The Misuses of Histories and Historiography by the state in Myanmar : The Case of Rakhine and Rohingya

The Misuses of Histories and Historiography by the state in Myanmar : The Case of Rakhine and Rohingya

 Michael W. Charney (SOAS)

 Thanks for inviting me to speak. I am not a lawyer but a historian so my talk will be a little different than the others we listened to yesterday. While everyone else is looking for solutions, I am not doing that necessarily. Ultimately, some look to find solutions in holding Myanmar to account through international law. That’s what they can do. When I look at Myanmar .

I am trying to unravel the ways in which religious haters in the country misuse history to legitimate what they do. As Daniel Taylor’s talk indicated yesterday this has a real impact because countries, not willing to accept the stories that constitute genocide are partly influenced by the claims made by Myanmar that the Rohingya are foreigners that they are Bengali.

In the half hour that follows, I will give essentially two seemingly different sub-papers that actually must be viewed together before they can be synthesized into a single three dimensional view. First, I am going to discuss what I think is important about the longterm historical background of the current crisis involving Rakhine and Rohingya, because so much is already going around about more recent decades, the citizenship law of 1982, the Tatmadaw, NLD etc, that I do not have to do that  here.

Second,  I  will  explain  why  so  much  of  this  crisis  is  built  on  historical misunderstanding of Rakhine and Rakhine misunderstanding of history and how people picture history and people in it. I will then wrap all of this up in the end with some brief comments about some of the ahistorical things western academics have been doing in accepting one historical narrative that works against the Rohingya and why I think they are wrong.

I. The Historical Background

We have thousands of years of the human past in Rakhine, a lot of archaeological remains, coins, inscriptions in non-Bamar languages that really give us little more than Sanskrit royal names and titles. There is nothing that could serve as a historical story you might relate to students or a lay audience until really the fifteenth century. You have historicised stories that are almost certainly apocryphal.

Then, in the early fifteenth century, the Kingdoms of Ava and Pegu tried to establish cultural hegemony over the Indo-Aryan  kingdom  of  Rakhine,  importing  kings  and  queens,  courtiers, Buddhist monks, and Bamar settlers. You have a local king supposedly flee to the Muslim world, gain protection from the Sultan of Delhi or Bengal, it changes in different traditions, he teaches them various kinds of war tactics and the sultan sends him back with a Muslim army.

In 1430, we then have Rakhine ruler, supposedly the same guy, who comes back ousts the foreign, Bamar and Mon, invaders, establishes a religiously hybrid court, a sultanate from one perspective, a Buddhist court from another, but from inside the court, both at the same time. As the physical  geography  and  climate  favoured  approaches  to  living  and  ruling,  interacting,  and community building, social mentalities that were flexible and inclusive, that favored the emergence of ethnically and religiously diverse communities, and states that by European standards would be seen as heterodox and a major source of confusion. Thus, we find lots of evidence that Buddhists and Muslims got along quite well. Certainly, this creation myth of sorts identifies Muslims and the Muslim world as the saviour and protector, not the enemy of Rakhine. That latter role is reserved for Myanmar and the Buddhist political world. The Irrawaddy world is something Rakhine needs saving from.

The new Mrauk-U court relied upon a Muslim army to protect it and its first religious building was mosque, the Santikhan mosque, its kings began using Muslim as well as Buddhist titles and issued coins with the Kalima. More importantly, in a population poor area, the court tried to build up its labour pool by raiding Bengal and bringing back to Rakhine thousands of Bengali Muslims and Bengali soon-to-be Muslims captive every year. Many of these people were planted in villages along the Kaladan River areas close to the concentrations of Muslims in Rakhine we find today, or up until a year and a half ago, where they grew rice and engaged in other kinds of primary agricultural produce  cultivation.  By  the  mid-18th   century,  observers  claimed  that  75%  of  the population of Rakhine south of the Naf, because the Mughals had taken the rest of the region in the 1660s, was of Bengali origin.

When Myanmar conquered Rakhine in 1784-85, it would again try to extend Irrawaddy civilization  over  it  as  part  of  their  empire-building. The  Myanmar  court  commissioned state histories that placed Rakhine historically within the orbit of greater Myanmar. Myanmar Buddhism was introduced, court literature and local Buddha mages were brought back to the Irrawaddy Valley and so too were tens of thousands of Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists. Rakhine Buddhists and Muslims unhappy with Myanmar rule both fled to British Bengal, the Buddhists settling in the area that became a big refugee camp, which became known as Cox’s Bazaar after Hiram Cox.  Absent their own court literature, Buddhist monks from Rakhine rewrote from memory and produced new chronicles in opposition to Myanmar rule, but in doing created a Rakhine history only from their particular point of view, not purposely leaving the Rohingya voice out, but not including it either.

This is what we know from many different sources, but much of this is gradually erased by a new kind of source that emerges after this period, the Bamar-language chronicle of conquest and domination and the Rakhine-Bamar language chronicles of fear and insecurity. Histories are written for particular reasons—and when a great many are written with varying narratives it is a sign that something important is at stake. No one ever asks why the Rakhine were putting together so many histories in the late 18th century—why they were trying to legitimize their historical presence. The Rohingya were like many borderlands peoples an oral and not text-based society and, they had little to complain about, because the main cultural and religious tension at the time was between Bamars and the Rakhine Buddhists—it was intra-Buddhist take that was at stake not any threat from Islam.

