Printable Version of Topic
Click here to view this topic in its original format
Go to - FDNC NEWS FORUMS > Asia / Pacific > The Unwanted Rohingya - Who Are They?

Posted by: Charles Apr 30 2018, 10:19 AM
Stateless Rohingya pushed from Myanmar, but unwanted by Bangladesh

By South-East Asia correspondent Liam Cochrane

user posted image

Photo: There are about 1.1 million Muslim Rohingya in Myanmar. (Reuters: Mohammad Ponir Hossain)

The Muslim Rohingya who have fled "textbook ethnic cleansing" in Myanmar to arrive in makeshift camps in Bangladesh are unwanted by both countries.

In Bangladesh they are a burden; in Myanmar they are despised.

The Rohingya are not recognised as citizens by Myanmar and have lived under an apartheid system in the western Rakhine state for decades.

Most people in Myanmar see them as illegal immigrants from across the border but mainstream media usually says the Rohingya have 'lived in Myanmar for generations'.

So what does that actually mean?

Where did the Rohingya come from and where do they belong?

Kings and Coins: the Early Days

The borderlands of the two nations have long been a frontier between Buddhism and Islam, fluctuating over time as kingdoms rose and fell. Historical evidence of Muslims living permanently in the area now known as Rakhine State goes back at least to the Mrauk-U kingdom of the 15th century.

"Some [Muslims] were serving in the court as ministers, even prime ministers — there were generals in the army, the royal army," Aye Lwin, a Muslim leader, interfaith activist and educator, said.

"Devout Buddhist Rakhine kings, they had Muslim titles … and these kings they minted coins with Arabic inscriptions," Aye Lwin told the ABC.

"So this clearly shows that these groups were intermingling," he said.

Rakhine historians see it differently.

"I never deny the existence of [the] Muslim community in the Mrauk-U kingdom before the Burmese conquest of the kingdom in 1785 … but it was a very small community," Aye Chan, professor emeritus at Kanda University, said.

user posted image

Photo: More than 400,000 ethnic Rohingya Muslims have poured into Bangladesh from Myanmar in the last month. (AP: Bernat Armangue, file)

Colonial Rice

The Rohingya's contentious history really centres around the period when Britain colonised Burma, as Myanmar was known back then, along with the South Asian nations to the west.

Britain needed labourers to grow rice.

"A lot of seasonal workers … came in from [the] Bangal area," said Muslim leader Aye Lwin.

"It was mass migration," agreed Aye Chan.

Mr Chan said census figures show that the number of "Mahomedans" (a catch-all term for Muslims) increased from 58,255 in 1871 to 178,647 in 1911.

Colonial records show there was an influx of workers from what is now Bangladesh to what is now Myanmar; that's not disputed.

However, the facts are interpreted in two very different ways — either as evidence that Muslims have lived in Myanmar for generations or that they are relative newcomers who don't deserve citizenship.

This, as much as anything, is probably the heart of the Rohingya debate.

"These people … who are claiming the title Rohingya … are not entitled for that category," said Aye Chan.

Muslim leader Aye Lwin disagrees, saying Rohingya do have a historical claim to live in Rakhine State.

"They do have it, but having said that, borders have always been porous … elastic," said Mr Lwin.

While much of the migration occurred during the period of the three Anglo-Burmese wars (1824-1885), those porous borders have continued to see people travel both ways.

Whether you think people who have lived in a place for up to 190 years deserve to stay there depends on your politics.

Bangladesh's Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan tried to place the question in an Australian context.

"If you go back to Australian history, before 500 years, 300 years, from where the … Australian people came?" Mr Khan asked the ABC's South Asia correspondent James Bennett.

"From Europe or wherever," he said.

"These people [Rohingya] have come, from where I don't know … but hundreds of years they were in Myanmar," the Home Minister said.

"How can it be they were Bangladeshi?"

WWII, violence and an insurgent 'own goal'

Existing tensions were deepened during World War II, when the Rohingya fought with the British, while the Rakhine Buddhists sided with the Japanese, before switching at the last minute in a manoeuvre that helped deliver independence in 1948.

Over the years there have been sporadic outbursts of violence, establishing a familiar pattern for people in Rakhine State: killings, exodus, return, repeat.

There have been attempts by Muslims to fight back — notably the Rohingya Mujihadeen Rebellion from 1948-61 and the Rohingya Solidarity Organisation, which formed in 1982 but started to splinter four years later.

