Burma Must Give Rohingyas Citizenship: Nobel Laureates

Two Nobel Peace Prize Laureates have condemned Burma’s treatment of the Muslim Rohingya in Arakan State and they call for full citizenship for the group. In a joint op-ed in the Huffington Post on Wednesday, Jose Ramos-Horta, the former president of Timor Leste, and Muhammad Yunus, founder of microfinance institution Grameen Bank, wrote that Burma’s government was contributing to “ethnic cleansing” of the Rohingya. They appealed to Burma to “amend the infamous 1982 law, and welcome the Rohingya as full citizens.” Scores of people have been killed and about 110,000 villagers, mostly Rohingyas, were displaced after inter-communal violence broke out in Arakan State between Buddhist and Muslim communities in July 2012.


18 Responses to Burma Must Give Rohingyas Citizenship: Nobel Laureates

  1. I believe these 2 Nobel Peace Prize Laureates have by far, overstepped their roles by giving a demand to the government of a sovereign country of Myanmar to give full citizenship to an ethnic group whom they have never recognized. Would it be easier for Mr. Mohammad Yunus to ask his own Bangladeshi Government to give residence and full citizenship to the Rohingya people since they also originated from Bangladesh itself? And if Mr. Jose Ramos-Horta is being so kind, why doesn’t he offer a settlement place for these people in his own Timor Leste instead? Doesn’t he know that most Rohingya people are looking for a better life and opportunity in Australia? While Timor Leste is an ideal springboard for them to cross over there? Come on you two guys. Behave more appropriately and in-line with the Nobel Peace Prizes given to you. I am a nobody but I think my above suggestions are more realistic and practical.

    • I strongly support Vivat Chutikamotham’s comment.What do these two people think of themselves interfering in other country’s sovereignty? Shame on you as a Nobel laureate!

    • What a sad reflection of a human being you are vivat chutikamoltham. No compassion, , no love and happy to watch people die in their 10’s of thousands……I hope you find your life fulfilling!!!
      You sit back in your arm chair and have the effrontery to criticize those that care and try to get a solution!!!

      • Gerry, your mind must have played tricks with you, may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs because I had not mentioned anywhere in my comments on this article that I am happy to watch any people die, Rohingya or other race. I only suggested some alternative solutions to Mr. Mohammad Yunus to ask his Bangladeshi Government for a permanent residence and full Bangladesh citizenship to the Rohingya people and to Mr. Jose Ramos-Horta who is the founder of Timor Leste, to offer a refugee settlement camp for the Rohingya people. I cannot visualize any people die on these 2 alternatives.

        • I used simple logic Vivat, which you may be surprised to learn, can only be efficiently applied WITHOUT the influence of alcohohol or drugs!
          You are against the Nobel prize winners who you say “demanded to the government of a sovereign country of Myanmar to give full citizenship to an ethnic group whom they have never recognized.” (by the way, completely untrue as per my quote at the end!).
          The reason these peace prize winners are requesting this is that 100’s of thousands are dying or being displaced from a country where they have resided for many years (Google it!). Since you are against such a request,and since your alternative suggestions are not being considered, it follows that you are happy for the situation to continue without any attempt to find a solution and save lives!

          You state that “Rohingya people are looking for a better life and opportunity in Australia” well so some of them may be, but you don’t explain how it’s possible to travel the world without citizenship of any country and hence without passport or ID?

          You may also like to get yourself up to date by reading this statement
          from the quote from the UK Telegraph newspaper 1-Nov-2012…….
          “The government is understood to be considering new moves to confer citizenship on several hundred thousand ‘third generation’ Rohingya who are already entitled to it under Burmese law but who were illegally denied it by previous governments”

          Please note Vivat……

          “WHO ARE ALREADY ENTITLED TO IT UNDER BURMESE LAW, BUT WHO WERE ILLEGALLY DENIED IT”.

          So… it’s hardly a question of these 2 Nobel Peace Prize Laureates “having by far overstepped their roles”, but simply a matter of them asking that the law of the land be complied with!
          I really wish you people would learn to use Google and educate yourselves before committing your misguided ideas to paper!

