Arakan Minister Struggles to Gain Trust of Rohingyas

A 25-year-old Rohingya Muslim sits in front of her hut at a camp outside Sittwe. (Photo: Reuters)

A 25-year-old Rohingya Muslim sits in front of her hut at a camp outside Sittwe. (Photo: Reuters)

RANGOON — The newly appointed chief minister of Burma’s conflict-torn Arakan State appears to be struggling to win the trust of Rohingya Muslims, who continue to live in squalid camps after being driven from their homes in rioting two years ago.

Chief Minister Maung Maung Ohn, who is also a general in the armed forces, has met four times with Rohingya community leaders since he was appointed last month. But in that time, he has been unable to convince the Rohingyas to participate in the government’s controversial “citizenship verification” scheme, according to state government spokesman Win Myaing.

“They are refusing to cooperate,” the spokesman told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday.

The Arakan State government implemented a pilot project in Myebon Township last month to determine who will qualify to become a naturalized citizen. Many Rohingya families have lived in the country for generations, but they are widely regarded as illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh and are mostly denied citizenship by the government.

Win Myaing said the international community had pressured Naypyidaw to reconsider their pleas for citizenship. “But we cannot do anything, even though we are trying, because they refuse to cooperate,” he said.

Rohingya rights activists Aung Win said he believed the government wanted to appease the international community but had little interest in actually granting citizenship to the 1 million or so Rohingya people living in western Burma.

“After their work in Myebon, we did not see them grant citizenship to our people,” he said. “I believe that even though we agreed to identify as Bengali, they may grant citizenship only to a few of our people.”

The chief minister, who met most recently with Rohingya leaders on Monday, said applicants would be considered for citizenship only if they identified as Bengali, as they are known by the government. During the nationwide census earlier this year, the government also refused to count anybody who identified as ethnic Rohingya rather than Bengali.

Arakan State was torn apart by communal violence between Buddhists and Muslims in 2012. More than 140,000 people were displaced from their homes, and the majority of these were Rohingya Muslims who continue to live today in camps outside the state capital, Sittwe.

7 Responses to Arakan Minister Struggles to Gain Trust of Rohingyas

  1. Win Myaing is a big liar. He should be ashamed of himself for all the lies that he tells. Shameless.

  2. These IDPs are to be considered as citizens of Burma ( Myanmar ), because their culture is not same with Bangladeshi. Any one to talk with me or to discuss this issue with me, please I am ready with friendly manner.

    If they were not given citizen this problem will create a big issue at United Nations under Basic Human Rights and also will ask British Government to say what has to be done for the sake of their existance in the soil of Arakan and within Burma ( Myanmar ).

  3. Why do you keep referring to the Bengalis as Rohingyas?

  4. Yes they are not interested to be a Myanmar citizen. They want the land, claim as their own, create a new souvereign state -R O H-H-I-N-G-Y-A and get UN recognition.

  5. Mr. Yarzarthingyan,

    Are you mad? Those days are gone you cannot build small house within big house of “Republic of Union of Myanmar”.

  6. no way.. first you have to pay what you ahve done to them in the past and at the present situation…just play with open card.. no hanky panky business !

  7. Thousands are brought here from Bangladesh into Arakan by government programs who are actual Rakhines from Bangladesh who used to stay in Bangladesh for generations since 1971. Rohingya are only leaving the country since 1942 massacre of 80,000 lives to save their lives.

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