Rakhine Buddhists Roll Out Campaign Against Myanmar Government’s Wording For 'Rohingya'

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Rohingya Muslim men and boys arrive for Friday prayers at a camp in Sittwe, western Myanmar's Rakhine state, June 10, 2016.
Rohingya Muslim men and boys arrive for Friday prayers at a camp in Sittwe, western Myanmar's Rakhine state, June 10, 2016.

Rakhine Buddhists in the town of Sittwe in western Myanmar’s restive Rakhine state submitted an open letter to the country’s leaders on Friday saying they will not accept terms other than “Bengali” to refer to the members of the minority Muslim community who live there.

Hundreds of ethnic Rakhine residents and Buddhist monks signed the letter to State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, President Htin Kyaw, and military commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing, said Aung Htay, a local resident who signed the document.

The speakers of the upper and lower house of parliament, the heads of several ministries, and the leaders of the Rakhine state government also received the letter.

The government issued an order last month directing state-owned media to use the phrase “Muslim community in Rakhine state” to refer to the roughly 1.1 million Muslims who live there—also known as Rohingya—during a visit by Yanghee Lee, the U.N.’s special envoy on the situation of human rights in Myanmar.

Lee ended her 12-day mission to Myanmar on Friday.

The country’s majority Buddhists refuse to use the term Rohingya to refer to members of the group, whom they consider to be “Bengalis,” illegal migrants from neighboring Bangladesh, though many have lived in Myanmar for generations. But the government now also forbids the use of the term “Bengalis.”

“The use of the phrase “Muslim community in Rakhine state” means there are two groups—Buddhists and Muslims—who live [here],” Aung Htay told RFA’s Myanmar Service.

“It seems as though the name 'Rakhine ethnic' will soon disappear,” he said. “We sent the letter because we want the president and Union government ministers to study and learn about the geography and history of Rakhine state.”

The letter is part of a larger campaign in Sittwe in which ethnic Rakhine Buddists have posted notices on the walls of people’s homes, indicating that they do not accept the phrase “Muslim community in Rakhine state,” he said.

The statements read “Rakhine is Rakhine, Bengali is Bengali.”

The nationalists are planning to carry out the same campaign in 17 other townships in Rakhine on Sunday, he said.

Confined to camps

Some 140,000 Rohingya Muslims were displaced after violence erupted four years ago between them and Rakhine Buddhists, leaving more than 200 dead and tens of thousands homeless. The Rohingya, who bore the brunt of the attacks, were later forced to live in refugee camps.

About 120,000 Rohingya currently remain in the camps, while thousands of others have fled persecution in the Buddhist-dominated country on rickety boats to other Southeast Asian countries in recent years.

The government does not consider the Rohingya to be full citizens of Myanmar and denies them basic rights, freedom of movement, and access to social services and education.

After the government issued its written order on June 16 mandating the use of “Muslim community in Rakhine state,” the Arakan National Party (ANP)—the political party that represents the interests of the Buddhist people in Rakhine state—released a statement saying it would continue to use “Bengalis” in defiance.

In May, the Myanmar government advised the United States and other embassies to avoid using the divisive term “Rohingya.”

Reported by Min Thein Aung for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

Comments (6)


from Kolkata

These are illegal immigrants who violently try to impose their religious laws, whole Muslim world keeps dumb whenever Islamic terrorist does what's it does best on the contrary whenever they themselves get lash of karma they moan

Jan 14, 2017 09:44 AM


from Freiburg

Myanmar. Bankrupty of Buddhism
How the anti-Islamic lynch mobs of Myanmar destroyed a national minority of more than 1 Million People: They did not kill all of them.
Some hundred thousends live like animals in camps.Some hundred thousends are refugees.
They call themselves Rohingya and they are destroyed with an anti-Islamic-fear-mongering and with callousness. This hate has no foundation.
It is an attitude of reckless colonialism. Supported by monks of Myanmar. In the history of Buddhism this has a name. We call it the destruction of Buddhism from inside.
The ennemies of Buddhism are Buddhist monks. I am very sorry for this.
What a shame. What a shame. What a shame.

Aug 10, 2016 09:30 AM


from DC

Bangladesh Population = 156.6 million
Myanmar Population = 53.26 million

The population is overflowing out of Bangladesh.

Jul 13, 2016 07:43 PM

Anonymous Reader

People should consider themselves Burmese first because you all live a country called Myanmar(Burma). It's not like one group lives in a Swine country and another in Swan country. You people are all citizens of Myanmar, all monks and muslims born and live there for generations. You people should be united as one, not divided by religions, ethnics or beliefs.

Jul 02, 2016 12:33 PM


from New York

First of all I would like to request RFA ,Don't plot like over amillion Rohingya vs 53 millions Buddhist.It is over a million Rakhine vs over a million Rohingya .Rakhine State is separated Geography.World media is exagerrating as 53 million vs 1 .Please mention clearly.Aung San Suu Kyi is correct .Both sides suffered.Don't exagerrate.!!

Jul 02, 2016 03:55 AM

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