The year 1824 as historical limitation of Rohingya debate

I am glad to receive letter from a Rohinga activist, who said he had enjoyed the discussion re: origin of Rohingya. There are some important issues raised in his letter.

The historical limitation of debate: Pro-Rohingya writers, most of them scholars of history, tend to extend arguments such as population movements, historic claims of Arakan sovereignty, etc back to pre-1823. These historical facts & myths are good to study. But they are not quite relevant to current Burmese politics or political debate. Remember, the current nation-state of Burma, along with related political considerations, have started with the first Anglo-Burman War of 1823.

I. When discussing the patterns of movement of people from Chittagong into Arakan, some people try to assert the Bengali people have occupied Arakan before 1823. So therefore, their reasonings go, the existing Rohingya(Bengalis) entering after 1823 are to be viewed as continuing movement by same people. That line of argument was taken in by some Rohingya writers, for example Dr Mohammad Yunus in his thesis of 1994.

Unfortunately, the majority Burmese and the Burmese government will never coming to view those Bengalis entered after 1823 as continuous movement of Bengali people. By and large, the Bengalis(Rohingyas) entered after 1823 are going to be viewed as labor migrants who came along with British colonization.

II. In terms of discussing the indigenous roots, or more likelihood, connection of indigenous Arakan Muslims with the migrating Bengalis(Rohingyas), these historical accounts might be useful.

III. Why can't the community call itself, or allowed to be called, as "Rohingya". Simple answer might be yes, if the term "Rohingya" is just referring to a name-sake and if the Burmese society is politically generous. Afterall, the Burmese call Karen territory as, "Karen State" when Karen people call their territory as "Kawthoolei". So, in Burma we all accept and interchangably use 'Kawthoolei' & 'Karen State'. So one might ask why we can't as well use "Rohingya" and "Bengali" interchangably?

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said with the use of "Rohingya". This is because the use of word "Rohingya" is now politically charged. Let me revisit a few crucial instances that has happened in last few decades.

Firstly, in 1989 the NDPHR started to claim "Rohingya" as an indigenous ethnic group of Burma. The document (in Burmese) started with ancient Arakan history and the early Islamic influence. Then the NDPHR drawn in its points from the speeches of U Nu, Gen. Aung Gyi, including radio magazine reports that the Rohingya is an indigenous ethnic group to Burma.

Secondly, in 1994 the chairman of RSO, Dr M. Yunus, had written a Thesis on the history of Arakan and Rohingyas. At that time, I wasn't aware about the book and the debate raging between the exiled Rakhines and Rohingyas re: origin of Rohingya.

As of recent, the suggestion being put forward by U Shwe Maung and U Zaw Win Aung, both are MPs, to the Burmese Human Rights Commission to recognized "Rohingya" as one of indigenous ethnic group of Burma. In their letter, the same line of argument are used in NDPHR's report.

From the Burmese government's side, they are always suspicious about the motives of Rohingyas. Their views and sentiments are reflected in the reports by Major Hla Myaing and U Myint Thein.

Of course, the NDPHR report, Dr Yunus thesis and the Two MPs letter did not mention anything about the issues of migrants after 1948 or earlier post-1823 period. Clearly, there is Rohingya community's wish to participate in the political process. Justified may be such desire, the argument for Rohingya as an "indigenous ethnic group" of Burma will get nowhere, unless the issues of above mentioned migrants are clearly sorted out. The inaccuracy, omissions and bias are plaguing current Rohingya reports and debate.

The truth must prevails.

All those report mentioned are available on this URL.

In Solidarity
U Ne Oo.

From Ko Ko Lin

Dear U Ne Oo,

It is very nice to study your series of writings and comments towards the existence of Rohingya and their long historical background. You said that the usage of word ‘Rohingya’ is disputable at you. Keeping aside the explanation of the usage ‘Rohingya’, I do like to ask you a simple question if you don’t mind. Which one is to be given the priority, a person or his identity?

In Burma case, all the Rohingya were deprived their fundamental rights based on their identity. It is true? Claiming yourself as a human right activist, is it true to do so?

Why do you frequently going to refer Rohingya with Chittagonians? The settlement of Rohingya in Arakan is as they are original people of Arakan. Arakan is a land of native Indo-Aryans but Tibeto-Burma of Mongoloid arrived there later 10 century. She became part of Burma only later 1784 after occupied by King Bodaw Paya. How you come to make a judge over the natives of Arakan?

The migration of Muslim out siders was to be referred since with Min Saw Mon. The amount of Muslim armies at that time was 50 thousand while the entire population of Arakan was recorded not more than 100000!

Today, if the Magh population becomes 3 million then what quantity should be Muslims in Arakan? You can make a judge now as if Rohingyas are migrating Bengalis or they left Arakan for longtime.

One of your writing mentioned that there was no identity ‘Rohingya’ was found in British record by referring DerekTokin, but was there any record of identity as Rakhine over that record? It is does not mean that there was no Rohingya because there was no record in Britain by this identity. Actually there is a community claiming themselves as Rakhine today. If this identity ‘Rakhine’ can be existed, then why not Rohingya?

I am sorry to say your stand as double standard.

Ko Ko Lin

From: Abul Jilani

Dear U Ne Oo,

The ethnic Taung Thu is now Pa-oh, Jim Phaw is Kachin, Karenni is known as Kaya, Ta line has become Mon, Pyu become Bama etc. While changes of cities from Akyab to Sittwe, Rangoon to Yangon, Arakan to Rakhine, Burma to Myanmar etc. have recently be made, the centuries old name of ethnic has however, been branded as a name created by anti-state elements in post independent Burma.

Though the native Muslim of Arakan used Rohingya before Burmese occupation, it was popularized by the army, with the cabinet decision of the Burmese government. Now the army turned the coat.
The Muslims of Arakan were leaving Arakan since 1942 Muslim massacre of Arakan. There was no migration of Muslim from Bengal as Arakan turned into inferno for the Muslims since 1942 to today. Evan there is no British settlers whether you believe or not. There were dozens of immigration operations which never found any illegal foreigner.

What can the term 'Rohingya' harm the Burmese government and people or Arakanese Buddhists or monks? Why they are making simple thing to thunder bolt or life and death question or complicated issue?

Why they are taking dust fire to the burning of castles?

Jilani AFK