Rohingya: Essential E-documents

12. History and Plight of the Rohingya by Dr Jacques Leider (8/12/2012): (video files) If you are looking, perhaps, for an un-biased and apolitical perspectives of Rohingya issue, this video lecture delivered by Dr. J. Leider may be the best one. As we have experienced in 2012/2013 in the heat of violence crisis in Arakan, activists from both sides of the Rohingya debate throwing muds against each others. On Burmese/Rakhine side, they branded 'all Rohingya' as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. On Rohingya side, activists keep insisting that Rohingyas are the decendents of ship-wrecked Arab and Persian traders, who have setteled in Arakan many generation ago, only being marginalized by xenophobic and racist Burmese governments.

At the level of community-activists, we all are allowed to believe what we would like to believe and shout-out anyway what we want. However, in search of proper solution based on truth, we must calm down and seek an un-biased and apolitical perspective of the situation. By means of this lecture given by Dr. Leider, it would serves you towards above mentioned end.

In views of Dr Leider, the Rohingya in Burma are mainly migrated after British colonization. He pointed out that, for centuries, the Arakan State has been cultural frontier for Buddhist and Muslim religions. Being historian, he views current conflict in Arakan primarily as the quest for identity by both Rohingya-Muslim and Rakhine-Buddhists. He views current Rohingya campaign (2012) as 'political movement' and notes (assertion of Rohingya as indigenous to Burma) the invention of Rohingya as historical identity basically is on a 'shaky basis'.

The advise well taken from this lecture, as a human rights activist, is not to look the 'Rohingya problem' in a narrowly defined human rights frame work. He suggests to examine Rohingya problem in a holistic approach, encompassing social, cultural, historical and political dimensions. The lecture is divided into three parts and is viewable/downloadable here: (47MB) (36MB) (23MB)

You can find original URL by University of Illinois in here:

Or view Dr. Leider's lecture in three parts here:




11. The Muslim Rohingyas of Burma by Martin Smith (1995): [ EN/PDF ] This is a lecture delivered by Martin Smith at a conference organized by Burma Centre Netherlands (an NGO). Martin Smith is a British writer and expert on Burma's insurgencies. In this lecture, he covered the history of Rohingya from early Arakan Kings, pre & post British colonization and right through the dictatorship of Gen. Ne Win. As such our readers can visualize the continuity of the developments of Rohingyas and, perhaps, gain insight knowledge on the struggles of this community. I added sub-sectioning just for the ease of reading.

10. The Muslims of Burma by Moshe Yegar (1972): [ EN/PDF ] Recognizing the past is the best way forwards for the future. In his M.A. Thesis by wellknown researcher Moshe Yegar, the history of muslims in Burma up until 1962 has been documented. The author's primary objectives appears to collecting aspects of community and religious lives of muslim minority in Burma. I am searching mainly on the accounts of Rohingya-muslims after the WW-II, specifically looking for the clues re: currently 'stateless' Rohingyas. As any comprehensive historical books, this one given me fair leads to my search.

An unflattering account on the dark past of Rakhine was given in the chapter 'The Arakanese Muslims'. In this chapter (pp-95ff), it explained how communal riots between Arakanese Buddhist and Muslims were started and also the extent of violence. The rise and falls mujahid rebellion was also accounted. Recorded here as well was the large scale migration of Chittagongs (Bengalis)-- as dictinct from local Rohingya-- into Arakan soon after Burma's independence. Organized labor migration of Chittagongs under mujahid rebellion (1950-61) had also been noted.

A section describing the situation of Indian (i.e.Chittagongs/Bengalis/Pakistanis) migrants is also interesting (pp-86). This migrant community constituted largest in numbers (300,000 -- 500,000, i.e. number appears to exclude Chittagongs/Bengalis in Arakan State ) and they were under-privileged and mostly illiterates. Noted, "...many of them never became Burmese their families in Pakistan. .. others did not take Burmese citizenship but owing to ignorance,..not knowing consular regulations,.. have lost Pakistani citizenship." At times, those migrant Pakistanis sought to raise their national flags -- and they were allowed to -- and claimed loyalty to both Pakistan and Burma. This was during Parliamentary Government of U Nu. All those things were put to an end with General Ne Win's military coup.

9. Report on Rohingya Crisis by ABSDF (1992): [ BU/PDF ] The report was compiled by research department of ABSDF (All Burma Students Democratic Front) apparently in the middle of Rohingya refugee crisis in 1992. It is a very well researched and broadly considered in every possible aspect of the then evolving humanitarian crisis. Most of the historical or political facts being brought up by this report may have also been covered on this website and will not be pointed out here. However, there are two new primary source of information being brought up by this report deserve our readers' attention.

The first one is regarding with the use of name "Rohingya". According to the report by retired Brigadier General Aung Gyi (cited: pp 5-6), there had been consultation between the-then military authorities and surrendered Mujahid rebel fighters in the early 1960s and agreed upon to use the word "Rohingya" to describe their community.

