The speech of Nurul Islam, President of the ARNO in Front the Burmese Embassy in London on “ the Rohingya Global day of action”
On 15 September 2011
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen,
First of all I thank all of you for your time, for coming and encouraging us. I also thank those who work hard to hold this demonstration and make it a grand success.
As you are aware, this is a part of the global protest called by the Rohingya communities across the world today against the anti-Rohingya statements made by USDP ministers in the parliament.
On 29th August and 1st September 2011, some Rohingya MPs, (they all belong to USDP) asked in the parliament to redress the issues and problems being faced by the Muslim Rohingyas -- such as restrictions on their freedom of movement, marriage and education. Instead of remedying such serious situation of grave human rights violations, the concerned ministers of Thein Sein regime foolishly threatened that such restrictions were necessary by accusing the Rohingya population as Bangladeshis/illegal immigrants/non-nationals. One of such irresponsible and bad-mannered ministers was former police chief U Khin Yi, the Minister of Immigration and Population.
Their statements are blatant lies, racist disdain and Muslim phobia of the new civilianized military regime, which has not the least sense of human rights, no intention to make any political and democratic reform in Burma. Above all, this concocted allegation affirms its systematic policy to annihilate the remaining Rohingya population from their ancestral homeland of Arakan. For this we strongly condemn Thein Sein Government. The following are rebuttals:
Who are Rohingyas/ Are they aliens?
(1) Rohingya are a people inhabiting Arakan from time immemorial. They have developed in Arakan from peoples of different ethnical backgrounds over the many centuries. Their Muslim settlements in Arakan dated back to early 8th century. Their arrivals and settlements in Arakan predated the arrivals and settlements of many other peoples in Arakan and Burma.
(2) They are a people having a long supporting history, separate culture, civilization, language and literature, historically settled territory and reason able size of population and area in Arakan – they consider themselves distinct from other sector of society.
(3) History testifies that the ancient people in Arakan were Indians similar to the people of Bengal that is Bengalis. This affirms that the Rohingyas are aborigines of Arakan.
Their Contributions in Arakan/Burma
(4) Muslims were king makers in independent Arakan, nay, from 1430 to 1531, for more than one hundred years, they virtually ruled Arakan. This fact was confirmed by many foreign and indigenous historians, including the then Chairman of the Burma Historical Research Society Col. Ba Shin. The heyday of Arakan began with the influence and spread of Muslim civilization in Arakan. Coins and medallions were issued inscribing Kalema (the profession of faith in Islam) in Arabic script. Muslim etiquettes and manners were practiced in the court of Arakan, the Buddhist kings adopted the Muslim titles and introduced Muslim system of governance copying the imperial courts of Delhi and Gaur, established Muslim Quazi courts and literary activities, adopted Bengali and Persian as court and official languages. These were evidences of Muslim rule in Arakan.
(5) Thus the Rohingyas were a settled and active community before the Burmese occupation of Arakan in 1784 A.D. They have had well defined territory in North Arakan before British colonization. They were the backbones of the Arakan’s economy and have had developed its agriculture. They have had paid remarkable contribution almost in all fields.
Rohingya’s legal position in Arakan/Burma
(6) The Rohingyas have historical and spiritual attachments and natural allegiance to Arakan/Burma. Under article 3 of the Nu-Attlee Treaty of 17 October 1947, and under Section 11(i) (ii)(iii) of the Burma Constitution of 1947, effected on 4 January 1948, the Rohingyas are citizens of Burma. On top of that, by all legal standards, the Rohingyas are not only natural citizens of Burma but also one of the many indigenous peoples of Arakan, therefore, to Burma.
The regime and critics reject the existence of Rohingya in Arakan. They say that the word Rohingya is recently coined. Is their claim true?
(7) The word Rohingya derives from Rohang, an old name of Arakan. The Scottish traveller Francis Buchannan affirmed that Muslim population of Arakan was called Rohingya, and that he met Rohingya in Ava in 1795. “Myanmar Swezon Kyan” Vol.9, page 89/90 mentions that 75% of the population in Mayu Frontier is Rohingya. These reject the claims that there is no Rohingya in Burma. In addition, the military regime affirmed in its official book Sasana Ronwa Htunzepho published in 1997, “Islam spread and deeply rooted in Arakan since 8th century from where it further spread into interior Burma”.
