History Behind Arakan State Conflict

A protest outside the BBC headquarters in Rangoon. (Photo: The Irrawaddy)

Arakan history expert Dr. Jacques P. Leider gives an exclusive interview to The Irrawaddy in light of the recent sectarian strife in western Burma. Leider has been conducting research as well as contributing articles to academic journals on Arakan State for more than two decades. He has worked with SEAMEO-CHAT, the regional center for history and tradition in Rangoon, and is currently head of the French School of Asian Studies in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Question: What is the meaning of “Rohingya?”

Answer: [The term Rohingya] appeared for the first time at the end of the 18th century in the report of an Englishman who went to the Chittagong area, the Rakhine [Arakan] area. His name was Francis Buchanan-Hamilton. He was a medical doctor [and this term appeared] in one of the papers that was published by him. Now when we talk about scientific explanations and etymology of the word, it does not say anything about politics. You use this term for yourself as a political label to give yourself identity in the 20th century. Now how is this term used since the 1950s? It is clear that people who use it want to give this identity to the community that live there.

Q: What about the history of the Muslim community in Arakan State?

A: Everywhere in Southeast Asia—such as Thailand, Indonesia and everywhere—you find Muslim communities. Islam has been growing in other areas where it did not exist before the 15th century in Indonesia, Malaysia and so on. You also have, it is not surprising, a Muslim community in Myanmar. [We know that] in the 15th century you have an emerging Muslim community there. The second part of the Muslim community there belongs to the colonial period, when many people from Bengal and that area came to settle in Rakhine.

Q: What is the situation on the ground between Arakanese Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims?

A: This is a very difficult question to answer for a foreigner who can only go to places in Rakhine where it is acceptable. I will not call the Rakhine Buddhist racist towards Muslims. There seem to be expression; the emotional reaction is extremely strong. Let me put it diplomatically like this—a very strong emotional reaction.

Q: What are the roots of this reaction?

A: Well, I think from historical point of view, when you look at the situation of Muslims in Rakhine, in Burma, one big difference is that the Muslims in Rakhine have settled on the ground, they were farmers. They have been farmers since the pre-colonial period because Rakhine kings were deporting people from Bengal and bringing them to Rakhine and settling them. We know from a source in the 17th century that there were villages where there were only Muslims. They have been settled there by the Rakhine kings. The English stopped Indian immigration during the colonial period. Because there was no border there, so you figure out the people come and go from Bengal to Rakhine. Their demographic growth was tremendous. The Rakhine back in the 1920s, the Buddhist Rakhine, were feeling very awkward about this.

Q: Do you agree with observers who say there is a third force behind the conflict?

A: There is no reason to look for a third force to explain [the conflict], to describe it and to talk about solutions. It is absolutely clear that in the context where Arakan is, you have a very particular situation which you do not have in other so-called minority areas. In Karen, Kachin or Chin, we’re normally talking about the majority Myanmar who confront the local minority group, which is actually a majority of that area. But here you have three involved—you have Rakhine Buddhist, you have Muslim on the other hand and then you have the government. When you have three, it is always easy to have two against one. Now Muslims would argue they are Rakhine Buddhist and Myanmar Buddhist who play against us. It’s always easy to argue that.

Q: So what is the underlying reason behind the conflict?

A: I think that on the land that exists there, there are increasing numbers of people. Rakhine Buddhists have been seeing that there are Muslims there. The Muslims who are living in Rakhine, the population has been growing. The question is how much have they been growing. Apparently, it seems that they are growing faster. There is a feeling that they are growing; that they are there and there is this kind of resentment that these people are there and nobody is tackling the Muslims present there. All these resentments, all these feelings, have been there for a long time. Sheer violence is used to say that we have situation that we cannot bear anymore.

Q: Would you say it is not a racial issue?

A: No, Rohingya use “racist Buddhists” and the other side will use that. There has been violence, there are a number of other words and we should be sensitive about the use of these words. Now when somebody comes to use the word “genocide” against Muslims, that is also way beyond anything that matches with reality.  I think “hate” is okay as the term you can use as kind of a common word. But to use “racism” always supposes a kind of ideology. I don’t see among Buddhists this kind of ideology. It’s kind of dislike. You have xenophobia, you have ranges of other words you can use to describe more correctly and more justly what we see.

Q: Is the international media mistaken when they use phrases like “genocide of the Rohingya?”

A: Yes, a lot. Journalists have to focus more on diversifying their sources of documentation. I agree it may not be easy. I think there is enormous responsibility on media in Myanmar now that is opening up. Myanmar writers, Myanmar ethnicities take a responsible stand on this. It will not help if they take sides. But you need to be critical and self-critical.