Muslims were not the chief concern of the Bamars in the late 18th  century when they occupied Rakhine. There was no denying their presence—Rakhine of that time had mosques and coins with Muslim motifs. Again, most of the population was believed by the British of the time to have clearly been 75% of Bengali origin. The foundational languages of the area were clearly Indo- Aryan. By contrast, the Buddhist past in Rakhine was in doubt, being under challenge by the Myanmar court. Not needing to compete, the Rohingya did not.

The relics  of  decades  of  Rakhine  Buddhist  insecurity—numerous  chronicles  that  are mutually irreconcilable in which they admitted that their kingdom was founded by a refugee prince coming from India protected by a Muslim army were evidence that the Rakhine desperately wanted to create evidence that they had always been in the region, back to the time of Buddha. Now they claimed that with the presence of so many different chronicles that they did not “know” about an earlier Muslim presence, but they knew, they knew, generations of Rakhine Buddhists have always known. But, over generations, even the most basic truths of one’s origins are forgotten (after all, how many of you know who your own great, great grandparents were?).

This is hugely important. It is impossible for us today—lay reader, professional historian, Rohingya or Rakhine– to provide a historical background to Rakhine without engaging vigorously with the  politicised  historical  narratives  that  have  been  in  production  since  the  1780s.  Any background provided from whatever angle must be political because every source is a political artefact. So many gaps appear in the documentary record and so many contradictions exist in the “historical” narratives produced by local monks and courtiers from the 1780s there was plenty of space for compilers to act as composers and to fill these with ideas and beliefs of their own time. In other words, we read in chronicles descriptions of the history of Mrauk-U in the 15th century, we are not reading primary sources on that period. We are instead entering the imaginaries of Buddhist monks who lived geographically and temporally far away in Sandoway in the early 19th  century. And their perspectives were built on a different society that had spent 40 years under Myanmar rule.

We also have to keep in mind that the Rakhine area we refer to today is not what it was then, but Rakhine has historically been all of the coast eastern coast of the Bay of Bengal. So, one problem is that while the Rohingya are real, and they or their forbears were in Rakhine as long as the Buddhist Rakhine were, and are just as indigenous, the terminologies we are must rely upon to discuss  them and  their  history  have been  subject to  significant efforts to  engineer them into foreigners.

This  contemporary Buddhist monopoly on  history  might have  been  balanced out  with Rohingya voices if not for another accident of history, the replacement of Myanmar rule with British rule in 1826. The British decided on the basis of orientalist scholarship by Sir Arthur Phayre that Rakhine should be categorised as have one native language, one native race, and one native religion, despite its huge diversity. Although from a Western point of view, you can only be one or the other, local indigenous families probably moved many times back and forth between different ethnic categories, from Rohingya to Rakhine and even to Bamar and back again, depending on the period,  the  context,  and  to  whom  they  married.  So  when  Phayre  read  the  Bamar-language chronicles he accepted them as genuine and authoritative and rejected the coins and all the other evidence of Muslim culture and religion as anomalies. Phayre was thus blinded to the fact that Rakhine had been at least since the 15th century a Muslim and a Buddhist land, with a Muslim and a  Buddhist court, and that historically, Bamars, Bamar-speakers, Theravada Buddhists from the Irrawaddy Valley were migrating into Rakhine at the same time as Muslim, Bengali-speakers. As Myanmar  was  gradually  annexed  by  India,  Muslims  in  Myanmar  were  treated  officially  as foreigners and not categorised by their local names. So the Rohingya not being recorded in the British colonial censuses of from the 1860s as Rohingya or not was a political choice by a state, not by the RohingyOne of the greatest shifts in thinking though was introduced by Buddhist nationalism. Political monks who had accepted Irrawaddy based ordination in Mandalay-dominated sects and local laypeople eager to have greater political clout pulled a historical sleight of hand and turned tables.  The  Myanmar  state,  the  greatest  cultural  and  religious  threat  to  Rakhine  Buddhist regionalism was made an ally. And the Muslims, those who were there before Buddhist immigration and those who indigenised later over time alongside new waves of Buddhist immigration, now became the Other—no longer wanted and the enemy. And the Myanmar state started to eradicate the physical evidence of the Rohingya and tried to Irrawaddy-ize the region in their image, no longer in the image of southern Rakhine Buddhist culture, but now in the image of the Irrawaddy Valley.

II. The Historians’ craft and the State of the Field of Rakhine studies

Historians and political scientists who  seem to  value acess to  a country more than historical questioning took Rakhine and Bamar Buddhist chronicles and historical claims at face value and wrote materials that validated a much of the Rakhine Buddhist fiction that resulted. And I don’t mean this to be insulting by calling it fiction, because I believe that at some level, all history is fiction, imagined, and constructed, because it has to be.

We can’t talk about the subject until we have imagined it, until we have made a discursive construct that allows us to have something to have a history about. And this has been the nature of debate—this group of scholars pander to religious communalists claiming only things Muslim are fiction and anything Buddhist is fact, because Buddhists hold the power. And these scholars, without admitting what all historians know or should know, is that the is Buddhist Rakhine historical record is a political invention, created to oppose the Bamars and then mobilised against the Muslims.

If we are to really understand Rakhine, we need to consider everything that has been written, chronicles and secondary literature, as works of fiction that need to be heavily contextualised—we deal with the history of intellectual invention, not the history of dna, a history of indigeneity. In my opinion, any historian who claims that Buddhist Rakhine are the indigenous population of Rakhine is performing professional malpractice and  is  either so  profoundly stupid as  to  not understand the nature of  the historian’s craft or and  is  either so  profoundly stupid as  to  not understand the nature of  the historimaliciously indifferent to the responsibilities that come with calling oneself a historian.

© 2019 Michael W. Charney   4

As I have stressed, history is a project of intellectual invention, a creative process that makes use of facts and constructions in a new way that is meant to explain why something has happened. I have no doubt that people often genuinely believe what they argue historically, unaware of the creative process of which they are a part. It is in our nature to invent when we tell and then believe when we have told. It’s not that we have more facts that make us more confident that we know the past but the flurry of images the visual images increasingly since the end of the 19th century that accompanied the rise of modern history as a discipline. Before, everyone imagined the past as a series of events coloured in by their own imagination. So, for a few thousand years, Julius Caesar could be a million different people, even during the centuries after Shakespeare brought a version of Caesar to life. The still camera and then the motion picture camera started to bring an end to all of that. We could not imagine an Abraham Lincoln to look any other than he was depicted in well circulated photographs. And it was a constant introduction to the same episodes about Lincoln that made us all feel the same Lincoln. But it was the photograph that made him seem as real as a memory from our own childhoods. We then find it increasingly difficult to think of Lincoln any other way, a Lincoln has been locked into our brains. I can definitely say I knew the Lincoln of Steven Spielberg’s movie long before it was ever made. I knew the Hitler in Downfall long before that movie was made. I did not know the Django in the Quentin Tarantino movie. Media can be an ugly or an empowering, liberating tool in shaping our historical imaginaries.

How did most Bamars in their mindscape imagine the Rohingya?

  Most Bamars had never seen a Rohingya when they coloured them in they used what had been depicted as Muslims.

Terrorists. Rapists. Invaders. They have only the extremists now, particularly those in control of Myanmar state media, who give them images to fill in the colors. These fictions make the history they have been given in scrawls more real. When these Bamar color in the Buddhist narrative of Rakhine they not see the Rakhine as they are but as they are imagined to be in Mandalay. They are imagined to look at dress and speak and act like other Bamars. But some of us who know Rohingya personally  know  they  do  not.  This  is  why  memes  are  so  powerful  and  so  dangerous  when maliciously distributed among people who do not have actual exposure to a people or evidence of their past. It is an easy thing to take the dates and chronologies and fill in the gaps to form a history of a continual threat to Myanmar Buddhism by the Muslims. All you need is a facebook account.

But I would propose going further when the Bamars look at the Rohingya they imagine them through the history of colonialism. For Bamars the Muslim in Rakhine must be coterminous with the  beginning  and  end  of  colonial  rule.  That  history.  British  history.  British  Indian  History. Something that exists between 1824 and 1948. And the Rohingya because they are not in this view part of colonial Muslim group must be something later. Whatever they are they must be post-1948 and neither Bamar nor colonial. The Rohingya suffer in these histories in two ways because as Muslims in Myanmar they are doomed in some conversations as being colonial and in other conversations they are doomed as Rohingya. And, again, as Rohingya they were not included in Bamar or Rakhine chronicles and are thus ahistorical.

Both elements of Bamar constructions of these people are in fact wrong. It is not the chronicle that is evidence. The chronicle is the fiction. The data in them we do not know directly. It is the documentary – written or oral — fragment that we can longer read or hear directly that is the evidence. And we can never use chronicles as evidence  but only as Budhdist Rakhine thinking about evidence. By the way, this is true of later colonial-era censuses as well—they are not really evidence of any thing, aside from an example of  British thinking about evidence. I have to say that astonishingly, as historians we have pretended our work is a science when it is not. We are after history as understandings of the past than the past at large. The closest we get at to what actually happened is if we accept our findings to be a kind of archaeology of the past and as we must always fill in the gaps with the guesswork that is history we must always accept that history never provides answers only questions, it is not revelatory only creative in nature, and never justifies the politics of the present however much it is claimed to do so. This is why I stress that history must never be surrendered to those who would use it to do so and it should be the primary objective of any historian to reject the contemporary political abuse of history, just as much today in Myanmar in 2019 as it was in Europe of the 1930s, and the former Yugoslavia of the 1990s.

Thank you for your attention and your time.

Source:https://www.academia.edu/38440999/The_Misuses_of_Histories_and_Historiography_by_the_state_in _Myanmar_The_Case_of_Rakhine_and_Rohingya

Posted in International, Media, Myanmar, Publication, Rohingya

Rohingya lawyer Razia Sultana wins Int’l Women of Courage Award

Home > Achievement

 Rohingya lawyer Razia Sultana wins Int’l Women of Courage Award

Tribune Desk  > Published at 11:46 am March 6th, 2019

Razia Sultana Photo: U.S. Department of State website

Nine other women from around the world will also be given the honour

A Myanmar-born Bangladesh citizen Razia Sultana, who practices law advocating for the Rohingyas, has been named as one of the 10 winners of International Women of Courage (IWOC) Award 2019. United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will host the Annual IWOC Awards at the State Department on Thursday, to honor 10 extraordinary women from around the world. First Lady of the US Melania Trump will deliver special remarks at the ceremony.

According to the US State Department, Razia was born in 1973 in Maungdaw, Myanmar, to ethnic Rohingya parents, and has devoted her career to advancing human rights for her own community. The State Department identified her as a citizen of Bangladesh.

Razia has spent most of her life as a lawyer, teacher and human rights advocate, and has been working directly with the Rohingyas – particularly women and girls – since 2014. She practices law advocating for the Rohingyas and conducts research and educational programs, specializing in trauma, mass rape, and the trafficking of Rohingya women and girls.

Since 2016, she has interviewed hundreds of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and published two reports – “Witness to Horror” and “Rape by Command” – documenting systematic sexual violence by Burmese security forces against the Rohingya. She contributed to “The Killing Fields of Alethankyaw,” a recent report by the Kaladan Press.

Beyond being a lawyer and an educator, Razia is also a coordinator of the Free Rohingya Coalition (FRC) and a director of the Arakan Rohingya National Organization’s (ARNO) women’s section. While she has always identified as a Rohingya, as a human rights activist Razia believes in rights and justice for all in Myanmar, as a means to bring peace.

Since 2007, the US Secretary of State’s IWOC Award has recognized women around the globe who have demonstrated exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equality and women’s empowerment, often at great personal risk and sacrifice.

Since the inception, the US State Department has recognized more than 120 women from more than 65 different countries.  US diplomatic missions overseas nominate one woman of courage from their respective host countries. The finalists are selected and approved by senior State Department officials.

 Tags: Rohingya Refugees, International Women of Courage (IWOC) Award

Source: https://www.dhakatribune.com/achievement/2019/03/06/bangladeshi-citizen-razia-sultana-wins-int-l-women-of-courage-award

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Rohingya lawyer Razia Sultana wins Women of Courage award

Breaking news:  Home  > National

 Rohingya lawyer Razia Sultana wins Women of Courage award

Sun Online Desk     6th March, 2019 11:01:50

Rohingya lawyer Razia Sultana has been named as one of the 10 winners of this year’s International Women of Courage (IWOC) Award, recognising her role in advancing human rights.

Sultana was born in Myanmar’s Maungdaw in 1973 to ethnic Rohingya parents and has devoted her career to advancing human rights for her own community and for all in Myanmar, according to the State Department, which identified her as “a citizen of Bangladesh”.

Secretary of State Michael Pompeo will host the annual IWOC Awards at the Department of State on Thursday to honor 10 extraordinary women from around the world.

The award recognises women who have demonstrated exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equality, and women’s empowerment, often at great personal risk and sacrifice.

Sultana has spent most of her life as a lawyer, teacher, and human rights advocate. She has been working directly with the Rohingya, particularly women and girls, since 2014.

She practices law, advocating for the Rohingya, and conducts research and educational programmes, specialising in trauma, mass rape, and the trafficking of Rohingya women and girls.

Since 2016, she has interviewed hundreds of Rohingyas in Bangladesh and published two reports – “Witness to Horror” and “Rape by Command” – documenting systematic sexual violence by Myanmar security forces against the Rohingya. She contributed to “The Killing Fields of Alethankyaw,” a recent report by the Kaladan press.

Beyond being a lawyer and an educator, Sultana is a coordinator of the Free Rohingya Coalition and a director of the Arakan Rohingya National Organization’s women section. While she has always identified as a Rohingya, as a human rights activist, Sultana believes in rights and justice for all in Myanmar as a means to bring peace.

Since the inception of IWOC award in March 2007, the State Department has recognised more than 120 women from more than 65 different countries. US diplomatic missions overseas nominate one woman of courage from their respective host countries. The finalists are selected and approved by senior department officials.

Nine other 2019 awardees are – Naw K’nyaw Paw of Myanmar, Moumina Houssein Darar of Djibouti, Mama Maggie of Egypt, Colonel Khalida Khalaf Hanna al-Twal of Jordan, Sister Orla Treacy of Ireland, Olivera Laki of Montenegro, Flor de Maria Vega Zapata of Peru, Marini de Livera of Sri Lanka and Anna Aloys Henga of Tanzania.

Following the official award ceremony and meetings or interviews with government officials, NGOs, media, and others in Washington, IWOC honorees will travel to individual US cities on the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP.)

American organisations and businesses will host IWOC awardees and collaborate with them on strategies and ideas to empower women both in the US and abroad. The awardees will reconvene in Los Angeles for a closing ceremony before returning to their home countries.

Source: http://www.daily-sun.com/post/375726/2019/03/06/Rohingya-lawyer-Razia-Sultana-wins-Women-of-Courage-award

Posted in International, Media, Myanmar, Publication, Report, Rohingya

Rohingya lawyer gets US State Department “Women of Courage” Award

Home  > Rohingya Crisis

10:40 AM, March 06, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:39 PM, March 06, 2019

Rohingya lawyer gets US State Department “Women of Courage” Award

In this photo taken from UN News, Razia Sultana, human rights activist and lawyer, addresses the Security Council’s open debate on behalf of the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security. Photo: UN Photo/Mark Garten

 Star Online Report

Rohingya-born Bangladeshi citizen Razia Sultana has been awarded the United States’ International Women of Courage (IWOC) Award  for her work with Rohingya refugees.

She is among the 10 extraordinary women from around the world who will be honoured this year, said a press release from the State Department of United States issued today.

Secretary of State Pompeo will host the award at US Department of State on March 7. First Lady of the US, Melania Trump, will deliver special remarks at the ceremony. IWOC Award recognises women around the globe for exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equality, and women’s empowerment.

Since the inception of this award in March 2007, the State Department is said to have recognised more than 120 women from more than 65 different countries. US diplomatic missions overseas nominate one woman of courage from their respective host countries. The finalists are selected and approved by senior officials.

The finalists are selected and approved by senior department officials. Nine other 2019 awardees are – Naw K’nyaw Paw of Myanmar, Moumina Houssein Darar of Djibouti, Mama Maggie of Egypt, Colonel Khalida Khalaf Hanna al-Twal of Jordan, Sister Orla Treacy of Ireland, Olivera Laki of Montenegro, Flor de Maria Vega Zapata of Peru, Marini de Livera of Sri Lanka and Anna Aloys Henga of Tanzania.

Following the official award ceremony and meetings or interviews with government officials, NGOs, media, and others in Washington, IWOC honorees will travel to individual US cities on the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP.) American organisations and businesses will host IWOC awardees and collaborate with them on strategies and ideas to empower women both in the US and abroad. The awardees will reconvene in Los Angeles for a closing ceremony before returning to their home countries.

ABOUT RAZIA SULTANA

Razia Sultana was born in Maungdaw, Myanmar, in 1973 to ethnic Rohingya parents and has devoted her career for human rights for her own community and for all in Myanmar. A citizen of Bangladesh, she has spent most of her life as a lawyer, teacher, and human rights advocate, says her biography at US State Department’s website.

She has been working directly with the Rohingya, particularly women and girls, since 2014. She practices law advocating for the Rohingya and conducts research and educational programs, specializing in trauma, mass rape, and the trafficking.

Since 2016, she interviewed hundreds of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and published two reports – “Witness to Horror” and “Rape by Command” – documenting systematic sexual violence by Burmese security forces against the Rohingya.

She contributed to “The Killing Fields of Alethankyaw,” a recent report by the Kaladan press. Beyond being a lawyer and an educator, Sultana is a coordinator of the Free Rohingya Coalition (FRC) and a director of the Arakan Rohingya National Organization’s (ARNO) women’s section.

While she has always identified as a Rohingya, as a human rights activist, Sultana believes in rights and justice for all in Burma as a means to bring peace.

Related Topics :  Myanmar Rohingya crisis , Human Rights Activist Razia Sultana

 Source: https://www.thedailystar.net/rohingya-crisis/news/bangladeshi-razia-gets-us-award-rohingya-work-1711237

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Posted in International, Media, Myanmar, Publication, Report, Rohingya

SAFE ZONE FOR ROHINGYA IN MYAMAR

 SAFE ZONE FOR ROHINGYA IN MYAMAR

By Nurul Islam  5th March 2019

Since Gen. Ne Win’s military coup in Burma/Myanmar in 1962, the Rohingya have faced continuous process of de-legitimisation, institutionalised persecution, crimes against humanity and worsening abuses culminating into one of the gravest genocides of the modern era.   Particularly from 1978, they have been subjected to widespread state-sponsored violence in Myanmar’s Arakan/Rakhine State.

While accounts of atrocity crimes and systematic violence against the Rohingya  date back decades, a period of more consistent attacks began in June 2012, resulting in the killings of many hundreds, may be thousands of people, an exodus of approximately 200,000 Rohingyas into Bangladesh, and the forcible displacement and confinement of around 140,000 Rohingyas in apartheid-like semi-concentration camps  in Rakhine’s capital Sittwe and other southern towns. The displaced people are surviving in conditions described by international relief organisations as the worst in the world for nearly seven years, while hoping in vain to return to their original places and villages, which alas has been taken over by ultra nationalist groups and state forces.

The systematic persecution, mass killings and crimes against humanity against Rohingya increased dramatically after 2012, culminating in an intense military led genocide in 2016 and 2017. The military had carried out armed operations with genocidal intent against Rohingya civilians, resulting in the missing or death of at least 43,000 Rohingyas including infant children,  rape or gangrape of thousands of Rohingya women and girls, wholesale destruction of villages and homes, forcing more than 700,000 survivors to take refuge in Cox’s Bazar District of Bangladesh within a span of two months from the last days of August 2017. They constitute a threat to international peace and security.

Last month, Ms. Yanghee Lee, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, said the military chief (Senior General Min Aung Hlaing) should be prosecuted for “genocide”. By the same token, many feel that State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, who consistently defends army brutality against Rohingya, is also accountable for her complicity in this genocide.

Today Bangladesh is a home to more than 1.2 million Rohingya refugees, including those who have been taking refuge over the decades.  The Rohingya people are grateful to the people and government of Bangladesh for showing solidarity by a bold, merciful and humanitarian gesture despite the economic constraints of this nation.

Land is the life of the people. The Myanmar government has declared state ownership of the Rohingyas’ lands; their burned villages and houses have been bulldozed to destroy any potential evidence of crimes against humanity and genocide, and to erase any signs of former existence of Rohingya civilization.  Now the government is planning to set up special economic zones in Maungdaw township and to establish more Buddhist settler villages all over northern Rakhine State. This is a sinister design to disown the entire Rohingya population. The humanitarian crisis is immeasurably great with the process of genocide still ongoing in Rakhine State.

Although Bangladesh and Myanmar signed a repatriation deal in November 2017 with a two-year timeframe to return the Rohingya refugees to Myanmar, there was no alternative but to postpone the repatriation due to global concerns about the safety of Rohingya in their home country. The United Nations and much of international community have frequently warned that the situation in Arakan/Rakhine State is not conducive to repatriation. It is crucial to honour the legitimate demands of the refugees for voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable return with justice, restoration of their full citizenship and recognition of their ethnic identity as “Rohingya”.

Myanmar government have so far, rejected any resolutions, recommendations and advices of the United Nations, regional organisations, world leaders, human rights and humanitarian groups to deal fairly with the Rohingya, improve their human rights situation and living condition in Rakhine State, restoration of their full citizenship and recognition of their ethnic identity “Rohingya”. On the other hand, it is unfortunate that large sections of the Buddhist Rakhine with whom they have been living together for centuries have become instrumental in the genocide of Rohingya. Due to protracted state propaganda and Islamophobia, most of the ethnic nationalities in Myanmar have adopted an ambivalent attitude towards ethnic Rohingya. Thus, Rohingya are virtually friendless in Myanmar.

The repatriation is a matter of life and death and foremost priority of the Rohingya people is to return home. But they cannot return where further genocide, oppression and bloodshed awaits them. The sad truth is that the Myanmar government and its military have no intention of creating the condition for a sustainable return of the refugees, because they have already achieved their goal: eliminating the Rohingya from Rakhine State.

For more than one year, about a million largely traumatised refugees are living in the overcrowded and squalid refugee camps within a small geographic area in Cox’s Bazar District. The presence of such a bulk of foreign nationals in a poor area has caused numerous social, economic and environmental problems. The locals now feel that they are outnumbered by the refugees and their sympathy is fading for them day by day. They start saying that the refugees should be kept in a locked area if they stay longer. The growing displeasure of the host population is a real anxiety for the refugees.

Given the ongoing genocide coupled with uncompromising attitude of the Myanmar civil and military authorities and the arrogance of hostile Buddhist Rakhine communities towards peace-loving Rohingya people, the United Nations with the international community and influential nations should consider humanitarian intervention designating Northern Arakan a “safe zone” to be protected using all necessary means, including use of force.

Soon after the unprecedented Rohingya refugee influx into Bangladesh in 2017, Honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina proposed to establish safe zone in Rakhine State on very many occasions, including in the UN General Assembly. The creation of safe zone inside Arakan/Rakhine State is humanitarian imperative. However, it requires establishing a ‘stabilization force’ to protect the Rohingya inside Rakhine State, which will serve as a confidence building measure ensuring peaceful return of the traumatized refugees to their original homes and places in Arakan. The refugees are the victims, the survivors and, above all, they are innocent people who want to return to their homeland with which they have physical, psychological and spiritual attachments. The world leaders should be aware that the cost of inaction is higher than action. They should take lessons from the historic episodes that genocide is impossible to prevent without intervention.

It is of vital importance that the three townships of Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Rathedaung (also known as Mayu Peninsula), where most of the refugees came from,  should be declared a safe zone which may be gradually expanded to cover the whole ‘Traditional Homeland of Rohingya’ –- the contiguous areas between west bank of Kaladan river and east bank of Naf river that demarcates Myanmar-Bangladesh border –, and if necessary, it may be extended to other areas where the Rohingya and Kaman Muslims are living, in case they are under threat as they have been from hostile state backed Buddhist nationalists mob since 2012.

Safe zone(s) should be properly established with a number of legal and practical conditions that must be met for safety to be guaranteed. It should be to prevent people inside Rakhine State from needing to seek protection abroad as refugees, and to encourage those refugees taking refuge in Bangladesh and elsewhere to return home in safety and with confidence. It should also be a humanitarian solution. Declaring an area a ‘safe zone’ or existence of a safe zone should not imply that other localities are necessarily ‘unsafe’.

Following considerations are imperative for safe zones:

  • Safe zones should be neutral, demilitarized and humanitarian in nature. It should ensure continued protection.
  • Safe zones do not provide true protection as envisaged by international refugee law. Active measures to seek peace must be the objective of States, rather than trapping the people in safe zones at the mercy of the parties to a conflict.
  • Safe zones must guarantee the following minimum rights:
  • The right to life (through the principle of distinction);
  • The right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;
  • Freedom from arbitrary recruitment (to participate in the conflict);
  • Personal security, particularly in relation to sexual- and gender-based violence;
  • The right to the highest attainable standard of living and health;
  • Access to humanitarian relief and assistance, and access by humanitarian organisations; and
  • Freedom of movement, including the right to leave the country and seek asylum (with full respect for the principle of non-refoulement) ;
  • Safe corridors may provide useful avenues to protections and assistance. They will enable some people to leave the conflict zone as safely as possible. They may also facilitate access to essential services, such as markets, health care, employment and education. They also allow access to humanitarian actors and for the delivery of relief and assistance. The role of protecting powers and humanitarian actors (such as ICRC or UNHCR, both of which have extensive field presence and should have access to all individuals of concern) will also be crucial.