(8) Let us see what the previous Burmese government had announced. The first President of Burma Sao Shwe Theik stated: “Muslims of Arakan certainly belong to one of the indigenous races of Burma….In fact, there is no pure indigenous race in Burma, if they do not belong to indigenous races of Burma, we also cannot be taken as indigenous races of Burma”.
(9) Recognizing Rohingya as an indigenous ethnic group, the previous Burmese parliamentary government (1948-1962) stated, “the Rohingya is as the same par in the status of nationality with Kachin, Kayah, Karen, Mon, Rakhine and Shan”. As such, Rohingyas participated as State Guests in the Union Day Celebration held in Rangoon on 12 February every year. Rohingya language was also relayed twice a week from the official Burma Broadcasting Service (BBS) Rangoon, in its ‘Indigenous Races’ Broadcasting Programme’ from 15 May 1961 to 30 October 1965. The Rangoon University Rohingya Students Association was one of the ethnic student associations that functioned from 1959 to 1961 under the registration numbers 113/99 December 1959 and 7/60 September 1960 respectively.
(10) In its “Position Paper on Persecution of Muslims in Arakan State” dated September 24, 1992, submitted to the United Nations, the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB) affirmed that Muslim Rohingyas have lived in Arakan for centuries. They are Burmese Citizens. They have the same rights and privileges as other citizens of Burma regardless of their ethnic beliefs or ethnic background.
Exercise of the right to vote and right to be elected:
(11) Being one of the indigenous communities of Burma, the Rohingya exercised the right to vote and to be elected in all national elections held during the later colonial period (1935-1948), democratic period (1948-1962), Ne Win’s Socialist Programme Party (BSPP) period (1974-1988) and the last multi-party general elections of 1990 and 2010 held by the military SLORC and SPDC. They even were allowed to take part in the SPDC held referendum in 2008 for the adoption of country’s constitution. Their representatives were appointed as cabinet ministers and parliamentary secretaries.
The regime accuses the Rohingyas of aliens for having affinity with the people of Bangladesh. Is it logic?
(12) Burma is an ethnically diverse country. All ethnic peoples living along all the Burma borders have common religion, culture, appearance and language with the peoples living in the adjacent countries. For examples, Kachins in Yunnan (China) and India, Chins in India and Bangladesh Hill Tracts, Rakhine/Mrama in Bangladesh, Mon, Karen, and Shans in Thailand and Laos, etc. As such, it is not unnatural that Rohingya have common religion, culture, appearance and language with the adjacent people of Bangladesh, with whom they have centuries-old relations. Despite this why the USDP minister U Khin Yi was critical of only ethnic Rohingyas for having affinity with the people of Chittagong, which was for centuries under the rule of Arakan. This is nothing but sheer racism and racial discrimination and religious bigotry.
Crime against humanity against Rohingya people:
(13) Despite their glaring historicity, despite being able to vote they are now declared non-nationals and are denied “basic human freedom”, the freedom of movement, the right get married and found family and the right to education. They are not tolerated for their South Asian appearance, ethnicity and religion. As a result groups such as Refugees International describe them as “one of the most persecuted in the world”. MSF lists them as one of the ten world populations in danger of extinction. Many NGOs record them as one of the world’s most voiceless and underrepresented peoples.
(14) The statements of the USDP ministers are a threat to national and international peace and security. About 1.5 million Rohingyas who have had escaped persecution in Burma are already in diasporas. International community and UNHCR have confirmed that there is a protracted emergency in Bangladesh as result of the continued influx of Rohingya refugees from Burma. The international community has reacted that this anti-Rohingya propaganda is a ‘massive mistruth’ and is symptomatic of “systematic racism” of the Thein Sein regime. It reflects that the regime will accelerate exterminating the remaining Rohingya population from Arakan.
We therefore request the UK government, international community, the UN, EU, ASEAN, OIC, human rights and humanitarian organisations and NGOs to protect the Rohingya people and to help them regain their rights and freedom in Burma. Meanwhile we demand that USDP government ceases its ongoing human rights violations against the Rohingyas and all peoples of the country and to restore immediately the citizenship rights and ethnic rights of the Rohingya people in Arakan/Burma.
Nyrul Islam, President, ARNO, U.K,