The Latest Extinction Campaign Against the Rohingyas of Burma

The Latest Extinction Campaign Against the Rohingyas of Burma

Dr. Habib Siddiqui, USA

It has been little more than two months that Aung San Suu Kyi was elected into the lower house of Burmese Parliament. The by-elections (only the country’s third in half a century) in which her party NLD won 44 of the 45 available seats were a crucial test of reforms that convinced the West to soften its pariah image. The United States and European Union hinted that some sanctions – imposed over the past two decades in response to gross human rights abuses (e.g., against the minority Rohingya Muslims and Kachin and Karen Christians) – might be lifted, unleashing a wave of investment, which this impoverished but resource-rich country, bordering Bangladesh, Thailand, India and China, badly needs.

Last year the U.S. Secretary of State Clinton met with Burma’s leaders and opposition leader Suu Kyi. Soon after the election in April Japan has already promised to forgive $3.7 billion of Burma’s debt and resume aid as a way to support the country’s democratic and economic reforms. Last month during his visit to Myanmar, the first by an Indian Prime Minister in 25 years, Manmohan Singh held extensive talks with Myanmar President Thein Sein and extended a $ 500 million line of credit to Myanmar as it signed 15 agreements on fields like trade, energy and connectivity. On June 9, the Australian Foreign Minister pledged $100m aid to boost its education sector, where less than half of Burma’s 18 million children complete five years of primary school and only about half of all teachers are qualified.

In spite of such positive developments in the international sector, the religious minorities remain disillusioned. “We have been forsaken by the world,” a Rohingya human rights activist complained. Similar are the messages I receive about human rights abuses in Kachin, Shan and Karen states. My comrades at the U.S. Campaign for Burma remind me that this year alone there have been at least 750 incidents of human rights abuses committed by the Burmese troops against ethnic minority civilians, and that there are still hundreds of political prisoners behind the bar, and that more and more of the ethnic non-Buddhist minorities are forced out of their ancestral land to either replant such territories with Buddhist majority or make way for foreign investment.

The ongoing diplomacy and the so-called “cease-fires” in ethnic areas are seen for what they are—an alibi for the abdication of morality in the altar of profit-making and greed, and a lifeline for the regime.

Optimistic as I have always been, I try to comfort them that they are neither forgotten nor forsaken, and better days are ahead of them when they would be accepted as equal citizens in Myanmar.

As an outsider, living comfortably on the other side of the planet, little did I know that these unfortunate minorities of Burma would again be made a target of hideous intolerance. As I write, Maung Daw – located in northern Arakan (Rakhine state of Burma) is burning, as if mimicking the pogroms against the Rohingya and Muslim minorities of Burma that started in the 1930s [see, e.g., an excellent review – Rohingya Tangled in Burmese Citizenship Politics by Nurul Islam, UK].

Reliable sources within the territory tell me that on June 3, a mob of nearly hundred Rakhine Buddhist extremists attacked a bus that was carrying some ten Tablighi Muslims who were returning to Rangoon after their religious gathering. They were dragged from their bus by these brutes in Taungup, situated as the main gateway for travel to central Burma from the Arakan State. They were lynched to death and their bus was set on fire. Only the driver was able to flee the scene. It should be noted here that all this gruesome murder happened based on a false rumor that those Muslims had something to do with a recent murder of a Rakhine female whose body was found in Sittwe (Akyab), the state capital with a mixed Rakhine-Rohingya population. While the subsequent inquiries had cleared Muslims of any complicity in the murder of the teacher, to many Rakhines who are prone to imagine the worst of the ‘other’ people that have as much contesting claim to the land, if not more, the culprit had to be a Muslim. So they savagely murdered those innocent Muslims that had visited the region. These innocent victims were at wrong time at a wrong place!

