In 8th century, Arab traders started living in a region known as the Arakan state. The people of Myanmar changed the name of Arakan to Rakhine.
Arakan is an Arabic word. Arakan Muslims came from Arab and stand living in Arakan. They are Rohingya Muslim, not Bengali Muslim.
The Rohingya are the sons of the soil of the land of Arakan state by birth right. Historically, Arakan state was never a part of Myanmar. It was a free nation state till 1785.
In 1785, Konbaung Dynasty captured Arakan state and merged with Myanmar and named it as Rakhine state.
In 1826 Myanmar was defeated by British and was given to British as compensation.
The British authority in 1935, drew the boundary line between British Myanmar and British India along the Naf River.
Perhaps it would have been a wise decision to draw the boundary line along Mayu Range. In that case, the Rohingya Muslim could have joined East Pakistan, having the same religion and culture, and avoided race conflicts during the last 70 years.
In May 1946, Muslim leaders from Arakan met with Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, and asked for the formal annexation of two townships in Mayu region, Buthidanng and Maungdow, by East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).
Two months later, the north Arakan Muslim League was founded in Akyab (present day Sittwe, Capital of a Rakhine state) which also asked Jinnah to annex the region. Jinnah was not bold enough to accept the proposal.
Rohingya mujahids struggled for an independent state in different times and in different names since 1950.
Decades of trouble
Prime Minister U Nu formed Mayu Administration Area in 1954. All citizen were given equal rights. President Ne Win, after imposition of martial law in Myanmar, abolished Mayu Administration Area in 1962, which prompted further conflict.
Rohingya Muslim re-organised in 1970 and started fresh conflict. The government attacked Rohingya rebels in 1978 in “Operation King Dragon.”
Buddhists migrated from Tibet and China to Myanmar during 10th century. Under the patronage of the government, followers of Buddhist religion were settled in Arakan state to diminish the supremacy of the Rohingya Muslim.
Former dictator Ne Win enacted “Burmese Citizenship Law” on October 15, 1982. Rohingya Muslims lost their citizenship. The law did not recognise the Rohingya as one of the country’s 135 ethnic groups. It is a shameful, barbarous, and uncivilised law.
The population of Rohingya Muslims in the Rakhine state is about 2 million. Around one million Rohingya Muslims have been persecuted and uprooted from the Rakhine state by Myanmar, and Rakhine radicals.
In October 2016, Myanmar, Buddhist mobs, and Rakhine radicals raped and killed Rohingya men, women, and children, and burned their houses, under government patronage.
The Rohingya started fleeing to neighbouring Bangladesh.
On August 28, 2017 Kofi Annan Commission Report was published. Its recommendation are follows:
1. Review citizenship law to ensure equitable treatment of all citizens
2. Facilitate voluntary returns of refugees from Bangladesh
3. All individuals in Rakhine state should be able to move freely, whether or not they hold NVC or NRC as citizenship documents
4. Humanitarian and media access to Rohingya to all parts of the state
5. Closing all IDP camps
6. Set up a ministry for implementing the recommendations
This August, hours after the publication of the Annan Commission Report, 150 terrorists of Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) attacked the police and the army camp and killed 12 police and army men.
Bangladesh government and the international community must take appropriate political measures so that the Rohingya can safely return to their homeland
The Myanmar retaliated back with force. During the last 15 days, more than 300,000 Rohingya Muslims entered into Bangladesh. According to various news sources, Myanmar killed 3,000 Rohingya and burned 3,000 houses.
The Rohingya in Bangladesh
The law and order situation in Bangladesh may deteriorate as a result of unauthorised Rohigya entry into Bangladesh.
Bangladesh will come under tremendous economic pressure which it cannot sustain.
Due to geo-political and economic reasons, India and China have taken Myanmar’s side. So has Russia. They have more economic investments in Myanmar than Bangladesh.
Bangladesh has to face this situation politically and diplomatically.
We can launch diplomatic activities in China, India, Russia, Middle East, and other countries so that world opinion leans in favour of the Rohingyas.
The Bangladesh government wants a peaceful solution to the problem. We believe in peace.
War or conflicts cannot give any solution.
As East Timor and South Sudan, under United Nations effort, have become independent states, Arakan State may also become Independent in the similar efforts.
The area of Rakhine state is 36,278 square kilometres, along the Bay of Bengal.
It’s more than Singapore, it can sustain as an independent state.
Bangladesh government and the international community must take appropriate political measures so that the Rohingya can safely return to their homeland and live their lives with equal rights like other ethnic groups in Myanmar.
Honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is attending the 72nd United Nations General Assembly right now voicing her argument to world leaders, so that Myanmar is compelled to accept the return of the Rohingya Muslims and have them settled in their lands.
Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar, and Buddhist radicals must be put to the dock of International Criminal Court of Justice at Hague for killing, raping, arson, and crimes against humanity.
Major General ATM Abdul Wahab is an MP.