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By Ibrahim Dubashi
10/06/09 Germany

Who are the Rohingya?

The Rohingya are genetically related to Bengalis, Indians, Arabs and Moors, reflected
in their darker skin and south Asian appearance of recognized national groups in Burma.

The Rohingya are one of the two major indigenous people of Rakhine state (Historically
known as Arakan; other ethnic community is Rakhine Buddhists), the western province
of Burma. The North Rakhine state is situated in the south and south East Asian junction.

The Rohingya people of Burma an ethnic group existing in a state of national Limbo, are
one of the most severely affected communities living under the military regime in a
country where human rights abuse and suffering is the norm.

The systematic human rights abuses towards the Rohingya are committed with intent to
destroy this particular minority community. Since 1948 about 1.5 million Rohingya
people have either been expelled or have had to flee the country to escape persecution.
Most of them are found in Bangladesh, Pakistan, KSA, UAE and Malaysia. They are
vulnerable without any status in those countries. Neither civil society Organizations nor
UN bodies and other international Organizations properly addressed this issue since last
two decades.

The treatmenet of Rohingya in Burma

The state peace and development council (SPDC, Burma`s government) rejects the
existence of a separate ethnic group called “Rohingya”. They are not considered to be a
national ethnic group as provided by sec.3 of the 1982 Law, and members of the
Rohingya population are therefore ineligible for full citizenship. (A1, 2004)

The vast majority of Rohingyas are effectively denied Burmese citizenship; subjected to
severe restriction on freedom of movement; forced Labour; forced eviction; and
extortion and arbitrary taxation.

The military regime has declared the Rohingyas as non-nationals in utter disregard of
their history, glorious past and establishment in the country.

Planned increase in Buddhist settlement has caused serious demographic changes in

northern Rakhine(Arakan).It has systematically got rid of the Rohingya population . In
1983 the military regime had declared certain townships in Rakhine-such as Gwa,Paung
Nagunt and Taung-gut as “Muslim free zone”.
Rohingyas are banned from traveling from one place to another, even within same
locality, without pass.

The authorities imposed very high rate of taxation on the food grains and every item they

The Rohingyas have to provide slave Labor to build military establishments, bridges,
embankments and pagodas.

Since the promulgation of Burma citizenship Law in 1982, Rohingya students have been
denied the right to education.

The Rohingyas are banned from getting married and founding a family. No marriage
permission has been granted since March 2005.

Burma is not state party to most international human rights treaties. Amnesty
international has consistently urged the SPDC to accede to these treaties. However, the
fact that the SPDC has not done so does not release it from its obligation to respect
fundamental human rights which, being provided for under customary international Law,
are binding on all states.

The Rohingya in Bangladesh

The Rohingya have been leaving their home country for 30 some years now. They have
gone to many different countries, but the biggest choice for them is Bangladesh. There,
the Rohingya experience even more difficulty, as the Rohingya are severely poor and
have little rights given to them as refugees.

The Bangladeshi government has never formally given them refugee status, and have
forced many of them out of the country.

Around 230,000 of the refugees have been repatriated to Burma, but approximately
20,000 remain in the UNHCR administered camps. At least 100,000 Rohingya are
believed to be in Bangladesh out side the camps and with no official status as refugees

History of Muslim rule in Arakan and“ Ruhai”in Cox`s Bazar

A lot of people in Cox`s Bazar particularly in Moheshkhali are claiming themselves as

“Ruhai” (people of Rohang) and they are very much proud of this name. They feel great
with the name of “Ruhai” because they are aware that their fore-fathers were the
descendents of Rohingya from Rohang ( Arakan ). There is an authentic history behind
their claim. The actual fact is that Muslim rule began in Arakan since 1430. Earlier in
1406 the king of Arakan Narameikhla fled to Muslim Bengal with a large number of his
followers when Arakan was invaded by Burman king. He stayed in Bengal for 24 years
under the patronage of Bengal ruler Sultan Giasuddin Azam Shah. There he and his
followers embraced “Islam” and took Muslim names. In 1430 Bengal ruler Sultan
Jalaluddin Mohammad Shah sent a large Muslim forces to Arakan, drove away the
invading Burmans and reinstated Narameikhla , now with the name of Solaiman Shah(
Arakanese Chronically corrupted it as Meng Saw Mun)on the throne of Arakan and he
and his descendents ruled Arakan for over 200 years(1430-1638). Mrauku was founded
as Arakan Capital by him in 1433. Now a days, some ultra-Nationalists,racists so called
Rakhine historians are being tried to De-Legitimize Rohingya history by presenting
fabricated facts that Meng Saw Mun and his decedents took Muslim names just to please
Bengal rulers and denying Muslim in Arakan with their racial name of “Rohingya”. In
fact, their presentation is intentional and biased. Their intention is to erase the name,
“Rohingya” and its entity despite “Rohingya” is historically and internationally
introduced. Rather the previous Burma Democratic Government recognized Rohingya.
Some authentic evidences in this regards are mentioned below;

Prime minister U Nu declared “Rohingya” as an indigenous ethnic group of Burma

like the Shan, Kachin, Karen,Chin,Mon and Rakhine in a radio speech broadcasted
at 8.00 p.m on 24th September,1954.