Q: What is the best way forward to resolve the conflict?

A: I would probably say people should sit down and say what they want where there are problems. They want to have peaceful life, they want to have a happy life and see a future for their children. You see other people have what you don’t have. In the other community, in the best of their mind, they realize that the other people will not disappear—like it or not, they are not going to disappear. They need to find one way or another to live together. There are many issues that people who are living there, whatever religion, could share. They will confront their own interest and future for the development of Rakhine State, for the people who live there. If they could work together, they could be more efficient instead of fighting together.

Q: Are the Rohingya an ethnic group of Burma?

A: My answer is that Rohingya is not an ethnic concept. Okay, they can stand up and say we are an ethnic group inside Myanmar. But I think that is not the best way. When you argue we are Muslims and we have been living in Rakhine for several generations, nobody can deny it. For me, Rohingya is the term, which is an old word that has been claimed as above all as a political label after the independence of Myanmar. For the moment, I do not see that all the people there readily submit to one and a single label. When I was in Bangladesh, people pointed out Muslims to me who originally lived in Rakhine. They have now moved to Bangladesh and when you ask them, “are you Rohingya coming from Rakhine?” they say, “no, we are Muslims who live in Rakhine, we do not take for us the label Rohingya.”

36 Responses to History Behind Arakan State Conflict

  1. In 15th-16th century, the Bengali population living in the western Bengal area were not all Muslins, and there were many small kingdoms of Hindu under the Muslin Empire. Some Rakhine kings encouraged the Portugese pirates(Freebooters) living in Dianga community (now Cox bazaar) to make slave raids in Bingali delta. The king bought many slaves and used to resold to the Dutch who need labor force for their spice cultivations in Malay penisula. During this time the Rakhine king established three or four slave villages to till his farm lands. These immigrants/slaves were not necessarily of one religion as many Bengali at that period included Hindu and Tantric Buddhist as well as Muslim. These people were gradually absorbed in Rakhine population.
    When Burma became an Indian state of British colony , many Bengali came to live in Rakhine forming their own communities, and started to behave as if Maungdaw, Buthitaung, Rathetaung and even some quarters of Sittwe as their own independent teritory. In 1950s, when Burma was having somany uprisings both ethnic and political (Karen, Kachin, Shan, Mon, two communist factions, Yebaw etc, etc) the Bengali Muslins also formed armed force called MUJAHID and attacked their neighbours, killing and rapeing the villagers. Later when U Nu government reinstall peace in the country, and when started to issue National Citizen cards, they do not bother to register. They do think that western Rakhine is their own land. There sure is hatred and anger from the natives Rakhine and this problem will be going on for decades if not century.

    • Please make it clear who is actually Bangali and who is not. Many unknowingly assume that who ever lives in Bangladesh is called Bengali. If this is true then what about those Rakhines who lives in Chittagong of Bangladesh? Bengali or Bengali-Rakhine or Rakhine? Of course no Rakhine of Bengladesh will accept that. In Bengaladesh there are Burman, Rakhines, Mramma, Chakma and the same people stay also in Burma.

      The people in Chittagong are called themselves Chittagonian because they are different from Bengali people who are actually concentrated in East Bengal (which is Dhakka) and West Bengal (Calcutta)both of which are very far from Burma border. And also their language is not at all intelligible to Rohingya people of Arakan. If any Rohingya watch Bengla TV they can hardly understand anything. So how can you brand Rohingya as Bengali? Is is not big humuliation?

      • we need justice from honest man

      • Of course, Rakhine/Rohang would not understand Bengali becuase they speake Rakhine/Rohang’s Language. Rakhine/Rakhai/Rahai/Rahang ???

        At Tin Win, You need to learn History of Bengal. Learn more about atrocities committed by Bengali Muslims in Chittagong Hill Tract at PCJSS http://pcjss-cht.org/

        While they settle in Myanmar/Burma, they call/claim themselve Myanmar Muslim/Bama Muslim. While they settle in Rakhine, they Bengali call/claim themselves Rakhine Muslim.
        Then indigenous Rakhine people protest about calling themselve ‘Rakhine Muslim’, they claim ‘Rohingya’. They keep changing History and keep saying Lies.

        Rakhines are Minority in Buthidaung,Maungdaw and Rathedaung. Get it!

        These are videos of one Bangladeshi Bengali speaking about Bengali people.

