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‘Rohingya’ Ethnic Identity in Jeopardy as Population Census Around the Corner

By M.S. Anwar (based on the reports by MYARF)


Saturday, 29th March 2014

Foreign aid workers-arrive in Yangon's airport after flying in from Sittwe where mobs have been rampaging through streets (Photograph Gemunu Amarasinghe- AP)
Foreign aid workers-arrive in Yangon’s airport after flying in from Sittwe where mobs have been rampaging through streets (Photograph Gemunu Amarasinghe- AP)

Nationwide Population Census in Myanmar is all set to take place tomorrow (i.e. on 30th March 2014). However, the ethnic identity of ‘Rohingya’ people is still in jeopardy. The census is supposed to take place simultaneously all over Myanmar starting on tomorrow morning. But it seems that Rakhine (Magh) authority in Arakan state is all out to force them accept an unrelated term ‘Bengali’ as their ethnic identity. It will enable Rakhine (Magh) extremists, in longer term, to legally brand an image ‘illegal intruders’ and to make their blantant accusations against ‘Rohingya’ seem true.

In this regard, the officials of Maungdaw District, the majority Rohingya area (Maungdaw and Buthidaung), have plotted to put Rohingya villages in the area into two categories: the census in the first category of the villages will be carried out first and that in the second category of villages will be followed subsequently. Thus, there is no doubt that the plan by the Maungdaw District officials goes against the standard (said to be on par with international norm) set by the Central Government of Myanmar. An ill-motive behind it could be to enable them (the authority) to force ‘Rohingya’ accept the term ‘Bengali’ at the Gun Points of the Security Force (Hlun Hteins). It has also been learnt that the authority will not provide any interpreters for non-Burmese speaking Rohingyas rendering them unable to provide all their necessary datae and information.

On 27th March 2014, officials of Maungdaw Township Administration summoned the village of administrators of Baggona, Padin (Kunkara Fara) and Pantaw Pyin (Lal Boinna) of southern Maungdaw to the township administration office. The township administration told Rohingya village administrators that they would combine these three villagers and carry out census in Pantaw Pyin first and in other two will be done subsequently. Another similar group of the villages is Italia (Hettal-Lia Fara), Myo Thu Gyi (Hain-Daa Fara) and Nyaung Chaung (Khadir Bil). Though all the villages in Maungdaw District have been systematically grouped according to the plan put forward by Maungdaw District Administrator, a Rakhine extremists, not all of them has been known yet.

A day earlier (i.e on 26th March 2014), head of the immigration department Rathedaung township, head of the (Rathedaung) township administration and the Police head of the township summoned some Rohingya seniors of the village of Chin Khali (Shil Khali) such as U Ayub, U Omar Khazi and Mohammed Nabi to the residential house of the village administrator, U Myint Hlaing (a Rakhine). There, the said officials threatened the Rohingya seniors “you won’t be spared alive in this country if you claim ‘Rohingya’ during the forthcoming population census.” Similar warnings have been issued and threats posed against Rohingyas in Pauktaw, Sittwe (Akyab), Minbya, Mrauk-U (Patthar Killa), Kyauknimaw and all over Arakan.

Besides, the authority is said to have hired only their stooges, not the educated people that can actually help in the population census.

Furthermore, Maungdaw Township Administrator ordered Rohingya village administrators that they (Rohingyas) must take the responsibilities of food, transportations and accomodation of the people that would be carrying out the census although the central government of Myanmar and UNFPA have long announced that the government would bear the costs of the people. Therefore, the administrator of the village of Kanpu, southern Maungdaw, is raising money by charging Kyat 3,000 per family. However, in some villages, administrators are raising money only from the families of wealthy background.

WFP's Ration Store Room Looted and Vandalize by Marauding Rakhine (Magh) Mobs (Photo: FB)
WFP’s Ration Store Room Looted and Vandalize by Marauding Rakhine (Magh) Mobs (Photo: FB)

On the other hand, International Humanitarian Organizations and International Observers were forced out of the Arakan by the violent and marauding Rakhines (Maghs) on Thursday. There is a high possibility that the government has sponsored this violence so as to get rid of international observers during the population census. Absence of International Observers will enable them to do all the dirty plays during the census period. In Myanmar, it is still difficult for people to even breathe without the consent of the regime, let alone carrying out violence against INGOs on such a large scale.

Having said , we are anxious and extremely concerned of any bad to worst moments that Rohingyas will be made to face in the coming days.