Plain Speaking
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By THE IRRAWADDY MAR — APR, 2009 - VOLUME 17 NO.2


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The Irrawaddy’s correspondent asked Rohingya and Rakhine residents of Maungdaw, in Arakan State, and a Burmese computer expert in Rangoon for their views on the Rohingya issue. All three interview subjects are 27 years old, and while they clearly don’t represent Rohingya, Rakhine and Burmese populations as a whole, their comments offer some idea of popular thinking in Burma

A young Rohingya man who helps out in his parents’ business was asked to describe his life in Arakan State.

I feel we’re confined in a box. I feel we’re treated as sub-human. I feel we suffer the worst human rights violations compared with our brethren [Burmese citizens] in other parts of the country who are experiencing the policies of this government. We all bear the brunt of this dictatorship. But I don’t know why other ethnic groups do not sympathize with us. This is the saddest thing.

Q: Why do you think this government does not recognize the Rohingya as an ethnic group?

A: I don’t know exactly why. But we do know that this government uses a divide-and-rule system in our state so they can rule easily. I also think the government fears our work potential and expansion strategy. As you know, we Rohingya are very hardworking, and our population could swell in a short time. I guess that in order to prevent our expansion and influence, the junta denies us our human rights, and removed our citizenship. Our fellow ethnic Rakhine people also think we’re hostile and aggressive. It may be true, sometimes. But it would be because of their discrimination and restrictions.

Q: What keeps you here?

A: Hope! Hope that one day we will get citizenship. I hope that at least in the near future, some restrictions will be lifted, easing our daily life, and improving our livelihoods.

Q: What do you expect from the 2010 election?

A: Democracy that guarantees our human rights. But only real democracy could make our dreams come true. If the government doesn’t want to give us citizenship, we will automatically understand that the democracy it restores is just half-baked democracy. The other half needs to be baked by ourselves. I don’t know, at least for now, how to bake that half. Taking arms or taking to the streets? Or what else?

A Rakhine employee of a Maungdaw engineering company was asked to define the Rohingya.

A: We don’t consider them as one of the ethnic groups of Myanmar [Burma]. They sometimes create problems against our Rakhine people without realizing that they’re living on our land. They’re also trying to occupy our lands, and also threatening our religion. We can’t allow them to do that. I personally see them as destructive to our state. They would certainly threaten all Burma. But we’re human. We have sympathy with anyone as long as they don’t harm our self-regard.

Q: How would you describe your “fear factor” in living alongside Rohingyas if they regain citizenship?

A: Don’t say our fear factor. We don’t fear them. What we worry about is the safety and security of our people in such Muslim populated townships as Buthidaung and Maungdaw. We have to take their safety into account. Our people there are only a minority and are vulnerable. If Muslims have citizenship and there is no law enforcement in our state, who will guarantee the safety and security of our ethnic group? If the Rohingya get citizenship, they will not stop there—believe me. They will demand a “special region.” We can’t give them Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships as a special region. Should the Rakhine be allowed to establish special regions where they live? Who would allow that? Tens of thousands of Burmese migrants are working in Thailand, but do you think the Thai government would grant them a “special region?”

Q: What do you think about stationing the Burmese army in Arakan State?

A: I think it’s good for us. It is thought that the army is here to guard us against hostile and aggressive actions by the Bengali immigrants. But don’t think we gladly accept soldiers on our land. I sometimes think about what my grandfather once said to us: our Rakhine [Arakan] State was once very peaceful before the army staged its coup [in 1962]. There were not many soldiers in those times.



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COMMENTS (37)
 
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SY Alam Wrote:
27/04/2009
Moe Gyaw,

Who is killing whom? The writers from The Irrawaddy are all non-Rohingyas. They are not siding with any party. Anyone who reads this news can easily decide who is killing whom. Now they saw the true nature of the Rakhine. If you think Rohingyas are terrorists, Rakhine are state-sponsored terrorists because they occupy 1,000 Muslims' properties and killed more than 150,000 innocent Rohingyas in 1942 and still everyday they are killing innocent Rohingyas in Arakan and confiscating their land and properties. This is true.