        ျမန္မာျပည္မွာ ေနေတာ့ ျမန္မာမူစလင္တဲ့ ဗမာမူစလင္တဲ့ ရခိုင္မွာ ေနေတာ့ ရခိုင္မူစလင္တဲ့ အဲဒီလို အဓိပၸယ္ မရွိေခၚလို႕ ဝိုင္းကန္႕ ကြက္ေတာ့ ႐ိုဟင္ဂ်ာ လို႕ ထြင္ခဲ့တာ။ ‘႐ိုဟိုင္’ ဆိုတာ ‘ရဟၡဳိင္/ရခိုင္’ ကို မူစလင္ေတြ သုံးခဲ့တယ္ ယူဆ ရတယ္။ ဆိုေတာ့ ျမန္မာမူစလင္တို႕ ဗမာမူစလင္တို႕ ဆိုတာ ျမန္မာေတြ ဗမာေတြလား ? လူမ်ိဳး တမ်ိဳးကို ယံုၾကည္တဲ့ ဘာသာႏွင့္ တြဲေခၚတာ ဘယ္လိုနည္း မွ မသင့္ ေတာ္ပါ။ ရခိုင္မူစလင္ လို႕ ေတာင္းဆိုတဲ့သူေတြ ရခိုင္ေတြမွ မဟုတ္တာ။ ဘန္ဂါလီလိုေျပာ ဘန္ဂါလီေသြးပါေနျပီး ရခိုင္လို႕ ေတာင္းဆိုေနေတာ့ ‘ေဒါင္း ေယာင္ေဆာင္တဲ့ က်ီး’ ပဲျဖစ္ လာတာေပါ့။ ပံုမွား ႐ိုက္တာေတြ။ လူလိမ္ေတြ။ အဲဒီ နယ္စပ္က ေအာက္ေျခက လူေတြ သြားေမးၾကည့္ပါ၊ သြားေတြ႕ ၾကည့္ပါ။ အဓိက အဲဒီက ေခါင္းေဆာင္ေနတဲ့ လူေတြ က လိမ္ေနတာ။

        အခုလို ေျဗာင္လိမ္ ေျဗာင္စားေတြ က ဘယ္ေလာက္ပဲ သက္ေသ ျပျပ၊ မ်က္စိ မွိတ္ျပီး စြတ္ျငင္းေနတာ။ ေတြ႕ရင္ ငိုျပမယ္၊ ထိုင္ရွိခိုးမယ္၊ ျပီးေတာ့ အိမ္ေနာက္ကို မီး႐ိႈ႕ျပီးျပီး။ မင္းတို႕ Qu’ram 40:28 ကိုဖတ္ၾကည့္။ လိမ္တဲ့ သူေတြ ဘယ္လိုျဖစ္လဲဆိုတာ။

  2. Thanks, good to know history.

    But solution is simple. Hold a referendum in MM. Lets ask how many of the usual very welcoming and polite MM want them to obtain MM citizenship.

    A simple majority will do.

    Simple solution to a simple problem!

  3. Well done. We need somebody to say this and Leider certainly has credibility with his work in Rakhine studies.

  4. Please read this:

    SOAS Bulletin of Burma Research, Vol. 3, No. 2, Autumn 2005, ISSN 1479-
    The Development of a Muslim Enclave in
    Arakan (Rakhine) State of Burma (Myanmar)1
    Aye Chan
    Kanda University of International Studies

  5. The term Rohingya for centuries remained to mean people from Rakhine state – for the Bengalis, in Bangladesh and India, the word simply means the people of Rakhine State (Arakan). The majority Buddhists are Rohingya Magh, and the minority Muslims are Rohingya Bangalis (please leave out this term to call other Muslim minority groups who have lived in the land since the old Arakanese kings). For this reason, if anyone from Burma now says that there is no Rohingyas in Burma – that is true, because it is a pure Bengali word. The etymology cited by a number of socalled historians from Bangladesh and by now infamous doctor Yunus – that Arakan comes from the word ‘al ruqn’ is totally baseless, since in Arabic language the spelling ‘ra-kaf-nun’ (ruqn as pronounced by Yunus) can also be pronounced as rikin, rakan, rakun, rukun, – since the Arabic language has no different diphthongal or vowel variations, only aa, ee, uu, etc.. If the word pronounces ‘rakan’ that is the closest to ‘rakhaing’ or ‘rakain’, so ‘al rakan’ should mean ‘the Rakhine’. Please ask any Arabic specialists, if you can’t believe what I say. In this article Dr Leider has been very clear about the term. There is no politics in the word, less a particular race – it is unfortunate that the separatist Bengalis took the name and started demanding the Buddhist kings of Arakan as Muslims. Many Muslims in Burma have taken up Burmese names, does it mean they are Buddhists? Sensibility should rule.

  6. ANC-S and ARRC Malaysia

    This term and claim of Rohingya ethnicity by the some Bengali armed and unarmed groups’ leaders is myth and misleading, containing an aim with creating own Rohingya region. It is confusion and dangerous. Most Rakhine do not mind they call themselves Muslim and posses lands and farms, even citizen cards. But almost all Rakhine mind they claim they are native and Rakhine was their kingdom. They labeled the Rakhine kings who had Muslim titles in order of influence their subjects in the west Bengal regions in the 15-18 century as Rohingya kings. That makes the Rakhine piss off. The faster growth of hundreds of thousands Begali in the Rakhine State for 50 years, especially in last 20 years of military junta rule,make concern of the Rakhine’s future survival. Their concern proved real by the recent Bengali violent attacks over the Rakhine population. To solve these kinds of misunderstanding and misdreaming for both sides, Arakan history seminar was organized in 2005 under the title of “Forgotten Kingdom of Arakan” in Bangkok by the joint sponsor of Chulalon Korn Univerity and ANC. Both Rakhine leaders and Rohingya leaders attended in that seminar. In the penal, the scholars, including Bengali, clearly illustrated that there is no such Rohingya ethnic nor Rohingya kings in the past Arakan Kingdom. Majority are the recent immigrants. Inter-dialogue for peaceful coexistence and settlement for historical misleading were recommended. Jack was one of the 9 leading scholars in that seminar, and this interview with his scholarlistic view is fair enough. Arrawaddy Magazine should inter view Pamela Guttman and Steven Van. Galen. They can give us fair historical view points.

  7. Excellent I love the story and i love the commend of U Maung Maung Myint.
    Actually I have nothing to do at all with the issues, but as it is cooked so hot over weeks and in very bad un educated form,- it is like heaven to hear more facts, even some are not very sure but a horizon is opening up which can lead to understanding and peace.
    Even until 1999 in Thandwe Township and most Rakhine villages, adult people whichwe hired for tourism business did not have any NRC / ID card as they simply never needed it – they not even went to town and lived their live. In these years it was a saying: “…. the law, – the law is in Yangon and Yangon is far away – so is the Law… ” that is just 13 years ago and Thandwe was already remote anymore. No wonder that the Bengalis at U Nu s time did not register….
    Interesting also that Rakhine by taking over Chittagong and there are old songs and like the Marmar races from Bago original were taken by the Rakhine King to administer as Nobel people these new territories,– they also included the Bengalis living there as Rakhine.
    When Burma took over the Rakhine Kingdome sure they also took Chittagong and also took over the Bengalis living there,= Myanmar / Burmese and before the Rakhines were the one which first made Bengalis their salves and ” citizen ” …. So a home made problem, Burma and Rakhine just harvest the Fruits they planted by them self.

  8. How about the history not too far from present time, such as world war 2 and stuatiion in Arakan State at that time. Does any one know V-force and 20, 000 Arakanese civillians which include women, children were slaughter, Buddhist monisteries were burnt down. Who are the V-force under captain Irwin? British government definately regreat the history will return to visit them. Until now British government has not say a word about those crime.

    • Tom’s comments is very interesting. British gov knows everything about the history of Arakan in colonial time. But they shut up their mouths.
      They have strong record about the area and the people in Arakan.
      But they are dead silent now.

      • I agreed. British messed up everywhere they had been. I am sure that Arakan kings used some Bengali as slaves and permitted to live on his land. In that case, it is clear that they are not from Myanmar. The issue now is those who enter to Myanmar illegally and cause problems. Moreover, the world is informed with wrong information by international medias.

  9. George Than Setkyar Heine

    Dr. Leider’s clarification has SOME SALT for that matter.
    The Muslims living in Arakan State are welcome as long as they don’t CHINE the Rohingya SONG/THEME for a start and forever as well.
    Of course Maung Myint PROMISING to ACCEPT 400,000 ethnic Bangalis in Burma is OUT OF TUNE, much less CONSENSUS of the people of Burma as well.
    He is under OBLIGATION and DUTY BOUND as well to PUT THE MATTER in the PARLIAMENT before SHOOTING AIR through his ASS I say.
    Rakhines are NATIVES of BURMA since centuries ago until today. Any bets?
    And Rohingyas are NO NATIVES of BURMA lest those people CALLING for a HOME STATE for the ROHINGYAS in Burma forget.
    Hence Rohingyas have NO CLAIMS for ANY PLACE in Arakan State much less western Rakhine under both man and God’s law I say.