    • Try “springing over from East Timor” when you have no passport and no ID….use your brain for God’s sake!

      • Gerry, your logic is not simple but distorted by strong emotions and fantasies that do not adhere to reality. Please go back to read your harsh-wording accusations against me. I simply protest that the two gentlemen have no right to dictate their demand to the government of another sovereign country. Even Aung San Suu Kyi, another Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, recently commented “A country must decide its citizenship for itself” meaning that it is the prerogative of the Burmese Government whether or not to grant citizenship to the Muslim minority Rohingyas.

        How do you know that my alternative suggestions are not being considered? Who could say they will not be considered? Do you know Mr. Jose Ramos-Horta is now a UN’s special representative and Head of the UNIOGBIS Office? He had been also the co-founder of the Timor Leste Nation and both its Prime Minister and President during 2006-2012 while Mr. Mohammad Yunus is the only Nobel Prize Laureate and the most honorable person in Bangladesh. If these two gentlemen cannot persuade their own governments, then nobody can. If so, how can they tell the Burmese Government what to do?

        Now, let’s look at your figure that “100’s of thousands (Rohingyas) are dying or being displaced”. The twice Rakhine State riots in 2012 between Buddhist Rakhines and Muslim Rohingyas were officially recorded at 78 deaths (50 Muslims+28 Buddhists), 87 injured and 110,000 displaced (58,000 Muslims+ 52,000 Buddhists). Casualties and displacements were on both sides, and were the consequence of riots, not from the accused term of “ethnic cleansing”. Your figure is far higher than reality and you should learn the difference between “dying” and “being displaced”.

        Your quote from the UK Telegraph newspaper on 1-Nov-2012 is from a secondary source, while more recent news from the primary source came from Burma on February 20,2013 that the Deputy Minister of Immigration and Population, Kyaw Kyaw Win told the parliament that Burma knows “no Rohingya” ethnic group. Which one is more believable between that from the primary source or from the secondary one?

        A lot of people are quite naive. They read and take news at its face value. Although they have good intentions, sometimes they can cause more harm than good. In this issue, a more analytical-mind person would ask “why Rohingyas so desperately need Burmese citizenship?” Come on, Burma is not such a great country in the world. it had been under strict and brutal military dictatorships for the past 50 years and its budding democracy is still uncertain of how far it can go. Even a large number of the pure-blood Burmese have left and worked, some even resettled, in neighboring and other countries. In Bangkok, I know many well-educated Burmese who have been living and working here for more than 10 years. When asked if they are going back to Burma, they just smile and say they will wait and see.

        By the logic of the deduction, I suspect the Rohingyas need Burmese citizenship for not living in Burma. They want Burmese I.D. as an official document to leave Burma and seek asylum in a third country, preferably Australia, New Zealand, USA, UK, Germany, Japan, etc. Since 1989, all the developed countries had stopped receiving the so-called “economic refugees” but will continue to accept “political refugees” who are being oppressed in their own country. It is not difficult to see that the Rohingyas will use the accusation that they are being discriminated against by the Buddhist majority in Myanmar to qualify themselves as the “political refugees”. In fact, a more appropriate classification should be the “religious refugees”, but I do not know if this term exists.

        So, giving them Burmese citizenship could unexpectedly and adversely create a sudden mass exodus and thus catastrophic deaths for the Rohingyas, similar to the great tragedy of Vietnamese boat people during 1975-1981. UNHCR’s statistics show that up to 400,000 (27%) of the total 1.5 million Vietnamese people had died in their perilous sea voyages on rickety small boats. Do we want to see this great tragedy repeating itself? This time with the Rohingyas. This is the meaning that “sometimes a good intention can cause more harm than good”. Better think carefully on this issue.

        Gerry, I think I am done with you. Now I got more important things to do. If you still want to scold or scream at someone, I advise you’d better see your shrink.

