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Burma to summon Bangladeshi ambassador over Rohingya article

Muslim Rohingyas at prayer (Photo: Reuters)

March 24, 2014

Ye Htut, spokesman for the President’s Office, told DVB on Monday that the Burmese Ministry of Foreign Affairs plans to summon the Bangladeshi ambassador to object to an article in the Dhaka Tribune which opined that Burma’s Rohingyas be offered a referendum on whether to secede from the Union.

“We will never allow such damage to the sovereignty and territory of our country,” Ye Htut said. “Therefore we will object to this kind of writing. We will also monitor our own country to ensure the same situation is not replicated.”

Written as an op-ed by journalist Zasheen Khan, the Dhaka Tribune article draws upon the recent precedence of Crimea to suggest that the Rohingyas “should have the option of forming an independent country between Bangladesh and Myanmar [Burma], unfeasible as that might be, its incorporation into Bangladesh should not be taken off the table if such an opportunity ever presents itself.”

The author does not quote any Bangladeshi government source, nor a Rohingya, to corroborate any support for his proposition, relying instead on allegations of persecution of the Rohingya community in Burma, selected historical tidbits, and some miscellaneous international precedents to outline his case.

Despite the inefficacy of the argument presented, the article immediately caused a stir on social media sites among Burmese and Bangladeshis. Even Rohingya commentators weighed in, expressing displeasure and contempt for any notion of autonomy or secession from Burma for the Rohingya Muslim community in Arakan State.

Outspoken Nay San Lwin of the website Rohingya Blogger called the article “horrible” and said Rohingyas would never separate from Burma.

“If there was a referendum Rohingyas will say, ‘We are Burmese. We are Myanmar’s Rohingya. We are part of Myanmar and we will always be part of Myanmar’,” the blogger concluded.

Meanwhile, Myanmar’s Journalists Association has also condemned the author, saying the article was written based on “fabricated and distorted historical backgrounds and facts with intent to incite religious and racial hatred and conflicts in Myanmar, violating journalistic ethics, interfering in Myanmar’s domestic affairs and infringing on Myanmar’s sovereignty.”


    The author of the article in the Dhaka Tribune didn't know what he was talking about when he suggested for a referendum in the Rakhine state. Surely he is not an informed journalist about things happening in Arakan. However, he has the right to to suggest how to solve Burma's half a century long ethnic problem in Arakan. For, Burma’s internal issues of ethnic unrest is no more its internal problem. it causes serious problems to its neighbors. Bangladesh in the West and Thailand in the East suffer the most from Burma’s refugee influx. In 1978 Bangladesh received about 200,00 Rohingya refugees who carried NRC cards. Burma accepted back those refugees. Then in 1982, Burma passed its citizenship law declaring Rohingya as the non citizens of Burma. In 1992-93, it forced out another 300,000 Rohingya people to Bangladesh. Many of them left for other countries and some are still living in Bangladesh. The influx still continues. When a country due to its internal problem sends out refugees to another country, journalists and scholars of the effected countries are naturally drawn to find solutions to the problem; Dhaka tribune’s contributing author did just that.

    Most of Burma’s anti Rohingya policies were enacted during the military dictator Ne Win’s time. Even with the quasi military civilian government the continued oppression didn’t go away but intensified to the level of genocide and desperate Rohingya people even taking the sea to get to the safe shores in foreign countries.
    Burma’s behavior sending refugees to Bangladesh has crossed its tolerable limits. It is no more a cute behavior by the generals in civilian uniform. On the other hand depriving its citizens their citizenship rights due to their racial differences is criminal. Under the circumstances, a Bangladeshi journalist has every right to show concerns to the behavior of a country causing nuisance to his country and show probable solutions to the conflict.

    In Burma, the press freedom is still limited, then lashing out to condemn Bangladesh’s ambassador for the view of a concerned citizen of that country is truly undemocratic, a bullying behavior, and surely condemnable.

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