What is Happening in Burma?

By Dr. Habib Siddiqui
Posted: 20 Rabi'ul-Awwal 1427, 19 April 2006

Part 1: The Nightmare

Imagine this. You are living in a country that does not recognize you as a citizen in spite of the fact that your forefathers lived there for centuries. Half of your people have been forced to take refuge outside. Your country is run by a brutal and savage military regime and you face daily intimidation, extortion, abuse and repression.

It routinely carries out military offensives where hundreds of villages are destroyed and burned so that people are forced to flee to the jungle or cross the border; they cannot return to their homes. The territory is conveniently called ‘cleaned’ of the rebel forces.

Another tactic involves evicting people from their homes. The victims are given an order to vacate their homes within the next few days. They are not told why and where they will relocate. No compensation is paid either to the victims for such eviction notices.(1) A similar tactic involves confiscation of land of farmers. Farmers must now work for free as forced or modern-day slave labors to grow paddy for the military. They must bear all expenses for the production.(2) Often times such actions create forced starvation and internal refugee problem. A prosperous farmer, businessman or trader overnight becomes a beggar.

Villagers and township residents face daily or weekly demands from all of the Army camps and mobile patrols in their area. At any given time, a village has to provide an average of one person per household for a whole range of forced labor: forced porters, guides and human minesweepers for military columns, messengers and sentries for Army camps, building and maintaining Army camp fences, trenches, booby-traps, and barracks, cutting and hauling firewood, cooking and carrying water to soldiers, building and rebuilding military supply roads, clearing shrub along roadsides to minimize the possibility of ambush, standing sentry along military supply roads, growing crops for the Army on confiscated land, and engaging in profit-making activities for the officers such as brick-baking, rubber planting or digging fishponds, let alone drug-trafficking. Every Army unit demands most of these things from the surrounding villages, and every village is surrounded by three, four or five Army units.

To avoid forced labor, the village men leave the village to stay in hiding in their field huts or in the forest while the women, children and the elderly remain behind in the village to protect the house from looting by soldiers and to carry on some semblance of family life. The men only sneak back into the village for food and to visit when Army patrols are not around. This system makes the women particularly vulnerable, because Army patrols arriving at the village often rape them on seeing that the men are not around. Truly, rape is used as a weapon of war to ethnically cleanse the territory.(3) In the absence of men, they often take the women as porters, or accuse them of being married to ‘rebel soldiers’ and hold them hostage pending the return of their husbands.(4) The crimes similar to Abu Ghraib are routinely practiced on these prisoners.

In some localities, out of desperation, villagers have tried to appease the government forces by making their own ‘peace’ agreements. They promise to abide by all demands of the military. These villages are subsequently labeled ‘peace’ villages. But even in these villages the demands for forced labor, money, food and materials usually become so intense that the village elders cannot keep up with them.(5) They are then arrested and tortured for failure to comply, houses are sometimes burned and many villagers flee just as though there had never been any agreement.

With the rapid expansion of the Army in recent years to its current strength of over 400,000 troops, villagers who have never seen fighting now find their villages surrounded by 3 or 4 Army camps within walking distance. The officers in these camps see the civilian population as little more than a convenient pool of forced laborers and a source of profit. Villages receive a constant stream of written and spoken orders demanding their forced labor as Army camp servants, messengers and sentries, cutting and hauling building materials for camp construction, building and maintaining the camp. They are also taken as porters, because Army needs people to haul rations and supplies to Army camps, or from the Battalion bases to faraway outposts.(6)

The regime also uses villagers as forced labor to construct or repair road networks, railways and hydro dams. Conditions on such projects can be brutal, with one person per family demanded on rotating one or two week shifts.(7)

For Army officers, a posting in the countryside is an opportunity to make a great deal of personal profit in a short time. Officers order villagers to cut logs and bamboo, then sell it on the market for personal profit.(8)

In some villages the regime sometimes sanctions the construction of a primary or middle school, but usually it is the villagers who must pay the cost of building it as well as the salary of the state-supplied teacher. More remote villages usually cannot afford to do this, so many have opened their own primary-level schools with their own volunteer teachers. Since the beginning of 1999, the authorities have been ordering the closing of many of these village primary schools, telling the villagers that only state-sanctioned schools are allowed.

