Ethnic Alliance Rejects Rohingya

Members of Burma’s democratic movement blame recent ethnic violence in Rakhine state on immigration policies regarding the Rohingya.
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One of the Rohingyas who was pushed back to sea by Bangladesh authorities, June 18, 2012.
One of the Rohingyas who was pushed back to sea by Bangladesh authorities, June 18, 2012.
Saiful Huq Omi/Polaris.

A coalition of Burma’s pro-democratic ethnic minority political groups said Tuesday it does not recognize the Rohingya among the country’s nationalities, blaming recent deadly ethic violence in Rakhine state on immigration policies.

The National Democratic Front (NDF), a group of eight nationality parties allied with Burma’s opposition movement, issued a statement Tuesday reiterating a decision the group adopted in 2005 not to acknowledge the Rohingya as a fellow ethnic minority.

“‘Rohingya’ is not to be recognized as a nationality,” the NDF said, adding that it wanted its position on the Rohingyas “made known to the people at home and in foreign lands” in light of recent clashes in Rakhine state.

The violence between Rakhines, an officially recognized Buddhist nationality, and Rohingyas, a Muslim group considered outsiders from Bangladesh despite having lived in Burma for generations, have left some 60 people dead since early June, according to government statistics.

Some 800,000 Rohingyas live in Burma, where the government considers them illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and denies them citizenship, while Bangladesh says they have been living in Burma for centuries and should be counted as citizens there.

The United Nations considers them a stateless people and one of the world’s most persecuted minorities.

At least 2,000 Rohingyas have tried to flee since the June violence to neighboring Bangladesh, where some 300,000 Rohingya live in refugee camps, but many have had their boats turned back out to sea.

NDF Secretary Khun Oh told RFA in an interview that the organization had made the decision not to recognize the Rohingya after the issue was raised by its Arakan (Rakhine) Liberation Party representing members of the Rakhine group.

“Even before the current conflict, there has been frequent conflict between Rakhine and Bengalis,” he said, referring to the Rohingyas as people from Bangladesh.

“One of our member [groups], the Arakan Liberation Party, raised this issue some years ago, and we knew this kind of problem could occur one day.”

“We decided that we do not recognize the Rohingyas as one of our ethnic groups. That decision was made in 2005,” he told RFA in an interview.

Immigration policies

The NDF statement suggested the ethnic strife in Rakhine was rooted in insufficient control on Rohingya immigration from Burma’s neighbors.

“Consequently, there is always [the] entry of illegal immigrants into Arakan state,” it said, using another name for Rakhine state.

“From the incidents happening frequently in the Arakan [Rakhine] state, the NDF has learnt that more illegal immigrants enter, especially from Bangladesh.”

It did not address how Rohingyas already living in Burma should be treated under the law.

Khun Oh said that some Rohingyas could be granted Burmese citizenship if they meet appropriate qualifications, such as knowledge of a national language.

“Those who are already there, whether they came by the right [legal] means or not, and who meet qualifications for citizenship, should be granted it,” he said.

National Council for the Union of Burma

The National Council for the Union of Burma (NCUB), an alliance of pro-democratic groups that includes the National Democratic Front, issued a similar statement on Saturday blaming the strife in Rakhine state on Rohingya immigration.

“We may conclude that the reason is lack of proper measures to prevent the consequences arising from the Arakan [Rakhine] state having a common border with a country like Bangladesh, which has a dense population.”

It added that the clashes were sparked by the murder of a Rakhine woman, but that the violence had become “increasingly mutual” between ethnic Rakhines and Rohingyas.

It blamed inadequate enforcement on a lack of rule of law on the part of Burma’s government, and proposed stricter controls on immigration as a solution to future ethnic conflict.

“In addition, we would like to point out that it is vitally important to enact an immigration law systematically providing for the prevention of a recurrence of similar incidents in Arakan [Rakhine] state.”

Planned talks

Leaders from Burma and Bangladesh are expected to discuss the issue of Rohingya refugees and related unrest near their shared border next month.

