Myanmar Dhamma Part 1





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Published on May 11, 2012

အမ်ိဳး ေပ်ာက္မွာ စိုးေက်ာက္ စရာ အပိုင္း (၁)
ဆားေတာင္ ဆရာေတာ္
႐ိုဟင္ဂ်ာ စိုတာ ဘာလဲ သမိုင္း အမွန္ အပိုင္း (၁)
ေဒါက္တာ ေအးခ်မ္း

Who Are the Rohingyas? by Dr. Aye Chan
posted Dec 29, 2008 12:14 AM by Kogyi Kyaw [ updated Jun 24, 2009 9:04 PM ]

A few weeks ago, it was announced on a broadcast of BBC Burmese program that a Burmese national of the Rohingya ethnic group had been granted political asylum in Japan. We should be pleased with this sign of the Japanese government's humanitarian attitude towards people who could face various kinds of dangers in their homeland, including death, regardless of their race, religion or nationality. However what concerns me in this case, as a native historian of Burma, is the ethnicity of the so-called Rohingyas. Who are the Rohingyas? This issue has been a problem for Burma since it gained independence from Great Britain.

The person who was granted asylum in Japan is Mr. Zaw Min Htut, the author of a book titled "The Union of Burma and Ethnic Rohingyas," published in Japan in 2001. The book deals with the history of the so-called Rohingya people of Arakan State, presently called Rakhine State, in the Union of Myanmar. An article of mine was given special reference in his book. However, I am not happy with the way it was referred to. Zaw Min Htut has clearly abused the academic platform for political purposes, producing a false picture of the Arakenese history. The bizarre phenomenom created by Zaw Min Htut and his precursors is the literary wing of the political scheme that aims at changing the northwestern part of Arakan(Rakhine) State of Union of Myanmar, the original homeland of Arakanese (Rakhine) people into the Rohingya State.

In this article, I want to discuss whether the Rohingyas are an indigenous ethnic group of Burma or not. Being a scholar, I want to handle this matter without any prejudice or misconception. In this regard, I can confidently say that there has never been such an ethnic group throughout the history of Burma. The people called Rohingyas by Zaw Min Htut and his mentors are direct descendents of immigrants from the Chittagong District of East Bengal (present day Bangladesh). The British colonial officials called them Chittagonians in their administrative records. They migrated into Arakan after the province was ceded to British India under the terms of Treaty of Yandabo concluded at the end of the First Anglo-Burmese War in 1826. Most of them settled down in the Buthidaung and Maungdaw Districts of Arakan State, the frontier areas near Burma's border with Bangladesh.This, of course does not mean that they do not deserve the equal rights that the other ethnic groups of Burma should enjoy regardless of whether or not democracy is restored in the country.

Probably Zaw Min Htut is an activist of younger generation. However, the movement of his precursors brought great bloodsheds to Arakan in the wartime and the opening decade of independent Burma. Some Arakanese people of that region in their early seventies and eighties have still not forgotten the atrocities they suffered in 1942 during the short period of anarchy between the British evacuation and the Japanese occupation of the area. For all these public disorders experienced by both of the Arakanese Buddhists in the western frontier and the Muslims in the Arakan proper (Mrauk-U and Kyauktaw townships), I certainly feel much reasonable to blame British Governor Sir Dorman Smith's colonial administration for arming those Chittagonians in frontier area as the volunteer forces to deter the Japanese incursions and create a buffer between the Japanese occupied Burma and British India. An intelligence report said that the volunteers, instead of fighting the Japanese, destroying the Buddhist monasteries and pagodas, massacred thousands of innocent Arakanese civilians. It also expressed the grave concern among the authoritiesof British administration in exile about the holocaust of Arakanese community in the western fringe of Burma by those Chittagonians [British Library:IOR : B/8/9].

The Arakanese folk in rural areas again became the victims of the rebellion which those intrusive settlers launched against the Union of Burma in the 1950s.These innocent Arakanese people faced killing, kidnapping, arson, plunder and rape for a decade after the independence. We should recall what the great archeologist Emile Forchhammer, seeing the persistent flights of the immigrants from the adjacent areas of the British India, predicted:" This land of strange prophesies, Arakan, the Palestine of the Farther East." [Forchhammer: 1892: 1] https://sites.google.com/site/kogyiky...

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