Tuesday, 18 May 2021


Prior to British occupation, Arakan was a peaceful and harmonious place. Its citizens were enjoyed peaceful coexistence. However, after the annexation of Arakan by British colonist in 1824, the divide and rule policy of British affected it. Gradually the friction between Rakhine and Rohingya became significant. After the 1962’s coup by general Nay Win, the racism, nationalism and discrimination against minorities rose at its peak. However, the worst ever oppression and persecution against Rohingya has been started in the hand of present military regime; arbitrary killing, forced labor, forced ration collection for army, raping, confiscation of land, forced relocation, denial of citizenship, restriction of movement, to name a few.  Apparently our people were forced to leave from our mother land to certain countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Thailand and Malaysia. 

Arrival of Rohingya to Malaysia

The systematic discrimination started against our people with the aid of ultra racist Rakhine (Bangali Mough) after 1962. General Nay Win and his only political party, Myanmar Socialist Program Party (MSPP) is the sole responsible for it. As a result, people migrated to foreign countries including Malaysia.  The major group abandoned Arakan in 1978 immediately before and after “Naga Min Operation”. Since 1990, Rohingya arrived to Malaysia.

Estimated population in Malaysia

According to 2002 data collection, the total population is about 12000.  Of them there are 1000 families with average of 5 persons per family. Among of them there are about 3000 children i.e. 3 kids per family.  The rest are single that is around 7000.

Status of Rohingya in Malaysia

In 1992, the Malaysian government issued temporary document called “Pass card”. Duration of the document was 6 months. No more pass cards were issued after one year.  Since then and up to 2002, people stays without any legal documents. Therefore, people went through various difficulties

The plights (1994-2002)

Being illegal and undocumented frequently arrested by authorities of Malaysia.  Then detainees were kept in lock up for up to one or two months. Later sent them to detention camp and there have to spent minimum 2 months and in some cases up to 6 months. Finally Malay immigration deported them to the Thailand border.  

Once a person was arrested he/she has to spend at least 6 months to enter again to Malaysia. If every thing was not gone smoothly it definitely would take 1 year just to enter Malaysia. How our life time is wasted for merely survival.

If the detainees were hand over to Thai immigration then they were really in a trouble. They were kept in IDC at least for one month. Then the Thai immigration will sent them to the border of Burma.  Some were arrested by Burmese officers and sentenced long terms imprisonment. Few stay in Thailand. Most of them again reenter to Malaysia.

And it was very costly and time consuming.  This is really a vicious circle. However it becomes a routine circle of Rohingya in their lives. 

In 2002

In May 2002, the government announced to go back all illegal immigrants to their respective countries. There issued an ultimatum that all illegal immigrants should leave Malaysia in two months time. The punishment was too harsh for those who caught after the dead line.

It was a tough time for us as our position is not the same as other immigrants. The Burmese government was not ready to accept us. We are not immigrant but victim of persecution, oppression of Burmese Military regime. We consider ourselves refugees rather than illegal immigrants. Apparently we approached to UNHCR Kuala Lumpur. Consequently UNHCR agreed to issue a letter called “Rohingya certification letter”. After few months UNHCR replaced it with temporary protection letters.

Temporary Protection Letter (TPL)

Temporary protection letters (TPL) is issued with the validity of 6 months. It is another barrier, especially for family members. Need to renew in every 6 month. Again, it was costly, long journey for the peoples leaving out skirt of KL, and also risky. It continues till 2005.

The Card

Up on insistent complaints the TPL were replaced with cards in late 2005 with the validity of three years.

UNHCR’s stands for Rohingyas

No application is accept for interview since late 2004. No resettlement for recognized refugees. This is only Rohingya not for others.

Employment problems: Why?

In Malaysia, to secure a job, one should have employment pass or work permit. This is the law of Malaysia. Obviously you should have passport to obtain it.  So, employers are reluctant to employ our people. Presently our people are surviving at hoc or par time basis. However, few peoples are manage to get regular work

It creates unwilling things: How?

For family members, the wages earned from the part time work is not sufficient.  On the other hand as I mentioned above one must have employment pass to obtain a permanent job. Therefore, unavoidably he/she has to buy a false passport.

Where get it?

People approach to syndicate. Buy false documents.  Thus, forgery and false document is still in   the hand of some individuals. It draws the negative attitude of government

Education of children

Unlike Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, there is no permission to enroll children at schools. Even in religious schools. They never ever received even moral education as well. The children are in a pitiful situation just passing their time in playing and loitering. When attain to juvenile age, some of them involved in petty crimes; pilfering. When they grown up they might involved in big crimes. That will further increase social problems. They will become a nuisance / disturbance for us and the host country. Without having basic education, what they will become? What is their future?

They do not know how the “Alif” looks like or “A” is facing down or up wards. Being Muslim and Practicing Islam, children should know at least basic Islamic teaching (Fardu Ain), and reciting Al-Qur’an. It is a big lost for us. The future belongs to in the hand of children. What can we expect from such kind of generation?

With that noble intention, occasionally, some of our responsible brothers open schools. But after 6 month or 1 year later, it has to be closed. The reasons behind that is financial hindrance. In My opinion, on top of this, poor administration, lack of sincerity and unity are partly responsible.

As far as I know, at present there are 4 Maktabs operating by our own. Two of them are in Kuala Lumpur (one in Klang and the other in Ampang). In Kota Tinggi, Johor Baru and Perai, Pinang has each respectively.

How about the arrest?

Compare to the past, there is minimum arrest. Enforcement authorities escape our people.

However, some officers seem not convinced with the document of UNHCR.

IMM 13

In Oct 2005, the government of Malaysia announced in local news papers to issue IMM 13 to Rohingya. It is a kind of temporary stay pass. The fee is RM 90.00 per year. With that one could work freely work anywhere and the children can attend schools. And can seek treatment at hospital with local rate. Decision is clear and already approved by minister. However, still pending to issue because of our own problems. People are expecting to be issued very soon. Speculation is ripe that it will be issued starting from 1st August 2006


In conclusion we can infer that we are in need of more social scientists rather than medical doctors, chemists or physicists.  If I point out exactly we are lack of qualified, sincere, and capable leader who can tackle our problems and can put us in the right tract. And also we need to overhaul the whole system.

This paper was submitted at First Rohingya Consultation: Working together to find a solution, on 2-3 August 2006, Sigha Dum Conference Room, Faculty of Political science, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand, Organized by Centre for Social Development, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University, In cooperation with the National Reconciliation Programme (NRP).