  10. It is clearly stated that during the years of Myanmar (Burmese) governors and initial period of British colonial rule, the Chittagonias came to the Mayu area as seasonal laborers and usually went back to their homeland, Chittagong region, just across the River Naaf. One can read in the records that afterwards, since a handful have illegally migrated into the area, the Muslim population burst into horrible numbers because of the economic and political policies of colonial government. U Hla Htwann Pru, a leading Rakhine statesman, in his book entitled “The Treausre-Trove of Rakhine Sate”, wrote that during the British regime, an enquiry commission headed by Commissioner James Ester was formed and empowered to make enquires about illegal immigration of Chittagonians into Sittwe (Akyb) district rising to alarming numbers and that the report warned if no drastic action would be taken , racial turmoils would follow soon. The warning came true as ethnic conflicts followed during World War II so that native Rakhines suffered untold miseries due to the open border- crossing policy of colonialists.

    A Former commissioner of Rakhine (Arakan) Division, U Htin Phat (Writer Maung Htin) wrote the following lines regarding the move taken by Chittagonian Musilms residing on the other side of Naaf river to form a separate zone in the region and due to the immigration and emigration policy of post-independence government led to “Mujahid” rebellion.
    “…..post-war policy of Chittagonions is to migrate and settle in the new area along the Maya mountain range and Kalapanzin river valley east of Naaf river.The person who initiated and incited the movement is a Chittagonian who have lived in Rakhine (Arakan) Division for many years. He has already organized and prepared would-be settlers to migrate into the area in large numbers. However, soon after Myanmar’s Independence, the situation turned the other way round. At that time, as Myanmar government took serious consideration of border crossings, no mass migrations could be executed. As a result, “Mujahid” rebellion started and grew in numbers and rebel leader Cassim became well-known.”
    During the reign of the AFPFL government, a similar plot was hatched by a group of educated Muslim leaders to create the Muslim state in the area for the illegally settled Muslims. They coined a new term “Rohingya”, wrote and propagated a fake theory as if they were an indigenous race of Myanmar inhabited in the country for nearly a thousand years. The newly-coined term attracted the attention of educated Rakhines soon after its debut in 1950. They strongly refused the term (Rohingya) in contemporary journals and magazines.

  11. Jack Leider simply said Rohingya was mentioned in a book written by Dr Francis Buchanan who had never been to Rakhine mainland. He visited Chittagong when it was already occupied by the British and also traveled to Ava on a mission. In his book a name Rooinga was described a couple of times and he went on to say their dialect was a bit different than those of Banga and Rossawn. It was assumed local folks from Chittagong area were still using Arakan as their country even after Arakan kingdom was destroyed by the Burmans and Chittagong became part of Mogol empire and eventually invaded by the British. That might be the reason how Dr Buchanan got the name Rooinga who claimed that they were native people of Arakan. To be exact, they were natives of Chittagong region which happened to be part of Arakan kingdom.

  12. Here,We would like to read Maung Kyaw Nu’s comment.Mr.Scholar Kyaw Nu,please make us enlightened with your lies and fabricating stories;at least,launch a counter-attack to Dr. Jacques P. Leider.

  13. This is the most uninformative interview I have read in recent memory.

    What kind of serious historian or academic uses empty statements like “Let me put it diplomatically like this—a very strong emotional reaction” and “Apparently, it seems that they are growing faster” when attempting to illuminate the current situation and underlying causes of the subject on which he is being interviewed?

    I am not familiar with Dr. Leider’s research, but from this interview I get the impression that he doesn’t have or is hesitant to share any real insights on “the recent sectarian strife in western Burma”.

  14. Francis Buchanan’s ‘Rooingas’ and ‘Rossawns’

    Dr. Francis Buchanan, a Scottsman working as a surgeon at the British East India Company, was the one and only person who mentioned the names ‘Rooingas’and ‘Rossawns’ in his book, the closest name to ‘Rohingya’ as a linguistic survey. However he described those people as both Hindus and Muslimsand their languages as dialects of Bengali. Furthermore, Francis Buchanan wrote very clearly that they are called Kala or Strangers orForeigners by the real natives of Arakan, i.e. Arakanese or Rakhaings . (See Buchanan, Francis, A comparative vocabulary of some of the languages spoken in the Burmese Empire. In: Asiatick Researchers or Transactions of the Society instituted in Bengal for inquiring into the History and Antiquities, the Arts, Sciences and Literature of Asia. V: 219-240, 1801.)

