live in their homes in Myanmar, and Myanmar is obliged to create and provide congenial atmosphere in Arakan region for the honorable repatriation of the Rohingya refugees or create a separate independent homeland for them in Arakan what is actually belonged to them.*

BY :   Mohammad Zainal Abedin. : Email: