- Rohingya provocative Article!
Written by Mohiuddin (aka)Maung Sein,
source from http://www.mayupress.com/
[ Identification of an ethnicity is the right of a group of people who share common heritage, language, culture and history, living in a defined territory as a compact community for a countable period of time. No one or authority can impose their criteria, their Litmus test upon them by force or decree.
The Muslim population of Arakan who believe they are native people of Rohang /Mrohang (Rohingya name of Rakhapura/Rakhaing Prey) identify themselves today as the Rohingyas per their free will and aspiration. They want to be known by this name by others with due respect. It is their natural and basic right to live in peace and harmony with sister communities of Burma as loyal and worthy citizens of the soil of Arakan. There is nothing to interfere about or to discredit the Rohingyas with other names that they disapprove of by any third party or other national races including the Rakhaings. The ethnic identity name should not and cannot be a factor at all when determining the nationality or citizenship status in Burma].
For Burmese people, in general, and the Rohingyas, in particular, struggle for democracy and human rights have been a long and seemingly unending walk to freedom.. The symbol of our suffering is embodied in the fragile body of Aung San Sui Kyi. Her suffering is shared by her people and the international community. Even though she suffers in silence, Burma’s democracy movement leaders have developed the framework for a democratic institution building with the objective of establishing a democratic civil society that is based on human rights, justice, equality and peaceful co-existence for achieving peace and prosperity in Burma.
The goal of restoration of democracy in Burma is reflected in the policies and strategies of the NLD (National League for Democracy), the party which won landslide victory in the 1990 general election, the CRPP (Committee Representing the Peoples’ Parliament) and all other opposition democratic forces – inside and outside of Burma, including those who are engaged to remove the military rule by armed resistance of the patriotic revolutionary forces of various ethnic minorities fighting for justice and the right of self-determination in Burma .
In the past, we had a democratic government for a brief period. But it didn’t survive. The question before us now is not only how to walk to freedom but also how to sustain it. There is no easy solution to this vital question. For this, in the Arakan context, we need academic debates, research, seminars, symposium, dialogues and conferences that are open and inclusive, not only just within each community but also between communities through active participation in a friendly and engaging atmosphere. This is particularly true about discussions on Burmese democracy and the Rohingya question. Why? This is simply because of the fact that the struggle for restoration of Democracy in Burma is a complicated, multi-dimensional phenomenon. A genuine democratic movement simply cannot afford to be oblivious of the genuine rights and concerns of the various communities that live within its border. We have to assess the internal and external agents and mechanisms of change, understanding the cultural diversities of people with whom Rohingyas would interact as the co-citizens inside the Arakan and Burma. Bottom line: we have to develop an all inclusive, integrated and coordinated approach.
From the dismal record of democracy inside Burma, it is obvious that the concept of democracy and its benefits, allowing her people to enjoy human rights in social infrastructure development has not sunk in very well among her people. It is mainly because they are being bombarded with xenophobic propaganda fed by the long-serving military machine and its agents working as divisive forces that only help to strengthen and prolong military rule in Burma. Education along these lines, e.g., the deadly effects of xenophobia, is very important. Such humane education will strengthen the foundation for a multi-ethnic, multi-racial, and multi-religious Burma that we can all pride in.
For harvesting the fruit of democracy, as is obvious, such an education must begin with the leaders of the democracy movement. It is really praise-worthy and a matter of great pride for many of us to see the positive effect of that humane education amongst the students of the 1988-generation and the leaders of the Burmese democratic forces under the leadership of popular democracy icon Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her NLD party. Yet, it is so disheartening to see today how prejudice and xenophobic thinking are keeping Burma backward.
Democracy is a government by the people in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected representatives. According to Abraham Lincoln, democracy is a government “of the people, by the people and for the people.” Democracy is not just a slogan. It is about living and bringing to fruition those lofty high ideals in the life of a nation so that the genuine concerns and legitimate aspirations of all its people, majority and minority – irrespective of their social and economic status within the society, ethnicity, color, race and religion – are met so that no one either feels discriminated or abused. In short, democracy is the institutionalization of freedom. It guarantees sovereignty of the people through a government that is based upon the consent of the governed, protecting minority rights, guaranteeing basic human rights and equality before the law, imposing constitutional limits on government, instilling social, economic and political pluralism, values of tolerance, pragmatism, cooperation and compromise for greater good of all.
These are the essential ingredients of a democratic state. In Burma, ‘democracy’ is a far cry! It is missing.
