Rohingya Refuse to Register as ‘Bengali’

Rohingya Muslim family in Pawtauk Township, Arakan State. (Photo: JPaing / The Irrawaddy)

Thousands of Rohingya Muslims in Pauktaw Township, Arakan (Rakhine) State, have refused to sign government-issued registration forms in order to push for recognition as an official minority.

Chris Lewa, the director of the Arakan Project humanitarian group which works for Rohingya rights, told The Irrawaddy that local people are not happy that the authorities erased the term “Rohingya” from completed forms and instead replaced it with “Bengali.”

Almost all members of the Muslim Rohingya minority in Pauktaw Township have since refused to cooperate with the fortnight-old registration process which was ostensibly initiated to get accurate numbers for the different communities present there.

Local people feared that they would be declared illegal migrants and deported if they registered under the loaded term “Bengali,” which used by many Burmese in the belief that the Rohingya are illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh. This claim is vehemently denied by the Rohinyga who highlight that many of their community have lived in Burma for generations.

Border authorities, Burmese soldiers, immigration officials, police and Arakanese politicians from the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP) have been attempting a house-to-house registration procedure to check personal details.

A field report from the Arakan Project revealed that from the very first day those who refused to use the term “Bengali” were removed from the survey.

On Saturday, Rohingya in Set Kyi Pyin Village informed the local authorities that they would only sign the forms if United Nations and Association of Southeast Asian Nations representatives were present as witnesses, according to the Arakan Project.

Meanwhile, Thet Tun, a MP for the RNDP in the Arakan State Parliament, told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that the term “Rohingya” was invented. “They are Bengali, but they do not accept it any more now and they only accepted the term Rohingya,” he said.

Thet Tun added that around 1,800 displaced people at a refugee camp In Nget Chaung Village refused to cooperate with the authorities and register unless they were allowed to be called Rohingya.

The Arakan Project accused the local authorities of forcing people to sign the registration form by threatening that they otherwise would not receive clothes for their children or help rebuilding burned houses.

The Arakan State government formed a committee last month to register every township in its boundaries. From this body, 15 separate groups attempted the village-to-village registration process in Pauktaw Township.

Individuals being surveyed were presented with a four-page form. The first details name, age, village, occupation, education, marital status, race and possessed documents. The second has ancestral details, grandparents, great-grandparents and immigration information. The third includes criminal convictions or proceedings, while the final page is for a signature or fingerprint.

There are 135 official ethnic groups in Burma according to the widely-condemned 1982 citizenship law enacted by former dictator Gen Ne Win. The Rohingya are not included amongst this number and have faced restrictions on travel, marriage and reproduction as a consequence.

10 Responses to Rohingya Refuse to Register as ‘Bengali’

  1. The Rakhine extremists like Thet Tun still believe that the Rohingyas are illegal migrants from Bangladesh. Obviously they are successfully brainwashed by former (and present?) military junta. It is also not surprising, under this situation, that RNDP itself is implicated in inciting racial hatred towards the Rohingyas, leading to racial cleansing of the latter.

  2. Dear Tainamkawng,

    how many people around the world have you asked on how they perceived and called this minority group? I am part of that ‘world’ who call them Rohingya. 

  3. Why not tattoo numbers their on arms too. And they could all wear  ooh.. I don’t know  a yellow star or something on their tattered filthy clothing.  

  4. Most people in the world are migrant animals. If they like to be the citizens of Myanmar, let them be. There are many Myanmar citizens who studied cheaply in Myanmar leave the country for other countries. They abandon the country and serve other countries for their material lust. 

    But, make these Rohingya sure that Myanmar is NOT the the place for rape, killing, terrorism, etc. In Myanmar there are many ethic groups come from different part of neighboring countries and there are many religions. Every body must think why only there people were unaccepted as Myanmar citizens by former leaders. May be because of their evil characters which was recently seen and became the root cause of conflict. 

    UN should not hurry Myanmar government if they need long time solution. If Myanmar government is forced to accept all migrant immediately, then why not UN push all other countries e.g . US and Europe countries to accept all immigrants. 

    To Myanmar government, I urge that registration as Bengali is not they way you should do because you are not Bangladesh government leaders. They want to be Myanmar citizenship, not citizens of Bangladesh.They live in Myanmar for decades, they no longer hold Bengali. Granting them Myanmar citizenship as Rohingya will be the best. Do no longer what our former leaders did, we expect, the world expect that you are better than the former leaders.

  5. why keep having so many babies knowing the children are going to suffer even more than the adults?  No food, no education, nothing so why keep multiplying? 

  6. The son must obey the father. The son must obey the grandfather. Myanmar is the father of all Asia’s peoples. Rohingyas come from India. They are Indian, and they must return to India. Their father will take care of them.

  7. Rohingya’s have been well tutored – bear in mind this refusal only prolongs the misery of the Rohingya’s.

  8. Hey! Poh Sung Kyu
    Your forensic team found no evidence of raping.The leader of that gang was Rakhine Buddhist who was tortured to death in custody.How many rape cases every dayin Burma compare to any Rohingyas crimes?

  9. Hey! Poh Sung Kyu
    Your forensic team found no evidence of raping.The leader of that gang was Rakhine Buddhist who was tortured to death in custody.How many rape cases every dayin Burma compare to any Rohingyas crimes?Your Nasaka commiting rape,torture,extortion of money every hour. Those ppl born there, their parents born there and their great grand parents born there.

  10. Hi there, just wanted to say, I liked this blog post. It was inspiring. Keep on posting!

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