The topic will be on the agenda when Burmese President Thein Sein travels to Bangladesh from July 15-17 to meet Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh's ambassador in Rangoon told the Agence France-Presse news agency Monday.

"It is expected the Myanmar [Burma] refugee issue will be discussed with more seriousness this time," he said.

"Bangladesh supports all actions [and] measures that are being taken by Myanmar [Burma] to restore normalcy in Rakhine state as early as possible."

Bangladesh says that its resources are already overly strained and has refused to accept the Rohingya despite appeals from the United Nations to grant them refugee status.

Opposition leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has said that "the most important lesson" from the Rakhine conflict is the country’s “need for rule of law,” which she added is also key to resolving the numerous armed ethnic conflicts in the country emerging from decades of harsh military rule.

Reported by Nyan Win Aung for RFA’s Burmese service. Translated by Khin May Zaw. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.

Comments (5)

Anonymous Reader

I think Rohingya should be allowed to stay in Burma as citizens. There is no reason to deport a race of people because some of them raped a Burmese women. Its a terrible crime. Let the ones that wants to get back into the country back in. I also think that Burma needs to really shut down the border because 160million in bangladash alot of people from china and india. We live in the center of very populous countries and burma is not a country of immigrants. Even if they did try to join east pakistan(bangladash) in the 50's and succeed from burma.

Jul 10, 2012 09:08 AM

Aung Aung

from Sittwe

In Myanmar,no body can implement democracy until government find and arrest Awakyunethas' leaders such as Dr.Aye Maung.How dare those Awakyunetha calling Our national mother as Kalama?

Jul 10, 2012 02:14 AM

Kyaw Oo

from Canada

Rohingya issue is human right issue, and lack of citizenship law in Burma. there is no reason not to accept rohingya people as citizens of Burma since they have been living in Burma for decades. Rohingya people may not be indigenous of Burma. when they were recognized as citizens, they should be granted all basic human rights equal to other Burmese citizens. Today, there are thousands of Karen, Shan, Karreni, Chin, Mon, Kachin, Wa, and Arakanese people are living in refugee camps without being organized their citizenship of Burma. What is the different between Rohingya and other ethnic indigenous people of Burma. they are on the same boat. the statement issued by NDF is not only politically correct, but also far from the principle of the Universal Declaration of Human rights. NDF leaders should rethink about the statement before it is released.

Jun 28, 2012 03:07 PM


from Boston,MA - USA

Burma is in transition to democratic society. Burmses need to think deeply.

Jun 28, 2012 08:49 AM


from Melbourne

Obviously Democracy in Burma obviously doesn't include the right for children to have statehood in the country of their birth. And the idea that anyone, especially Rohingya has been migrating TO Burma in the last 30 years is completely unsupportable, and frankly silly. A deep wound to the credibility of all the ethnic organizations included.

Jun 28, 2012 03:19 AM

saif ali khan

from rangoon

rohingyas are already citizens, only they want to claim as the indigenous people of Burma, demanding the Rakhine Buddhist kings were Muslims, which is ridiculous and rings of questionable plots.

Jul 05, 2012 07:28 PM

Johan Fernando

from Colombo

Why is it ridiceluse that the burma kings might have been Muslims?. My sri lankan people teached buddism to burmese people year 1400 . Its just 600 years ago. Prior to that allready muslims/hindu people lived in the lands of Indi-China . Such as cambodia, thailand , who all have alot of hindu temples such as ankor Wat. Buddism is pretty new to "East asian people" Indians have had it for 10 000 years ...back to the days of Iran and Afganistan Bangladesh pakistan was mainly buddists.

Jul 13, 2012 08:09 PM

Anonymous Reader

Dude you know that Buddhists pre date Islam right Buddhism is way older so no Burmese kings were never Muslim. Not recorded anyways but many held high posts in the military many foreigners.

Nov 28, 2013 07:19 PM

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