Khin maung win Wrote:
27/04/2009
Hello, Moe Gyaw

Who killed Rakhines? Nobody killed Rakhines except your masters, the Burmans. You Rakhine killed more than 150,000 Rohingya Muslims in 1942. You destroyed hundreds of Muslim villages. You still occupy thousand of Muslim properties and now you saying you are good people, that Muslims are trying to kill you. Still you guys are killing Muslim every day and pretending like you are monks from the monastery. You pious cat! What’s going on in Maungdaw and Buthidaung every day you can read on the Internet. The world is not the same as 1942. Today you can read everything on the Net. Those writers are not Rohingya. Those eyewitness writers are from other countries who are not blind like you. You cannot hide an elephant with goat skin, Mr. Pious Cat.

khin maung Wrote:
27/04/2009
Well done, Moe Gyaw. Now everybody can see the true desire of the Rohingyas. So I would like ask you pro-Rohingya guys, do you still believe in Rohingya's citizenship and still trust them?

Are you people still closing your eyes? All Myanmar people, wake up and fight for our landowner Myanmar peoples' rights. Wake up and fight for our ethnic Rakhine rights.

Moe Gyaw Wrote:
25/04/2009
Now all of us see the true nature of Bengali immigrants. They are more than ready to kill Rakhine people. History teaches us how those sympathetic-looking immigrants turned into brutal killers. Terrorizing the local people is their scare tactic, which proved so effective in the past that local Rakhine had to flee from their homes and moved to Sittwe and nearby towns. They successfully carried it out in 1942, tried again in 1988 and they will in the future. It is a matter of when, not if.

Khin maung win Wrote:
23/04/2009
Khin Mg,

What Rohingyas are expressing (and the whole world is listening to) is true. It's called ethnic cleansing. It's a big crime against the law. You are criminal as the military junta. What you are thinking is not going to happen because the junta must accept the Rohingya as citizens of Burma or they know very well what will happen to them if they deny this time. The Rohingya have support from all over the world. They are just waiting for a period of time, after which, with help from Muslims and non-Muslims, they are going to take their part. The Rakhine can live under the colonial rule of Burma for their whole life. This the last chance for Rakhine to cooperate with Rohingya, or you are going to finish very soon. It is very easy for the Rohingya to take their part, but they don't want unnecessary bloodshed. That's why they are waiting for the last minute. Rakhine will need a place to hide. That will be your original birth place--Bihar in India. Rohingya will not let you to live on their donation land of Arakan. It was donated to Narameikhla in 1430.

khin maung Wrote:
22/04/2009
Bravo, Okkar. Well done. Even though we are at the moment on the opposite side of regime in terms of politics, we have to support the regime action on the Rohingya. They really don't have the right to say this is their land and claim Burmese citizenship. I really want to suggest to our Arakan brothers, this is the time to work together with the Burmese to kick the Rohingyas out of our Buddhist land. Look at the history of Islam, even look at the history of Arakan. What happened to the people of different religions? All are killed and raped by force. I saw a lot of pro-Rohingya propanganda. I would like to ask those peoples, do you believe Muslims? I haven't seen any Muslim who has sympathy with our people. They can change their minds when their cleric or mosques say. That is why a lot of crises happened in Myanmar before. It is not because of the government, it is because of those people's behavior.

SY Alam Wrote:
21/04/2009
Okkar,

Were you drunk when you wrote this comment?
You don't even know about the comments on this page, so how do you know about the ancient history of Arakan?

Read all the comments again--you can get your answer here. If you don't like the truth, don't make comments again. I have already answered your questions many times. You don't know how to differentiate between an ass and a horse. You are talking about the UK and Burma. How crazy are you?