In this context, when we discuss about the problems and prospects of democratic development in Burma we see a naked and unambiguous disregard for basic fundamental human rights of their sister communities. This is noticeable in prejudicial, racist and hostile attitude of various communities towards each other. This is particularly true in certain ethnic group’s hostile attitudes towards the Burmese Muslims and the minority Rohingya people of Arakan that are part of the mosaic of estimated 54 million people that comprise today’s Burma.
It is a matter of great concern that most of the Rakhaings from Arakan ruling group, elites and intellectuals alike, openly deny the existence of Rohingya in Burma on racial prejudice, labeling them ‘illegal Bangladeshi immigrants’ and ‘non-nationals’ of Burma. Their hostile attitude mimics those of the military (SPDC) regime that likes ethnic conflicts and turmoil to persist and flare up in the western region of Burma. Nevertheless, it is comforting to know that except for the bigoted ultra-nationalists, most Rakhines are not anti-Rohingya.
Racial, ethnic and religious prejudice runs so deep in Burma that it is not so surprising to see hesitation on the part of some Burmese democratic parties to accepting and cooperating with the Rohingyas as fellow comrades in joint struggle for freedom, democracy and human rights in Burma. Fortunately again, except for a small group of misunderstood, misinformed or deluded individuals, not all Burmese democratic activists are anti-Rohingya. These are symptoms of Burma’s obstacle to democracy. Such anti-democratic thinking is against the concept of pluralism and multi-racial society. These are challenges to the values of tolerance and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Amongst the exiled Rakhine/Burmese leadership, lamentably, democratic parties like the ANC (Arakan National Council, formed by Rakhaing – exiles in India), ENC (Ethnic Nationalities Council, formed by exiles of many ethnic groups in Thailand), ALD (Arakan League for Democracy, the party that participated in the 1990 general election in Arakan winning 11 MP seats) also do not recognize Rohingya as an ethnic minority of Burma. Their attitude is not conducive towards development of genuine democracy in Burma.
In such a hopeless, truth-defying political landscape of doom and gloom, hatred and prejudice, when someone’s suffering is seen as other’s benefit, it is refreshing to recall that the genuine leadership of 1988 Generation students – ABSDF – came in support of the Rohingya people with due recognition of and respect for them. They embraced the Rohingya on broad-based political and democratic platform during and after Rohingya refugee exodus to Bangladesh. The ABSDF published a 22-page booklet in support of the Rohingyas.
In a nutshell, on racial and religious grounds, most of the Burmese ‘democrats’, except a few Burmese exiled groups and some Rakhaing individuals, knowingly or unknowingly refrain from or hesitate to accept the Rohingyas in their ranks and files. This type of chauvinistic, hostile and morally reprehensible attitude is no different than those preached and practiced by the BSPP/SLORC/SPDC military rulers against the Rohingyas. It is simply strengthening the hands and policies of the SPDC military junta and its tools of oppression for dividing the people of Burma along racial, ethnic and religious lines. Such an attitude of exclusion, as exhibited by many of so-called democratic leaders of Burma, is neither the way of democratic thinking nor does help thawing the Burmese-Rakhine-Rohingya relationship.
Suspicion and hatred of Rohingyas on racial and religious ground, and depriving them of their fundamental rights to survival as human beings with honor and dignity in their ancestral homeland is a crime against humanity. It is at variance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Those who want to exclude the Rohingyas in the mainstream democratic forces of Burma, particularly the Rakhaing democrats, raise the pretext that there is no ethnic group in Burma by the name of ‘Rohingya’. They claim that the Rohingyas are ‘illegal Bangalee (Bengali)’ people who entered Arakan during the British colonial period from 1824 to 1948 and, as such, they are not one of the nationals of Burma at all, but ‘foreigner residents’ and ‘stateless’ people.
