Press "Enter" to skip to content

Myanmar’s Approach to Brand Rohingyas as Bengali Immigrants Turn Brutal

By MYARF, Rohingya Eye & MFQ

Saturday, August 23, 2014 ׀ Maungdaw, Arakan State

The Myanmar Government has been exploiting all possible means to register Rohingya people under Illegal Bengali Classification; while the Myanmar higher authority falsely claims that the government is taking steps upon the request by the people themselves, according to the sources.

A group of Border Guard Police and Immigration Together in Oo Kye Kyar Village,northern Maungdaw, attempting to forcibly classify Rohingyas as Illegal Bengalis.
A group of Border Guard Police and Immigration Together in Oo Kye Kyar Village,northern Maungdaw, attempting to forcibly classify Rohingyas as Illegal Bengalis.

The process of forced branding of Rohingya as Bengali Immigrants (named Operation Whale) began simultaneously with the nationwide population census on March 30. The Rohingyas have widely rejected the government’s approach since they view that this move by the government is to give them an image of illegal immigrants on their own land.

The government has started to take the soft approaches to the most brutal and inconsiderate ones against Rohingyas such as coaxing, threats, persecutions, bans on movements and access to their livelihoods, refusing to issue marriage permission and so on and so forth as mechanisms to execute its plans.

“Authority has banned Rohingya people from going out to the sea with their fishing boats since July 12 for refusing to be registered as Illegal Bengalis. Therefore, the Rohingya fishermen whose daily livelihoods depend on fishing in the sea are facing extreme hardships.

However, the authority allowed the fishing boats of the few people that they had successfully made to accept the Bengali classification. For example, there are 17 fishing boats at Maung Ni hamlet of *Myoma Kayintan village. Of them, only the boat belongs to U Laal Meah who was registered as Bengali has been allowed to set off for fishing.  

On August 17, Officials from the head quarter and the Regional Commandment Area 6 of Border Guard Police (BGP) arrived at the village of Kyauk Pandu in southern Maungdaw and met a government collaborator named U Rafique (son of) U Habibur Rahman. Then, the officials said “if anybody wants to go for fishing, get registered as Bengali at U Rafique’s and get the permission for fishing” said a Rohingya in Maungdaw requesting to withhold his identity.

“Even though Rohingya people have been banned from going to the sea for fishing and other livelihoods, they are steadfast and still maintaining their stand for their legitimate claim of the ethnic identity ‘Rohingya.’ They don’t want to get registered as Bengali which is their appropriate ethnic name” he added.

On the other hand, Border Guard Police in *Oo Kye Kyar village in northern Maungdaw arrested as many as 47 Rohingya women and them detained in their station for refusing to be registered as Illegal Bengalis.

“The women were arrested as no men were in the households. They were tortured and harassed. Finally, the BGP forced them to accept the brand of illegal Bengalis at their gun-points” said a villager that witnessed the cruel approaches of the BGP.

Similarly, on August 14, a group of Immigration and Border Guard Police (BGP) arrived at the village of *Ngan Chaung village in northern Maungdaw in order to register its villagers as illegal Bengalis.

“However, the villagers refused to participate in the sham population survey. Since the village administrator, U Win Htay, was trying to force the villagers to do as the government wanted, many Rohingya men went into hiding.

Thus, the village administrator started to threaten the villagers that he would not issue travel permit, marriage permission, guest-stay permit and eventually report to the higher authority that they fled Myanmar for Bangladesh and denounce them to be non-Myanmar Residents. He made this announcement in the whole village.

Next morning around 8:00AM, the Immigration and BGP arrived again at the village. But the administrator U Win Htay phoned the BGP Office at Commandment Region 5 and called for more BGP Forces. After a while two truckloads of BGP Force arrived and joined the group who had already been in the village. Then, they raided house by house and forced Rohingya household members to get registered as Illegal Bengalis at their gun-points even in absence of the household heads’” said Khan (not the real name), in a nearby village

“In this way, the authority succeeded to register two-third of the villagers under Bengali category. One-third of the villagers are still steadfast. Therefore, the villagers are being threatened and harassed by U Win Htay in many ways.

The villagers feel that the reason why the village administrator is behaving so harsh and trying to force the them to accept the Bengali ethnic category to please his master and boss, Colonel Tin Ko Ko, the chief commander of Border Guard Police Maungdaw” he continued.