Racist teachers (representing state-sponsored religion) have been known to teach that Muslims were brought in by the colonial regime and have only caused problem. Many are forced to convert to the religion of the majority if they want to gain access to higher education and better job. Students are expelled from the schools if they refuse to learn the religion of the majority people. Muslim elders are arrested for submitting petition requesting that Muslims students be spared from such religious classes. Building of Muslims schools is banned and Muslim religious teachers routinely face torture and execution.(9)

Muslim villagers are ordered to worship the god of the majority people. They must also pay obeisance to (worship) monks, failing which they may face torture and death.(10) Villagers are pressured to convert to religion of the majority. They are forced to contribute large chunks of money toward donations to monasteries for the dominant religious group. Muslim places of worship are routinely demolished to make room for altars of the dominant group. Muslim homes and shops are destroyed under all kinds of pretexts. Muslims are also ordered to erect shelf altars in their homes. They are ordered to become vegetarians and not to raise cattle. Eating meat may result in heavy fines, including torture and imprisonment.(11)

While the situation is simply bleak for all inside Burma except a privileged class within the Burmese ethnic group professing Buddhism (who runs the SPDC – State Peace and Development Council - regime), the situation is worse for Muslims and worst yet for the Rohingya Muslims who live in the Arakan (Rakhine) state of Burma. Their suffering simply has no parallel in our time because of their Muslim identity and annulment of citizenship rights.

Part 2: Muslims in Burma

Burma is a country located between South Asia and South East Asia, with an area of about 261,970 square miles and a population of nearly 52 million.(12)   It achieved independence from Britain on January 4 of 1948 as “Union of Burma.” It is home to nearly 140 ethnic groups (of which only 134 outside the majority Burmese are recognized by the government) who inhabit 7 states comprising roughly 60% of the total area. The Burmese are the largest and most dominant ethnic group, who inhabit the remainder 7 divisions. The majority people are followers of Theraveda Buddhism.

Muslims form the second largest religious community, numbering 7 to 10 million people. Almost every city or town in Burma has a Muslim community. There are also Muslim and mixed Muslim villages throughout Burma. Rakhine State (formerly known as Arakan State) in western Burma has the highest concentration of Muslim inhabitants. Muslims have lived in Burma for more than a millennium, although some have arrived only after Burma’s annexation by Great Britain in the early 19th century. Christianity and other religions are also practised. Islam is also practiced in Burma by Burmese, Indians, ethnic Bengalis and some ethnic minorities.

Burma's draconian citizenship law makes it impossible for many Muslims to become citizens and receive national identity cards.(13) Without the identity cards, Muslims have a difficult time traveling, getting an education or finding a job. They cannot carry on social relations and conduct business. Because of racial and religious discrimination and lack of an identity card, they cannot even get a job in a private company. The lucky few who are able to get identity cards are barred from holding high office in any government job.

Religious restrictions have also been placed on Muslims. They cannot bring the Qur’an or religious books from outside (nor are they allowed to print them inside). There is a prohibition on the construction of new mosques and repairs to existing ones are limited to the interiors only. Groups of more than five Muslims are prohibited from assembling in cities and towns. Permission must be sought, which is often denied, to hold religious ceremonies and celebrate social occasions. Muslim religious leaders are under constant surveillance by the SPDC. They cannot conduct religious and social services properly. All Islamic schools are now banned. Muslim Imams cannot teach Islam in any gathering, even in the privacy of their homes.