In order to refute such malicious claims, I provide below the following facts:
1. In the Burmese transliteration of the 8th century Anandasanda Stone Pillar inscription in the ancient capital city of Mrauk-U, the use of Rohingya words like Arakandesh (Arakan country), Raza (king), kam (job), etc., testify to the rich cultural heritage of the Rohingya people in Arakan. [Dr. Saw Tun Aung: Shittaung Phara Stone Pillar's Northern Side Inscription, Rakhine Welfare Association's 25th Anniversary Magazine, pp. 48-53]
2. Dr. Than Tun, the rector of Mandalay University and professor of history wrote, “The kings of Arakan had Muslim titles. The Muslim kings mentioned in the Kyaukza (stone plates or stones tablets inscriptions of 1442) might be Rohingyas from the Mayu valley of the eastern Naf River (and the western Kaladan River) who claimed their existence of over thousand years. Their existence might be from the time of 1202 C.E. when their co-religious Muslims conquered Bengal, that is 800 years [ago]. It was written in the Kyaukza of 1442 that there were some Muslim kings of Arakan who were very friendly with the kings of Ava.” [Dr. G.H. Luce, "K’yan (Chin)" Mru and K’umi (N. Arakan)" Phases of Pre-Pagan Burma Languages and History, Oxford, SOAS, 1985-76-97; Dr. Than Tun, Kalya Magazine, pp. 27-28, 1994, August]
3. The British-Burma Gazetteers of 1879 stated: “Many Arab ships wrecked near Rambree Island of Arakan coast during the reign of Mahataing Sanda (788-810) and the crews and the traders of those ships were Muslims and they were sent to the Arakan proper and settled in villages, where the married local women.. … According to history, Islam came through the sea borne Sufis and merchants. These were testified by the darghas (shrines) which are dotted at the long coast of Arakan and Burma.” [p. 16]
4. The historian U Kyi wrote: “The superior morality of those devout Muslims attracted large number of people towards Islam who embraced it en masse.” [The Essential History of Burma by U Kyi, p. 160]
5. Zaya Kyaw Tin U Ba Shin wrote, “From 1430 A.D. Arakan was ruled by the Muslims.” [The Arrival of Islam in Burma, p. 5]
6. Francis Buchanan was a surgeon in 1795 to the British Embassy in Ava, the then capital of Burma. He wrote, “I shall now add three dialects, spoken in the Burma Empire. The first is that spoken by the Mohammedans, who have long been settled in Arakan and who call themselves Roanigya or native of Arakan.” [The Languages of Burma, Asiatic Researches (Calcutta), vol. 5, 1801]
7. The Time Atlas of the World History says, “Muslim kingdom of Arakan was independent in the 14th and 15th centuries.” [Time Atlas of the World History, edited in 1979 by Geoffrey Barraclough, p. 33]
8. The SLORC /SPDC Publication ‘Thasana Yongwa Htoonkazepo’ stated, “Muslims arrived and settled since last 1000 to 1200 years in Burma.” [The SLORC Publication 'Thasana Yongwa Htoonkazepo’ p. 65]
9. According to the 1947 Constitution of the Union of Burma, based on Aung San-Atlee agreement, “Every person who was born in any of the territories which at the time of his birth was included within His Britannic Majesty’s dominions and who has resided in any of the territories included within the Union for a period of not less than eight years in the ten years immediately preceding the date of the commencement of this Constitution or immediately preceding the 1st January 1942 and who intends to reside permanently there in and who signifies his election of citizenship of the Union in the manner and within the time prescribed by law, shall be a citizen of the Union. (Section 11, iv) Furthermore, the Constitution’s Citizenship Section 10 says, “There shall be but one citizenship throughout the Union.”
10. The Union Citizenship Act, 1948 says: “Any person descended from ancestors who for two generations at least have all made any of the territories included within the Union their permanent home and whose parents and himself were born in any of such territories shall be deemed to be a citizen of the Union.” (Article 4.2)
11. The First President of the Union of Burma U Sao Shwe Thaik acknowledged and announced that Rohingyas are an indigenous race and citizens of Burma, same as Shan, Kachin, Mon, Karen, and Rakhine.
12. Under the 1949 Residents of Burma Registration Act and the 1951 Residents of Burma Registration Rules, Rohingyas were issued Burmese NRC (National Registration Cards), which itself is a proof of their bona-fide citizenship and nationality since foreigners were excluded from the issuance of such cards. [The issuance of the NRC to Rohingyas was stopped by Ne Win military regime after 1962.]
13. The Registration of Foreigners Act (Burma Act VII, 1940) did not require Rohingyas to be registered as foreigners, since they were regarded as Burmese nationals.
14. The former Prime Minister U Nu made categorical statements concerning the Rohingya status. On September 25, 1954 at 8:00 p.m., U Nu made speech from the Burmese national Radio BBS (Burmese Broadcasting Services) stating, “The Rakhine State is situated towards the south-west of the Union. The Buthidaung and Maung Daw townships are included in the Sittwe Division of the Rakhine state. These two townships are bordering East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). The majority of the people in these two townships are Rohingyas who profess the Islamic faith.”