If on one hand, they use brutal approaches to turn Rohingyas into Bengalis, sometimes, reports have been that the government soft-approaches with sugar-coating of their words by giving false promises. But the words by the government officials contradict themselves as reported below.

“Authority summoned administrators of six quarters in the downtown of Maungdaw and four villages surrounding the downtown such as *Myoma Kayintan, *Shwe Zar, *Myo Oo and *Myo Thu Gyi and other community elders for a meeting at the Basic Primary School in Quarter 4 on August 18. In the meeting, Maungdaw District Immigration Chief said “this is just a population survey. It has nothing to do with ethnicity or religion. You are also citizens of Myanmar.

We don’t have any intention to oust none of you, you Bengali ethnic people or Rakhine ethnic people, from this country. You are going to live in this country. Therefore, you all must be scrutinized and registered as Bengali” said an attendee on the condition of anonymity.

“However, if you fail to participate and get scrutinized, you will be prosecuted for causing hindrances to the state process. Besides, we will give surprise raids to your homes at night time and force you to be registered as Bengalis.” He also pressured and threatened Rohingya attendees using other means as well” he continued.

On August 14, Rakhine State Chief Minister Maj-Gen Maung Maung Ohn held a meeting at Maungdaw District Administration Office with U Aung Myo Min, a Rohingya MP in Rakhine State Parliament, the Administrators of Rohingya villages and other community elders.

In the meeting, the chief minister threatened “this is a population scrutiny like it was during the era of *Nasaka. Therefore, you Bengalis must be scrutinized. Else, you will lose out many basic human rights.”

Upon that, U Aung Myo Min said “people do not like to get scrutinized because they are being registered as Bengali, not as Rohingya.” To which the chief minister responded “we have classified you as Bengalis. Therefore, we will register you only as Bengalis.”

Afterwards, U Kyaw Min, a local of Quarter 5 of Maungdaw, questioned the chief minister “my forefathers were Rakhines. Hence, I am a Rakhine by ethnicity but a Muslim by creed. In such situation, how can I accept ‘Bengali’ as my ethnicity just because I follow the religion of Islam?”

The chief minister vehemently replied “do you want citizenship or your ethnicity?” the meeting ended afterwards, according to a reliable source.

Nevertheless, speaking to BBC Burmese Program on Thusrday night, U Maung Maung Than, the Director of Immigration and National Registration Department, lied that the Myammar Government is just fulfilling requests by the Muslims in Arakan State meaning the officials are not using brutal force in registering Rohingyas as Bengali immigrants.

He, in the interview, said “we only survey the population is Muslim majority area in Rakhine state fulfilling their request. We survey when they request us to survey their population willingly claiming that they are Bengalis.

We started our process in Myebon Township because they participated in the census during March and April as Bengalis. So far, we have scrutinized 2094 people above eighteen in Myebon Township. Of them, we hope 346 people have chances to qualify as citizens.

Besides, to qualify as Citizens, they must be able to speak a national language. Otherwise, they won’t qualify.

In some places, they claim an ethnic name that we have not recognized. So, we didn’t do anything in those areas. We check their Household Registration Paper, National Registration Card if they have and Temporary Registration Cards. If they have these documents, they can be considered to be residents of Myanmar.”

Hence, it is clear from the points mentioned regarding the population scrutiny in Myebon Township that the Myanmar government does not have intentions to provide citizenships to all Rohingyas no matter under what ethnic identity they are registered. They will provide citizenships to small portions of Rohingyas and accuse the majority of being illegal immigrants. Besides, there are many contradicting points in the interview by the immigration director.

About some villages mentioned in the reports:

*Myoma Kayintan= called Shidda Fara in Rohingya Language

*Oo Kye Kyar= called Boora Shidda Fara in Rohingya Language

*Ngan Chaung= called Naing Chong in Rohingya Language

*Shwe Zar= called Shujah Fara in Rohingya Language. The village is said to have established in 16th Century by Asylum-Seeking Indian Price, Shah Shujah.

*Myo Oo= called Hettalya Fara in Rohingya Language and earlier called Italia

*Myo Thu Gyi= called Hainda Fara in Rohingya Language. It is said to have been in existence since the invasion of Arakan by Burman King, Bodaw Maung Waing, in 17th Century.

To send reports and feedbacks, please email: