By CHAM TAN
November 2, 2017
“The Rohingya have always been persecuted and oppressed because they are considered to be ‘stateless,’ and are not recognized by the Myanmar government. The Bangladeshi government refuses to help them because they see them as mere refugees.”
The Rohingyas, also known as the Arakanese Indians, currently live in the Rakhine state of Myanmar (Burma) which borders Bangladesh. They are mostly of Islamic and Hindu faith.
Arakan is an Indian ancient coastal kingdom in Southeast Asia, and some believe that they are the predecessors of the Rohingyas.
Due to its location, Arakan was a maritime trade center between Myanmar and the outside world, including its neighbors, the Arabs.
In the 8th century, Arab merchants and traders came to Arakan. They settled and conducted missionary works, converting locals to Islam.
This was the earliest existence of the Rohingyas. Over time the community grew as did the Muslims.
In the next few centuries, more settlers arrived, including the Rakhines tribe. They established a few coastal cities along rivers and valleys.
British colonial rule
A war between the Burmese and Bengalis followed this which lasted for a while. The Rakhine’s state then went under the British colonial rule to seek protection from the British Raj. British Raj was the ruling of the Indian subcontinent by the British Crown.
Some politics happened under the British rule, and soon came WW2, where the Japanese invaded the British Raj, with the Arakan at the frontline of the Southeast Asia invasion.
There have been a few massacres and ethnic cleansing done by the British here, as there was a civil conflict between the Muslims and Buddhists. The Muslim population was devastated.
In the 1940s, separatist in Western Burma organized to start the Pakistan Movement, to merge with East Pakistan. The British felt indebted to the Muslim community for their loyalty during the war.
The Muslim leaders called for annexation by Pakistan and as well as an independent state. There were proposals and plans with the founder of Pakistan, that never succeeded. There had been a local Rohingya Mujahideen insurgency forces that had been fighting against government forces until they lost support in the late 1950s.
The previously displaced Arakan tribes and Rohingya community started settling back in Burma, however they were rendered by the newly independent Burma government as illegal immigrants
The previously displaced Arakan tribes and the Rohingya community started settling back in Burma. However, they were rendered by the newly independent Burma government as illegal immigrants. They were however recognized as an indigenous ethnic nationality and were allowed representatives in the Burmese parliament.
Since then, there have been many conflicts, terrorism, separatist activities in the Arakan region.
About the Rohingya refugee crisis
As mentioned above, there was a local Rohingya insurgency army who have been fighting the government. These separatists never really died out, with the Rohingyas leader supporting them. The Rohingyas have always been persecuted and oppressed because they are considered as ‘stateless,’ and are not recognized by the Myanmar government. The Bangladeshi government refuses to help them because they see them as mere refugees.
Due to discrimination and harsh living conditions, many of the Rohingya families are living in poverty, which often leads to a life of crime. The crisis started around 2012, in which Rohingya criminals raped and killed a Buddhist woman, which sparked Buddhist nationalists to retaliate by killing and burning the Rohingya communities
The issue can be resolved diplomatically if the leaders of Rohingya prove their loyalty to the Burmese state, and reject separatist ideologies and activities. Similarly, the Burmese government should also respect the minority group and their history in Arakan, giving them the proper treatment they deserve, as citizens and recognize them as an ethnic group of the country.