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1 March, 2018 00:00 00 AM

The Rohingya issue and the economy

None of the Myanmar governments made any provision for these people to enjoy any basic rights, including rights to food, health, shelter and education
Rayhan Ahmed Topader
The Rohingya issue and the economy

Rohingyas are considered as one of the most severely repressed and marginalised people of the world. These people have been residing in Rakhaine for more than ten centuries. Isn't that enough for claiming that they are the owners of that land? How much time is needed for a nation to reside in a country to become legitimate citizens of that land? The Rohingyas have their own language, culture, religion and land. That is why they must have their rights installed and re-installed on their own land. A state comprises diverse sections of people. There is no monolithic society in the world. The diversities are natural phenomena of a society, country, community or a group. The duty of the state is to respect originalities of each of the distinct elements of that state and thus build a union of the people. In the case of the expelled and repressed Rohingyas, Myanmar has not only failed to respect the diversities pertaining to those people, it has refused to accept them as its own citizens and compelled them to leave their own land. Since August 25, 2017 more than six hundred thousand Rohingyas have fled to Bangladesh. Five hundred thousand more came to this country over last forty five years. Since 1982, Myanmar governments excluded Rohingyas from the '135 officially enlisted ethnicities'. And thus they became worst victims of repressions and deprivation, a group of people deprived of all citizen rights. The Rohingyas became one of the stateless nations of the world like the Palestinians for decades.

None of the consecutive Myanmar governments made any provision for these people to enjoy any basic rights, including rights to food, health, shelter and education. As mentioned earlier, historically the Rohingyas, those who are being expelled from their own country, repressed and killed for long years, had been the residents of that land for many centuries. They have started settling there since 12th century. In Bangladesh the small ethnic minorities have emerged in the same manner. We the Bengalis and the people from other ethnicities are the citizens of this country. The Rohingyas are the citizens of Myanmar exactly in the same manner. The Rohingya issue has been created by Myanmar making the people of Bangladesh worst victims of that action. The Rohingya intrusion and settlement issue concerns not only economy, but politics and security of Bangladesh at the end of the day. The international mafia, smugglers and terrorists are on their way to use this most vulnerable people at their own interests, which will harm peace and stability of South and South-east Asia in the long run. The major powers of the region, including China and India eager to expand sphere of their area of influence, and the countries of Europe and America (mainly Russia and USA) should refrain from instigating politics of instability in this region relying on Rohingya issue. China the most trusted friend of Myanmar must acknowledge that accelerating their investment in Myanmar by using the natural resources and geographical location of Arakan and creating a corridor to the Indian Ocean through the ports of Rakhaine may not bring as good a result for them as they postulate, if the issue of Rohingyas are not resolved appropriately.

It is also a matter of serious consideration that many other strategic calculations of other forces are involved in this whole gamut of problem. The benefit the Chinese or any other power might have foreseen theoretically may not be materialised at the end and may cause severe damage to the national interests of even powerful countries. For Bangladesh the Rohingya issue as such is not new. The new dimension that the problem has gained recently is massive expulsion of the Rohingyas due to enhanced repressive measures undertaken not only by the Myanmar armed forces, but also by a considerable section of local Buddhist extremists supported actively by the administration and the army. During Zia regime in 1978, a considerable number of Rohingyas were expelled from Myanmar who fled to Bangladesh. Zia kept the issue secret with a view to consolidate his power and position by engaging a good number of members of armed forces and BDR in CHT and thus neutralising the balance of power in the army. However, the Rohingya intrusion in Bangladesh now has reached a level that the UN has identified it as the most dangerous refugee problem in the world .The Union Citizen Act of 1948 formulated and implemented by the Burmese government, immediately after independence from the British colonial regime was in fact the major institutional deprivation of the Rohingyas. Under this Act, all ethnic minorities except the Rohingyas were provided the right to become citizens of Burma.