    I (KMS) will cite Buchanan:“I shall now add three dialects, spoken in the Burman Empire, but evidently derived from the language of the Hindu nation. The first is that spoken by the Mohammedans, who have long settled in Arakan, and who call themselves Rooinga, or natives of Arakan. The second dialect is that spoken by the Hindus of Arakan. I procured it from a Brahmen and his attendants,who had been brought to Amarapura by the king’s eldest son, on hisreturn from the conquest of Arakan. They call themselves Rossawn, and, for what reason I do not know, wanted to persuade me that theirs was the common language of Arakan. Both these tribes, by the real natives of Arakan, are called Kulaw Yakain,or stranger Arakan.”

    I (KMS) would like to give the following explanation why British ColonialOfficers never recorded these so-called ‘Rooingas and Rosswans’:

    Dr.Franscis Buchanan wrote very clearly that hemet those people in Amarapura (ie. the capital of the Burmese Empirethen) and NOT in Arakan. They were taken to Burma as slaves or prisoners. All historical records and chronicles unanimously stated that the Burmese Crown Prince had taken about 30000 Arakanese and some of their slaves as forced labours to Burma. It is very clear that Arakanese (Rakhaings) became slaves of Burmese and these Bengali slaves of the Arakanese became automatically “the Slaves of the Slaves”. Thepopulation of these ‘Slaves of the Slaves’ might be very few. Later,most probably these ‘Slaves of the Slaves’ were assimilated and engulfed into the Muslims and Hindus living in Upper Burma, who were the subjects of the Burmese king. That’s why these names disappearedwhen British annexed Upper Burma in 1885. Apart from that Dr. Buchanan stated very clearly that they were Strangers in Arakan andNOT Natives!

    If these groups who called themselves as ‘Rooingas’ and ‘Rossawns’ were still in Arakan until 1826 or after that, these names might have been mentioned by the British Colonial Officers in their administrative and research papers!

    British officers in Bengal recorded that, after the downfall of the Arakanesekingdom many Arakanese, some Hindus and Muslims crossed the borderand seeked asylum on British soil. They neither mentioned ‘Rooingas’nor ‘Rossawns’!

    In contrast, even Buchanan wrote in his other book: „Puran Bisungri was an officer of the Police Station of Ramoo what is called Panwah by the Arakanese. He was a Hindu, born in Arakan and fled the country after Burmese invasion of 1784”. “Puran says that, in one day soon after the conquest of Arakan the Burmans put 40,000 men to Death: that wherever they found a pretty Woman, they took her after killing the husband; and the young Girls they took without any consideration of their parents, and thus deprived these poor people of the property, by which in Eastern India the aged most commonly support their infirmities. Puran seems to be terribly afraid, that the Government of Bengal will be forced to give up to the Burmans all the refugees from Arakan”. (See Buchanan, Francis. Francis Buchanan in Southeast Bengal (1798): His Journey to Chittagong, the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Noakhali and Comilla. Dhaka: Dhaka University Press., 1992)

    Now about the third group mentioned by Dr. Buchanan: „The last dialect of the Hindustaneewhich I shall mention, is that of a people called, by the Burmans, Aykobat, many of them are slaves at Amarapura. By one of them I was informed, that they had called themselves Banga; that formerly they had kings of their own ; but that, in his father’s time, their kingdom had been overturned by the king of Munnypura,who carried away a great part of the inhabitants to his residence. When that was taken last by the Burmas, which was about fifteen years ago, this man was one of the many captives who were brought to Ava.

    He said also, that Bangawas seven days’ journey south-west from Munnypura: it must, therefore, be on the frontiers of Bengal, and may, perhaps, be the country called in our maps Cashar.’

    Forthat version the present author likes to give the followingexplanation:

    Since Alaungphaya (Alaungphara) re-established the Burmese empire, he and his successors invaded and annexed almost all neighbouring kingdoms including Siam, Langxiam, Assam, Manipur, Mon and Rakhaing etc.etc..

    I tis very possible that a small dukedom north of Bengal was annexed into Manipur and some of the inhabitants were taken as slaves to Manipur. When Manipur became a feudatory state of the Burmese empire then, these slaves were either given as tribute to the Ava Empire or taken by the Burmese as slaves. However, it is not easy to trace aBurmese word which can be close to ‘Aykobat’ mentioned by Buchanan! The closest term could be “Akkabat”. During Bodaw Phaya’s Era, a new minister post “Akkabat Myin Wun” (literal translation: “Minister of Akkabat Cavalry”) was created for his protégé Myat Htin, however, in fact, he was the Chief of all Cavalries. Almost all of the soldiers in Akkabat Cavalry were Manipuris. Most probably, Dr. Buchanan meant Akkabat!! A subtribe of Manipuris were called “Kathei” or “Kasai” in Burmese, which most probably was the corruption of Cashar meant by Buchanan.