15. The former Burmese Defence Minister and Prime Minister U Ba Swe said at mass rallies at Buthidaung and Maung Daw on the 3rd and 4th of November, 1959 that “The Rohingyas are equal in every way with other minority races like the Shan, Chin, Kachin, Kayin, Kayah, Mon and Rakhine. They have lived in Myanmar Niang Ngan for ages, according to historical facts. They are of the Islamic faith. There is historical evidence that they have lived faithfully and harmoniously with other races of the Union.”
16. In his speech, Brigadier U Aung Gyi, Vice Chief of Staff at Maung Daw on July 4, 1961 at the ceremony of the resistance group who were fighting in the name of revolution since the independence of Burma stated that “Rohingyas are an indigenous race in Burma same as other ethnic groups such as Shan, Kachin, Karen, Mon and Rakhine.”
17. In recognition of the Rohingya as an indigenous ethnic minority, the Dean of Student Affairs, University of Rangoon, granted permission to organize and operate under the name of “University Rohingya Students Association” in 1959-61. [Note: foreign students could not organize under the Burmese Universities Act.]
18. The Parliamentary Democratic Government of U Nu allowed the broadcast of the Rohingya language program from May 15, 1961 to October 1, 1965 as per indigenous citizen’s program of BBS.
19. U Nu’s democratic government granted local autonomy to the Rohingyas and declared establishment of the Mayu Frontier Administration (MFA), a special frontier district ruled directly by the central government in the year 1961, May 30, which was abolished in 1964, on February 1, by Gen. Ne Win. [It is worth mentioning here that initially, General Ne Win recognized the Rohingyas as an indigenous race and citizen of Burma. (Dr. Shwe Lu Maung, The Price of Silence)]
20. The Encyclopedia Burmanica, published by the government in its Vol. 9, No. 4, pp. 89-90, publication mentioned “Rohingya as an indigenous ethnic group living in northern Arakan.”
21. Rohingya Minister, MPs, Secretaries were given due honor and appropriate posts in the both the Houses of the Parliamentary Democratic Government in Burma from 1948 to 1962.
22. Rohingyas were recruited in army, navy and police forces as loyal Burmese citizens to defend the country and people of Burma from 1948 to 1962.
23. Rohingya political, social, educational, cultural organizations were duly recognized and approved by the proper Authorities for registration.
24. Rohingya ethnic cultural show was exhibited on the occasion of national parade of the National and Independence days.
25. The high school textbook on geography (1978) published by the Ministry of Education, Government of Burma, showed minority settlements in North Arakan where Rohingya people lived.
26. As Bona-fide citizens of Burma, the Rohingyas exercised their citizenship rights of votes and contested in all parliamentary general elections, held in Burma since 1936, including those in 1939, 1947, 1952, 1956, 1961, 1974, 1978 and 1990, and wining elections in their region. The participation in those elections, along with the assignment of the post of Health Minister in U Nu’s Cabinet further consolidate the indigenous status of Rohingyas and their citizenship or Burmese nationality.
27. The conspiracy to rob the Rohingyas of their inalienable fundamental rights of citizenship or Burmese nationality rights was initiated by the Ne Win’s Revolutionary Council at the persuasion of some Rakhaing ultra-nationalist and elite groups. [Dr. Aye Kyaw (now a US citizen) was one of the leaders of this group. He has written anti-Rohingya literary materials to misguide the Burmese people and military officers.] In site of such conspiratorial and xenophobic 1974 and 1982 citizenship laws – that were formulated by the BSPP/SLORC/SPDC rulers, they did not dare to bar the Rohingyas from exercising their rights to vote in Burma in the 1990 general election.
