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National Security 2020: Pondering Why Rohingyas Are Hated In Myanmar – Part 4 of 4

rohingya myanmar bangladesh refugee

Wait a minute, is this infographic in 2017 is implying that before Rohingya militants attacked police posts & army bases, there was no mass influx of refugees? Infographic source: Strait Times

Interestingly this seems to jive with the argument by the Myanmar Government that its forces are carrying out their legitimate duty to restore order after guerrilla attacks on Aug. 25 on security posts and an army camp in which about a dozen people were killed.

Continuing from Part 3, this will be the final part of the posts on Rohingyas and the present crisis affecting them. The point is we often miss is the view from the other side of the crisis – the view from the Myanmar Government & the people.

Disclaimer Reiterated

Just in case, you missed the disclaimer in Part 1, let me reiterate that I am NOT disregarding the Rohingya refugees crisis and the suffering that they are facing. The plight of these Rohingya refugees and their suffering is well documented and well-promoted by many first world countries including the United Nations.

One just needs to put themselves in their shoes to understand their suffering and the problems that they are facing from the time they are forcefully evicted from their villages, open to the possibilities of being killed, raped or injured, and having no other choice, running away to another country.

No one is denying these facts.

However, it is unfair to judge a situation only from one side of the coin. After all, any feasible & permanent solution for the Rohingyas will also need one to address the concerns and issues with the Myanmar people facing off these Rohingyas in the past.

Seeing Myanmar Side of View

In some of the countries like Malaysia& India, these Rohingyas have now been regarded as a nuisance and a threat to national security. But then again, the question is why these Rohingyas are running away from Myanmar in the first place?

Are these claims of genocide by the Government real or not? Is it instead inflicted by the many armed factions in Rakhine State or it is self-made by these Rohingyas themselves or by their armed militants?

Is there real evidence to this? Are they really hated by the rest of the people in Myanmar just because they are of a different religion and culture? Or it is something beyond that such as national security?

Obviously the reason can’t religion because apparently Buddhists and Christians in the Rakhine State have been attacked too.

Further, this reporting indicates that the Myanmar Government’s actions are still limited to actions against militants and not a blind attack on the ethnic Rohingyas:-

Proving genocide, however, is notoriously difficult. The 1948 UN Genocide Convention defines it as an “act committed with intent to destroy in whole or in part a national, ethnic, racial or religious group”.

Despite all the horrors, it is not clear that the Tatmadaw were intent on destroying all Rohingya. As Amnesty itself has demonstrated, the military operation was limited to the area of Rakhine between the Mayu River and the border with Bangladesh.

Rohingya communities in other parts of Rakhine state were not targeted in anything like the same ways.


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Perhaps with pressure from other countries & United Nations, Myanmar Government has been facilitating the movement of Rohingya refugees back into the country which will not happen if they are determined to keep these Rohingyas out of the country.

The Myanmar government had approved more than 3,000 Rohingya to be brought back to the country beginning on Thursday but, as during the first repatriation attempt in November, no refugees agreed to voluntarily board the buses to Myanmar.


Rohingya Migrants from Bangladesh

One of the recurring reasons that keep coming up is the allegation that Rohingyas are not the original citizen of Myanmar. They are immigrants from Bangladesh who settled in Myanmar a long time ago and reclaimed the settlement as their own due to their numbers.

Bertil Lintner, the Swedish writer says, it is not Muslims versus Buddhists. The Rohingyas are different, though. They do not speak Burmese. They speak a Chittagonian dialect of Bengali spoken on the other side of the border in Bangladesh.

Therefore, a majority of Burmese people see them as illegal.


Possibly this is the same case as the rumours that are flying on the social media that the Rohingyas in Malaysia wants a large part of Selayang to be given to them as they are a majority there and they have settled there for years.

Even now, you may not know, a group of illegal immigrants may setup a hidden colony in some jungle far from the eyes of the authorities, live and strive for years until it is brought to the attention of the authorities. When they are about to be deported, they claim that they have been there for years and thus deserves to be a citizen of the country.

In fact, this has happened in Malaysia:-

An illegal settlement located in the forest in Segambut Dalam here that housed more than 100 immigrants was raided by the Immigration Department during the four-hour ‘Op Sapu’ earlier today.