The SPDC regime exploits religion to strengthen its hold onto power. It confiscates Muslim land and properties and alters demography by implanting Buddhists from outside to settle. Muslim-owned land and homes are then delivered to these new settlers. To bolster their Buddhist image, while they demolish mosques and Islamic schools, they are engaged in massively expensive pagoda-building and Buddhist ceremonies.(14) Many of these pagodas and monasteries are built on confiscated Muslim properties. Worse still, Muslims must pay for such construction projects, including Buddhist festivities and funeral services. Muslim cemeteries are now routinely desecrated for conducting Buddhist funeral services. Islam is treated as a ‘threat’ involving ‘foreigners’ (the “Ka La” – blacks or Indians from outside; used derogatorily).

Racial and religious tensions have run high between Muslims and Burmese since independence in 1948. Successive Burmese regimes have encouraged or instigated violence against Muslims as a way of diverting the public’s attention away from economic or political concerns. The most recent outbreak of violence against Muslims occurred in the Arakan state in February of this year.(15) To instigate these riots, sometimes the members of the regime have been found to spread rumors and distribute booklets and leaflets enticing Buddhists to attack Muslims.(16) As a result, many mosques, homes, shops and schools were destroyed and many Muslims were killed or injured.

The status of Muslims in Burma is summed up by the KHRG (Karen Human Rights Group): “Denied identity cards and refused the most basic rights of citizenship under the SPDC’s racist laws, the Muslims of Burma have to struggle for the simple privileges of going to school, finding a job, applying to a university, even traveling to the next town. They are forbidden to maintain their mosque buildings or build new ones, at the same time as the SPDC authorities call many of them to forced labor building lavish new Buddhist temples. The restrictions make most of them poor, and their poverty leaves them unable to bribe their way out of the most brutal forms of forced labor used by the Burmese military, such as frontline portering. But this is not all – whenever the Buddhist population gets restive under military oppression, the SPDC attempts to redirect the anger against the Muslim minority, resulting in riots and killings such as those that terrorized Muslim communities throughout Burma from March to October 2001. Visible, different, in the minority and unarmed, the Muslims of Burma are easy targets.”

Part 3: Muslims in Arakan

ARAKAN, formerly called Rohang, Roshang, Rakhine Pray, Rakhapura, lies on the north-western part of Burma with 360 miles coastal belt from the Bay of Bengal. Through its geopolitical position, Arakan finds itself at the crossroads of two continental entities, South Asia and South-East Asia -- between Buddhist Asia and Muslim-Hindu Asia and between the Mongoloid and the Indo-Aryan races.  It borders 176 miles with Bangladesh, 48 miles of which is covered by river Naf, which demarcates Arakan (Burma) from Chittagong (Bangladesh). It is separated geographically from the rest of Burma by the long range of Arakan Yoma mountain range running north to south. The area of Arakan is about 20,000 square miles. But Arakan Hill-tracts district (5235 square miles) and southern most part of Arakan were partitioned from Arakan. So, it has now been reduced to 14,200 square miles.(17)

The Muslim community in Arakan, who are next to the Rakhine Buddhists in number, consists of four groups: Tambukias, Turko-Pathans, Kamanchis and Rohingyas. The Tambukias trace their history back to the eighth century when their ancestors from Arabia were allowed to settle in southern Arakan by the contemporary king Maha Taing Chandra (788-810). The next group consisting of the Turks and Pathans are mostly found in the outskirts of Mrohaung, the last capital of Arakan. The Arakanese king Mong-Saw-Mwan alias Narameikhla (1403-33) recaptured his throne with the help of their forebears who were in the army of Bengal. Like the Tambukias, they were allowed to settle in Arakan by the grateful king. The ancestors of the Kamanchis came in the train of shah shuja, the Governor of Bengal (1639-59), who took shelter in Arakan with his family and retinues after being overthrown by his brother aurangzeb. Their descendants are to be found mostly in Ramree Island. The Rohingyas are descendants of Muslims who trace their ancestry to all those who settled in Arakan – the Arabs, Turks, Persians, Pathans, Mughals, Bengalis and some Indo-Mongoloid people. Hence, the Rohingya Muslims are not an ethnic group, which developed from one tribal group affiliation or single racial stock, but are an ethnic group that developed from different stocks of people. The ethnic Rohingya is Muslim by religion with distinct culture and civilization of its own.