Moe Aung Wrote:
21/04/2009
Okkar,

Though I agree with you broadly here about the Rohingya (look at the Tamils in Sri Lanka), I have to say neither Buddhism nor Christianity is a state religion; they just represent the dominant religious culture in Burma and the UK, respectively. Remember what U Nu achieved by trying that on the Kachin rebellion. Totally unnecessary to formalize what's de facto and understood as such by all.

Okkar Wrote:
20/04/2009
The universal declaration of Human Rights cannot be use as a pretext for the Islamization of a nation. The charter does not state that one race should give up their God-given rights for another race. In the West, black people often use racism as an excuse to get away with crimes. These Bengalis are just using xenophobia and racism to cover up their true aims, playing with the public's guilty conscience and political correctness. Rohingyas do not belong to Burma and that is a fact.

Buddhism is the state religion in Burma, just as Protestant Christianity is the state religion of UK. Just as Muslims cannot force UK government to establish an Islamic state and recognize Sharia law, Muslims cannot use human rights as pretext to force the Burmese government to accept distorted historical facts and allow an Islamic state to be formed in Burma. Democracy and human rights have nothing to do with force Islamization of a sovereign nation.

maungayetun Wrote:
18/04/2009
Many Chinese and Indian (Hindi) people are living very peacefully in Burma. But why are Bengali migrants demanding independence under the so-called name of Rohingya? They are trying to occupy our land by Islamic backbone: this is dangerous to us. They can live on our land peacefully; also they can go to their motherland Bangladesh.

How many Muslims died in the democracy movement? None. They are selfish.

Khin maung win Wrote:
17/04/2009
Khin Maung,

You are the funniest man in the world. You are talking like you got a popular mandate from all Burmese. I think you deserve to live under boots of the military because you are the same as them or you are one of them. First of all, go to school to learn humanity, morality and history. When you finish your school then you can understand what you are talking about.

Tin Win Wrote:
15/04/2009
To Khin Maung,

I appreciate your strong feeling of Buddhism if you are saying the truth. But is what you are saying the Buddha's teaching on how to treat other fellow human beings? Are you saying that Buddhism has prevailed throughout Asia by force?

Think how Islam prevailed in Indonesia and Malaysia. Surely not by force, but by good intention, love, and good manners.

The universal truth is that there is no compulsion in religion. If you hate other religions, they will respond with equal or more hatred, which eventually creates non-peaceful environments.

khin maung Wrote:
13/04/2009
All brave Myanmar people, be brave for our Buddhist religion, for our people. We have to do what is right and wrong. Don't be confused, think right and do now. Myanmar is for our people. There is no place for Muslims. They must follow our Buddhist rules and regulations. They have no right to produce Islam knowlege in our country. Look at Saudi Arabia, they never give a chance to other religions. This is the truth. There is no place for Muslim people in Myanmar. All Muslim people, you have to know that you have to follow our Buddhist rules, stay quiet in our country if you wish to live in Myanmar. If you don't want, Please get out of Myanmar. This is coming in the future. Be quiet, accept whatever our Buddhists want. If you don't want to, go to Osama bin Laden's country.

Tin Win Wrote:
12/04/2009
You can never justify your own crimes by pointing at others who are doing similar crimes. Afganistan's demolishing of Buddhist statues was a great crime and that does not mean, for example, you can demolish Muslims' mosques here in Burma. Two crimes may not lead you to good but create consequences of more bitter crimes.

Do not try to imitate others who are on the wrong track, but think, behave, speak, teach, learn, show and guide for the better so that peace will prevail in our country, but not the hatred.

Both Rakhine and Rohingya must protect and respect the religion, culture and language of the other to bring peace in our time as well as for our future generations.

The 1942 killings between the communities have left a bitter legacy, otherwise there would have been peaceful co-existence until today, as there was for hundreds of years, if not thousands. Do you think it would be hard to bring a pact between the two to reestablish peace and security again?

Aung Ko Wrote:
12/04/2009
To Khin Maung,

Don't behave like a fanatic. Now the world is like a village and you cannot live isolated from it. Take a lesson from all the neighbouring countries of Myanmar for regional peace. You cannot convince all Maughs and Burmans in your radicial act. Just imagine peace forever.