U Khin Hla, Secretary of the National League for Democracy in Taungup, told the VOA Burmese program, “I think such an incident happened due to the lack of law and order because it happened in broad daylight just around 4:30 pm, and it was also not just an incident in which a man hacked and killed another and ran away. On the contrary, I think the officials who are working for the rule of law and order in the country are responsible for such an incident.”

After the news of the inhuman act of gruesome murder reached the Muslim community, Muslims in Rangoon held a peaceful demonstration and asked the government officials to find and try the guilty ones responsible for this heinous crime. The government promptly formed a 16-member committee to investigate the matter by June 30 and take legal actions against the perpetrators. Interestingly, the announcement for investigation came a day after the government was forced to print a retraction for referring to the victims as “kalar” – a racial slur for Muslims or persons of Indian appearance – in their official appeal for calm after the violence.

When approached at her NLD office, the Nobel Laureate Suu Kyi expressed concern at the handling of the situation by local Rakhine authorities, esp. their failure to dampen anti-Muslim sentiment after the woman was attacked. “If the very first problem was handled effectively and quickly, this flicker wouldn’t have become a flame,” she said. Urging understanding between Rakhine’s religious communities she advised, “don’t base your actions on anger.”

Apprehensive of potential troubles to brew in Maung Daw, a Muslim majority district, close to Bangladesh border, the district administrator and police chief met with Muslim community leaders and sought cooperation against any retaliation. Muslim leaders assured them of their cooperation. A decision was taken by Muslim religious leaders to apprise the community on Friday, June 8, during the Jumu’aa prayer service, of the assurance that they had received from government and the absolute importance of peace and avoidance of trouble.

After Friday congregation prayer, when a group of Muslims were trying to join a payer at Kayandan Tabligh Centre in Maung Daw for those 10 Muslims who were murdered by the Rakhine extremists at Taunggup, the security forces, however, tried to stop them and then started firing at the crowd killing at least two people and injuring many others. Some extremist Rakhines, hiding behind the police, threw wine bottles against the Muslims, further fueling the already tense situation.

While curfew has been imposed in Maung Daw from dusk to dawn, several Muslim villages have already been gutted down. Almost all the Muslim shops and business centers have also been attacked and ransacked by the Rakhine mob. On Saturday armed security forces with Rakhine extremist equipped with lethal arms were seen roaming Maung Daw town and surrounding villages. That morning four Rohingyas were carried away from Fayazi village of Maung Daw. Their whereabouts still remain unknown.

Eye witness accounts have shown that the Rakhine extremists and the security forces Hlun Htein and NASAKA had jointly collaborated in causing such crimes. On Friday, Rakhines were seen piling up weapons in the Maung Daw main Buddhist temple (Phongyi Chaung) and planning attacks at nightfall. Since Friday, Buddhist monks and Rakhine extremists have been seen being escorted by security forces while they were announcing ‘War on Kalas’, (war on blacks, foreigners – meaning the Rohingyas) along the streets of Maung Daw. This dangerous message spread like a wild fire all over Maung Daw and Buthidaung townships. Many of the security forces, dressed in civilian clothes, were seen firing on the Rohingya Muslims. As a result, at least a hundred Rohingya Muslims have reportedly died. Several mosques have also been set on fire.

The Myanmar government has dispatched military troops and naval vessels to calm the violence. In a statement in official newspapers on Saturday, the All Myanmar Islam Association condemned “the terrorizing and destruction of lives and properties of innocent people” and called on Muslims across the country to live in peace.

How could this be happening when we thought that we had said sayonara to the old days of Burmese and Rakhine pogroms directed against the persecuted Muslims of Burma? In the Rakhine state where tensions between Muslims and Buddhists run high, and has been witnesses to such riots many times since at least the 1930s, a mere mention of the term ‘Rohingya’ is enough to ignite passion amongst the Rakhines who view them at best as unwanted immigrants from Bangladesh and at worst “invaders.”