Arakan came in close cultural contact with the Muslim Sultanate of Bengal in early 14th century so much so that many of the Buddhist rulers of that country adopted Muslim names for themselves. They appointed Muslim officials in their courts and, apparently under the latter’s influence, even inscribed the Kalima on their coins.(18) Thus, Buddhist kings ruled, but Muslims played an influential role in the court, defence and administration of the kingdom. The Arakanese court’s adoption of many Muslim customs and terms were other significant tribute to the influence of Islam. Mosques including the famous Sandi Khan Mosque began to dot the countryside and Islamic customs, manners and practices came to be established since this time.(19)

Because of her geographical proximity with the south-eastern parts of Bengal, Arakan developed both political and cultural relations with Bengalis. Its courts and royalties patronized Bengali literature. Some of the best known classical Bengali poets (Alaol, Dawlat Qazi) came from Arakan.

Arakan was an independent kingdom until its annexation in 1784 by the Burmese King Bodawpaya (1782-1819). It encompassed at times the southern part of today’s Bangladesh, and was famous as a land of economic opportunities, on the maritime shipping routes between south-west Asia and south-east Asia. During the conquest, Bodawpaya’s soldiers returned with 20,000 Arakanese prisoners. Thousand of Arakanese Muslims and Buddhists were put to death. The Burmese soldiers destroyed mosques, temples, shrines, seminaries and libraries, including the Mrauk-U Royal Library.(20) The fall of Mrauk-U Empire was a mortal blow to the Muslims for every thing that was materially and culturally Islamic was razed to the ground. During the 40-year (1784-1824 CE) Burmese rule, two third, i.e., 200,000, of the inhabitants (Rohingya Muslims and Rakhine Buddhists) of Arakan fled to Bengal (in British India). Many of the indigenous Muslims found today in and around Mandalay and Central Burma are descendants of those Rohingyas of Arakan. During the British rule, some of the Arakanese who had fled to Bengal, especially Chittagong, returned to Arakan.

The state of Arakan was granted autonomy within the Union of Burma in 1948, which was later abolished in 1962 by a military decree. The Revolutionary Council (military junta) that grabbed power nationalized all financial institutions and businesses. In Arakan, most of the major business establishments were in the hands of Muslims. So, the Rohingya Muslims of Arakan were hardest hit in the economic crackdown by the new military regime. All Rohingya welfare and socio-cultural organizations were banned in 1964. The military regime cancelled the Rohingya Language Program broadcasted from Burma Broadcasting Service (BBS), Rangoon in October 1965.

Prior to 1962 the Rohingya community was recognized as an indigenous ethnic nationality of Burma. They had their representatives in Burmese parliament and some of them were appointed as ministers, parliamentary secretaries and in high government positions. After the military takeover in 1962 the Rohingyas have been systematically deprived of their political rights. With the promulgation of the most controversial and discriminatory citizenship law of 1982 they are declared as “non-nationals” or “foreign residents”. [Interestingly, in an apparent but short-lived departure from their policy, the military not only allowed Rohingyas to vote in the general election of May 1990, but also allowed them to stand as candidates The National Democratic Party for Human Rights (NDPHR), a Rohingya supported group, won four seats, capturing all the constituencies in Buthidaung and Maungdaw townships. The Rohingya candidate in Akyab was arrested and put in jail though. Subsequently, the party, along with many other political parties, was deregistered in March 1992. Now the leader of the NDPHR is serving a long prison term in with his family members.]

