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The Major Problems of The Rohingyas of Myanmar (Burma) And Present Situation
By Md. Zahidul Islam,*1 Ridoan Karim 2 — 1. Lecturer, Kulliyyah (Faculty) of Shari’ah and Law, Islamic University of Maldives (IUM). 2. Adjunct Faculty Member of Business Law, School of Business Administration, East Delta University (EDU), Chittagong, Bangladesh.
Rohingya is a people under endless tyranny. They are living in Arakan region of present Myanmar (Burma). They have long been subjected to campaigns of terror, genocide and extermination particularly under the military rule in Myanmar since 1962. The aim of this article is to highlight the major problems of Rohingya ethnic of Myanmar (Burma). In the same time, this article also tries to identify the present situation of Rohingya ethnic of Myanmar (Burma). The research will adopt qualitative methods of research. The Rohingya problem needs an immediate and permanent solution to which fact international community like United Nation (UN), Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), Non-Government Organizations and Human rights Organizations have to take attention on this issue.
Rohingyas are living in Arakan of Myanmar. It borders one hundred and seventy six miles with Bangladesh, forty eight miles of which is covered by river Naf, which demarcates Arkan (Myanmar) – Chittagong (Bangladesh) border. The area of Arakan is about 20,000 square miles but Arakan Hill-tracts district and southern most part of Arakan were partitioned from Arakan. So, it is now been reduced to 14,200 square miles. Two major ethnic races, the Rohingyas (Muslims) and Rakhines (Buddhists), inhabit Arakan.
The word Rohingya is derived from Rohang, the ancient of Arakan (Jha, 1994). They are the descendants of the Muslim Arabs, Pathans, Moors, Persians, Turks, Afghans, Mughals and Bengalis who came mostly as traders, warriors and saints through over land and sea-route. Many settled in Arakan and mixing with the local people developed the present stock of peoples known as “Rohingyas”. AFK Jilani in his A Cultural History of Rohingya mentions that Rohingya is derived from the Arabic word „Rahman‟ meaning “sympathy”. It was during the region of Mahataing Chandra (788-810 A.D). Some Arab ships were wrecked along the shores of Arakan and the ill-fated people who boarded them bagged for help by uttering Rahman, Rahman. Gradually it changed from Rahman to Rohang meaning God bless- land and finally they were named Rohingya (Jalani, 2001).
The research adopted qualitative methods of research. The qualitative method involves doctrinal and non-doctrinal research. As a doctrinal research, author used secondary sources. As a secondary sources author used book, journal articles, newspapers and other useful materials to help the purpose of this research. In this research, author also adopted non- doctrinal approach. As a non-doctrinal approach, author conducted interview with Rohingyas. The authors use semi-structured form of interview.
Mahmud is a Rohingya refugee he said, “We are citizen of Myanmar. We voted many times in Myanmar as citizen now days, we are refugee in our homeland.” Aye Maung is one of the authors of the 1947 Constitution. He said, “a group of people who entered Burma before 1825 and settled in a defined territory are also indigenous race of Burma (Jalani, 2002). This clause was especially written for Rohingya people.” The first President of the Union of Burma Sao Shwe Thaik told, while he was in the highest office that “Rohingya is an indigenous race as he himself and there is no difference between Rohingya and Shan in the case of nationality.” After the military coup in 1962, it became difficult for the children of recognized citizens to have citizenship cards. In 1974 a new constitution was introduced to enshrine one party rule. When nearly 300,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh in 1977/78, the government of Burma branded that they were all illegal immigrants (Jalani, 2002). Ironically, they were accepted back in 1979 as the citizens of Burma. In 1982 a new citizenship law was promulgated which was deliberately targeted at the Rohingyas yet it was not fully applied. In 1989 all residents had to apply for new citizenship Scrutiny Cards. The Rohingyas have applied for it. But no cards are issued to Rohingyas. Only those Rohingya who were successful businessmen or professionals or lackeys of the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) were able to get the new green cards.
According to Arakan Rohingya National Organisation (ARNO), absolute rejection of the citizenship of the Rohingyas in their historical homeland, who lived there for centuries. The Rohingya have become homeless in their own homes. They have become stateless within the state. The military regime has put up two option before the Rohingya people, either to accept Burman-melting pot and become Buddhist or migration to alien lands (The Rohingya Problem, 1999).
Another Rohingya refugee Kutub said that another major problem of Rohingyas are forced expulsion. The military regime has denied the right of the Rohingya people in their on homeland by forcibly dispossessing and seizing of their land, by criminally stripping them daily of their property in an oppressive manner and by expelling them from their ancestral homeland for replacement with non-Muslim settlers, while making them to wander from place to place both inside and outside the country with ultimate aim of wiping this ethnic race.
The term “Genocide” is appropriate in relation to the current practice of killing the Arakan Muslim population by military in a deliberate way. The military adopted the informal policy of killing or driving out the Arakan the ethnic Rohingyas in order to make Burma as a pure Buddhist region. The Muslims of Arakan 21st centuary have always been identified as Burmese nationals by the then democratic governments and treated on the same lines as Burmans and shared equal rights (Jilani,1999). However, from the time being, mostly in recent military periods, there have been massacres, communal riots, occupation of Muslim‟s lands and properties, destruction of Muslim villages and settlements, demolition of mosques, cemeteries and tombs of great Muslim saints across the country, particularly in Arakan. No muslim minority, not even women and children‟s got the privilege to ensure a safe place among the neighborhood of their birthplace. Thus, many choose to become a refugee in Bangladesh, and the rest found missing or death. This human miseries and heart-rending sights become a regular phenomenon (The Rohingya Problem, 1999)
Rohingyas are culturally rich with their thousand years of heritage and prides. Even the influence of their culture had always been attracted the Buddhist community of the country in all spheres of national activities. Unfortunately, today the cultural problem becomes one of the most important problems of the Rohingyas in Burma. In recent times, Rohingyas, being a Muslim, have to confront ideological assaults from all directions. In a whole, the people of Burma started believing that the nationalist patriots are those who glorify the Burman race and culture of Buddhism. Thus, it becomes natural that a Muslim Rohingya had to replace his name with a Buddhiusts name just only to survive in the society. Particularly, the Muslim students have been brainwashed in schools where anti-Islam materials are encouraged to be taught. Their slogan is „to be a Burmese is to a Buddhist”. Again, not only the culture of Buddhism has oppressed the Muslim culture through schooling but it also done through media. Film, radio, press or any kind of media played their role in order to present Islam as humiliating, derogatory, degrading and distorted form of culture.
“Freedom of movement is like a dream to Rohingyas of Arakan, Burma”. It is a matter of fact that, even in 21st century we have to witness the terrible truth regarding the point that not a single Rohingya is allowed to travel to the capital city, Rangoon. Travelling is so restricted that one cannot go from a village to another even in case of life and death question. This is to say, a new invisible Berlin wall is erected for Rohingyas which is affecting the basic human rights of the mass Muslim people in Arakan, and that is “Right to Move/Freedom to Move”. Article 13(1) (2) OF THE Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides the right to freedom of movement which is being denied by the SLORC turns SPDC, the ruling military junta of Burma, Citizenship certificates for Rohingyas are denied. Again, article 15 (1) (2) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides right to nationality to everyone which is also being denied to the Rohingya by the junta, the SLORC/SPDC. No Rohingya can travel without a permit and that permit also needs the payment of bribes to achieve from the authority.
The permit is valid only for 24 hours to a maximum of seven days. Travel to Rangoon, the capital of Burma, has been totally banned for Rohinyas since 1992. “Although this practice was only applied to Rohingya businessmen, doctors, engineer, lawyers, students and even the patients who need urgent treatment available only in the capital city.” The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations proclaims that every individual and every organ of society should strive to promote the basic rights and freedoms to which all human beings regardless of race, nationality or religion are entitled. However, the government of Myanmar, which is founded on coercion rather than on the mandate of people, has always denied these basic human rights for the Rohingyas. Since 1942 about 1.5 million Rohingyas have been expelled or have fled the country for their lives. It is been a fact that many of them are now living in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Malaysia. However, the worst truth is that most of them are unofficial refugees and being an unofficial refugee, they have no access to work, safe refuge or the basic necessities of life and education for their children. The prosecution of Rohingyas, forced labor, forced relocation, torture, rape and other atrocities have caused them to move from their homeland and to settle down in Bangladesh or other countries depending in each occasion. It is unfortunate though a true fact that the role of UNHCR does not effectively bring relief to the social, political and spiritual problems of the Rohingyas. ##