Moe Aung Wrote:
12/04/2009
Azmi,

"Mogh people learn Bengali language, follow Bengali culture and have Bangladeshi citizenship, too."

I should hope so if they live in Bangladesh. The same should apply to the Rohingya in Rakhine State, if not for their ambition to overwhelm the Rakhine, found an Islamic state and constant proselytization efforts. No wonder they are regarded as a viper in the bosom by the Rakhine, or Moghs, if you insist.

SY Alam Wrote:
11/04/2009
"We Buddhists" -- again, "divide and rule" policy. What a shame. When you killed Arkanese, where was your Buddhism? You are murderers. Now I think you want to erase Rakhine from the earth. Enough is enough. Don't try to lie to innocent people. Stop pretending. We Arakanese don't need your help. You are a wolf among sheep. Shame on you.

Moe Gyaw Wrote:
11/04/2009
You seem so eager to instigate past hostilities between us, not once but twice. Did you come here to debate the Bengali topic or to show off how guileful you are?

Azmi Wrote:
11/04/2009
Rohingya people have never followed Bangladeshi language, culture or anything. However, Mogh people learn Bengali language, follow Bengali culture and have Bangladeshi citizenship, too.

Azmi Wrote:
11/04/2009
The illegal and criminal military regime is deceiving the world by giving false statements on their Web site. Every nation must learn to respect other nations and give rights to those who live on this earth.

We Rohingyas have been facing ethnic cleansing since 1962. We have our own culture, our own relationships, educationally, politically, culturally, etc.

It is not reasonable to compare or relate us to Bangladesh or Bangladeshi people because of linguistic similarities. It is unjust, inhuman and hypocrytical.

Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei all have the same language. Are they all the same nationality? Persian is spoken in Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan. Are those all the same nationality?

khin maung Wrote:
11/04/2009
If you Bengalis hate us, no problem for me, because we Buddhists never think of hoping for sympathy from you. I am telling the truth, that all of our ethnicity must open our eyes, must support whoever does the duties of Buddhism for us. We must support restrictions on Bengalis, like travel restrictions, no business for Bengalis in those areas owned by Rakhines, must put restrictions on marriage, must put restriction on having babies like only have one. We must reduce their population effectively, must ban to get education. Must force them to change to Buddhism using power. We need to cut all the possibilities for those Bengalis to become high in the future. So we must have a good plan. So no other countries can say anything if all our ethnic groups unite in this case. We must take revenge on Muslims who disgrace our Buddhism, our good women/girls. We must keep those people down so they get nothing from our people. Hey brave people, do something for our country.

SY Alam Wrote:
10/04/2009
To Khin Maung,

How long do you want to play the "divide and rule" policy? You Burmese occupied Arakan, now you are playing games with us. We learned from the past. You don’t need to teach us. Just go home, invader. We don't need your help. We Arkanese are not stupid. What king of Buddhist are you? You Burmans invaded Arakan, killing 25,000 Arakanese in 1784, and stole the Mahamuni Buddha image, but it is not enough for you. What more do you need from us?

khin maung Wrote:
10/04/2009
In view of the safety of our ethnic group, we Burmese, who are the majority in Burma, must eliminate the existence of the Rohingya in Arakan State. This is our land, we never want to allow any Muslim migrants from Bengali country. This is true for us. We have to remove all things which can lead to the destruction of our religion, our ethnic group, and our county; those are the duties of all our Myanmar people. From my personal point of view, Rohingya must never become our citizen, and also we need to remove all Muslim existence near our pagodas. All Myanmar, open your eyes, see deeply. Do you believe Muslims may sympathize with you all when they all get power? Look at Afghanistan, they destroyed all our Buddha images. They said Afghan is a Muslim majority country. Do you all have the courage to do so? Yes, we Buddhists have to do, must do. Why do you think all Muslim people want to marry Buddhist girls? Don’t forget the Muslims’ desire. Be brave, do what you have to do for our country.