Today, Rohingya Muslims cannot move from one village to another nearby village without permission and payment of fees, even in medical emergencies.(21) Households who receive visitors from another township or village must reportedly register their guests if they are spending the night. Failure to do so can result in fines or other reprisals like arrests and hefty extortion payments.(22)A Rohingya Muslim must report and pay fees for every birth and death in his family, including cattle.(23) A Rohingya widow must also wait a minimum of three years before she can remarry. When a cyclone hit the Arakan coast on May 19, 2004 and left over 520 people dead and more than 20,000 people homeless, the local officials didn’t distribute relief aid to the Rohingya people simply saying that they were not citizens of Burma.(24)

To get married they must get permission from at least four different government agencies and vow not to have more than three children. Such permissions, in spite of paying high fees and bribes, can take years, and most are often denied. As a result, the backlog of marriages, delayed and denied, runs into thousands in many towns.  There are towns where not a single marriage has taken place for years. Those who dared to marry without permission are arrested and fined heavily.(25) Those who eventually get the permission to get married must report to the government-run family planning and counseling centers before their wedding, where they are required to stay few days. Obviously, with exorbitant fees paid in advance! It is there that one of the most heinous crimes is often perpetrated by the agents affiliated with the government. The bride-to-be is raped. Obviously, the SPDC regime has become creative to open up its new weapon of ethnic cleansing, bound to terrorize the Rohingya community and forcing them to opt for exodus out of the country.26

One may wonder how such abuses of human rights can take place in a state that claims to follow the teachings of Gautam Buddha! The sad truth is that millions of people of all ethnicities in Burma harbor racist anti-Muslim feelings, considering them vaguely and baselessly as foreigners (Ka La or blacks, a racist and derogatory term to point to their Indian heritage), immigrants, job- or land-stealers, and so on. They are looked upon as collaborators of the British Raj, especially since the Burmans allied themselves with the Japanese occupation forces during World War II.(27) [More than a hundred thousand Rohingya Muslims were killed during the pogroms of 1942. Another 80,000 fled to Bengal. They are commonly called “Rohi”s in southern Chittagong.](28) The SPDC and its predecessor regimes have often exploited this in order to 'divide and rule' the civilian population. There is no doubt that they have succeeded in their criminal scheme. For instance, the Rakhine Buddhist in Arakan is now the worst adversary of the Rohingya; he/she refuses to consider anyone to be Arakanese who is not Buddhist.

In the late 1970s (Naga-Min Operation) and again in 1991-92 (Pyi Thaya Operation), the Burmese military dictatorship launched pogroms against the Rohingya Muslims of Arakan State in the hope that Buddhist Rakhines, many of whom are rabidly anti-Muslim, would swing over to the 'government' side - forgetting their growing anger at Burmese Army repression and redirecting it against the Muslim community. In each of those pogroms more than a quarter million of Rohingyas were forcibly evicted from their ancestral homes to seek refuge in Bangladesh. Most of their possessions now belong to Buddhist settlers.
Almost all of the evicted Rohingyas have now been forcibly repatriated to Burma by the Bangladeshi government in cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), but those who return still face continued persecution both from the SPDC and the Rakhine Buddhists; so a small but steady exodus is continuing.(29) The UNHCR and the Bangladeshi authorities refuse to recognize any of these new or repeat refugees, so tens of thousands of them have disappeared into the illegal labor markets of Bangladesh and elsewhere in the past eight years.

