Dr M, masyarakat Rohingya dan penjelma Cina
‘Non-Malays not expelled, so why are Rohingyas?’ asks Dr M in Malaysiakini yesterday.
KiniTV: ‘Mahathir: Myanmar should accept Rohingyas, as we did with non-Malays’ (12 June 2015)
Tun Mahathir said (see video):
“Malaysia had a lot of people not of Malay origin brought in by the British and when we became independent, they were not only accepted as citizens this country, they were not chased out.
“They were accepted as citizens this country and citizenship was extended to even the people who are not qualified to become citizens. We don’t expel people.”
To provide a little more info on what Tun said, the Indians were expelled by Burma’s General Ne Win after his military takeover of the country. A total of 320,000 Indians were forced to leave Burma between 1962 and 1964.
In 1942, the Japanese army occupied Burma while the British troops retreated. Some 650,000 Indians trekked out from Burma, by land and by sea. The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the Burmese Indians crossed the border to return to their “homeland” India (at that time Pakistan had not been created yet).
See digital scan of The Sydney Morning Herald 22 July 1942 news report, HERE.
The lesson imparted to us by the Indian expulsion from Burma is that an ethnic minority can have been staying in their ‘host’ country for several generations (as the Rohingya) but residence does not mean that they’re accepted by the majority, especially when they belong to a different race and religion.
Dr Mahathir also said (0:40):
“But somehow Myanmar does not believe in giving rights to people who have settled in their country for 800 years. The Rohingya were not there only recently. They were not brought in by the British. They were, their place was included in Burma for the purpose of administration of British Burma.”
The Tun’s claim above is questionable.
Chinese have settled in Malaya for over 600 years
(1) He says the Rohingya have settled in Rakhine for 800 years. By the same token, we can say that the Chinese have settled in Malaya for over 600 years. Both claims would be technically correct but limited in its scope of numbers.
There was a Chinese community in Malacca predating the arrival of Admiral Zheng He in 1409. In which case – going by Tun’s Rohingya logic – the Chinese too have been in Malaya more than 600 years. However those Chinese who have ancestors in this land dating back six centuries are only the Malacca Baba Nyonya.
The majority of the Chinese cannot stake this claim as they mostly came as coolies in the early 20th century. Likewise the Rohingya.
There are indeed Muslims of Indian origin who are long settled in Arakan. This fact is not disputed. But they are not representative of the Rohingya claim’s to “800 years” just as the Baba Nyonya are not representative of the Chinese presence in Malaysia.
Cina hari ini yang keturunan penjelma, by and large, cannot stake claim to a Malayan pedigree of 600 years.
During the 12th and 13th centuries, Muslim migrants from Bengal had filtered into Arakan and this tallies with the truth of the “800 years” claim.
In the 1400s, there was another wave of emigration into Arakan from Bengal during the reign of Buddhist kings in Mrauk-U who favoured Muslim officials and allowed them to play a significant role in the royal court.
However both the two earlier migration waves are the minority whereas the majority migrated en masse during the British colonial era. (Note: Arakan is the old name for Rakhine)
(2) Tun claims that (a) “the Rohingya were not there only recently” and (b) “they were not brought in by the British”.
(a) is correct in the context of the ‘Baba Nyonya’ Rohingya.
(b) is partially correct and if we compare with the Chinese immigrants in Malaya, not all were directly brought in by the British either. But it’s undeniable the colonial project, the British imperialism and colonial economy opened the doors for the Chinese to enter Malaya.
Likewise, the British victories in the three Anglo-Burmese wars encouraged the Chittagong Bengalis to cross the amorphous border into Arakan.
The following is an extract from the Human Rights Watch report:
“This period [1824 to 1942] witnessed significant migration of laborers to Burma from neighboring South Asia [i.e. Indian sub-continent]. The British administered Burma as a province of India, thus migration to Burma was considered an internal movement. The Burmese government still considers, however, that the migration which took place during this period was illegal, and it is on this basis that they refuse citizenship to the majority of the Rohingya.”
Note: 1824 is the year the British started their first war against the Burmese while 1942 is the year the British withdrew from Burma after Japanese troops occupied the country.
Other sources http://www.exiledtonowhere.com:
“British invade Arakan during the 1st Anglo-Burma war. The following decades see a large migration of people from the Indian sub-continent into Arakan, mostly Muslims from the Chittagong region. Arakan becomes British territory in 1826.”
The historical records agree that the mass migration of the Rohingya into Arakan from East Bengai only began post-1824. This does not amount to “800 years”.
(3) Tun’s third statement is that “[Arakan] was included in Burma for the purpose of administration of British Burma.
Tun’s ambiguous statement begs clarification.
As we’re aware, the British included Burma into India as a province under the British Raj for the purpose of administration. At the time of the British conquest of Arakan, the area was ruled by the Burmese Buddhist kings.
Mrauk U, which was the capital of the Rakhine kingdom flourishing from the 15th to 18th century, is full of fort-like temples and stone pagodas.
Tun’s statement (3) seems to imply that Arakan was an independent Muslim state of the Rohingya that was included into Burma by the British. If so, he is providing a wrong impression.
Even today, the government of Burma is insistent that the Rohingya are Bengalis.
The constant cycles of exodus – tens up to hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fleeing/returning to the Bangladesh (equivalent to “Balik Tongsan”) in 1942, 1962-64, 1978 and 1991-92 is evidence of the community’s origin from Bengal in the not-too-distant past.