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Rash Moves by Myanmar Authority to Brand Rohingya as Illegal Bengali

By MYARF, Rohingya Eye & M.S. Anwar

Wednesday, August 13, 2014 ׀ Maungdaw, Arakan State

Myanmar’s authority has been taking rash and brutal measures to make the Operation Whale against Rohingya people successful, while the international community turns a blind eye to the vulnerable plight of the Rohingya, as Rohingyas say.


The Operation Whale under many covers such as ‘Surprise Population Survey, Population Census or others’ is said to be an operation by the Myanmar Government to classify the Rohingyas as ‘Illegal Bengali Immigrants’ against their wishes.

Therefore, the government has been notorious of taking many brutal measures against the people such as threats and persecutions, tortures, travel bans and bans on their access to livelihoods etc since the process started simultaneously with the nationwide population census on March 30. Rohingyas view that this move by the government is to give them an image of illegal immigrants on their own land.

It has been learnt that on August 10, a joint team of immigration and *MakaPha arrived at the village of Myoma Kayintan also known as Shidda Fara under the pretext of surveying Rohingya population in the village.

“I saw them arriving at Myoma Kayintan. The villagers asked the team why they would want to do the survey and under which title their ethnicity would be registered.

The team replied ‘because the government wants to issue a sort of document of recognition to you. If you get that recognition, you may have some facilities for education and healthcare. We are doing that in Myebon Township as well. BUT we will have to register you only ‘Bengali.’ And this is an order by the President.’

Upon that, a villager replied ‘we are an indigenous people of this land. We were able to use our ethnic identity prior to 1989. We don’t think we, as an indigenous people, need to get registered with ‘Bengali,’ an ethnic title which is inappropriate to us and not ours. It is not according to the current laws of Myanmar either.’

Then, the immigration team replied ‘we don’t know anything else. We are just doing it because we are ordered by the central government. If you want to be registered with Bengali title, call us at any time.’ And after that, they left” said a Rohingya-passer that witnessed the incident.

On the other hand, Myanmar’s Border Guard Police (BGP) of Commandment Area 7 held a meeting with administrators of 21 Rohingya villages and two Rohingya community elders from each of the said villages at Alay Than Kyaw (also known as Haishshu Rata) in southern Maungdaw around 11:30AM last Sunday. Also present in the meeting were:

1-     Officials from Maungdaw District Administration

2-     Military Officials

3-     Immigration

4-     U Aung Myo Min @U Jahanghir, a Rakhine State Parliament Rohingya MP representing Maungdaw Constituency

5-     Government’s collaborators such as Buthidaung Market Licensee Rafiq and Mr. Aman Ullah from Buthidaung and Dr. Zahir and Majiullah from Maungdaw

6-     Some distinguished and respected Rohingya elders such as Dr. Kamal, Dr. Najumuddin, ex-advocate Amanullah and others

“In the meeting, U Aung Myo Min coming under the pressure of the authority said to the Rohingya people attending the meeting ‘you can take part in the current population survey. We are urging you as per the government’s instructions. You should not abandon an opportunity that has come in your way.’

Hearing this, people have started to show their frustrations on their faces. However, U Aung Myo Min continued ‘there will be no problems if you take part in it. It has nothing to do with your ethnicity.’

The Buthidaung Market Licensee, U Rafiq, added ‘we have already taken part. You can also do it as you wish’ in order to please his masters or the government officials.’

Some similar words were said by the distinguished and respected Rohingya scholars. However, the people in the meeting saw some clear signs of displeasures on their faces while they were asking the people to take part in the survey. They are said to have earlier been summoned by Maungdaw Township Administration to its office and forced to sign an agreement to urge the Rohingya people to take part in the so-called population survey” said an attendee declining to be identified.

The Commander of the BGP of the said Region 7 has banned Rohingya people from setting off to the sea for fishing since August 1. According to him, the ban would be effective until and unless Rohingyas agreed to be registered as Illegal Bengali Immigrants. Since then, no poor Rohingya people have been able to go for fishing in the sea.

Besides, there are seventeen BGP Checkpoints on the highway running from the downtown of Maungdaw to the southern Maungdaw. Reports have been that the Police at each checkpoint extort Kyat 500 to Kyat 2,000 from every motor-vehicle carrying Rohingya passengers.

The police extort Kyat 500 to Kyat 1,000 from Rohingya passers-by if they are found without temporary registration cards issued to them. The police also harass Rohingya passers-by. “We will allow you to go through the checkpoint only when you call yourselves as Bengali” said a victim of the harassment.

About *MakaPha- it can loosely be translated into English as Anti-Illegal Immigrants Force and was formed especially to target Rohingyas.

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