Myanmar's 1982 citizenship law contained a list of recognised ethnic groups and the Rohingya were left out.

In recent times, hard-line Buddhist monks have stoked nationalist fervour and framed this as a battle between religions.

The contested history is reflected in modern language, with most Myanmar people referring to Rohingya as "Bengalis" or the derogatory "Kalas".

A journalist covering the issue in Rakhine State last month warned other reporters, "don't even think of saying 'Rohingya' here."

With little hope of change, rebellion stirred again.

A new insurgent group emerged last year with Saudi funding, first calling itself the Harakah al-Yaqin (Faith Movement) but changing its name to the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA).

ARSA's attacks against police posts in October and last month have had a devastating impact for the people it's supposed to protect, sparking a brutal crackdown.

Once again the stateless Rohingya are on the run — homeless and increasingly hopeless

user posted image

Photo: A woman waits for aid in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. (Reuters: Cathal McNaughton)

I have posted this article as I found it a very interesting background piece which leads to greater understanding of the problem.

Once again religion is the major cause of conflict. Intolerance of others' religious beliefs has been behind so many wars and upheaval over many centuries.

Australia has now directed $15m in aid towards feeding the Rohingya in Bangladesh - a country that is ill-equipped to deal with the problem and keen to have the refugees return to Myanmar.

There are the usual calls for Australia and other Western countries to accept Rohingya refugees. Yesterday it was the Congo, Sudan, Somalia etc. Today it is Myanmar, Syria, Yemen etc. Who and where will it be tomorrow?

Is there a solution? I fear not.

Posted by: scepo Apr 30 2018, 10:57 AM
Thanks for posting that article Charles. I had been thinking of researching the history of the issue and the toxic feelings that exist there at present.

It's obvious that there is a distinct lack of trust and a lot of hatred from both sides.

Posted by: charka Apr 30 2018, 06:01 PM
On the promo they held up printed signs not hand written however this is our problem WHY Yet balked at helping south African farmers How much aid do muslin countries give. enough is enough Next it will be send them here Our next invaders nothing to offer Just wounder if the musom agenda had been n pushed to far just wondered

Posted by: Bill May 1 2018, 02:56 PM
Under normal circumstances, the U.S. the U.K. and puppy dog Australia would be calling for sanctions against the Myanmar government, and freezing all of their assets outside of Myanmar.

We would be arming and providing logistic support to opponents of the generals. We actually are supporting a rebel group in Myanmar - just not the Rohingya - I wonder why ?

Where are the cruise missiles ?

Video from 7.30 with Ray Martin:
Fred Hollows Foundation restoring more than sight in refugee camp

Transcript from the same story:
Giving life back to a people who have no hope

Her name is Shamsun Nahar," he told me, his brow all creased and worried.

"She says her family were slaughtered by the Burmese Army. And she's blind in both her eyes from cataracts. Has been for maybe seven years."

The army, she told us, had attacked her village just across the border last August, killing people with automatic rifles — including her husband. Then they hacked her seven children with machetes, cutting off their heads — she insisted — throwing their bodies into a ditch and setting fire to them to destroy the evidence. They then burnt down the entire village, including her house

We have at least one of these Rohingyas locked up on Manus - unjable to take up the offer of asylum in the U.S. because his wife and four children made it to Australia on a boat prior to the Rudd declaration, and he arrived after.

Dutton could intervene and reunite his family, but doesn't. Shameful.

Posted by: Bill May 1 2018, 03:01 PM
There are the usual calls for Australia and other Western countries to accept Rohingya refugees. Yesterday it was the Congo, Sudan, Somalia etc. Today it is Myanmar, Syria, Yemen etc. Who and where will it be tomorrow?

Hi Charles

Apparently there's a strong case being made to resettle some victims of 'genocide' from South Africa - so there is a hope that the plight of the Rohingyas will be recognized. It's not as pressing as the South African farmer's case, but nevertheless it deserves consideration by Peter Dutton.

Posted by: scepo May 1 2018, 04:33 PM
Frankly I think both sides are at fault.

And I don't think there will ever be lasting "peace" between Islam and any other religion.

Posted by: Flin May 1 2018, 04:38 PM
Ditto that, Scepo.

Posted by: charka May 1 2018, 06:08 PM
i do not care and i have no guilt look after our own Is this my fault our fault?

Powered by Invision Power Board (
© Invision Power Services (