Moe Gyaw Wrote:
10/04/2009
Wow! Nice tries...

To some Bengalis with Burmese nicknames, or some real Burmese: Don't be naive. How come you guys are quick to believe Bengali lies? Are those Muslims in front of monks so overwhelming to you?

Personally, I have no hatred towards Bengalis. They deserve the same rights as other nationalities, except the citizenship. I don't want to dwell on what could happen if they do. You can study how violent the history is between Rakhine and Bengalis here: http://www.rakhapura.com/scholars-column/

We Rakhine people have been protecting against a Muslim invasion for a hundred years. If we fail, you Burmese would follow. Let them settle in Burma proper. Your grandsons might have a surname like Abdullah or Muhammed or Ayatollah.

The military regime enforces a very tough policy against Bengalis; there are travel restrictions to Burma. Bengalis can stay within Rakhine state only. Because they don't want your grandsons to have those kinds of surnames. Don't get me wrong. I am not pro-junta. I hate them as much as you do.

SY Alam Wrote:
10/04/2009
To Okkar,

You are right: promotion of terrorism and killing innocent people in the name of Allah are crimes against humanity. I accept it.

If people who came from Bangladesh are Bengalis, why call Moghs, who came from India, Rakhine? Rohingya fit in all over Arakan State because Arakan is not only for Moghs: it also has Burman, Mro, Dynat, Kamen, Chin and Myanmargri, too.

Don't try to fool other people because you are a fool. You want to call Burma a Buddhist country. How about the Christians, Muslims and atheists? They have been living there century after century. Stop promotion of state terrorism by the junta.

Now, when did you start believing in God? You call yourself Buddhist. Buddhism does not advocate belief in God or a Creator.

You need to see a doctor, I think. You are sick. Remember, you can call the junta your father but you are not going to get anything from them. As far as I know, Rakhines are not like you. You need to lick Burmans' boots, not me.

SY Alam Wrote:
09/04/2009
Moe Aung,

I don't know what the meaning of Rohingya is in Bengali because I don't speak Bengali. But I don't have problem if you call me Bengali. They are also human beings.

I think Okkar and Mr True are going to have to give up Buddhism because Siddhartha
Gotama was from India (so he was a so-called Indian kalar). If they hate kalar so much, why do they still they keep Buddha images in their home?

Mr.True Wrote:
08/04/2009
To Maung Khin and Ar Farooq, who say these Bengali migrant workers (so-called Rohingya) have lived in Arakan more than 700 years,

You believe these liars’ history, but you don't believe the true history of Dr. Aye Chan. Arakan has no place for these liars. If we give them citizenship, they will have the right to travel all over the country. It is the same as giving them the right to bring suicide bombs all over the country. Think about that. They can kill every innocent person, including your parents, sisters, brothers and relations, not only Arakanese.

Aung Ko Wrote:
08/04/2009
To those Rakhines who refuse to respect the birthrights of others,

To establish a regional peace and end anti-Rohingya discrimination permanently, please hold a debate in front of Burman and international historians so that the so call Rakhine historian may not stray from the truth.

Moe Aung Wrote:
07/04/2009
Aung Ko,

"..most Rakhine people believe living under the army junta is much better than living together with people of other religions."

If it's true, I'm sorry to say that it's rather a sad reflection on those certain others to compare so badly against even the irredeemable monk-murderers who are supposed to be Buddhists themselves.

SY Alam,

Pleased to hear that you, unlike many others, believe an independent Islamic state is not what the Rohingya want. No, there is nothing wrong with calling yourselves Rohingya and not Bengali. Is it true that Rohingya in Bengali means homeless people?

Maung Khin Wrote:
06/04/2009
Rohingya people have been living in Arakan for over 700 years. Why does the Burmese government deny that Maungdaw, Buthidaung, Rathedaung are home to Rohingya people? They had Burmese citizenship cards and rights before the SPDC. I hope they one day have freedom.