The second one cited (see pp.18) was the Bangladesh Foreign Ministry's statement on 12-3-1992, which was translated in Burmese. According to that translated statement, the view by Bangladesh government has been that Rohingya Muslims had been in Arakan for thousands of years and that they became nationalities of Burma. I am interested whether Bangladesh government still retaining that view, of which, definitely in a collision course with the views of Burmese government.

8. A Brief Account on History of Muslim Population in Arakan by P. Nicolaus (1995): [ EN/PDF ] This is a short presentation of history of Rohingyas in Arakan(Rakhine). This presentation was cited, in connection to Heins (slaves), in the Professor Abrar's paper (see #6). The presentation cited about the level of ease, even amounts to carelessness, at which the Burmese immigration handing out NRC/FRC to the Rohingya/Bengali population in the 1950s-1960s. The Rohingyas, on the one hand, weren't much concerns about their citizenship status at that time. The seasonal workers in Bangladesh and Rohingya residents in Burma were able to move across border without restrictions. I reckon this become one of the factors as to why Rohingyas are now being viewed by some Burmese as 'illegal immigrants'.

7. Burma and Communism by Thein Pe Myint (1935): [ BU/PDF ] For anybody looking at the root-causes for the Burmese hostility towards people of Indian origins, this historic article would certainly give some clues. The presentation of this book itself deserves proper attention. The contributors include, Aung San, Thakhin Soe, Thakhin Than Htun, U Nu, U Thant & who's who of Burmese politics in pre and post independence eras. U Thein Pe Myint, editor himself, had been a leading political thinker and writer.

U Thein Pe Myint's original article (pp.158, not dated) appears to have written just after 1930 Indian/Burmese communal riots. Reviewed date is 1935. Noted in his article is the extent of Indian (Kular) immigration after British colonization. Details of Indian immigrants in/out per year as:

1928: 324,000: 278,000: (+46,000)
1929: 307,000: 398,000: (-92,000)
1930: 273,000: 365,000: (-92,000)
1931: 252,000: 205,000: (+47,000)
1932: 240,000: 225,000: (+15,000)
1933: 220,000: 200,000: (+20,000)
1934: 299,000: 185,000: (+114,000)
1935: 216,000: 188,000: (+28,000)
1936: 219,000: 184,000: (+35,000)
1937: 199,000: 195,000: (+4,000)

The article depict the impact of Indian migration on day-to-day Burmese life under British rules. Total Indian migrants nearing 1 million, while the Burmese population then was mere 12 million. On economy, the Indian migrants control from road-side stalls to super-markets. On admin sites, from receptionist clarks to the judges of the high court, all were occupied by Indian migrants. Burma was colonized by British rulers. But Indian migrants were more visible. The outcome was that Burmese began viewing the 'Indian migrants' as part and parcel of British colonalists. Hence, Indian migrants became legitimate political target.

The 1930s were formation years for Burmese nationalism and independence movement. For the leaderships of Nationalist Thakhin independence movement, they faced an up-hill battle for confronting cunning British administration, along with sophisticated Indian immigrants supporters. On the one hand, these Nationalist Thakhins had politically un-awaken Burmese masses to which they needed to mobilize aganist British. To rid Burma off the foreigners (British & Indians) was a clear political agenda. Within this context, mobilizing Burmese populace and targetting Indian migrants seemed tempting and was inevitable. Hence, the application of Burmese racism against Indians.

6. Repatriation of Rohingya Refugees by Professor C.R. Abrar (1997 ??): [ EN/PDF ] Someone plugged out this excellent article from Forced Migration Online, Oxford Uni site. The original URL cannot be located. Accordance with historical contexts, Professor Abrar classified current Arakanese Muslims in two groups: (1) the Rohingya proper and (2) Heins (or worker-class?) whose numbers became greater with British settlement policy after 1826 (see section 4 of the paper). This paper noted historical connection between Arakan and Bengal, and highlighted the existence of movements of people between this two regions. An important point being raised -- for both sides of Rohingya debate -- here is that the current 'living & breathing Rohingyas' cannot adequately be described neither as the 'ship-wracked-Arab-decendents' nor 'all-illegal-Bengalis'. Both views may be valid.

Most interesting part of this paper for me -- i.e. refugee interest groups -- is its discussion regarding with repatriation of Rohingyas. Recorded here are the gripping details, along with in-depth discussions, about the UNHCR efforts to ensure safe & voluntary return of Rohingyas to Arakan. We can easily visualize international involvement (i.e. UNHCR+NGOs) had been resisted, notably by both Governments, in every single steps of repatriation movement. Limitations of the UN protection mandate, controversial aspects of interpreting voluntariness, i.e legalistic or liberal, and the possible rationale of UNHCR on the repatriation of Rohingyas are comprehensively analyzed. For Burma refugee interest groups who now may be devising and planning repatriation and reintegration, this paper is certainly the best one to look at.

