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The What And The Why Of The Rohingya

This guide is intended as context for the opinion piece below on Aung San Suu Kyi.

“Rohingya” is the term the ethnic minority group call themselves.

Religion. Majority are Muslim.

Location. Rakhine state which is at least 80% Rohingya.  Borders Bangladesh.

Population. Inside Burma– approx. 750,000.

IDPs –‘Internally Displaced’. Estimated at 140,000.

Outside Burma -approx. 1 million. Up to 400,000 live in Saudi Arabia where they had been offered ‘safe haven’ however many are now under pressure to leave. 300,000 are in Bangladesh, 200,000 in Pakistan, 100,000 in Thailand, and 40,000 in Malaysia.

Language. Rohingyan.

History. There appears to have been a small Muslim minority in Rakhine since the 15thc with growing numbers of people from Bengal living there since 1826 following the first Anglo-Burmese War.

Legal Status. Illegal immigrants.

Restrictions.  No citizenship. Unable to work, marry, or travel without government documentation. Limited by law to no more than 2 children.

Current crisis. Sparked by 2012 riots between Buddhists and Rohingya which left hundreds dead. The ongoing repression has led to the exodus which worsened after Malaysia, and Thailand began to refuse to accept more refugees saying it would only encourage an exodus.



6 Comments on "The What And The Why Of The Rohingya"

  1. Harriet Timms | 18th May 2015 at 10:59 am | Reply

    The plight of these people is appalling. Cast adrift, literally and metaphorically. And I thought Buddhism was supposed to be characterised by its awareness and kindness. Seeing the news reports of these and other displaced peoples, such as the Yazidis, you realise that every first world problem we have is largely insignificant.

  2. Hello Harriet, well, Christianity and Islam can also be characterised by kindness if they are interpreted that way. I agree our view of Buddhism views it like that, but then again Cambodia is Buddhist and still suffered Year Zero. it appears in Burma ethnicity trumps religion at the moment.

  3. A terrible and tragic situation. Perhaps these poor people should adopt Palestinian ethnicity? Then the entire world would be up in arms on their behalf and protesting loudly in the streets. The BBC would devote web pages to them, and the BDS would be lobbying governments, universities, and professional bodies to act against Burma, Malaysia, or anyone else who refused to help or accept them. Or maybe not.

    • Stacey McGill | 19th May 2015 at 6:47 pm | Reply

      Aren’t those nasty, evil, Colonialist. Imperialist, Zionist pigs responsible for enough troubles in the world at the moment. Now you want to add Burma’s problems to the list of things they have caused….for shame!!

  4. Enough with the irony already…

  5. Although the first mention of ‘Rohyngya’ – as a small minority in Arakan State – was by Francis Buchanan-Hamilton around 1800, the majority were those encouraged by the British colonial powers to immigrate from British India, after the Anglo-Burman War.

    This was done without any reference to the Arakanese inhabitants, and against their continuous objections. So the Rakhine felt – and feel – that these ‘new Rohyngyas’ are a colonial imposition. Just as, by the way, the Fijians regard the Fijian Indians as an unwanted colonial imposition. Rakhine in many villages now feel they are being ‘pushed aside’ by the growing Rohyngya numbers, and that Islam is going to be imposed upon them.

    Small wonder then at the resentment.

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