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Imprisonment Just For Being Rohingya Muslims

By Ko Naing (Technological University) 
RB Article
September 2, 2013 

August 21st 2013, Yangon International Airport 

Mr. Tomas Ojea Quintana, the UN human rights envoy has just completed his ten day visit. He delivered the brief of his findings at the press conference before he left from the Yangon International Airport. He expressed his gratitude towards the Burmese government for inviting him to survey the human rights situation there. Though the government had invited him for visit, on August 19th, a day before completion of his 8th visit since he was appointed as a UN Special Rapporteur in 2008, a plot was made to attack him. This happened on the way to an IDP camp where the Muslim victims of the March 2013 violence in Meikhtila were caged. He was fortunate enough to stay free from harm but abandoned the plan to visit the camp that held the Muslim victims. He did point out that many Rohingyas in Northern Rakhine were arbitrarily arrested in connection to June 2012 violence. They were being tried in flawed trials. Many were sentenced to high imprisonment on false accusations. At the time of Mr. Quintana’s visit to Buthidaung jail, prominent Rohingya arrestees were locked up in a separate room, barring him from seeing them. 

August 21st 2013, Buthidaung Township Court 

There were more security police than usual around the court. A long queue of the closest and dearest to the detainees were waiting outside the court to catch a glimpse of their relatives being transported to the hearing verdict. Embarkment and disembarkment from police vehicle was unrecognizable. The heads and bodies of the detainees were covered by raincoats. 

Despite the fact the sympathizers waited there for so long, the security police threatened them to get away. They were eventually brought in groups of 5-7 people, to a waiting room inside the court. The Maungdaw district judiciary head was to give the verdict on the alleged and fabricated cases, in the connection with June 2012 violence. 43 detainees were sentenced for life and long term imprisonment on fabricated and false accusations by Rakhine Buddhists. This, on the same day that Mr. Quintana was delivering his findings on of his ten day visit at Yangon International Airport. In this court hearing, 3 Rohingyas were sentenced to life. There were 26 sentenced to 7 years. The remaining were sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. The 3 Rohingya from Baggona village who were sentenced for life are: (1) Zubair (2) Salim and (3) Yahya. 

June, 2012. How Rohingyas were arrested. The cases against them were fabricated and formulated. 

Rohingya community leaders were arrested at the meeting they were invited to attend. It was in NaSaKa head quarters. Some were chased and hunted in the villages. Like hunting animals in the forest. Others were just arrested while passing by the combined forces. All were transferred to the police station the next day. At that time, they were loaded into trucks like commodity bags. One upon the other. All of their limbs and bodies tightly tied up to send to Buthidaung jail. There, they were fed on dirty floor. Made to eat like animals. They were tortured to the highest extent. They were kept bare bodied. Exposed to the cold water of the rainy season for long hours in the nights. Some died while the authority tortured them, to forcefully get a confession for the crimes. 

From different villages, Rakhine Buddhists were trained to bear witness against Rohingyas. The Rohingyas were categorized into groups of 20-30 members. The cases against them were also numbered. The trials were going on for long time. On every date of a trial, Rakhine Buddhists were summoned to court for witnessing. During interrogation in the court, the Rohingyas’ witnesses were verbally threatened by the Government lawyers. There were occasions that the statements of witnesses from the Rohingya side were misinterpreted and maligned. Ignoring the evidences and witnesses from the Rohingya side, they were all sentenced to life and long time imprisonments. Rohingyas from Northern Maungdaw were sued for the involvement in the torching in Mawrawady, Southern Maungdaw. One can imagine how illogical and cruel it is? 

May, 1991 Southern Maungdaw 

A quite wide farm land in Hoonetaw village (Chinkharli) was confiscated. Rohingyas were ordered to build 10 houses with the support of six villages in southern Maungdaw. Roads were also made. The environment was cleared and made living friendly. The village was then named Mawrawady Sanpya Village. The in-charge was Captain Ke Ba Than, from Hlun Htain Battalion, based in 4-mile Maungdaw. 

Cattles belonging to Rohingyas were not allowed to set foot on that area. If they did Ke Ba Than and his pupil would fine the owner more than 5000 Kyats. Later Ke Ba Than died of a stroke. His pupil broke his leg in an accident. Later, he was expelled from the service due to corruption. 

The Rakhine Buddhist families were boarded in readymade homes, all made by Rohingyas. Nearby Rohingya farm land was confiscated and Rohingya had to do from everything for them. From cultivating land to growing paddy. Even getting the rice ready for cooking. 

Later 20 more families were settled. They at least 2 families from Bangladesh. They can speak and write Bengali very well. At the very beginning there was no school for their children to go to. It was in the primary school of Chinkharli where their children attained the primary education. 

Years gone by, Rakhine Buddhist families were settled on confiscated Rohingya farmland till it became a village of more than 120 families. Even poor Buddhist families in nearby villages like Alaythankyaw, settled themselves in Mawrawady. Such Sanpya villages were settled in different parts of Northern Rakhine State by the special program laid down by the Government. This saw at least 30% of settlers were imported from Bangladesh. Some of their Google images were shown below. 


These model villages were settled on Rohingya farmland. Rohingyas built houses for them. Rohingyas cultivated their confiscated lands for them. Rohingyas helped in their everyday financial problems. Even Rohingyas leased money to Rakhine Buddhists in prior two crop seasons. The camps full security forces were there in every Model (NaTaLa Sanpya Villages). Rohingyas were never safe from their harassment. Looting and robbing have increased since its settlement. When reporting of such incidents to the authorities, Rohingyas were counter punished. After the violence of 2012, looting, robbing and extorting money have increased to the highest extent. The social environments have been polluted. Rakhine assumes that Rohingyas properties are their own. 

Besides all the harassment and disturbance, Rohingyas want to live peacefully in their homeland. Rohingyas were sentenced harshly. Buddhists were sentenced lightly. The number of Muslims punished were very high, while the number of Buddhists punished were very low. When Muslims houses were torched, the security forces just stood or even helped the mobs. When Buddhist houses were on fire, the security forces shot the Rohingyas. When Muslims houses were torched by the Buddhists mobs, forces said that they burnt their own homes down. When Buddhist houses were on fire, it was alleged that Muslim terrorist burnt them down.

When many Buddhists were imported, they settled in different villages. They are called an indigenous race of Myanmar. While Rohingyas Muslims have been living in the country for centuries, they are labeled as intruders. If 1982 citizenship law is to be implemented, it must affect all the people in Myanmar. Why only Rohingya? Implement the 1982 citizenship law first on Buddhists imported from Bangladesh and Chinese flowing into Myanmar. Then Rohingyas would be ready to abide by that law, though Rohingyas are indigenous race of the soil of Arakan.

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