        • Well Vivat,You naively ask “why Rohingyas so desperately need Burmese citizenship?”and yet you cannot answer my question of how you expect people without citizenship to travel the world without passport or ID.. In fact you think it might not be advisable for them to be able to leave Myanmar because you say ” giving them Burmese citizenship could unexpectedly and adversely create a sudden mass exodus and thus catastrophic deaths for the Rohingyas” I wonder do you ever read the news?……..
          http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/the-rohingya-of-burma-are-on-the-edge-of-disaster-why-wont-the-world-act-8513536.html
          And aren’t you also aware that citizenship of one country does not necessarily automatically ensure entry to another country? That’s why there is the existence of “visas”
          Citizenship is required to acquire basic human rights in the country in which you are living, including the right to education, healthcare, employment or land ownership.

          Incidentally I do know the difference between “dying” and “being displaced”.that’s why I used them both in the same sentence with an “or” in between! OR is that something new to you?

          You have no need to explain what Burma is like or its citizens. I live in Kuala Lumpur, and have worked with the Chin community here, assisting with their English articles, I also have many close Mon friends, and have visited Burma on several occasions.

          You tell me “Your quote from the UK Telegraph newspaper on 1-Nov-2012 is from a secondary source, while more recent news from the primary source came from Burma on February 20,2013 that the Deputy Minister of Immigration and Population, Kyaw Kyaw Win told the parliament that Burma knows “no Rohingya” ethnic group. Which one is more believable between that from the primary source or from the secondary one?…………
          .
          So how about the letter from Thein Sein the President himself to the UN?…….

          In his letter, Thein Sein said his government was prepared to address contentious issues “ranging from resettlement of displaced populations to granting of citizenship,” according to a statement from the spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that contained excerpts from the letter…….

          Thein Sein said he also would look at issues including work permits and permits granting freedom of movement for the Rohingya to ensure they are treated in line with “accepted international norms.”

          The UN secretary-general’s spokesperson called Thein Sein’s letter a step “in the right direction.” ……

          So it seems That Thein Sein the President knows of the existence of the Rohingya even if the Deputy Minister of Immigration and Population, Kyaw Kyaw Win doesn’t!!! “Which one is more believable”?

          Glad to read you are done with me! I find it offensive when someone cannot respond sensibly, without accusing me of being ” under the influence of alcohol or drugs”; or stating “you should learn the difference between “dying” and “being displaced”, and additionally thinks that if I have anything contradictory to say ” you’d better see your shrink.”
          Maybe you should forward a similar suggestion to the Obama administration!
          http://www.irrawaddy.com/archives/28334

          But I guess that sums up who you are, and confirms why I wrote my original comment to you! Thank you for teaching me that it’s useless to try and instill some compassion and understanding where none exists!

          • Gerry, you have been trying more-and-more to turn this venue of opinion expressing and idea exchanging into personal attacking, bickering and quarrelling. If you are dying to win this kind of fruitless arguments, I let you win, O.K.? I am nobody as said in the begining, and unless you were the Prime Minister of Malaysia or the President of OIC, you are nobody too. So, what’s the use of two nobody’s verbal fighting? I don’t have time and appetite to do it anymore. If you want to continue, please go and fly your own kite!

  2. I strongly support your comment. Under the name of Nobel Laureate, these two guys have no right to interfere in other country’s sovereignty.

  3. I fully support Vivat. It is better not to insult for being a laureate.

  4. they did what every human beings who respect the dignity of human value. As usual, In Burma, especially Arkanese (Rakhine) will never understand what is human right as they never have a chance to taste.

  5. Now, who is this Vivat, Chutia Saala? You yourself have overstepped by saying something (commenting on history of Arakan) which you have no knowledge of!! I have been following their history for quite sometime now. Following is the brief history on Arakan I have compiled with the help of my friends!

    1) The earliest inhabitants of Arakan were a proto-Australoid people called Negritos settled in the Neolithic period. They were known as Rakkhasha (cannibals). They were dark-skinned people much like Africans and Rohingyas of today. They did not look like Mongoloid Rakhines or Maghs of today who falsely claim to be of their descendants. The second earliest people of Arakan were Indo-Aryans (i.e. Indians) followed by Mro and Theks. Their settlements dated back to B.C. 3323. Most of the earliest Kingdoms in Arakan history were Indian Kingdoms namely Dhannyavadi Kingdoms and Vaishali (Vesali) Kingdom. These earliest Indians, that is to say the forefathers of Rohingyas, were the followers of Hinduism, Buddhism and Animism. With the advent of some Arabs as traders and Islamic propagators to Arakan in 788 AD, most of local Indians converted into Islam. It is very important to note that it was Islam that came to Arakan in 788 AD, not Muslims. Yet, the indigenous Indians who had converted into Islam (known as Rohingyas today) later came to mix with foreigners as their settlements continued throughout its historical periods.

