"I do not know because when you talk about the Rohingya, we are not quite sure who you are talking about. As …I said there is a problem about who we are referring to.”
(Chairperson Daw Aung San Suu Kyi of National League for Democracy Party responded to the question whether the Rohingyas should be regarded as Myanmar nationals).
In accordance to the above-mentioned answer of Auntie Suu, we need to simplify first ‘Who are the Rohingyas?’ Despite it is a highly controversial topic, it is undeniable that the word ‘Rohingya’ appeared in the country in the 1950s. It should be reconsidered that if a certain race had inhabited in the country aeons ago, then why were they recognized only in the 1950s?
Ancient indigenous ethnics
There is a Rakhine ethnic called Kaman who believes in Islam are living in Rakhine State since ancient time. Historical records show Hindus also migrated into Myanmar in Wasali period. It should be clearly understood. Rohingyas are different from these people. The number of population of Kaman and Hindus were not high and they have been living peacefully. However those who have fully dominated Buthedaung and Maungdaw are not included in these ancient indigenous ethnics.
Who are the Rohingyas?
Historians remarked that the so-called Rohingyas infiltrated into Myanmar after the country had fallen into the British colony. Rather than mass migration, they gradually permeated the country. According to the existing law, the residents who descended from the races living in Myanmar before 1824 are regarded as the citizen. There was no usage of ‘Rohingya’. Instead, they were commonly known as the ‘Chittagonians’ descendants from Mayu Frontier area (East Pakistan in the past, now Chittagong of Bangladesh at present). This controversial issue is to be discussed by the researchers.
Who are the losers?
There are documentary evidences that local residents were displaced due to the mass infiltration of migrants from Chittagong into Buthedaung and Maungdaw areas after Rakhine State fell into in British colony. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said recently that the Rohingya issue becomes larger due to porous border area and corruption of immigration department. Although there has been a long history of mutual accusations, the lack of rule of law has resulted in the losses for indigenous Rakhine ethnics. National races must be protected as they lost their rights. The real losers are Rakhine people. Who were resettled in Buthedaung and Maungdaw areas in Rakhine State?
In reviewing 1942 issue or 1988 issue, unrests broke out in the areas where Rakhine people are in the minority. Rakhine people were the real losers. They had to migrate into the mainland and other countries.
Where was the starting point of the problem in recent unrest? The riots began in Buthedaung and Maungdaw areas where many Rohingyas are in the majority, as well as in Sittwe and nearby villages where about half of population is Rohingyas. Then who made arson attack? Bengalis burnt down their own houses and abandoned the area where they are in the minority there. Fire spread to the houses of Rakhine people. The losses from both sides are not much different in the official statistics. However, arsonists must be disclosed.
Not a religious riot
This violence was not a religious riot mentioned by foreign media. Despite it was not allowed to construct a mosque near the collapsed World Trade Center in the United States, there is a mosque near the famous Sule Pagoda in downtown Yangon. Hindu temples and Christian churches are closely located near Buddhist monasteries in Myanmar. Religious festivals are joyously celebrated in the country.
Abusive attacks might be made during the disputes among the national races. They do not loathe each other. Not only the national races but also various religions might suffer losses under the brutal regime in different eras. However, the national ethnics did not create their problems. Buddhists are living peacefully together with other disciplined religious members.
The reports of some foreign media were very awful. If the local media were accused of bias reporting from the side of national ethnics, it can also be concluded that those of foreign media are partial to Rohingyas. They presented their news with the accusations such as ‘genocide’ and ‘religious riot’. They also accused Myanmar media of inciting the riot through online. If Myanmar media could not send their reporters to the scenes and could not take record photos, the situation would be wrongly illustrated, causing to disgrace Rakhine people and Myanmar.
Some foreign newspapers and exiled media presented out of proportion on the loss of so-called Rohingyas. They should view the issue systematically. While the four reporters of the Eleven Media Group were covering the violence in Rakhine, the reports of foreign media were totally different from the actual happening in Rakhine State. They should go to the scene in person.
Which side did they stand for?
It was very curious about how foreign media stood behind Rohingyas. They first reported the army is shooting at Rohingyas. Then they mentioned that about 1,000 persons have lost. When these reports could not be confirmed, they continued reporting of ‘genocide’ and asked for intervention of UN. Such reports are groundless. They even wrongly mentioned the Rakhine State is the land of Rohingyas. They posted the photos of Rohingya refugees. The photos of burnt down Rakhine houses were captioned as the destroyed houses of locals. Although the photos of Rohingyas who were are holding kerosene containers, kerosene torches and various weapons were not posted; foreign media mentioned the Rakhine people who are protecting their properties by holding bamboo weapons and going on patrolling by motor bikes. If we did not have recorded photos, people across the world would believe their reports.
Despite the United States earlier expressed their concerns about Rohingyas, the US and EU later praised the handling of Myanmar government on the issue when they realized the real circumstance. After Bangladesh issued their stance on Rohingyas, foreign countries have understood the attitude of Myanmar towards Rohingyas. There was an instance that these so-called Rohingyas were not accepted and immediately driven out by Thailand.
Thomas Fuller of the New York Times wrote a news article from Thailand titled ‘Crisis in Myanmar Over Buddhist-Muslim Clash’. His news title triggered for the trend of religious riot. He also mentioned that ‘the Eleven Media Group, a publisher of one of the country’s leading weekly newspapers, displayed a string of hateful comments about Muslims from readers.’