    This group ‘Aykobat’ too were most probably assimilated and engulfed into the Manipuris, Katheis and Hindus living in Upper Burma, who were the subjects of the Burmese king.

    Why did they call themselves Rooingas and Rossawns?

    In Burma, there are two big ethnic communities of alien origin, namely of the Chinese and of the people from the Subcontinent (British India) who are named ‘Tayoke’ and ‘Kala’ respectively by the Burmese. In these two communities, though ‘Tayoke’ are assimilated into the Burmese and Buddhist community easier and faster, they are still happy and proud to be called ‘Tayoke’, rather than ‘Bama’, just to keep their own ethnic identity. However, ‘Kala’, regardless of their faith either Hindus or Muslims, are lesser assimilated into the Burmese and Buddhist community. Despite of that fact, they want to name themselves as ‘Bama’ or ‘Mon’ or ‘Shan’ or ‘Karen’ etc. etc. due to the area where they reside, rather than their own ethnic identity ‘Kala’! It happens most probably because of the term ‘Kala’ which means black or dark in Indic languages like Hindi, Urdu, Bengali etc.etc.

    In any case, the term ‘Kala’ do not have derogatory meaning in Burmese because the etymology of the word Kala (written Kula) can be traced back from the Pali word Kula meaning “noble race” (this is a short form of Kula Putta which means “son of the noble race”). The word was used for the Indians (People from the subcontinent) by the early Buddhist people of Burma (Mons, Burmese, Arakanese, Karens and Shans etc.) because Lord Buddha himself was an Indian.

    Although the word Kala has a harmless meaning, the people from thesubcontinent do not like to be called Kala. They feel insulted because the word Kala means “coloured” or “blackie”in their Indic languages such as Hindi, Urdu and Bengali. Inparticular, Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis living in Burma often complain to foreigners, especially to non-Burmese Burma Scholars that they feel discriminated by the people of Burma,especially by the Bamas (the Burmese), the Rakhines (the Arakanese), Shan and the Mons, calling them Kala (meaning “blackie” intheir own interpretation). Such a misinterpretation was never intended by the people of Burma (the Burmese, Mons, Karens, Shans andArakanese/Rakhines etc.), in fact, on reflection some people from Northern India and Pakistan are much fairer in complexion than some people of Burma, especially some Mons, Burmese and Arakanese/Rakhaings!!

    Forthe above-mentioned reason, almost all of the ‘Kala’ in Burma name themselves either ‘Bama’ or Karen or Shan or Mon etc. etc. regardless of whether they are assimilated into the native society or not!. In the light of this explanation, as a parallel case, it is very easy to conclude why those two groups met by Dr. Francis Buchanan named themselves ‘Rooinga’ and ‘Rossawn’ although they were called ‘KalawYakain’ (Kala Yakain or Aliens in Rakhaing Land) by the real natives of Arakan (ie. Arakanese or Rakhaings). It is clear that these two groups interviewed by Buchanan too did not want to be named ‘Kala’ regardless of whether they were assimilated into the native society or not! In Bengali language, the country Arakan is called either ‘Rohan’ or ‘Rosan’ and the people, that means the real natives of that land, the Arakanese or the Rakhaings, are called ‘Rohanja’ or’ Rosawnga’ due to the dialects (most probably Roo-in and Rosssawn; Rooinga and Rossawnga accordingly in Buchanan’s ears!). As mentioned earlier, ‘Rohingya’ is a name used by the Bengalis to denote a Rakhine –a Buddhist Rakhine or an Arakanese. In other words, ‘Rohingya’ and ‘Magh’ are the synonyms in Bengali and it gives the meaning Arakanese or Rakhaingthar. I have to conclude, these two groups ‘hijacked’ or ‘kidnapped’ the name of the real natives of Arakan (Rakhaings) in Bengali language!!

  15. I would like to challenge for a debate with Dr. Jacques P. Leider ,I think Awakyunetha gave him a lot of money .

  16. Hay David,
    Go and Challenge Dr. Leider but don’t accuse him. He is a pure international scholar and expert on Rakhine history. In order to get complete pictures of Rakhine, he studied all archives of Dutch, Portuguese, British, and old records of Burmese and Rakhine. No one can buy this kind of scholar. Rohingya who created false accounts of their history cannot stand this true history. It is clear who is who by seeing all of these comments.