The truth of the matter is Burma, in spite all the newer developments – mostly cosmetic or superficial – still remains our planet’s worst den of hatred by any name – bigotry, racism, xenophobia, etc. For many people in Burma, a Burmese is a Buddhist by definition; Buddhism forms an essential part of their identity; there is no place for people of other religious persuasions.

The decades-old military government in Burma has been replaced by a hybrid group of civil and ex-military personnel that promises change. However, the life of an ethnic minority, esp. if it is a non-Buddhist, has not improved an iota there. They are persecuted and are easy targets for ethnic cleansing. They are treated as if they don’t exist. As noted by Mr. Nurul Islam of ARNO, “U Thein Sein’s government has not changed their attitude towards our people. It is still holding onto to past policies which excluded, discriminated and persecuted the Rohingya population. We need to remind the government Rohingyas are an integral part of the Burma’s society regardless of the fact that their appearance, ethnicity and religion is different than the majority of the population.” He added, “Daw Aung San Suu Kyi so far has been surprisingly silent regarding the persecution of our people. As a democratic icon, advocating for human rights for all, we urge her to use her influence to speak out on behalf the Rohingya, who have no voice in Burma.”

There are clear evidences that the authorities in Arakan state have been guilty of collaborating with Rakhine leadership to sow anti-Muslim sentiment among the Buddhist people so that they can be terrorized, to help prevent Muslim migration and settlement into central Burma from the region.

As eye witness accounts and social media outlets show when the Rakhine mob attacked the Tablighi Muslims on June 3, the army and police personnel did not do anything to stop the carnage. One eye witness said, “The police and the army were there when the mob was beating the victims, but they did not do anything to control the mob or protect the victims. The attack happened right in front of their eyes.” He added, “If the army or police had controlled the mob, they would have been able to save the victims. They knew the situation well, but they did not do anything to control the mob or protect the victims.”

The level of deep-rooted Rakhine racism against the Rohingya can be understood from the hateful statement of Khaing Kaung San, a local Rakhine activist in Sittwe, who said, “They [Rohingyas] are fighting to own the land, occupy the entire state.” “They don’t need weapons; just by their numbers they can cover the entire land.”

Obviously, such false assertions epitomizing intolerance, racism and hatred are not new and cannot disappear overnight when it is so deeply entrenched touching every walk of life in Burma, esp. in places like the Rakhine state. The politically dominant Rakhine community doesn’t want to share the state with others. This, in spite of the fact that serious works of research have proven convincingly that the Rohingyas are the descendants of the indigenous people (bhumi-putras) of this coastal region whose ties to the land precede those of the Rakhines by few centuries. [See, e.g., this author’s work – Muslim Identity and Demography in the Arakan State of Burma, Amazon.com; and Dr. Abid Bahar’s – Burma’s Missing Dots – the emerging face of genocide.]

The recent riots in the Rakhine state once again highlight the vulnerable status of the Rohingyas of Burma. Declared stateless, they are unwanted inside Myanmar and unwelcome as fleeing refugees in neighboring countries like Bangladesh and Thailand. This is the greatest tragedy of our time. They are caught between crocodiles in the sea and tigers on the ground. Where would they go? Should they become an extinct community much like what had happened to so many others before in the annals of history? Or, must they wander in the wilderness for two millennia and suffer repeated persecution, humiliation and genocide to qualify as equals in our world?

For my part, I have petitioned my Congressman to cosponsor the Resolution H. J. Res. 109 to renew the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act, which is the only leverage the U.S. has left to push the Burmese regime to move forward with positive changes and hold them accountable for widespread human rights abuses and mass atrocities they commit against the people of Burma.

It is not enough, but better than doing nothing and being a silent spectator to violence!

Notes in the margin: General Aung San assured full rights and privileges to Muslim Rohingya Arakanese saying “I give (offer) you a blank cheque. We will live together and die together. Demand what you want. I will do my best to fulfill them. If native people are divided, it will be difficult to achieve independence for Burma.”