His next article was also titled as ‘Internet Unshackled, Burmese Aim Venom at Ethnic Minority’.
The exiled media Irrawaddy where Myanmar journalists are working also criticized the Myanmar online community.
The article of Nyein Chan Aye who is expressed by the Irrawaddy website as IT expert living in Brisbane of Australia, criticized Myanmar society, “… In this circumstance, Myanmar society has been restricted in the limited boundary of ideology for many years as a frog in the well. Then they responded to the shocking violence with strong racial and religious believes. As their consciousness was not enough to control their emotion, the results were not good.”
Are we not worth freedom of expression?
Foreign media and Myanmar journalists working in foreign-based media have portrayed that Myanmar people should not be allowed to have freedom of expression.
Myanmar popular comedian Ko Zarganar who had been detained in prisons for many times due to his political campaigns and is now visiting foreign countries wrote in the Guardian Newspaper, “…I am concerned that the Burmese people are using their new freedom to express views which incite racial hatred….And we Burmese must use freedom of expression to promote peace, not conflict.”
Such kinds of portrayals are likely to be debatable.
The society who can use the Internet in Myanmar is a very few in amount. According to the statistics in 2009, the amount is only 0.02 percent of the population. Even if there is a sudden increase, it cannot be more than 2 percent or 3 percent. This percentage includes Myanmar users living abroad. Local users are very few especially in the regions and states. What I want to say is that the netizens are only acting in sympathy with the ethnic people. Only a selected few from this online society have used very harsh words towards people from different nationalities and religions. Even if there are some instigators, they are very few. When many generations of people are facing difficulties and hindrances, it is normal for them to lose their tempers when they have the chance, but they are only in words. There is no one who will actually go into action. They cannot do it anyway. Some foreign media have written as if they were true without considering the fact that the whole country does not know what were going on. Even if there were instigations, they would not happen.
The situation was not as serious as the one in the United States after 9/11 when there were suspicions and hatred against people from different religions. The comments of the minority were nothing compared to the treatments to the people from different religions. They were treated suspiciously and repeatedly at the check points at the airport and treated based on suspicious features. Even on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attack, the removing of strong comments on the Facebook page of the New York Times were seen. Even then, the comment “If 9/11 hadn’t happened then “2 million” Muslims wouldn’t of been killed” by Derek Cole is still there. This is happening in a well recognized democratic country.
Regarding the immigrant issue, it can be observed that how the United States is handling the illegal immigrants from Mexico. In Europe, there are over 5 million stateless people. It is questionable to the European nations and the governments that always talk about democracy that how they are treating the stateless people. Controversies are still there about the people who are denied to be recognized as their nationalities in Latvia and Estonia, as well as the stateless Romani people living across Europe, especially in Italy and why they are reluctant to acknowledge them.
Assuming that the Myanmar people are misusing the freedom of expression and are full of hatred based on a few comments of the online users is a big joke for the 60 million who have been oppressed for many years.
National races never ever think of hatred
There might be some incitements, but most of them are not filled with hatred. The ethnic people are also not filled with malice.
These cases did not base on the malice of the Rakhine people. If such kind of hatred were to exist, cities with 90 Rakhine people and 10 Bengalis would be burnt into ashes. If you look at the fact that the violent riots did not happen in most areas full of Rakhine people, it is obvious that there were no genocides like the Rohingyas claimed to the foreign media. The Rakhine nationals only took some counter-attacks when they could not stand anymore.
Not only the Rakhine people, but also other ethnic nationalities are not in the condition to feel hatred for they cannot even protect their own races. For 50 years without fully realizing the union, the ethnic nationalities have to live without any protections. They have to leave their own lands. They have to migrate into the mainland and other countries.
The ratio of the people has changed over the years. This is not only happening in the Rakhine State. This can also be seen in Kachin State and Shan State (North). There is the risk of becoming the 23rd province (or 34th territory) of a neighboring country. In Shan State, there are some areas without full sovereignty of the nation. Please come and show compassion for the ethnic nationalities in Kachin State and Shan State (North).
They had to surrender their lands to others. Then they themselves had to live as refugees in foreign countries. Mon and Kayin ethics are the convincing evidences for this problem. While some Kayin refugees are residing in Thailand, some Kayin, Chin and Mon ethnics are migrating to foreign countries. Our national brethrens have no time to create hatred among each other as they are losing their homes. The problems of Kayin refugee can be witnessed at Maela refugee camps in Thailand. They cannot enjoy the rights of citizenship. Myanmar is just stepping into the path of development. Therefore, we should concentrate on bringing our nationals abroad back home, rather than accepting foreign refugees who are fighting with local ethnics. It does not mean negligence of humanitarianism. Those who sympathize with Rohingyas should accommodate them in their countries.
Therefore, we want to invite Thomas Fuller of the New York Times, who is pouring the venom of racial hatred on Myanmar and its people, to witness the lives of Myanmar ethnics and to visit Rakhine State, if possible. Facebook and Internet users are not making incitements to racial hatred, but are preventing from extinction of national ethnics. Those who cannot ignore the problem of helpless people are participating in the issue. In fact, Rakhine people are not in a situation to create hatred.
National races who remain faithful to the land for thousands of year could not demand the loss of their rights over 50 years. However, illegal migrants are bursting out and some foreign sources are beseeching on behalf of them for their unreasonable rights by exaggerating the recent issue. Well! I have no idea what to say more.