  17. Thanks to Dr. Jacques P.Leider,
    because he is of mine who studies the history of professional educators.
    Well done to save the Ethnic Rohingyas,
    finally unravel the history of the Rohingyas.
    Why is the government of Myanmar and Rakhines envy the Rohingyas?
    Muslims in Myanmar do not like violence,
    they also do not like racism. they just want a peaceful Country and moving towards progress,
    once again I am grateful to truth and justice.
    I would appreciate to Dr. Jacques P.Leider.
    and hope that the Myanmar government to open courtrooms of justice.

  18. It is not more than learning to live with mutual tolerance. Because the reality strongly recommends to forget the history which is not very clear and obviously manipulated. If we are truly seeking peace and development in the inflamed region of Arakan, we have to stop all these nonsenses and forgive each other. Because we are all humans living together in the same place for generations and we have tried all sorts of hatred, rejection and racism. So let’s try to apply the opposite approaches. Let’s give a trial of love, respect and tolerance and see what happens next.

  19. Racial incitement is a crime and police have the duty to make criminal investigation and court of law will make prosecution.
    It is simple. Moslem who lived in Arakanese states can not simply be kicked out from the land. They have to be accepted by local people. The forigners who choose to live in the Burma must love the Burma. They must not offend the host country who politely accept them to build the multi-racial vibrant society. Surely if one Moslem utter bad thing about Burma, forget about attempt to set up the separate land/ states, it can be investigated by police and rule of law will take its course. The same apply to local people who does not accept the integration and stands the racist attitudes.
    If we have rule of law, immigration depatment will control all port of entries effectively, police will do their duty properly, and court will never ever label the political opponents with secret prosecution.
    What does the Burmese people want?
    What does the Moslem people in Rakhine states want?
    No foreign country can impose the immigration policy of Burma if Burma gats the respectful law-abiding civilian, full-fledged democracy.

  20. Ne Win spent almost all the state budget for his own security. Than Shwe did the same thing. Now, their selfish agenda is falling on the shoulders of Thein Sein. Long neglected border issue brings in countless illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and now they are destroying Arakan. Ne Win died without being pusnished. Than Shwe might also get away like Ne Win without paying the price. These two men deserve capital punishment for treason.

  21. You guys are crazy! Bangladesh is way ahead of you and your primitive society. Come and check us out. Why should we go to your accursed land? Go do your homework. And please go to school!

    • Which school, Ahmed? Are you suggesting to go to madrassahs where violent islamists who are disgrace to Islam rule? Did Muahammad (sm) ever teach manipulation of religion or the history of a people? As a responsible citizen of the world, and also the responsible citizen as Muslims, we have to understand logic behind our every move. Did rohingyas who started killing, arson, rape and burning of Buddhist monasteries act as responsible Muslims? rohingya or not, they are disgrace to all the muslims in the world. it is our moral duty to criticize their unislamic acts, not support their insane behaviour. we as human beings came to this world not to be violent and kill others, but establish peace, whether we are a Muslim, a Budedhist, a Christian, a Hindyu, a Jew, or whatever. No religion taught people to kill others, torch monasteries and rape women. supporting the rohingya killers and arsonists, rapists, mean you are not on the side of the law.

  22. What are you really expect ? You think you can do whatever you want in our country ? Try to realize and civilize , we will never give Myanmar citizen on this way, you traitor . If you want Rakhine State to become Muslim State , we will never and ever give part of our county to Rohingya. This is our country we will protect until we die.

  23. During the Paliamentary governments, there were some MPs from Maungdaw and Buthithaung (I think it was called Mayyu Khayine). The people were called Rohingyas. Gen Nay Win’s Revolutionay Council Government started Nagamin Operation and started persecution against the Rohingyas. Present incidence is just a continuation of the Nagamin Operation. Many decades of Military Rule has brain washed people’s of Burma and now even President (General) Thein Sein does not know that Rohingya are the citizens of Burma. He (President Thein Sein) must have been a junior officer when the Nagamin Operation against Rohingya people started.

  24. Nazi chic in the new Myanmar
    By Julie Masis

    Link: http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Southeast_Asia/OA10Ae01.html

    True: If war against the Rohingya can be started by Rakhine Mogh lies, they can be stopped by historical truth that Rohingyas are Burmese ethnic people.

  25. Split Arakan and give half to Muslim and half to Buddhist. Fair enough

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