AR Farooq Wrote:
06/04/2009
It is a groundless fear which has pushed the Rohingyas and Rakhine to two opposite directions. If they can think themselves to be two sons of one mother, having two different ethnic identities, two different religious beliefs and two different ways of living, then they can build a happy life for themselves and for their future generations. They can see around the world how peacefully people of different religions or cultures can live in a society. Ultimately it is those people of that society who are enjoying the benefits of peaceful coexistence.

Ko Myanmar 2 Wrote:
05/04/2009
The people of Arakan moved into Arakan from India 5,000 years ago. The Kaman people are descendents of people who came to Burma in the 17th century. If they both came from India, what is the difference between the Kaman and the Arakanese? I fled into Bangladesh and I had children there, but they went back to Burma after I left Bangladesh. What do you consider them?

We have to talk about how to solve the problems of the Rohingya. Their problems have continued for centuries in their home country and for decades in their host countries. No one is willing to solve their problems, including the UNHCR. The host countries want to remove them under the repatriation act. The former rulers, the British, who brought Arakan into Burma, remain silent on these matters.

Ko Myanmar 1 Wrote:
05/04/2009
Everyone knows that the origin of Burma was the home of the Pyu and Mon. Rohingya have been in Arakan since the 7th century AD, earlier than the Tibeto-Chinese Burmans, who settled along the Irrawaddy River in 954 AD. And Arakan was not part of Burma before British colonial rule.

Today, many ethnic groups are practicing Buddhism, including the Chin, Mon, Karen, Karenni, Shan and Kachin. Buddhists know that the Arakanese Rakhines were the original Buddhists in Burma. Their great Mahamuni statue was transferred to Yangon by King Bodawpaya.

Okkar Wrote:
04/04/2009
Promotion of terrorism and killing innocent people in the name of Allah are also "crimes against humanity." I see no reason why Bengalis would want to call themselves Rohingya. The name itself doesn't even make sense. People who come from Bangladesh are called Bengalis, people from Arakan State are called Rakhines, people from Thailand are called Thai. So where do Rohingyas fit in? Do they come from Rohingesh? The word Rohingya sounds like a buzzword created by some mad mullah who is hellbent on creating an Islamic state with sharia law in A Buddhist country.

The universal declaration of Human Rights cannot be use as a pretext for the islamization of a nation. The charter does not state that one race should give up their God-given rights for another race. In the West, black people often use racism as an excuse to get away with crimes. These Bengalis are just using xenophobia and racism to cover up their true aims, playing with the public's guilty conscience and political correctness. Nice one!

SY Alam Wrote:
03/04/2009
To Ko Moe Aung,

In this case you are wrong. Rohingya Muslims don’t want an independent Muslim state in Arakan. Rohingya Muslims only want their identity, human rights and full citizenship in Burma. Remember, promotion of racism and xenophobia are crimes against humanity. There is nothing wrong with them calling themselves Rohingya. It is perfectly in accord with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights charter.

Aung Ko Wrote:
02/04/2009
Whenever the junta acts against the interest of Muslims, some Rakhines strongly support them without remembering their past history, when they lived together peacefully with Muslims for more than 1000 years in Arakan peacefully.

Can we imagine what would be future of this region because of this discrimination? The Muslims of Arakan want to live peacefully with other people of different religion.

The only problem was and is that these people were and are suffering under the “divide and rule” policies of ruling occupiers (Bodaw Paya, British and Burman Army junta) and that most Rakhine people believe living under the army junta is much better than living together with people of other religions.

Forget this short past period and build a peaceful country without discrimination of race, color and religion, and respect each others’ rights.

Moe Aung Wrote:
01/04/2009
By all means give the Rohingya citizenship like any other Chinese or Indian descendants, but their claim to an independent Islamic state has hardly endeared them to the Rakhine, let alone the Burman majority. Unless they stop this nonsense they'll only succeed in alienating the rest, and gain animosity not goodwill and kindness that Burmese are always ready to extend to any stranger until they prove less than honest in their intentions.

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