Ethno-Political Conflict : The Rohingya Vulnerability in Myanmar


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Ethno-Political Conflict : The Rohingya Vulnerability in Myanmar
By K. M. Atikur Rahman — Research Fellow, Dept. of Political Science, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh. 

This study has been conducted to find out the root causes and consequences of ethnic conflict regarding especially the Rohingya minority in Myanmar. As Rohingya crisis in Myanmar is a contemporary and crucial issue not only in South and Southeast Asia but also in the world; that is why, it has been selected as a research topic. This study is conducted in qualitative approach. In this study, secondary sources have been used for data collection which is based on content analysis. Text books, journal articles, reports of government and non-government organizations, television and newspaper reports are the main sources of data.

In this study it has been found that the Rohingya people are considered as the world’s least wanted groups. They are the world’s most persecuted minorities. About 43 percent of the Rohingyas are still refugees and of them 87 percent are deprived from basic needs. The main objectives of the study are: (i) to examine the root causes of ethnic conflict; (ii) to analyze the current humanitarian vulnerability of the Rohingyas. Rohingya conflict begins with mainly the denial of separate identities and rejection of their citizenship. A large number of Rohingyas are now stateless refugees who are too much vulnerable. The study will reveal the current vulnerable conditions of the Rohingyas. The findings of the study may help the different global organizations of human rights in policy supports for the Rohingyas.

Nationalist and ethnic conflict is a serious threat to global peace and security that actually began since Cold War and it took dangerous condition between 8os and 90s last century. In the last decade of the 20th century, Bosnia, Kosovo, Rwanda, Congo, Sierra Leone, Somali, Indonesia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, India, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Haiti, and Colombia were trodden by ethnic war and people of the world experienced a worst massacre of masses. National and international authorities were seriously concerned with global peace and such type of crisis does not reduce in present time yet. In a major study published in 2000,

Ted Robert Gurr, a leading expert on ethnic conflict, argued persuasively that the ’tsunami of ethnic and nationalist conflict’ that had engulfed almost the entire world in the wake of the end of the Cold War, has shown clear signs of abatement.1 Ethno-political conflict spread in most of the regional levels from late 1990s and these wars declined a bit through some effective negotiations; but the conflict is still prevailed in major scale in Africa and South-east Asia. In the new century the ethnic wars which are being witnessed, are just a continuous process of the events occurred in last century-there is no new contenders.

Objectives of the Study: There is a broad objective of the study which aims to explain the history and recent conditions of humanitarian crisis of the Rohingya. Besides, there are several specific objectives of the study. These are: (a) To state the root causes of ethnic conflict; (b)To describe the history of the Rohingya crisis; (c) To analyze the humanitarian vulnerability of Rohingyas.

Causes of Ethnic Conflict: The causes of ethno-political conflict in South –East Asia focus the significances of understanding the underlying causes. Ethnic conflicts bear the importance of regional and international relations and it is easy to realize the dynamics and interactions of ethnic groups by them. The causes of ethnic conflicts, the processes by which ethnic conflicts become violent, and what well-meaning leaders and governments can do about these problems.

The dominant explanation for ethnic conflict is primordialism. Primordialists argue that people’s ethnic and religious identities have deep social, historical and genetic foundations and that creates a separate psychology, culture and values within their ethnic and kinship surroundings. Even human security, basic needs and survival motivation come from these subjective and internal forces.

History of the Rohingya: The Rohingyas (Burmese) are an Indo-Aryan ethnic minority group in Rakhine state (also known as Arakan, or Rohang in the Rohingya language) in Burma. They are the people who are originally related to the Indo-Aryan peoples of India and Bangladesh (as opposed to the majority Sino-Tibetan people of Burma). Myanmar occupied the Rakhaine state in 1700s and it becomes an annexure-Rohingya people came under the rule of Burma. As of 2012, the total number of Rohingya in Myanmar is 800,000 and they practice Sunni Islam. The Rohingya is the most persecuted minority group in the world. Their educational rights are restricted only in fundamental Islamic Studies.

The Burmese have conquest the Arakan state in 1785 and thus nearly 35,000 Arakanese fled to British Bengal (Chittagong) in 1799 to rescue Burmese oppression and to be protected by British India. The Burmese rulers executed thousands of Arakanese men and deported a considerable portion of the Arakanese population to central Burma, leaving Arakan as a scarcely populated area by the time the British occupied it. According to an article on the ‘Burma Empire’ published by the British Francis Buchanan-Hamilton in 1799, ”the Mohammedans, who have long settled in Arakan” call themselves Rooinga, or natives of Arakan. Sir Henry Yule saw many Muslims serving as eunuchs in Konbaung Dynasty Burma while on a diplomatic mission there. These Muslim eunuchs came from Arakan.


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