However, the Act allowed provision of identity cards to those who resided in Burma for at least two generations. Initially, the Rohingyas were given such identity cards. Even at that time they (the Rohingyas) had their representation in the Burmese Parliament. Given above, it is unauthentic and illegal to call these people foreigners or outsiders. Long before the aggravation of current Rohingya problem by the Myanmar regime, yet in 2012 Aung San Suu Kyi opined that she was not sure whether or not the Muslims of Rakhaine province should be considered as the citizens of Myanmar. This, apparently very simple statement indeed clarified her and Myanmar government's attitude towards the Rohingyas. This also implies that Suu Kyi and her government's repression on that marginalised section of Myanmar society happens to be a planned activity rather than a sudden response to the activities of ARSA or any other such group. It would be naive to believe that this matter is simply a reflection of Buddhist civilian dissatisfaction or an army action provoked simply by a third force.

The issue, in real sense is a matter of ethnic cleansing of a group of people of a country, the government of which has undertaken such repressive measure as their policy and Aung San Suu Kyi remains at the centre of that decision and those actions. It is a matter of great shame a regret for a state when the government of that state whose responsibility is to ensure equity, justice, basic needs and most importantly security for all of its citizens irrespective of their caste, creed, colour, religion, size of population or any other natural phenomena, fails to do that.

More shameful is the matter of outflow of the people of that country to any other destination to save their lives. When such incident occurs as a matter of policy of that state, it is simply an indication of a failed state that lacks equity and justice for all, rule of law, citizen security and other ingredients of good governance. Such act also demonstrates inability of that state to ensure security for the citizens and reveals the fact that the state has taken a policy of inciting state power, armed and security forces against a segment of its own population and thereby violating human rights and committing crimes against humanity that can be tried in the international tribunals.

During our Liberation War ten million people of our land were forced to migrate to India, three million were brutally killed and four hundred thousand women were raped by the Pakistani army, paramilitary forces and local collaborators. That was demonstrative of a simple fact that Pakistan was ever since its emergence a failed state and that continues to be so even after seventy years of its existence. The vested quarters of a state makes a state become failed state with their avidity to remain in power, accumulate wealth of the nation in their hands at the expense of the interests of the people and for that purpose they refuse to accept any endeavour aimed at national unity and prosperity. These forces use religion, nationalism, ethnicity or any other instrument to let loose terrorism of one segment of citizens over the others proceed with direct use of the state machinery against its own people.

That was the policy of Germany under Hitler: killing, marginalising and annihilation of the Jews. More than six million Jews were killed in the name of the German nation's superiority over those innocent people. The killers and repressors of Germany were tried in the Nuremberg Tribunal. The Rajakars are being tried in Bangladesh. All crimes against humanity are tried as soon as they are identified. That happened also in the case of Rwanda and Kosovo. What fate the Myanmar killers and annihilators are going to face for whatever they have done against humanity in Rakhaine remains a valid question. The best way for Suu Kyi regime would perhaps be to accept the crime and apologise for that before any legal actions are taken. The universal truth is that the repressors never learn lessons from the history. That is why repression of the people by the repressors continues to remain as a never-ending process since the inception of human society .The process of the formation of Rohigya nation in Rakhaine was not even throughout the history. Although some of the massive settlements began a thousand years ago, before that also there were settlers in that land who came from outside. The Bengali Muslim intellectuals of Arakan started using the term Rohingya as their own identification. The British captured Burma in 1824 and ruled the country as part of British India for 124 years. During British rule workers and businessmen migrated from India, including Bengal to different parts of Burma. Likewise many Burmese people migrated to hill districts of Bengal. These migrations were called internal displacement of the people of British India.

However, after independence in 1948, the consecutive Burmese governments, unlike those of Bengal or any other province of India, declared such settlement illegal and annulled the citizenship of the migrated people. As a result, even with a settlement history of one thousand years or more the Rohingyas became foreigners in their own country. The Buddhists of that region started calling them Bengalis. Suu Kyi as well never used the term 'Rohingya' in relation to the Rohingya Muslims. This embargo on actual identity of Rohingyas imposed by the highest policy maker(s) and the majority Buddhists carry special importance since the whole Rohingya expulsion and repression issue is based on the lack of intention to accept that population as the people of Rakhaine and thereby refusing to accept them as the citizens of Myanmar.

Writer and Columnist




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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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