Some of the major armed operations against the Rohingya people, orchestrated by the Burmese government since 1948, are mentioned below:
01. Military Operation (5th Burma Regiment) - November 1948
02. Burma Territorial Force (BTF) - Operation 1949-50
03. Military Operation (2nd Emergency Chin regiment) - March 1951-52
04. Mayu Operation - October 1952-53
05. Mone-thone Operation - October 1954
06. Combined Immigration and Army Operation  - January 1955
07. Union Military Police (UMP) Operation - 1955-58
08. Captain Htin Kyaw Operation - 1959
09. Shwe Kyi Operation - October 1966
10. Kyi Gan Operation - October-December 1966
11. Ngazinka Operation - 1967-69
12. Myat Mon Operation - February 1969-71
13. Major Aung Than Operation - 1973
14. Sabe Operation February - 1974-78
15. Naga-Min (King Dragon) Operation - February 1978-79 (resulting in exodus of some 300,000 Rohingyas to Bangladesh)
16. Shwe Hintha Operation - August 1978-80
17. Galone Operation - 1979
18. Pyi Thaya Operation – July 1991-92 (resulting in exodus of some 268,000 Rohingyas to Bangladesh)
19. Na-Sa-Ka Operation  – since 1992.

It is not difficult to understand why half the Rohingya population, numbering some million and a half, has opted for a life of exile and uncertainty. They live as unwanted refugees and illegal immigrants in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Malaysia and the U.A.E.

Part 4: Plight of Rohingya Refugees and Recommendations for Regime Change
4.1 Condition of Refugees in Bangladesh:
In Bangladesh today there are approximately 20,000 “documented” Rohingya refugees, out of a quarter million that had arrived in 1991-2, escaping military persecution in Burma. They live in two camps of Kutupalong and Nayapara. Most of the original refugees were forcibly repatriated into the lawless country of Burma, where they continue to face all sorts of human rights abuse in the hands of Myanmar authority. The remaining refugees have refused to return because they fear human rights abuses, including religious persecution.

Unfortunately, the condition within those two refugee camps is simply awful and lack adequate facilities for a healthy living. Children are deprived of their basic education and healthcare. They also face harassment from the government authorities.(30)

Besides, hundreds of thousands of “undocumented” Rohingyas are living outside these two camps in sub-human condition with all their uncertainty. Many refugees are camped at a roadside facility at Teknaf, a border town in south-east end of Bangladesh under unpleasant conditions. There is no help from any quarter for these refugees.

These refugees are also blocked from nominal opportunities of re-settlement in a third country or settlement within Bangladesh.

The UNHCR announced on March 12, 2006 that it would reduce refugee Subsistence Allowance (SA). A refugee who is a head of family will receive 45 taka (72 cents) and a dependent will receive 22.50 taka per day. Previously, refugees received 90 taka per day for the SA. This decision is bound to worsen the misery of the refugees.

4.2 Situation of Refugees in Other Countries:
There is no international agency to look after the interest of the stateless Rohingya. Because of their lack of legal identity, they are not allowed to work or hold work permit by any name. An estimated 15-20,000 Rohingyas work as illegal workers in Thailand. Their children are deprived of basic human rights. As with most new refugees in Thailand, the Thai authorities reject most new Muslim arrivals whether they are Rohingyas or Karens or from any other state, claiming that they cannot be refugees since they are not 'fleeing fighting'. They are allowed to stay in the camps but are frequently threatened with repatriation. The situation is only likely to get worse in the near future with the new Thai policy of not allowing any new refugees to come to Thailand. Thailand's hostile policy toward migrant workers makes working in Thailand very risky, and many have been sent back as illegal immigrants, who face persecution in Burma.
The number of refugees in Malaysia is estimated at 8,000. The situation there is slightly better than that faced in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Thailand. However, they face constant threat of deportation. Some of the refugees in the Arab countries have been able to find gainful jobs.

4.3 Conclusion:
The SPDC regime has learned to exploit religious sentiments to persecute non-Buddhists and ethnically cleanse the Rohingya from the Arakan. Their power is rooted in the deep racism that has permeated Burmese society since its beginnings; not only the racial supremacy complex which many Burmans are brought up with, but the racism of the Karen against the Burmese, the Burmese against the Shan, the Shan against the Wa, the Wa against the Shan, the Mon against the Burmese, the Rakhine against the Rohingyas, the Burmese against the Chinese, the Christians against the Buddhists, and everyone against the Muslims.
The SPDC propaganda encourages a blind racist nationalism, full of references to ‘protecting the race’, meaning that if Burmans do not oppress other nationalities then they will themselves be oppressed, ‘national reconsolidation’, meaning assimilation, and preventing ‘disintegration of the Union’, meaning that if the Army falls then some kind of ethnic chaos would ensue.