The author is the Chairman of the Arakan Rohingya National Organisation (ARNO), he can be reached at nuromor@yahoo.com

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Posted in Arakan, History, International, Publication, Report, Rohingya

OIC okays legal action against Myanmar at ICJ

Home > Rohingya Crisis

Published:  03:17 PM, 04 March 2019 Last Update: 03:36 PM, 04 March 2019

OIC okays legal action against Myanmar at ICJ

Asian Age Online

In a major diplomatic breakthrough, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has unanimously adopted a resolution to move at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for establishing the legal rights of Rohingyas and addressing the question of accountability and justice.

 The resolution to pursue a legal recourse through the ICJ came after a long series of negotiations to seek accountability for crimes committed against humanity and gross violation of human rights in the case of then Rohingyas in Myanmar.

Gambia led the process with a ten-member high-powered ministerial committee, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs here on Monday. The Committee’s first meeting was co-chaired by Gambia in Banjul last month on the 10th of February.

It recommended taking legal steps for establishing legal rights on the principles of international law – specifically the Genocide Convention and other Human Rights and Humanitarian Law principles.

This unanimous measure sets a precedent for the OIC in pursuing the legal path to justice to address crimes committed against humanity and for establishing the legal rights of the Rohingya population to their rightful homeland in the Rakhine state of Myanmar.

The Committee’s decision was endorsed in a full-fledged resolution and adopted in the final session of the 46th Council of Foreign Ministers in Abu Dhabi on the last day of the Council meeting.

Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen led a high-powered delegation to the Council and the negotiations in the Special Committee in this regard.

Tags: Bangladesh, Myanmar, Rohingya crisis 2017, OIC, International Court of Justice, Organization of Islamic CooperatICJ

Source: https://dailyasianage.com/news/166343/oic-okays-legal-action-against-myanmar-at-icj

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Posted in International, Media, Myanmar, Publication, Report, Rohingya

TRADITIONAL HOMELAND OF ROHINGYA

TRADITIONAL HOMELAND OF ROHINGYA

By Nurul Islam      2 th March 2019

The area between west bank of Kaladan River and east bank of Naf River, which demarcates Myanmar-Bangladesh border, in North Arakan is known as “Traditional Homeland of Rohingya”. It has been deeply implanted the minds of the Rohingya people despite changes in demography, due to pogrom in 1942 and continued systematic persecution against them particularly from 1962 military rule in Burma. Renowned historians such as, Burma Historical Commission’s compiler Prof. Dr. G.H. Luce and History Prof. Dr. Than Tun have affirmed this traditional homeland of Rohingya stating that in North Arakan there was “possibility of Rohingya and their kings in the Mayu valley since 800 years back”.[1]  

Moghul fugitive prince Shah Shuja, then Viceroy of Bengal, was killed by Arakanese King Sanda Thudama in 1661 in violation of diplomatic norms while he was taking refuge in Arakan. Emperor Aurangazab was aggrieved over the cold-blooded murder of his brother. In 1666, under the order of Emperor Aurangazab, Moghul commander Nawab Shaista Khan conquered Chittagong (then under Arakanese rule) and the area up to the Kaladan River in Arakan.

In some of his write ups, including the article “Muslim of Burma” published in “The Nation Daily”, Rangoon, dated 12th April 1959, Ex-Health Minister Sultan Mahmud writes “Saista Khan had conquered up to the Kaladan River.”[2] He also mentioned it in his several parliamentary debates and press conferences.

Sufi A.M Waheed writes “Under the order of Emperor Aurangazab, the Subedor of Bengal, Nawab Shaista Khan deputed his son Buzurg Umad Khan, and in 1666 he conquered Chittagong and annexed the area from Dhoom (the area with Feni River) in Chittagong to Bay of Bengal.The Buddhist (Maghs) population of Chittagong then migrated to Mrohaung and started whispering campaign against the Muslims (Rohingyas). [3]

M.A. Tahir Ba Tha writes, “There is historical observation that Buzurg Umed Khan had conquered whole Arakan but retreated soon”[4] as Bengal had no territorial ambition on Arakan. However, in the absence of clear information, who ruled over the region between the east bank of Naf River and west bank of Kaladan River, it may be inferred that it was under the firm control of the Rohingya people.”[5]

The conquest of Chittagong (by Moghul) had changed in the political landscape between Arakan and Chittagong or Bengal. The Buddhist Rakhines had fled beyond Kaladan River while the Bengal southern border was fixed at the west bank of Naf River or Kaladan River. “With the loss of Chittagong and Ramu the Arakanese Maghs were very terrified and fled from north to south Arakan. At that time, a large number of Muslims from Bengal entered into North Arakan.”[6]

