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The majority of Rohingya People are established in the Rakhine state of Burma, also known as Northern Arakan, which borders with Chinttagong and the Cox’s Bazar districts of Bangladesh by a porous natural border along the river Naff. However, Arakan region is not only naturally separated from its neighbour Bangladesh, but also from the central Burma region. The Arakan kingdom, whose ancient name was Maruk-U, was independent from the two Burmese Kingdoms in central Burma, the Irrawaddy delta, the Bengal and the Mongol empires in India. This kingdom managed to conquered Chittagong and ruled it till 1666.

The origins of the Rohingya Arakanese Muslims are very divers according to their history, it is believed that their ancestors were Arab and Persian traders who settled in Arakan and Lower Burma in the ninth century. By the twelfth century the presence of Muslim population and culture was so accepted that even the Arakanese kings originally Buddhist, become somehow influenced in their ideas by Mahomet teachings. This period of history was characterized by the strengthen of the relation between Muslims and the Maruk-U kingdom, and also by an attitude of tolerance between the various religions of the region: Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism, together with Brahmanism, Hinduism, animism and other beliefs. (Fahmida Farzana, 2015)

Conflictivity in the area began in 1784, when the Burmese king Bodawpaya conquered the Arakan Region and incorporated it to the Ava Kingdom in central Burma. As it might be expected, right after the invasion, the Arakaneses began to protest and fight against the Burmese oppression, what provoke a state of continual disorder. A number of brutal crimes were committed by the king against this population, forced people in labour brickfields and construction sector among others. As a consequence, both Muslims and Buddhist, were forced to flee this area to the adjoining British Colonial Territory of Bengal. From them on, the relationship between Bengal and Burma authorities has been characterized by deep mistrust and animosity.

This is why, when the British Colonial Empire colonised Burma in 1824, they used the annexation of the Arakan region as a buffer zone in order to invade mainland Burma. When the British offered their support to the Arakanese population against the aggression of the Burmese king, they rapidly accepted and backed the invasion. Therefore, we can assume that ethnic boundaries were created by the ‘divide and rule’ British policy. This period is crucial to understand the solidification of boundaries between Burmese and ethnic minorities. The British administration destroyed the traditional monarchy system and replaced it with a limited form of parliamentary Home Rule in Ministerial Burma.

Meanwhile, they positively discriminated the minorities living on frontier areas, allowing them to reach various top levels of the colonial services; they also allowed the peripheral areas to govern themselves to some extent under traditional rulers. Ethnic boundaries were finally solidified by the collaboration from ethnic minorities such as Muslims, Karen, Shan among others with the British against the Burmese.

Another critical factor to take into account is the British policy of colonial armed forces which mainly consisted in hiring more minorities while discriminating the Burmese. By 1925, this policy was wholly fulfilled, as the armed forces were only shaped by members of the Chin, Kachin and Karen. This situation was seen by the Burmese as a potential sign of oppression by minorities, what was confirmed when the British military used the armed forces to suppress Burmese resistance in order to compound the situation. When the Japanese invaded the area during World War II, protection on minorities provided by the British was removed, and numerous attacks by the Burma Independent Army took place, resulting in bloody communal clashes. As we can see, the tensions between different ethnic groups appeared even before the nation of Burma.

The years previous to the independence from Britain were characterised by chaos and disagreement. One of the most controversial issues that was on the table was the treatment that should be provided to minorities, as well as, the design of the state. On the one hand, some visionary politicians believed that they could only put an end to ethnic conflicts through a Federal State where minorities will remain certain power on local politics, while forming part of a greater nation. This approach was materialized in 1947 in the Palong Agreement, signed between major ethnic groups and the General Aung San. On the other hand, other politicians were of the thought that it was better to create a single ‘Mahabama’, or Burmese greater national identity and eliminate the special treatment on minorities. Sadly, after General Aung San death, the Palong Agreement was abandoned and Burma became independent in 1948 without a clear policy toward ethnic conflicts. On top of this, during the process of independence the boundary lines between Burma and India continued arbitrary, what lead to even greater disaffection of the peripheral states to central government.

Rohingya People have been living in the frontier between Bangladesh and Burma for years, and that is why the evolution on the borderland formation among the centuries has shaped, reshaped and complicated the construction of the Rohingyas People identity. Rohingya, as other Burmese minorities, were perceived as British collaborators by Burmese government; what it is more, they were even considered incompatible to the creation of a unify national Burmese identity. (Farzana, 2011)

The situation changed dramatically for the Rohingya people with the implementation of the new Constitution and the Burma Citizenship Law, which recognized 135 ethnic nationalities but did not consider the Ronhingya People one of those. In practice, this law made the Rohingya population living at that moment in Burma, as well as future Rohingya born from them, non-citizens. As a result of this violation of their rights the Rohingya living in Arakan became a stateless minority.

Moreover, the in-immigration caused an even higher discordance over natural resources and territory among communities. This is how the Burmese government formed artificial limits between ethnic groups, separating non-Burmese minorities and altering the history. So, we can conclude that the ethnic diversity in Burma is not caused by diversity itself, but by the government politics of exclusion and the historical complex development of the country. (Human Rights Watch)

Abuses Against Rohingya — Muslim minorities in Burma, specially the 1.2 million Rohingyas, are still facing systematic human rights violations. After August 25, 2017, headlines across the world were dominated by the exodus of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees fleeing to Bangladesh. This continued for almost a month after Myanmar security forces launched a deadly crackdown, or ”clearance operation”, targeting the minority population from Rakhine state. A 444-page report prepared by the UN’s Independent Facts Finding Commission confirmed that more than 725,000 Rohingya forced to fled to Bangladesh, at least 10,000 Rohingya were killed, hundreds of women and girls were raped (mostly gang-raped), and around 392 Rohingya villages were partially or fully destroyed.##


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