Arakan State Govt ‘Condemns’ UN Rohingya Statement

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon shakes hands with Burma President Thein Sein as he arrives for the East Asia Summit (EAS) plenary session during the Asean Summit in Naypyidaw on Nov. 13, 2014. (Photo: Reuters)

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon shakes hands with Burma President Thein Sein as he arrives for the East Asia Summit (EAS) plenary session during the Asean Summit in Naypyidaw on Nov. 13, 2014. (Photo: Reuters)

RANGOON — The Arakan State parliament voted unanimously on Tuesday in favor of a non-binding resolution formally condemning UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for his use of the word “Rohingya” during his most recent visit to Burma.

Arakanese politicians told The Irrawaddy that the motion was intended to publicly register the state government’s disapproval of the term.

Aung Myat Kyaw, an ethnic Arakenese lawmaker representing the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP), proposed the motion to the state parliament on Monday.

“According to our existing laws, there are no people in our country called Rohingya. Ban Ki-moon kept using this word, ‘Rohingya,’ which is why I proposed this urgent issue in parliament to discuss and condemn it,” Aung Myat Kyaw told The Irrawaddy.

“He is the head of the United Nations, he should be careful when he uses this word,” he added.

The motion follows unconfirmed reports that Arakan State Chief Minister Maung Maung Ohn told reporters on Saturday that the state would reject assistance from aid organizations that use the word Rohingya to refer to the stateless Muslim minority that self-identifies as such.

“I encouraged Myanmar [Burma] leaders to uphold human rights, take a strong stance against incitement, and ensure humanitarian access to Rohingya living in vulnerable conditions,” the secretary-general told reporters during the 25th Asean Summit in Naypyidaw on Nov. 12.

Ban said he stressed the urgency of the humanitarian situation in Arakan State during a closed-door meeting with senior Burmese government officials. He also reaffirmed the UN’s known position on referring to ethnic minorities in accordance with how they self-identify.

“The affected population—referred to as Bengalis by the government of Myanmar but known as Rohingya in the United Nations and in much of the international community—the United Nations uses that word based on the rights of minorities,” said Ban.

The following day, Burma’s Ministry of Information published a letter to the secretary-general signed by Maung Maung Ohn criticizing his use of the term, claiming it “has alienated the [Arakanese] population and further fueled their distrust of all the United Nations agencies and international organizations.”

Rohingya are a Muslim minority living primarily in western Burma, where the majority of the population is ethnic Arakanese and Buddhism is the dominant religion. The Rohingya population is estimated to be about 1 million, though they were categorically excluded from Burma’s 2014 census—the country’s first in more than 30 years—because they were not included among an official roster of national ethnicities.

Rohingya are denied citizenship by Burma’s controversial 1982 Citizenship Law, with the government and much of the general population viewing them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Many Rohingya families have resided in Burma for several generations, but often they are unable to prove it.

The group bore the brunt of several rounds of inter-communal violence between Muslims and Arakanese Buddhists that began in June 2012. Riots in several of the state’s most densely populated areas left more than 100 people dead and about 140,000 displaced, many still living in isolated camps where they are routinely denied access to aid, income and education.

About 100,000 more have reportedly fled the country since the crisis began, seeking refuge in neighboring countries. A staggering number of those asylum-seekers never reach their destinations; some die at sea while others fall victim to human traffickers.

Those who remain face severe discrimination, while Muslims living in displacement camps suffer lack of basic resources like food, water, medicine and education.

In February, frontline health provider Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) was expelled from the state shortly after making statements that it had treated patients it believed were the victims of an alleged massacre in the state’s north in January. A month later, mob violence targeting aid groups in the capital Sittwe forced all foreign aid workers to flee. Months of bureaucratic and political roadblocks prolonged an eventual, conditional and partial return of assistance that still has not returned to its former capacity.

The Burmese government recently drafted a “Rakhine Action Plan,” detailing plans for resettlement, aid provisions and reintegration for displaced persons. A leaked version of the plan was roundly criticized by the United Nations and many Western governments, primarily because it risked lasting segregation and denied citizenship rights to those who identified as Rohingya. A senior US advisor on Thursday said that the United States would like the Burmese government to draft an entirely new plan, “[one] that will allow the Rohingya to become citizens through a normal process without having to do that type of self-identification.”

International support for the minority has swelled as tolerance within Burma dwindles. A social media campaign urged US President Barack Obama to “just say their name” during his visit to Burma last week, where he also attended regional summits and met with Burma’s leaders.

Obama has likewise been criticized by Arakanese leaders for his use of the contentious terminology, but he was not identified in Tuesday’s resolution.