28. Burma Election commission and Immigration Departments recognized the Rohingyas as Bona-fide citizens by preparing the voter lists and granting and approving nominations of Rohingya candidates in the Multi-Party Democracy General Election of 1990. [In that election, the National Democratic Party for Human Rights (NDPHR) of the Rohingya ethnic people contested in 6 townships - Maungdaw, Buthidaung, Akyab (Sittwe), Mrauk U (formerly Mro-haung), Minbya and Kyauktaw in 9 constituencies and won 4 MP seats. The elected MPs were - U Kyaw Min (aka) Mohammad Shamsul Anwarul Hoque from Buthidaung Constituency (1), U Tin Maung (aka) Nur Ahmed from Buthidaung Constituency (2), U Ebrahim (aka) U Chit Lwin from Maungdaw Constituency (1) and U Fazal Ahmed from Maungdaw Constituency (2).] The approval of 9 electoral nominations from the NDPHR and other Rohingya candidates from other parties (e.g., Mayu Development Student Youth Organization (Arakan), led by U Kyaw Soe Aung and U Emtiyaz; National Ethnic Reformation Party led by U Khin Maung and U Shwe Bung Win, Amyothar (National) Party led by Rtd. Major-General (air) U Tun Kyaw Oo and Rohingyas, Indigenous Cooperation Party led by U Hussain Ahamed and U Fazal Kabir (alias) U Kyaw Thein in Arakan by the Burma Election Commission clearly shows that Rohingyas are not foreigners – they are neither guest citizens nor associate citizens. Otherwise those nominations would have been rejected on the basis of 1982 citizenship law.
29. The historian Moshe Yegar writes, “The Rohingyas preserved their own heritages from the impact of the Buddhist environment not only as far as their religion is concerned but also in some aspects of their culture.” [The Muslims of Burma: A Study of a Minority Group, p. 25]
It should be pointed out that in spite of their religious ties with Bengali Muslims, especially in the neighboring Chittagong area (Bangladesh), Rohingyas maintained certain distinctness from them.
1. Anthony Irwin writes, “The Musulman Arakanese, generally known as Bengalis or Chittagonians, quite incorrectly…. To look at, they are quite unlike any other product of India or Burma that I have seen. They resemble the Arabs in name, in dress and in habit. The women and more particularly the young girls have distinctive Arab touch about them…. As a race they have been here over two hundred years.” [Burmese Outpost, pub. Collins (London), 1945, p. 22]
2. The historian Moshe Yegar writes, “There is after all very little common – except common religion – between the Rohingyas of Arakan and the Indian Muslims of Rangoon or Burmese Muslims of the Shwebo district. These are different groups that do not identify with each other, do not share the same goal and aspiration.” [The Muslims of Burma: A Study of a Minority Group, p. 111]
3. U Thein Pei Myint, one of the most popular Burmese authors, writes, “Almost all Bengalis grow moustaches, Rohingyas do not keep moustaches. Wedding programs, marriage arrangements, feeding customs, foods and drinks are all different. Instrumental music, musical instruments and music, etc. are different. Hereditary festivities of boat-racing, paddy transplant competition, wrestling, riddles, bull-fight, buffalo-fight, etc., are held as Rohingya’s own traditional festivities. The culture of ‘collective labour volunteering’ exists among the Rohingya till today. Difference is more vivid in trade and profession. Haircutting, blacksmith, goldsmith, silversmith, laundry and shoe-making are very rare among the Rohingya as they conceive these are lowly and inglorious professions.” [From Myohaung to Paletwa, 1978 Ahte'tan Pinjin Zagabjei Le'jwei:zin (A high school Burmese textbook)
An oft-repeated argument by the Burmese chauvinists and Rakhine ultra-nationalists is that Muslims of Northern Arakan state participated, voted and became MPs in all general elections from 1937 to 1990 as Muslims and not as a Rohingyas. I say: so, what? Are we not the same people? The British government recorded us along the religious line as Muslims. The Burmese government did not accept registration of political party bearing the name Rohingya during the political party registration process in 1989. Such government branding did not change what we are. We are the same people.
One must understand that ethnicity, indigenous or tribal status is not a factor or obstacle in the way of citizenship and nationality of Burma. One should be reminded here by the statement of General Aung San, the Father of our nation. Sixty years ago, during Panglong Meeting, in 11 February 1947, he said: “We have in Burma many indigenous peoples: the Karen, the Kachin, the Shan, the Chin, the Burmans and others… In other countries too there are many indigenous peoples, many “races.”… Thus “races” do not have rigid boundaries. Religion is no barrier either, for it is a matter of individual conscience… If we want the nation to prosper, we must pool our resources, manpower, wealth, skills and work together. … If we are divided, the Karen, the Shan, the Kachin, the Chin, the Burman, the Mon and the Arakanese, each pulling in a different direction, the Union will be torn, and we will come to grief. Let us unite and work together.”