    2) Rakhines of today was the last significant people of single Mongoloid stock to arrive in Arakan with the Mongolian invasion in 957 AD. Later, a new civilization took place as they came to mix local Indians and formed into Indo-Mongoloid people, while many remained purely of Mongoloid origin. And they re-established Buddhism in Arakan but in the form of Theraveda this time. With the continual invasions by the feudal kings of Tibeto-Burman people of Mongoloid stock from Upper and Lower Burma, the people of Arakan were gradually formed to be of more Mongoloid origin and Indian-Originated people consequently decreased or were outnumbered. Therefore, the later Kingdoms of Arakan such as in Lemro and Mrauk-U Periods were rather Indo-Mongoloid or Mongoloid Kingdoms than Indian Kingdoms. However, Muslims (of both Indigenous Indian Origins and foreigners settled in Arakan) played many at times as phenomenon Kingmakers and other very important roles during Mongoloid Arakanese Kingdoms. (For these earliest history of Arakan, please read D.G.E Hall’s History of South-East Asia, G.E. Harvey’s History of Burma, Noel F Singer’s Vaishali and Indianization of Arakan and Pamela Guteman’s Research Papers on Arakan and Zaa Lok Kay Pho Lay by San Kyaw Tuan (Maha Wizza), P. 81)

    3) Muslims played the phenomenal role of kingmakers in Arakan. Its heyday began with the spread of Islamic civilization. “Islam spread and deeply rooted in Arakan since 8th century from where it further spread into interior Burma. (Sasana Ronwas Htunzepho” a book published by SLORC in 1997)

    4) In fact, “Arakan was virtually ruled by Muslims from 1430 to 1531” [Ba Shin, “Coming of Islam to Burma 1700 AD”, A research paper presented at Azad Bhavan, New Delhi in 1961, p.4.] to the extent that it was turned into a sultanate. Arakan was depicted as an Islamic State in the map of The Times Complete History of the World, showing cultural division of Southeast Asia (distribution of major religions) in 1500.(Edited by Richard Overy, eighth edition 2010, page 148.). These are enough evidences that the Muslims or Rohingyas are indigenous to Arakan.

    5) The use of the term “Rohingya” in the form “Rooinga” existed in the past and found in 17th century. A dialect was spoken by Muslims in Arakan of Western Burma who had long been settled in Arakan and who called themselves “Rooinga” or “Natives” of Arakan. (Francis Buchanana, Buchanan, 1799) The document can be reached at http://www.soas.ac.uk/sbbr/editions/file64276.pdf.

    6) Read The Classical Journal for September and December, 1811, Vol. IV, P. 348. Printed in London by A.J. Valpy, Took’s Court, Concert Lane. The word “Rooinga” was used for the Muslims in Arakan of the time.

    7) Read Linguaram Totius Orbis “INDEX” Alphabeticus quarum “GRAMMARTICAE, LEXICA” Collectiones Vocabulerum, Patria Significatur, Historia Adumbratur by Joanne Severion Vatero, Theol. Doct. et Profess. et Bibliothecarlo Reg. Ord. S. Wladimiri Equite, Berlin, 1815. The word “Rooinga” was used many times for the Muslims in Arakan of the time.

    8) In 1820, British ethnologist Walter Hamilton referred to the “Rooinga” as “the Mahommedans [sic] who have been long settled in the country.” (Copied from http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/investigation/310399/fear-loathing-and-lies-in-rakhine-state). It is also a proof that Rohingya people existed in Arakan before 1824.