On 7 March 1947, Jamiatul Ulama of North Arakan under the leadership of Barrister Dr. Maulana Sana Ullah met British parliament member Ross William, head of the Rose Willam Commission, in Maymyo resort city in Shan State, Burma, and submitted a memorandum wherein they demanded that the area between Kaladan and Naf river should be declared as a state pertaining to Rohingya Muslims.[7]

In 1949, the Arakan Communist Party leader Tun Aung Pru, a Rakhine, met Mujahid Party leader Jafar Kawal and they had agreed to fight together until the fall of Anti-Fascist People’s Federation League (AFPFL) government with the understanding that Mujahid would take the western side of Kaladan River, whereas the rest of the Arakan would be under the control of Rakhine communists. It was a clear understanding between the two powerful rebel groups representing their respective peoples – Rakhine Arakanese and Rohingya Arakanese.

One of the seven demands of the Mujahid party was “to form an Autonomous Muslim state named North Arakan with Buthidaung, Rathedaung and Maungdaw taking the region from the West of Kaladan River up to the eastern part of Naf River. This region will remain under the Union of Burma”.[8]

To consider the seven-point demand there were discussions on 3 occasions between the government representatives and Mujahid leaders. In February 1950, Burmese Prime minister U Nu, Minority Minister U Aung Zan Wai (a Rakhine) accompanied by Pakistan Ambassador to Burma Sardar Aurangeb Khan came to Maungdaw in order to hold discussion on the seven demands of the Muslims of North Arakan and summoned the representatives of Arakani Muhajirs (refugees) from Teknaf by the scouts.[9]

In an open letter, dated 10th June 1951, addressed to the President, Prime Minister and the Government of the Union of Burma, Mr. Saleah Ahmed, President, and Mr. Zahiruddin Ahmed, Secretary, of the Arakan Muslim Conference demanded, “North Arakan should be immediately formed a free Muslim State as other races of Burma.” It indicates that the demand was for equal rights and freedom within the Burmese federation.

At a Mujahid Conference held in late April 1954 at Taungbru in Maungdaw Township, the Mujahids reiterated their demand for Autonomous State, comprising the area between west bank of Kaladan river and east bank of Naf river measuring about 4,000 square miles, while the rest of Arakan with an area of 10,200 square miles will be under Rakhine. It may be mentioned that total area of Arakan was about 18,000 square miles which has now been reduced to 14,200 sq. miles.

It is worth-mentioning that in 2000, President Dr. Khin Maung of the National United Party of Arakan (NUPA) and President Nurul Islam of the Arakan Rohingya National Organisation (ARNO) signed an agreement of political alliance declaring that the two organizations were legitimate representatives of their respective peoples – Rakhine and Rohingya — in Arakan.

Mayu Frontier Administration (MFA)

On 1 st. May 1961 the government created the Mayu Frontier Administration (MFA) in North Arakan, covering Maungdaw township, Buthidaung township and western part of Rathedaung township. The whole area of MFA, also called Mayu District/Mayu Peninsula, is some ninety miles long and about twenty miles wide at its northern end, when it tapers to a point just short of Akyab/Sittwe Island. MFA was abolished and the area was put under the Ministry of Home Affairs, on 1 st. February 1964, by “Revolutionary Council” headed by the then Chief of Staff Gen. Ne Win, who seized the power from U Nu on 2 nd. March 1962.

It was military administration, not an autonomous rule. But it earned the support of the Rohingya community mainly for the reason that it did not involve subordination to the Buddhist Rakhines who were hostile to them. However, Mayu Peninsula is not the whole area of the “Traditional Homeland of Rohingya” but a part of it. This vital fact needs to be noted while campaigning for “Protected Return to Protected Homeland” (PR2PH).

The author is the Chairman of the Arakan Rohingya National Organisation (ARNO), he can be reached at nuromor@yahoo.com

END NOTES:

[1] Dr. G.E. Luce, “Phases of pre-Pagan Burma Languages and History, Oxford, 1985, PP 76-97.

Dr. Than Tun, “Chin, Mru, and Kami –North Arakan”, “Kalya Magazine” (In Burmese) 1994, August Issue, PP 27-28

[2] AFK Jilani, “The Rohingyas of Arakan: Their quest for Justice”, First edition, 1999, p.115.

In “Muslim in Burma”, an article by Sultan Mahmud (MP), Ex. Health Minister of Burma, published

in the Nation Daily, Rangoon, dated 12 April 1959 and his several parliamentary debates.

[3] Ibid. p.116

[4] “Rohingyas and Kamans”, (in Burmese) by M.A. Tahir Ba Tha, p.39.

[5] AFK Jilani, “The Rohingyas of Arakan: Their quest for Justice”, First edition, 1999, p.116

[6] Supra p.39

[7] Manifesto of Rohingya Jamiatul Ulama Arakan, p. 4

[8] “The Muslims of North Arakan (Part-1)  –What they are struggling for? , by Muzaffar Ahmed Arakani, President Anjuman-E-Muhajirin-E-

Arakan, Chittagong., Feb.1955, p.6.

[9] Ibid. pp7-8

Posted in Arakan, Burmese/Myanmar, History, International, International, Publication, Report, Rohingya
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