Encyclopedia Burmaica, Vol 4, No, 9 published by the ministry of Information and

Publication clearly mentioned that the “Rohingya” are citizens of Burma and an
indigenous ethnic group.

For nearly one century (1582-1666) the district of Chittagong was under Arakanese rule.
Arakan was an independent state until the Burman invaders occupied Arakan in 1784.
The Muslim Rohingya and Buddhist Maghs (Rakhine) were living there until 1784 by
exercising peaceful co-existence and communal harmony. Ever since the occupation of
Arakan by Burman invaders in 1784CE the Rohingya Arakanese have been made targets
of extermination and genocide with the ulterior motive of turning Arakan into a Buddhits
dominated province of Burma caused thousands of Rohingya Muslims fled Arakan for
the fear of persecution of the anarchic Burman ruler. They arrived in east Bengal and
chose Cox`s Bazar Low land area particularly Mohesh Khali and its adjacent areas to
rehabilitate. Exactly, the Rohingya Muslims were passing subjugated life until British
occupied Arakan in 1824 under the Burman Invading rulers.They were deprived from all
basic human rights and the Burman rulers introduced “divide and rule” policy in Arakan.
Soon after Independence the BTF massacred hundreds of Arakan Muslims caused about
50,000 Muslims fled to East Pakistan.So, after the Independence of Burma their
generations(Ruhai) were reluctant to return to Arakan due to having awareness about the
sufferings of their fore fathers while they were in Arakan and rather they already
assimilated locally in east Bengal.But they feel about their fore-father’s ancestral Land,
“Rohang”( The ancient name of Arakan ). To this pretext, the Language, Culture etc.,
between Chittagonians and Rohingyas have found mostly consistence. So far, no exact
figure of Rohingyas living in Bangladesh has been traced. But the researchers estimated
more than One Lac Rohingyas (excluding Rohingya refugees living in camps) are living
in Cox`s Bazar and its adjacent areas because most of the Rohingyas were already
assimilated locally. Some quarter claimed that more than three Lac Rohingyas are living
scattered in Bangladesh.
History of Rohingya Refugee Influx to Bangladesh

1942- 100,000 Rohingya Muslims were massacred during world war 11. A large number
of their settlements were uprooted. (Siddique-2007)

1948- Arakan became a province of independent Burma.Since then Rohingyas have been
driving out of Burma and now living in exile as refugees. (Siddique-2007)

1974- Muslims in Northern Rakhine (Arakan)state are given foreign instead of National
registration cards.

1978- Dragon King operation in Burma causes second refugee influx (200,000 persons)

1982- The Burma citizenship Law of 1982, which violate several fundamental principles
of customary international Law standards, has reduced them to a position of defacto

1992- Third refugee influx with 250,000 persons hasted in 21 camps in Bangladesh.

1993- By November 50,000 refugees had been forcibly returned. (Wipperman T.E

1994- UNHCR Stops individual voluntary repatriation in August 1994, as thousands

return to Burma each week. After this date reports of forced repatriation increase.

2007- Some refugees were resettled in Canada as part of a pilot resettlement.

(Wipperman T.E Haque M-2007)

The sufferings of Rohingya people in Bangladesh

The population density of Rohingya community is so high, and this has an impact on the
general status of healthcare.

Mobility is restricted, with employment outside the camp forbidden.

Refugees International noted that most Rohingyas become day laborers ,under cutting the
daily wage from 50 taka to around 80 taka.

The Rohingya children brought up in a different culture and poverty over last two
decades, which created a generation with lack of cultural identity along with mentality
and socially deprived generation.

It is alarming that as this issue was not properly addressed by the state and civil society,
the Rohingya have also become a source of anti-social activities.
Concerning Issues

Although the Rohingya issue belongs to Burma, but it affects Bangladesh the most
because of its closed border with Burma.

Bangladesh government has failed to raise the issue in international level.

The bilateral relationship between Bangladesh and Burma is obsessed with its economic
prospects, the government successfully down played the problem as a repatriation matter
only that overshadowed the Rohingya issue.


Civil society and media should come forward proactively for raising awareness among
the mass people and government to address the Rohingya issue properly and adequately.

As a member of the UN Human Rights Council, especially Bangladesh government

should prove its commitment to the refugee protection by taking immediate action to end
their abuse and exploitation.

To take measures for peaceful co-existence with Rakhine people and all other
communities in Arakan as well as in Burma.

To take measures internationally for repatriation from their refugee places and their
rehabilitation in their original places.

As part of civil society , Human rights Organizations should reach international level
consensus through national level dialog with aiming to corporate Rohingya issue in to
Burma`s current democratic movement.

Resettlement programs can be initiated from western countries (Canada, which received
over thousand refugees a year).

As regional body ASEAN can push the Burmese present regime to resolve this issue.

Other international bodies such as SAARC, OIC, and BISMTEC may play positive role
regarding Rohingya issue in their own prospective.

Government of Bangladesh should allow international Organizations to implement better

facilities for both camp and non-cam refugees and support the establishment of better
educational and skills training programs for Rohingya community.
1. Research paper-2007: Nitigobashana Kendro, Dhaka
2. Souvenir: A.H.S.
3. “History of Arakan “ by Dr. A. Karim
4. Various magazines and historical documents of world renowned historians.