5. Rohingya -- From Stateless to Refugees by Prof. Imtiaz Ahmed (2010): [ EN/PDF ] Uncomfortable seeing the East? then look to the West! Those in pro-Rohingya camp who are not happy with the 'Academic Dictatorship' of Dr. Aye Chan & U Myint Thein on history/issues of Rohingyas, we might as well look upto these academics in Dakha. In this paper, Prof. Ahmed tried to project the concurrent conflicts between Burmese State and Rohingya Community as that of the clashes between political identities. On differing theories on the origin of the Rohingyas, the author finds that claims made by both sides are acceptable since both theories contain "elements of truth".

The paper also discuss about two major flights of Rohingyas (1978 & 1991) and possible underlying causes. On the controversial repatriation of Rohingyas in 1994, the author even questioned as, "Can we not dub this as a case where the government is using the military, exodus and repatriation for attracting developmental funds...". I most certainly agree the Burmese military used expelling Rohingyas as political diversions. But on the possibility of Burmese military exploiting the 1994 UN supervised repatriations to its advantage, that may be abit too cynical of thoughts -- i.e my personal view.

4. History of Arakan by Dr M. Yunus (1994): [ EN/PDF ] The author, exiled Rohingya and Founder of RSO, had written the history of Arakan. For those who are interested in Rohingya political movement, this book could be an excellent one to look at. Dr. Yunus' writing has walk us through political events in Arakan from 1942 to 1994. It helps us see Burma's political events through the Rohingyas' eyes. However, some of the statements and conclusions appeared to have drawn from the author's personal knowledge and had not been given adequate references. This may have made the book less valuable as a good reference book.

One problem I have with this book is that its omission about cross-border migration from Bangladesh. Both Burma's post-independence and pre-independence periods, there were records of Chittagonians/Bengali people movement into Rakhine. In early days of British colonization, there were no migration of people from Chittagong, but only Arakanese returning to homeland they left 30-40 years ago, the author asserts in Chapter VII. The book markedly failed to mention about cross border people movement in 1970s lead up to that of 1978 Operation King Dragon.

3. Current state of foreigner infiltrations into Arakan (1983) by Major Hla Myaing: [ BU/PDF ] If you have never before been looking into the minds of the 'paranoid', 'xenophobic', 'prejudicial' and 'sophisticated racist', I suggest the report can be a good start. In his report, how a xenophobic military may be alarmed by existence of a very simple, resilient and united muslim village community. Major Hla Myaing described the Rohingya (Bengali migrant) community as a threat to native Rakhine's ways of life. He then went on to construct the (illegal) muslim immigration from the west as a threat to state security and, ultimately, that of Buddhism.

One interesting things about this report is the year in which it came out. It was around the year of the draconian 1982 Citizenship Laws being enacted. From Major Hla Myaing's report, we can make sense about the thinking by Burmese leaderships of that time. For example, the exclusion of Muslims from important civil servant position was suggested, along with many other recommendations that may found to have been still in place with respect to Rohingyas.

2. The Influx Viruses (2005) by U Shwe Zan and Dr Aye Chan: [ BU/EN/PDF ] Both men are of native Rakhine. U Shwe Zan (deceased) worked as an immigration officer in Burma. As the report name suggests, he viewed the Rohingyas (Bengali) mainly as illegal migrants to Arakan. Because strong language and inflammatory tone of the report, many in pro-Rohingya Camp will find this report offensive. However, this is the only report I find that given consistent statistics to trans-border people movement across Arakan border.

Dr. Aye Chan (exile historian now in Japan, I think) writes about the ancient Rakhine history and that of Rohingya. Being an academic in this field, his report on Rohingya can be considered as authoritative. Of course, neither Dr Aye Chan's academic qualification nor the authenticity of his report will deter the pro-Rohingya Camp accusing him of as another "Rakhine racist". Nevertheless, on viewing his entire report in English, I see no inflammatory language being used. Whether has he been 'professionally biased' against Rohingyas in his reports, I wouldn't have a clue though. You can be the judge!

1. Muslim immigration into Arakan and their political movements (2009); written by U Myint Thein, Director (Head of Research Section), Historical Research Department, Yangon, Myanmar (2005 -- present): [ BU/PDF ] In this report, we can find out about the Burmese authorities' view on migration and settlement of Rohingya muslims in Arakan. This report can enlighten how the Burman majority from mainland Burma/Myanmar developed their suspicions about the Rohingya community. So much is in suspicion that present U Thein Sein administration disallows the use of word "Rohingya" in any official reports. U Myint Thein's report also spelled-out underlying reasons why the Burmese State has been imposing oppressive measures on the Rohingya community.

I am still collecting all 'readable' and primary reports about Rohingyas from both sides of the debate. Send me a link if you come across any good report & keep watching on this space.