When asked about the Rohingyas and human rights, the Democracy icon Daw Aung San Suu Kyi replied in recent BBC interview: “Democracy does mean pluralism and democracy means equal basic human rights for everybody. I am confident that we can build up a really strong and united Burma. The signs are all here. In some ways, the sufferings we have undergone together have built up a tremendous feeling of trust among each other. Our sufferings have united us. I think the world has opened up in such a way that different cultures are able to reach across to each other. We all live in the same country – we have lived in the same country for centuries and because we have lived together so closely, we have had our problems. You have more problems with your neighbours than with people who live very far away from you – that’s only natural. But I think we can also learn to be very, very good neighbours in the same way because we all live in this country we can learn to be very good and loving towards each other. We can learn to trust each other, we can learn to work together, we can learn to live together and I think that learning process has already begun.” (Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on Rohingyas in BBC interview)
From the speeches of Burma’s Founding Father General Aung San to his daughter, hope of future Burma, Democracy icon Daw Aung San Suu Kyi all members of national races and democrats from Burma should understand that there is no place for racism and ethnic prejudice in a future democratic Burma.
Identification of an ethnicity is the right of a group of people who share common heritage, language, culture and history, living in a defined territory as a compact community for a countable period of time. No one or authority can impose their criteria, their Litmus test upon them by force or decree.
The Muslim population of Arakan who believe they are native people of Rohang /Mrohang (Rohingya name of Rakhapura/Rakhaing Prey) identify themselves today as the Rohingyas per their free will and aspiration. They want to be known by this name by others with due respect.. It is their natural and basic right to live in peace and harmony with sister communities of Burma as loyal and worthy citizens of the soil of Arakan. There is nothing to interfere about or to discredit the Rohingyas with other names that they disapprove of by any third party or other national races including the Rakhaings. The name should not and cannot be a factor at all when determining the nationality or citizenship status.
Further evidences to Rohingya’s ancestry in Arakan are documented in the writings of famous historians like Hall, Harvey and Professor Desai who mentioned that the population of Arakan before the 10th century CE was of Indian stock, i.e., similar to Bengalis in Bangladesh today. As we know, over the last millennium, many of these Bengalis became Muslims. Similarly, many of the original inhabitants of Arakan that looked like their neighbors in today’s Bangladesh also became Muslims. They identify themselves as the Rohingyas.
It is also known that foreign trade of Arakan before the Portuguese arrival in the late 15th century was solely in the hands of Arabs and that there were many Arab colonies in Kyauk-La-Ga and Mrauk-U, the then capitals of Arakan. Due to the presence of these colonies and the ensuing intercourse of Arabs, many natives Arakanese became Muslims (The Muslims of Burma: A Study of a Minority Group by Moshe Yegar).
The most shining dynasty of Arakan was the Mrauk-U dynasty. It was founded by Naramikla (alias) Sulaiman (1403—1433 CE), who had lived in exile for more than two decades. He took military help from the Bengal Muslim King to restore his kingdom. From King Naramikla to Sandathudama in 1652 CE more than 15 Arakanese kings adopted Muslim titles and used coins bearing Muslim inscription. Even their judicial system was based along Muslim line. Many ministers, high-ranking officials, members of army were Muslims. Descendents of these Muslims commingled with former native people comprising today’s Rohingyas. (The History of Chittagong, Vol. 1 by Dr. S. B. Kunango, University of Chittagong)
There were thousand of captive Muslim settlements in Arakan during Mrauk-U dynasty. Magh (Atrakanese Buddhist) pirates and Portuguese slave hunters brought these captives to Arakan on a regular basis. According to Arthur Phayre, this population consisted of 15% of total population of Arakan.. (Travelogue of Father Manrique)
Arakan history is replete with the fact that during the dispute between Moghul Prince Shah Shuja, who took asylum in Arakan and Arakan king Sandathudama, in the early 1660s, Prince Shuja found a considerable number of Muslims to take side with him.
The British Official Mr. Paton’s Report in 1825 categorized the population of Arakan as 6:3:1, i.e., 60,000 Arakanese Buddhists, 30,000Arakanese Muslims, and 10,000 Burmans. This report shows that when the Great Britain occupied Arakan, there was 1 Muslim living there for every two Arakanese Buddhists. (A. C. Banarjee, The Eastern Frontier of British India, Calcutta, 1964, p. 351)
Towards our ancestral origin to Arakan, let me now submit some historic edifices of Rohingyas:
(a) The Sandi Khan Mosque in Minthaya Bying Village (Kawalong), Mrauk-U, was built by the Muslim Army that restored Narameikhla to the throne of Arakan in 1433. This mosque was partially destroyed by the SLORC (current the SPDC).
(b) The Musa Mosque, popularly known as the Maiz-zya Pal-lee, with its big pond in the eastern Mrauk-U in 1513-15.
