Dubbing the Rohingya as illegal immigrants ignores history
The Myanmar government’s claim that Rohingya are not their citizens but in fact are illegal immigrants should first disturb American President Donald Trump.
After living in a country for generations, if someone becomes illegal immigrants only because their forefathers immigrated to the country from somewhere else, US President Trump’s American citizenship becomes questionable, as his forefathers were also not from the American land, but from Europe.
According to the book Trump Revealed by Michael Kranish and Marc Fisher, Trump’s paternal grandfather, Friedrich Trump (later Frederick), first emigrated to the United States in 1885 at the age of 16. Many of the Rohingya’s forefathers went to Burma before 1892.
And if we accept Myanmar’s logic, Barack Obama will obviously not be an American citizen but Kenyan. And we will find many people who can fall under this category.
It is totally absurd of the Myanmar government to say that the Rohingya are not their citizens only because their forefathers went to the country from other places.
Historical documents show that Rohingya have been living in the Rakhine State for centuries.
They have fought with the British against the Japanese during the Second World War.
History tells us that military crackdowns cannot solve any problems, instead they escalate any existing crises
There were ministers and Members of Parliament from Rohingya communities, and, after so many years, they have become “illegal immigrants from neighbouring countries.”
Documents show that the Rohingya are an old Muslim minority in Myanmar dating back to the 15th century, when thousands came to the former Arakan Kingdom.
When there were no borders, many people migrated from one place to another. Many Bangladeshis’ forefathers migrated here from India, Pakistan, Burma, and other places.
However, it will be absurd if the Bangladesh government says that these people are not Bangladeshi citizens, but immigrants from India or Pakistan.
As such, there should not be any doubt about the Burmese government’s claim being baseless.
It’s also funny to claim that people from an independent land with proper health care facilities and a booming economy would migrate to a place where a pseudo military rule exists, which lacks basic health care and other needs.
According to the World Bank, the Rohingya are poor, with more than 78% of households living below the poverty line.
And for the sake of logic, even if we accept that a few went to Myanmar in search of land, claiming that 1.1 million Rohingya are mainly immigrants from Bangladesh is absolutely absurd.
It’s shocking to see that the international community is yet to respond properly to this absurd claim made by the Myanmar government. We have read news on international media that Myanmar is crucial, for strategic reasons, to big powers and so they are silent over the issue.
Does it mean that the international community will only respond to human rights violations when it is beneficial for them, and remain silent when it is not? Is that how the rights business works?
Due to the inadequate response from the international community, atrocities against the Rohingya population is escalating day by day. The crackdown is breaking previous records.
We have seen videos of killings and torture of Rohingya people. There are reports of rape and abuse of Rohingya women.
Thousands are fleeing to Bangladesh. The Myanmar army said that 400 were killed in the recent violence. Unofficial figures might be higher.
The UN Refugee Agency reported that a total of 123,000 refugees have fled western Myanmar since August 25. “The numbers are very worrying. They are going up very quickly,” UNHCR spokeswoman Vivian Tan reportedly said.
According to the US State department, approximately 200 deaths and over 140,000 displacements resulted from the 2012 violence against the Rohingya.
Since 2012, 160,000 Rohingya left by sea to neighbouring countries — mostly Bangladesh, Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia, according to the UNHCR’s estimation.
History tells us that military crackdowns cannot solve any problems, instead they escalate any existing crises. People who are advocating excessive force against the Rohingya population are not doing anything good to the country.
Due to its geo-political position and natural resources, the country is at the crossroad.
We are waiting to see informed actions from the Myanmar leadership. Accepting the Rohingya people and integrating them into Myanmar’s society will be crucial for Myanmar’s future.
Bangladesh and Myanmar together can make a peaceful Bay of Bengal.
Mushfique Wadud is a journalist currently working in the development field.