“Obama and Ban Ki-moon both used the word Rohingya,” said Htet Tun Aung, a parliamentarian representing Arakan State’s Pauktaw Township. “We feel they are interfering in domestic affairs, they are trying to play with our internal politics.”

The view that international actors are meddling in a domestic issue is pervasive among the state’s politicians, shared by every Arakanese politician that The Irrawaddy spoke to. Pe Than, a Lower House MP and member of the RNDP, echoed the sentiment, adding that outsiders who use the “irresponsible word” risk inflaming tensions.

Sources within the Arakanese community in Sittwe told The Irrawaddy that the public supports the views of the state legislature, and activists have planned a demonstration in the capital on Sunday.

Additional reporting by Saw Yan Naing.

5 Responses to Arakan State Govt ‘Condemns’ UN Rohingya Statement

  1. U Thein Sein gov: should be firm and must respect the local people plan of resolution Bengali issue. If UN and US use the word Rohingyas , you just reply them that there is no need to discuss on this issue as Rohinhya do not exit in this country and full stop. That’s it.

    They have no right to interfere internal affairs of others’ country. Why are they blind when the casualties are responsible by Bengali who had no proof that they are citizen. It was crime against them. Why didn’t Ban Ki-moon correct these outsiders not to kill the local people. The first issue started from their side by raping and killing. It is very surprised why UN secretary is siding. It is better to change the chair of secretary of UN.

    We suggest U Thein Sein gov: to make the fence tight without pores first. Then, try to clean the inside gradually. If some don’t accept themselves as Bengali, it is better to segregate them first and study them if they are following rules and regulations imposed against the. However, health needs of them should not be ignored. They must access the health needs provided by international agencies. However, it must be under tight control of foreign agencies not let them use this advantage to fuel the fire as happened before.

    Make clear them that during this detention they have to learn national language , read and write. They must prove that they are not enemy to the host country during the probation period. How long of probation period depends on international standard.

    U Thein Sein gov: please just be firm with what you can do for displaced people. No need to care these foreign bodies. Just reply them that as there is complexity , and we are taking over of something for which we have no proper records and as we are subjected to make clear of this issue, let us settle on our own for the best interest of our local people. As
    foreign involvement had made the issue worse and local are unhappy with foreign agency attitude and treatment to them, we want all of you to stay away and we don’t want you to fuel the fire. On the other hand , if you respect us, we wouldn’t mind to take your suggestions.

  2. Shu Maung became Ne Win. Burma became Myanmar. Siam became Thailand. Than Shwe makes himself king. Military Regime becomes fake democratic government. Bengali becomes Rohingya. What is wrong when Bengali people call themselves as Rohingya?

    Burma = Myanmar
    Shu Maung = Ne Win
    Bengali = Rohingya

  3. If there is no Rohingya why the draconian 1982 law and let there be happened an plebiscite whether there is Rohingya or not.Why the term Rohingya is being not allowed in census?This mogs understand only language of force so mighty strenght must be applied.

  4. The tussle on the term “Rohingya” and citizenship right thereto is continued due to lack of religious tolerance from the part of Burmese regime leaders as the whole Rohingyas are Muslims while the Rakhaine and Burmese military leaders including U Thein Sein, who have been accused of either implicit or complicit in the violence-killings of Rohingyas, profess Buddhism have bigoted behavior/attitude . Further, Rohingyas have been weak both in terms of might and of morality, love and affection to the national term. If there is a way to create might of Rohingyas, the Burma regime would simply accept the term and there thereto. So the U.S should think of creating that might so as to protect a community from extermination and total annihilation. The UN should step in Arakan to protect the Rohingya community under the Principle of Responsibility to Protect as the Burma regime had/has manifestly failed to protect Rohingyas from massacre being committed by the Rakhaine in collaboration of their co-religionists-some Burmese buddhist-extremists. And further, U thein Sein himself has openly-clearly announced to the world that he and his government cannot provide protection for the Rohingya while being killed in Arakan (by the Rakhaine). If the UN is serious enough to protect Rohingyas from a large scale massacre which is imminent in Arakan due to the fragile and prevalent situation in Arakan, it (UN) should immediately send protection forces to Arakan under the Principle of the Responsibility to protect.

    ‘s regime has and as as the Rakhaine and their co-religionist have been planning for full scale massacres on Rohingyas.

  5. History tell us Rohingyas cannot stand themselves. The U.S should not allow another massacre on Rohingyas, which is very-very imminent in Arakan. Some Burmese military leaders are opposing it while some others-have bigoted attitude- complicitly are encouraging it to happen.

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