(c) The Rakhine Ja-may Mosque at Shwe Daung village in Moulmein was built by the Muslim Army of Arakan during Arakanese King Min Raza Gri’s time (1593-1612).
(d) The Alam Lashkar Mosque with its ten ponds around it in Pan Myaung Village in Minbya township of Arakan.
(e) The Shwe Dah Kazi Mosque, which was built by Shwe Dah Kazi before 1780. [Note: Kazi died in Calcutta Jail after arrest during the First Anglo-Burma War, fighting against the British Occupation Forces in Minbra Township of Arakan.] The Kazi Mosque in Paik Thay Village is in Kyauktaw township of Arakan.
(f) The Bodor Mokam Mosque — built in the 18th century.. This is presently occupied as a military Cantonment.
(g) The Musa Dewan Mosque at Nazirpara, near the Muslim graveyard in Akyab.
(h) There was another mosque known as Nan-Oo Pal-lee in front of the old Palace in Mrauk-U, which was totally demolished by the SLORC, all in defiance of the 1972 UNESCO Convention.]
(i) All the settlements of Rohingyas in Arakan are located along the most important and fertile rivers of Arakan such as Meyu, Kaladan, Lae Myo, which testify to the fact that Rohingya settlements in Arakan are as old as history; hence, as one of the first settlers to the land, they could occupy the fertile areas of Arakan.
(j) There are many other proofs and evidences of Rohingyas’ ancestry and settlement in Arakan that I could have cited. However these are beyond the scope of discussion here.
As has been amply demonstrated above, Rohingyas are indigenous to Arakan. The anti-Rohingya campaign to deny their birthrights to the land of Arakan is wrong – both factually and morally. It is deceitful, malicious and hostile to the core.
It must be stressed further that the 1974 and 1982 Burma Citizenship Laws are products of unelected, usurping, dictatorial military junta that had neither the mandate to pass any law on the citizenship of Burmese multi-ethnic people nor the legitimacy to hold national convention to draw a new constitution for the legalization of the rule of the military dictatorship. These laws are illegal and unacceptable to the people of Burma including the affected Rohingyas of Arakan. Above all, these discriminatory laws are at odds with scores of charters and laws governing citizenship around the world. They vehemently undermine the human rights of the Rohingyas and at the same time have been posing a big impediment in the promotion of democracy not just within Arakan but in the entire Union of Burma.
Apart from such exclusionary racial and religious prejudices against minorities, factors that contribute to unease, suspicion, tension and hatred in a reminiscent of the Belfast scenario of the yesteryears, there is a plethora of factors that are also challenging to the democratic development in Burma. There are many inside Burma, from the SPDC military junta to selfish pro-junta business tycoons, who fear to lose power and fortune if democracy were to be established in Burma. Then, there are outside powers like China, India and Russia that benefit from trade and commerce with the military-run Burma. Shamelessly, they care less about genuine aspirations of the people inside Burma.
Democracy is about equality and rights, respect for dignity and sovereignty of people. Double standard is anti-thesis to democracy; playing racial or religious favoritism with a dominant group and oppressing a minority is not democracy.
The human rights violations faced by the Rohingyas include not only the denial of citizenship, but also forced labor, extortion by the members of law enforcing agencies (Nasaka), rape, abduction, severe restrictions on job, education, health and human services, movement and marriage, and practice of religion and culture – all signifying a total, abysmal absence of basic human rights. By any account, the Rohingya community is the worst victim of targeted harassment, torture and persecution.
If democracy movement leaders of Burma fail to face the challenges of inter-ethnic conflicts, human rights violation, xenophobia, intolerance, extremism, racism and increasing inequalities, such problems will continue to pose significant threats to peace and stability of Burma. They will not foster democracy, but secession or rebellion with every national/ethnic community trying to walk out of the Federation. They can also be, as has already been proven in the last century through the influx of Rohingya refugees to Bangladesh, destabilizing forces in South and South-east Asia.
The word ‘democracy’ cannot remain confined within slogans only. Understandably, if democracy awareness campaign is not undertaken during the course of democratic movement in Burma today, and if we do not bring these important but neglected issues to the attention of the fellow countrymen and the leading democrats, and fail to come up with honorable solutions that unite us all (from Rohingya to Rakhine, Shan to Mon to Burman to Karen, etc.) on an equal basis, I am afraid, even if today’s SPDC were to leave letting Burma celebrate democracy, our victory will be superficial and very short-lived. It won’t be too long that Burma became a failed democracy with a revisit of the brutal military rule.