Kuala Lumpur Immigration Department Intelligence and Operations Unit chief Mohd Sharulnizam Ismail said during the raid at a location about 500 metres in the forest, starting at 1.30am, 80 illegal immigrants were detained for various offences.

He added that the settlement was believed to have been built in the past three years and the raid was the first time carried out at the location.

The 50-door settlement complete with water and electricity supply, was mainly erected from woods and zinc and there were also employers of those illegal immigrants who built container homes at the premises.


Rohingya Myanmar History Rakhine

No matter what is the situation now, one cannot run away from looking at the historical sequence of events that lead to the Myanmar Government denying Rohingyas citizenship. Once again, the screw-up by the British is all over the place (they also played in hand with the mess in Jammu-Kashmir now). Image source: The Asean Post

Note: Edited for grammatical errors & content structure

Under British Rule to Rakhine State (1824 -1948), they were significant Muslim migrants from today Bangladesh came into the State.

However, in 1971 there was a brutal war broke out in Bangladesh between the local Bangladeshis (then known as East Pakistan) and controlling Pakistan. This was the Bangladesh Liberation War (in which Indian military played a major role).

After their Independence, the new Bangladesh government refused to take back these Muslim migrants from Rakhine State at that time. There were 2 reasons for this:-

Reason 1 – These refugees who went to Burma (Rakhine State) were not supporters of Independence movement & action. They were a strong supporter of Pakistan who was then controlling and oppressing the local Bangladeshis.

Reason 2 – The Government of Myanmar is a Military Junta and not well recognized internationally. So Myanmar could not give diplomatic pressure to the newly created Bangladesh to take back these migrants from Bangladesh.

So what Myanmar government do is make citizenship law in 1982 Myanmar nationality law particularly to deny that newcomer refugee to become citizens.


Threat to Myanmar National Security

Obviously there is more effort needed to be done by both the host countries and Myanmar in facilitating the return of these Rohingyas refugees back to Myanmar. And this also includes the issue of citizenship and general safety for these Rohingyas.

But then what about these Rohingyas themselves? Will they disband their Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) and eliminate one of the Myanmar Government’s key concerns which are establishing a sense of national security in the region.

While ARSA did not have any ostensible religious motivations, it did legitimize its attacks on Burmese security forces using Islam. It also encouraged senior Rohingya clerics and numerous foreign clerics to issue fatwas asserting that its campaign against Myanmar’s security forces is legal given their ongoing persecution of Muslims in Rakhine state.

ARSA launched several high-profile insurgent attacks.

On October 9 and November 12, 2016, it conducted several coordinated attacks on BGP bases in Rakhine. Amnesty International believes the group, brandishing swords and guns, is culpable for one and possibly two massacres of some 99 Hindu women, men, and children, as well as other abductions and murders of Hindu villagers in August 2017.

In August 2017, it conducted its most complex attack, which entailed attacking some 30 police posts and an army base in Rakhine; at least 59 insurgents died, along with 12 members of the security forces.

In response to this outrage, the Myanmar military mobilized to conduct mass atrocities that the United Nations has declared to be tantamount to genocide. The most recent attack occurred on January 5, 2018, when the group targeted a vehicle with a remote-control mine and then staged an ambush; six soldiers and one civilian driver were injured.


There are also other armed groups such as the Arakan Army and Arakan Liberation Army formed by other ethnic groups in Myanmar that the Government have to deal with. It is not an easy matter in Rakhine State with many factions looking for a break away from the central government.

Long Term Solutions

The issue of the Rohingya refugees has once again is in the headlines due to the recently enhanced lockdown due to COVID19 in Selayang, Malaysia where a majority of these Rohingyas live & work illegally and also the Royal Malaysian Navy’s interception of Rohingyas illegally trying to enter Malaysia. Image source: Free Malaysia Today

rohingya selayang lock down

Many including UNHCR, NGOs and some first world countries wasted no time to condemn the Malaysian government and called on Malaysia to quickly allow these boats carrying these Rohingya refugees to embark in Malaysia. They say that these Rohingyas are also humans which deserves protection and care as any other person in the country.

There is no denying some of these facts.

