An Independent Survey of Events in Myanmar
Rohingya refugee crisis: Latest News and Views
Xin Hua - 20 May 2015
Myanmar is making serious efforts to prevent human smuggling and illegal migration and implementing preventive measures throughout the nation, said a statement of the country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs published Wednesday. Voicing deep concern over victims of human smuggling and illegal migration, the statement said Myanmar navy and air force are to make regular patrolling in its territorial waters to deter any illegal trespassing and to provide safety for the trespassers.
"Currently, Bangladeshis outnumber Rohingyas on smugglers’ boats. Intense competition among agents has seen an increase in the number of kidnappings in Bangladesh since 2014, with many reports of people forced on to boats and held to ransom at sea." - Wall Street Journal 19 May 2015
Burma Special Branch Report - 9 December 1948
Derek Tonkin writes:
Within months of securing independence from Britain in January 1948, the Muslim Council of North Arakan (“Jamiatul Ulama or “Council of Religious Leaders”) had expressed their serious concerns to the then Prime Minister U Nu because local Muslim officials and administrators appointed by the British before their departure in majority Muslim areas (Maungdaw and Buthidaung) of North Arakan had been replaced by Buddhist Rakhine officials, and also because Muslim representation in the Chamber of Deputies was generally low in comparison with other constituencies in Arakan.
Their Statement, of which the copy at this link is a less than perfect transcription by the Burmese Special Branch at the time, denied that the Muslim community was “a part of the race generally known as Chittagonians and foreigners. We humbly submit that we are not. We have a history of our own district [distinct] from that of Chittagonians. We have [a] culture of our own. Historically we are a race by ourselves……Our spoken dialect is an admixture of Arabic, Persion [Persian], Urdi, Arakanese and Benglis [Bengali]”.
This assertion implies that in the view of the Muslim Council very few Chittagonians migrated to North Arakan during British rule which lasted from 1826 to 1948. To this day this is held as an article of faith by most Rohingya leaders. British documents (annual and decennial censuses, official reports and gazetteers, personal reminiscences and private papers) on the other hand record in detail the steady growth of the permanent migration to Arakan by Chittagonian agricultural workers, to the point that by the 1931 Census Chittagonians outnumbered all other ‘indigenous’ Muslims in Arakan by a ratio of at least three to one.
The Muslim Council appear to have accepted British estimates of their population at the time as not less than 250,000. This suggests an upper figure of 300,000. We might then well ask how this figure could have grown to some 1.3 million Rohingyas by 2015 and as many again who have left as refugees for resettlement overseas. This implies a population growth rate at least double that of neighbouring Bangladesh between 1948 and 2015. This can only be explained in my view by assuming substantial illegal immigration from Bangladesh into Arakan after the Second World War since such a natural population growth rate is scarcely credible.
The Buddhist Rakhine population and the Myanmar people generally are well aware of these Rohingya pretensions which they see as threatening to their future. These concerns are rarely mentioned during international discussion of the causes of the refugee crisis.
There is much which merits further comment in the Statement, including the allegation that British ‘divide and rule’ policy which supposedly set Muslim against Buddhist “culminated in the massacre of 1942”, as well as the appearance for the first time of Rohingya-style designations – “Ruwangyas or Rushangyas”. Though some Muslim scholars have attributed different etymologies to a string of R-words which emerged in the 1950s, my own belief is that they reflect a common Bengali root for “Arakan” such as Rohang, Roshang, Ruang, Rovingaw etc. By the late 1950s these various R-designations had coalesced by common consent to “Rohingya” which first appeared around 1959-1960 and became generally accepted by Muslim scholars from 1965, and later conveyed to the local Muslim population.
It is admittedly speculation on my part, but my tentative explanation of this and other contemporary documents is that the settled Chittagonians of Maungdaw and Buthidaung concluded after the Second World War that their status as permanent residents and loyal Burmese citizens could best be assured by assuming the mantel of the 50,000 or more indigencous Yakhain-Kala or "Arakan Mohamedan" population as the British described them and embracing them as their own kith and kin, even if in the process this meant their own voluntary 'de-Indianization'.
Human trafficking behind boat people crisis: President's Spokesman
Global New Light of Myanmar - 19 May 2015
The Myanmar government pledges cooperation with regional and other international counterparts to tackle the ongoing boat people crisis, which is a consequence of human trafficking of people from Rakhine State and Bangladesh to Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, the president's spokesman said Monday. The Myanmar government will scrutinize the boat people and bring back those who can show evidence of citizenship, said the President's Spokesman and Union Minister for Information U Ye Htut at a meeting between ministers and diplomats in Yangon.
The government does not assume the boat people to be refugees fleeing the conflict in Rakhine State, which shares a border with Bangladesh, he added. Myanmar has begun to repatriate more than 500 trafficking victims who were forced onto fishing boats in Indonesia, after they were found to be citizens, the spokesperson said.
The second bi-monthly meeting also focused on preparation for the upcoming 2015 general election and the revocation of temporary identity cards, also known as white cards. More than 400,000 of the roughly 700,000 white cards have been collected by authorities across the country, said U Khin Yi, Union Minister for Immigration and Population.
Notice: The White House - 15 May 2015
Extract: "The actions and policies of the Government of Burma continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States. For this reason, the national emergency declared on May 20, 1997, and the measures adopted to deal with that emergency in Executive Orders 13047 of May 20, 1997; 13310 of July 28, 2003; 13448 of October 18, 2007; 13464 of April 30, 2008; 13619 of July 11, 2012; and 13651 of August 6, 2013, must continue in effect beyond May 20, 2015. Therefore, in accordance with section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)), I am continuing for 1 year the national emergency with respect to Burma declared in Executive Order 13047."
Derek Tonkin writes: The use of this bizarre, ritualistic formula enables the US Administration to avoid tortuous and politically unwelcome negotiations in pursuit of more appropriate wording. The name of the game is well understood, and helps to avoid controversy.
Extract: "Concerns persist regarding the ongoing conflict and human rights abuses in the country, particularly in ethnic minority areas and Rakhine State. In addition, Burma's military operates with little oversight from the civilian government and often acts with impunity. For these reasons, I have determined that it is necessary to continue the national emergency with respect to Burma."