Burmese democrats and educationists must, therefore, play a very progressive role in combating intolerance and racism. They must promote dialogue, understanding and respect of various communities that make up today’s Burma to bring about the much-needed changes in thought and actions within multi-ethnic institutional framework. In this endeavor, the present democratic leadership can exchange information, and discuss areas of concern, and, most importantly, initiate reconciliation at all levels of policy- and decision- making within and between rank and file of all groups and parties. The road to a future stable, peaceful and progressive Burma lies in mutual trust and respect between leaders and their followers and constituents.
In accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, all members of the progressive Burmese democratic forces need to agree and accept that all individuals of Burma – born there (including those born of refugee parents outside), regardless of their ethnic or social background, religion or state of residence – are bona fide Citizens of Burma and must have the same basic human and democratic rights. They must demand a cessation of all hostilities and human rights violations against all minorities.. They cannot afford to be unmindful of the sufferings of all the communities that make the fabric of today’s Burma. This type of thinking will energize all minorities fostering a united movement for democracy inside Burma. It will aid in conflict management and resolution of the critical issues dealing with the Rohingyas and other minorities in Burma. It will also be a stabilizing force to sustain democracy. Let’s all work for that goal.
For further information Please contact:-
Mohiuddin (aka)Maung Sein, Tel:1-646-625-9407
Rohingya Concern International (RCI)
[About the Author: Mr. Maung Sein (alias) Mohiuddin Yusof is a human-rights activist. He served as the President of NDPHR (exile) USA from 2005 to 2008. He was also the Diplomatic Representative of ALD - exile-(Arakan League for Democracy) and ex-Coordinator of ALD-Liaison Office (Malaysia), one of the founding members and Chief Coordinator of Arakan Democratic Forces (ADF - Malaysia) under the leadership of Dr. Shwe Lu Maung (alias) Shahnawaz Khan (1997-1999), ex-Chairman and a founding member of the Organization of Displaced Rohingya Muslims (ODRM – Malaysia) in 1993-1999, Convener and ex- president of Arakan Peoples’ Freedom Party (APFP) in 1990, Ex-President of Rohingya Human Rights Organization (RHRO) in 1988, Ex-Vice President of Rohingya Muslim Welfare Association (RMWA) in 1987, former Secretary and EC member of Muslim Salvation Party (Tanzeem Khuddamul Musleemin) in 1973 - 1978.
Mr. Mohiuddin was also the chief Coordinator of the Organizing Committee of the First International Conference in Japan on the Problems of Democratic Development in Burma and the Rohingya people. He now lives in New York City, USA.
Mr. Mohiuddin is originally from Mrauk-Oo (formerly known as Mro-haung). He is the grand-son of U Shormuluk from Mrauk-U Township, where his family lived for hundreds of years in Mrauk-U until moving recently to Akyab (Sittwe). His lineage is from the aristocratic family of U Shormuluk in Mrauk–U who were the custodians of the ancient Sindi Khan Mosque (built in 1433) for more than 200 years. The historical mosque was demolished by extremist and ultra-nationalist Rakhaings under the aegis of SLORC/SPDC brutal military forces. His grand-father was also the Custodian of Nenn Oo Palli (Palace Mosque) of Alay-zay (Mrauk-U, ancient capital city of Arakan Kingdom), which was also demolished by anti-Muslim forces.]
 For more details, see the article: “Rohingyas are not British Era Settlers: Summary of the Facts – From the Rohingyas of Arakan” by A.F.K. Jilani, 6 October 2006 , http://www.rohingya.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=53&Itemid=61.
 Stone Plate Inscription” serial No. 963/20-23-804
 For details, see The Price of Silence by Dr. Shwe Lu Maung, DewDrop, USA (2005), p. 228-231; http://www.blc-burma.org/html/Constitution/1947..html#CITIZENSHIP.
 It is worth noting that the Immigration Department of Arakan State keeps a diligent record of foreigners within the state. According to a report issued by Arakan Security and Administration Committee, only 1037 individuals were registered as foreigners in 1974. The Rohingyas did not belong in the list.
 The practice of registering Muslim population along the religious line rather than ethnic or racial line owes it to the British administrative policy, something that can also be seen in Sri Lanka , when registering the Tamil Muslim minority as only “Muslims.” The same practice was adopted by the British when recording the Rohingya Muslim population in Burma .