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Separating Fact from Fiction about Myanmar’s Rohingya. Merle Jacobs Response /Part 3

Posted by on May 24, 2014 in Main Blog | Comments Off on Separating Fact from Fiction about Myanmar’s Rohingya. Merle Jacobs Response /Part 3

Separating Fact from Fiction about Myanmar’s Rohingya. Merle Jacobs Response /Part 3

My last Response to clarify why I have some difficult in the recycling of certain ‘facts’

Another topic of controversy is the percentage of the Muslims in the total population during the 19th century before the accurate census of the late colonial period. Sources do not harmonize, but it seems reasonable to assume a percentage not above 10 to 15 percent around 1830. To assume a higher percentage such as 30 percent (as Rohingya writers today like to assume, basing themselves on a little reliable source) creates an issue with the interpretation of a much lower percentage around 1870 just before the huge labor migrations from Chittagong.
Some researchers link the Rohingya to an ethnic group within Myanmar & try to persuade the world that they are true natives of Arakan. The Rohingya themselves try to make it a Muslim kingdom. They say the documents were burned by the Burmese Kings. I have read Phayre (1844) that supports the idea that there was a Kingdom, a non Muslim kingdom – and that historical documents exist.
Phayre, A. P. “On the History of Arakan.” Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal 13, no. 1 (1844):23-53. states:
“A compilation was made at my request from various ancient chronicles, by Nga-mi, one of the most learned among the literati of his country, and I proceed to furnish an epitome of its contents. Many copies of the Ra dza-weng, (History of Kings,) are to be found among the Arakanese, differing from each other in details, being ample or scanty in the narrative, according to the research or imagination of the authors, but, all agreeing in the main facts of the national history. On the Burmese conquest of the country, the ancient chronicles were sought after with avidity, and destroyed or carried away, in the hope apparently of eradicating the national feeling. These efforts were, however, futile, many of the ancient books were secretly preserved, or carried away by the owners on their emigration to the adjoining British territory, where many chiefs anxiously watched for an opportunity to recover their country.” The article is a good read via google.

Another book that I read/obtained is Races in Burma 1933 2nd Ed by Major C.M. Enriquez he describes all the different ethnic groups, classified 135 languages & states Burma belongs to the Indo-Chinese Peninsular. As well, “the aborigines disappeared unless the Andamanese are a survival” and that “Burma is ethnically distinct from India.”
In many book and articles, the Muslims in Arakan Kingdom were called by the westerners as “The Mohammedans”. The Mohammedans called the country / Arakan / Rakhaing Kingdom as “Rovingaw”, “Rekan”. Could it be that the Muslim from Rakhain Kingdom could have mentioned to Buchanan that he’s a “Rooinga” or native from Rakhaing Country?
My concerns with the limited interpretation in your article, ‘Separating Fact from Fiction about Myanmar’s Rohingya’ is that 1)you did not speak to the Rakhine people who do not have a problem with the settlers of whom you describe but will not give their land to those brought in by the British. 2) your use of selected articles.

This is also a discourse about indigenous land, and settlers. There is a space for the rights of the Rakhine and to include evidence how a land grab occurred during Independence talks with Britain. This issue and the 1942 killings has creates current distrust and resentment within the Rakhine State. Leaving out documentation of how in 1948 some Muslim Rakhine/Rohingya wanted to take a part of Rakhine and make it part of Pakistan informs the Rakhine people that this is advocacy for one group without concerns about their apprehensions. The past is the present for many with ethnic histories, unlike newly formed countries such as Australia, Canada, and the United States.

When historical facts are available it is important for researchers to include all relevant facts. Then, if said researcher wants to advocate for settlement and citizenship use moral discourse as a means for intervention. International agencies like the UN have little power in reality in these debates, especially when they appear to take sides. Therefore, it is important for all of us in the area of social justice to persuade our audience with legitimate argument on how to live together within a just society.

Merle Jacobs

From Rangoon to London then to Canada, now home. Professor at York U in Toronto. Equity Studies.

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