Oppression of Muslims in Burma, esp. the Rohingyas in Arakan who live there has not eased a bit despite the assurances from the SPDC and the UNHCR. No one should be fooled by the empty promises and assurances of the pariah regime that rules Burma. What the SPDC junta is doing to the Rohingya people is nothing short of a genocidal and ethnic cleansing campaign. If this process is allowed to continue there won’t be a single Rohingya left in Arakan within the next fifty years. They will be an extinct community, much like what had happened to the native population of Tasmania.

Since 1999, the USA has designated Burma as a “Country of Particular Concern” under the International Religious Freedom Act for severe violations of religious freedom. In a new report, entitled ‘Threat to Peace’, Bishop Tutu of South Africa and former President Vaclav Havel of the Czech Republic have called on the UN Security Council to take up the situation in Burma immediately. Recently the European Union has taken a similar stand. But such designations and reports are not enough. These powerful nations need to walk the talk. Shamelessly, the British and American Tobacco and oil companies are the greatest sponsors of the rogue SPDC regime providing a lifeline for its survival.

Of particular concern is the current hobnobbing of the Burmese regime with its neighbors. The bilateral trade between China and Myanmar hit $1.2 billion last year (accounting for nearly a quarter of Myanmar’s total trade volume).(22) Predictions are that it will grow significantly this year. The bilateral Burma–India trade volume is projected at $2 billion for this year. It was around $470 million during the 2003-04 year.

The Myanmar regime must be forced to step down and tried for war crimes. All trades and commerce that sustain this evil military regime must immediately be halted. All political prisoners must be released, and the democratic forces that had participated in the 1990 election be allowed to run the country under a Federal system, granting autonomy to each of the States and Divisions  (something granted in 1948).

[About the author: Dr. Habib Siddiqui has written extensively in Op/Ed columns in newspapers, magazines, journals and the Internet. He can be reached at saeva@aol.com. This paper is based on author’s speech at the PENN HUMAN RIGHTS FORUM on Friday, March 31, 2006 at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA. The material in this paper came from author’s personal contacts with the Rohingya Diaspora community as well as from the reports of various human rights groups.]

(1) See the report ‘Easy Targets: the persecution of Muslims in Burma,’ Karen Human Rights Group, May 2002; Muslim Quarter in the heart of Maungdaw town ordered to vacate, Rohingya Times, July 16, 2003.

(2) Confiscation of 315 Acres for Nasaka Business and Forced Labor, Buthidaung, Kaladanpress Network, September 17, 2004.

(3) Nasaka Raped a 12-Year Old Girl and Strangled, Maungdaw, Kaladanpress Network, May12, 2004; Crackdown On Rohingya Villagers Maungdaw, Kaladanpress Network, September 24, 2004; One woman killed after rape and another jailed for 20 years, Buthidaung, Kaladanpress Network, September 26, 2004.

(4) One woman killed after rape and another jailed for 20 years, Buthidaung, Kaladanpress Network, September 26, 2004.

(5) Confiscation of 315 Acres for Nasaka Business and Forced Labor, Kaladanpress Network, September 17, 2004.

(6) Ibid.

(7) KHRG report, op. cit.

(8) Confiscation of 315 Acres for Nasaka Business and Forced Labor, Kaladanpress Network, September 17, 2004; See the Amnesty International report: Myanmar – The Rohingya Minority: Fundamental Rights Denied, May 2004.

(9) ibid.; Barbaric Killing of a Religious Teacher in Nasaka Custody Maungdaw, Kaladanpress Network, April 28, 2004; A Religious Teacher Sentenced a 7-year Jail Sentence, Kaladanpress Network, August 07, 2004. 

(10) From the reports of human rights groups, it is confirmed that when a Muslim villager failed to ‘worship’ a Buddhist monk, which was demanded by the monk, the latter became infuriated and started beating him, and plucked his eyes out. The villager died of the injury. See also, Human Rights Watch briefing paper ‘Crackdown on Burmese Muslims’ (July 2002) on Taungoo Violence, May 2001.

(11) See the KHRG report for details.

(12) US State Department Report; CIA Factbook.

(13) The Rohingyas are not recognised as one of the 135 ‘national races’ by the Myanmar government, which proclaims: "In actual fact, although there are (135) national races living in Myanmar today, the so-called Rohingya people is not one of them. Historically, there has never been a ‘Rohingya’ race in Myanmar. The very name Rohingya is a creation of a group of insurgents in the Rakhine State. Since the First Anglo-Myanmar War in 1824, people of Muslim Faith from the adjacent country illegally entered Myanmar Ngain-Ngan, particularly Rakhine State. Being illegal immigrants they do not hold immigration papers like other nationals of the country." (Press Release of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Union of Myanmar, 26 February 1992.)

(14) Demolition of Mosques in Northern Arakan Buthidaung, Kaladanpress Network, September 16, 2004.

(15) The previous serious outbreak of violence occurred in cities across Burma from February to October 2001 when many Muslims were killed and their properties including mosques were destroyed.

(16) See the report “Crackdown on Burmese Muslims,” Human Rights Watch Briefing Paper, July 2002, for a detailed analysis on Taungoo violence against Muslims. The U.S. State Department's Annual Report for International Religious Freedom issued in October, 2001, notes "...there were credible reports that the monks that appeared to be inciting at least some of the violence were USDA or military personnel dressed as monks. After two days of violence the military stepped in and the violence immediately ended."

(17) The Rohingya Problem, ARNO, August 31, 1999.

(18) See Dr. Muhammad Enanmul Haq and Abdul Karim Shahitya Visharad’s work “Bengali Literature in the Court of Arakan 1600-1700.”

(19) A Short Historical Background of Arakan by Mohammad Ashraf Alam, Arakan Research Society, Chittagong, Bangladesh.

(20) Ibid.

(21) See the Amnesty International report: Myanmar – The Rohingya Minority: Fundamental Rights Denied, May 2004.

(22) Ibid.

(23) Amnesty International report, op. cit.

(24) Rohingya Barred from Cyclone Relief in Arakan Though Rohingya donated US$ 2,67,000  for Cyclone Victims, Kaladanpress Network, June 18, 2004.

(25) Ban on Marriages, Another Yoke on Rohingya Muslims by Marwaan Macan-Markar, IPS, December 6, 2005.

(26) Situation report on Rohingyas, NDPHR Press Release, 2005.

(27) By the time of Japanese occupation of Burma, nearly a million Muslims were chased out by Aung San’s Burma Independence Army, a Burman armed group that collaborated with the Japanese occupation.

(28) Ashraf Alam (Op. Cit.) gives a list of 294 villages completely destroyed in the pogroms of 1942: (1) Myebon in Kyaukpru District 30 villages; (2) Minbya in Akyab District 27 villages; (3) Pauktaw in Akyab District 25 villages; (4) Myohaung in Akyab District 58 villages; (5) Kyauktaw in Akyab District 78 villages; (6) Ponnagyun in Akyab District 5 villages; (7) Rathedaung in Akyab District 16 villages; and (8) Buthidaung in Akyab District 55 villages.

(29) See the latest report on “Burma’s Forgotten Rohingya” by Mike Thomson of BBC, March 2006.

(30) Ibid.

(31) The total trade volume for Burma was 5 billion USD; http://www.burmanet.org/news/2006/03/07/knight-ridder-newspapers-china-uses-trade-to-prop-myanmar-regime-tim-johnson