    9) The first President of Burma, Sao Shwe Thaike, said, “Muslims of Arakan certainly belong to one of the indigenous races of Burma. If they do not belong to the indigenous races, we also cannot be taken as indigenous races. (“The Rohingyas: Bengali Muslims or Arakan Muslim”, Euro Burma Office (EBO) Briefing Paper No.2, 2009. In Dr. San Oo Aung. http://sanooaung.wordpress.com 22 January 2008)

    10) Rakhines or Rowangya People by Maung Than Lwin, Mrawaddy Magazine, July 1960. Rohingyas’ history was briefly mentioned.

    11) Check the records of Burma Broadcasting Service (BBS). The Rohingya language was relayed trice a week from the indigenous language programme of the official Burma Broadcasting Service, Rangoon, from 15 May 1961 to 30 October 1965 that is, nearly four years further beyond the seizure of power by Gen. Ne Win.

    12) In official Myanmar Encyclopaedia Vol.9, 1964, pages 89/90 the historic narration was given in detail concerning Rohingya while affirming that 75% of the population in Mayu Frontier is Rohingya.

    13) Read the textbook “Geography for Std. 9th and 10th, printed in 1978, printed press 361 Pyay Rd. Sarbay Viman, on page 86 map Mayu area was clearly marked as “Rohingya’s dwelling place”. It was printed in Ne Win’s era.

    I think it is enough for the people with common sense to decide who are ethnic and who are not!

    • If my name is too difficult for you, I don’t mind if you call me a Mr. Nobody. Your compilation of Arakan’s history is impressive, but I am not arguing with you if the Rohingya people are indigeneous to Rakhine. I simply said they have never been recognized by the Burmese Government. And I think I know the reason why?

      In 1948 when Burma gained her independence, the Rohingya had formed a Mujahid Party aiming to create an autonomous Muslim state by seceding a part of Northern Arakan land. They declared “Jihad” and started fighting with the Burmese army by employing guerrilla and terrorist tactics until 1978 when the Burmese army endevoured an all-out, large scale offensive named “Operation King Dragon” flushing them out into Bangladesh. Even today, there are still many dozens of Rohingya’s terrorist organizations training in Bangladesh and actively operating in some remote area’s of Northern Arakan. Some rumours say they have close ties with the Taliban and Al-Qaida. A few months ago, they had abducted 3 Burmese soldiers whose one body was later found, badly mutilated. You can easily check this information from the Wiikipaedia.

      Therefore, I can understand why the Burmese Government refuse to recognize the Rohingya. It is their preventive measure because they know damn well that the next step is the secession of Northern Arakan, if they ever dare to give the Rohingya a full citizenship in the first step.

  6. I completely agree with vivat chutikamoltham. If Dr. Mohammad Yunus cares about human rights, he should ask his own government to stop genocide against the Buddhist tribes in Chittagong Hill Tracts.

    By the way Dr. Yunus comes from Chittagong district of Bangladesh. He speaks the same Chittagonian dialect like the Bengali migrants of Rakhine. He can not be objective.

    His knowledge of history is very shallow. There was no Bengali migrants in Rakhine until the British brought them as farm laborers. On the contrary Chittagong and Chittagong Hill Tracts were integral parts of Rakhine kingdom until 17th century. The Mughals captured Chittagong by force in 1666 and British gave way Chittagong Hill Tracts to East Pakistan in 1947.

  7. I also agree strongly with Vivat Chutikamoltham. I encourage all readers to provide comments in the original article published in the Huffington Post for a larger audience/distribution of your comment by clicking http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jose-ramoshorta/myanmar-rohingya_b_2728623.html
    or at the “op-ed” link provided above by The Irrawaddy. While reviewing the comments at the Huffington Post, please read and “like” the comments by “dtkhan”.

    While of the same subject, I also encourage all readers to comment on the article published by VOA. The link is http://www.voanews.com/content/australia-foreign-minister-bob-carr-burma-aid-rakhine-kachin-rohingya/1608218.html

  8. I quote…..”The government is understood to be considering new moves to confer citizenship on several hundred thousand ‘third generation’ Rohingya who are already entitled to it under Burmese law but who were illegally denied it by previous governments.”
    Get your facts straight before you accuse those who care about rightful entitlement to citizenship!!! You may be happy for the Burmese law to be broken with the ensuing disaster it has created, but those with a sense of morality aren’t!!!

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