However, it is also interesting how little publicity or reports made on why in the first place these Rohingyas were forced out from their villages and why the Myanmar military has continued with their operations on them. Why there is a great distrust of these Rohingyas within the people of Myanmar especially in the Rakhine State? Did they do something wrong to alienate their fellow countrymen?

I am sure that there is more to this than just some oppressed minority being hunted down by a mighty, ruthless military and the whole world is now duty-bound to help these refugees. This is where we need to dig in further and understand so that a win-win situation can be found.

The problem is most of the solution suggested is only short or medium solutions. Some of the long term solutions are only focussed on finding fault on the Myanmar Government and the people which will not help if we expect these refugees to go back to their own country.

See, for instance, these 5 key priorities stated by Refugees International:-

1. Crimes Against Humanity Have Taken Place And Must Be Exposed

Crimes against humanity, and possibly genocide, have taken place against the Rohingya, and the evidence of such crimes and who among the Myanmar military and security forces committed them has been steadily growing.

2. Ongoing Persecution Of Rohingya Inside Myanmar Must Be Stopped

While the exact number of Rohingya in Myanmar today is impossible to know for certain, it is estimated that several hundred thousand remain. As recently arrived Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh told RI in April of this year, those still in Myanmar continue to face heavy restrictions on freedom of movement and access to livelihoods and healthcare, not to mention arbitrary arrest and other abuses.

3. Rohingya In Bangladesh Are Still At Risk And Must Be Protected

The some 1 million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, while safe from the direct abuses of the Myanmar military, continue to face significant risks. The camps are densely populated and in danger of floods and landslides during the monsoon and cyclone seasons.

The government of Bangladesh refuses to recognize the vast majority of Rohingya in Bangladesh as refugees. It also continues to propose moving Rohingya to Bhashan Char, an island in the Bay of Bengal prone to significant cyclone and flooding risks.

4. Repatriation Of Rohingya To Myanmar Is A Dim Prospect But An Essential Part Of Any Sustainable Solution

The ultimate solution to the Rohingya crisis will be safe, voluntary, dignified, and sustainable return of those who fled back to their homes or, for the many whose villages have been destroyed, to the lands upon which their villages stood.

The government of Myanmar has stated its willingness to take back Rohingya and signed a Memorandum of Understanding on returns with the government of Bangladesh and another more recently with UNHCR and UNDP. The government of Myanmar has built new reception centers and said it is ready to accept Rohingya back.

However, its rhetoric is belied by a failure to address the root causes of the crisis, including refusal to recognize the Rohingya as citizens of Myanmar. And Rohingya refugees rightly ask: What prospects are there for improved rights, let alone recognition of citizenship, if more than 100,000 Rohingya displaced inside Myanmar have been unable to return home since 2012?

5. Several Steps Toward Accountability Are Available But Have Not Yet Been Taken

Accountability for the crimes against humanity committed against the Rohingya will also be essential to any sustainable solution for the Rohingya crisis. Steps taken toward accountability will demonstrate a clear interest in justice on the side of Myanmar authorities that would help deter future crimes and will promote confidence among the Rohingya for the possibility of safe returns.

Yet, to date, there has been little accountability for the abuses that have taken place in Myanmar. A handful of officers involved with the clearance operations have been demoted or resigned, but it is unclear if these moves had anything to do with abuses committed.

In the absence of credible domestic remedies in Myanmar, the main mechanism for accountability is through the International Criminal Court, which has jurisdiction for crimes against humanity and genocide. While Myanmar is not a party to the ICC, a referral to the court to open an investigation could come from the UN Security Council, as was done for the atrocities committed in Darfur.


There must be a process in Myanmar itself to start taking these people back and assimilate them as part of the citizens of the country. If the country is distrusting them because of the different language, then make the mastering Burmese language as a condition to gain citizenship. If the country is distrusting them because of the huge number of the Rohingyas, then spread them into separate settlements around the country.

Maintaining them as refugees (especially in cramped refugee camps like in Bangladesh) will not help them in the long run. How many countries in the world willing to take in more than 1 million Rohingya refugees as their own citizens?

The present solution of placing them in refugee camps should only be a temporary measure. Sooner or later, one day these people need to leave the host country and go back their own country and in some cases like in Malaysia where the social & legal problems have been long outstanding, that may happen very soon.

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