“The former first President of Burma Sao Shwe Theik stated, “Muslims of Arakan certainly belong to one of the indigenous races of Burma. If they do not belong to the indigenous races, we also cannot be taken as indigenous races.”

“The previous parliamentary government listed 144 ethnic groups in Burma. But Ne Win put only 135 groups on a short list, and then was approved by his BSPP regime’s constitution of 1974. The three Muslim groups of Rohingya (Muslim Arakanese), Panthay (Chinese Muslims), Bashu (Malay Muslims) and six other ethnic groups were deleted. “

Color-coding of individuals – Hitler’s Nazi regime was into color-coding and other forms of classification of peoples and individuals. “In 1989, colour-coded Citizens Scrutiny Cards (CRCs) were introduced: pink cards for the full citizens, blue for associate citizens and green for naturalized citizens. Rohingya were not issued with any identity cards.

June 18 2012

Special Report: Plight of Muslim minority threatens Myanmar Spring

By Andrew R.C. Marshall

TAKEBI, Myanmar | Fri Jun 15, 2012 6:11am EDT

TAKEBI, Myanmar (Reuters) This village in northwest Myanmar has the besieged air of a refugee camp. It is clogged with people living in wooden shacks laid out on a grid of trash-strewn lanes. Its children are pot-bellied with malnutrition.

But Takebi’s residents are not refugees. They are Rohingya, a stateless Muslim people of South Asian descent now at the heart of Myanmar’s worst sectarian violence in years. The United Nations has called them “virtually friendless” in Myanmar, the majority-Buddhist country that most Rohingya call home. Today, as Myanmar opens up, they appear to have more enemies than ever.

Armed with machetes and bamboo spears, rival mobs of Rohingya Muslims and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists this month torched one another’s houses and transformed nearby Sittwe, the capital of the western state of Rakhine, into a smoke-filled battleground. A torrent of Rohingyas has tried to flee Rakhine into impoverished Bangladesh, but most are being pushed back, a Bangladeshi Border Guard commander told Reuters on Thursday.

The fighting threatens to derail the democratic transition in Myanmar, a resource-rich nation of 60 million strategically positioned at Asia’s crossroads between India and China, Bangladesh and Thailand. With scores feared dead, President Thein Sein announced a state of emergency on June 10 to prevent “vengeance and anarchy” spreading beyond Rakhine and jeopardizing his ambitious reform agenda.

Reuters visited the area just before the unrest broke out. The northern area of Rakhine state is off-limits to foreign reporters.

Until this month, Myanmar’s transformation from global pariah to democratic start-up had seemed remarkably rapid and peaceful. Thein Sein released political prisoners, relaxed media controls, and forged peace with ethnic rebel groups along the country’s war-torn borders. A new air of hope and bustle in Myanmar’s towns and cities is palpable.

But not in Rakhine, also known as Arakan. It is home to about 800,000 mostly stateless Rohingya, who according to the United Nations are subject to many forms of “persecution, discrimination and exploitation.” These include forced labor, land confiscations, restrictions on travel and limited access to jobs, education and healthcare.

Now, even as the state eases repression of the general populace and other minorities, long-simmering ethnic tensions here are on the boil – a dynamic that resembles what happened when multi-ethnic Yugoslavia fractured a generation ago after communism fell.

SUU KYI ‘TIGHT-LIPPED’

Even the democracy movement in Myanmar is doing little to help the Muslim minority, Rohingya politicians say.

Democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi last week urged “all people in Burma to get along with each other regardless of their religion and authenticity.” But she has remained “tight-lipped” about the Rohingya, said Kyaw Min, a Rohingya leader and one-time Suu Kyi ally who spent more than seven years as a political prisoner. “It is politically risky for her,” he said.

NLD spokesman Nyan Win wouldn’t comment on Suu Kyi’s position, but said: “The Rohingya are not our citizens.” Suu Kyi is now on a European tour that will take her to Oslo, Norway, to accept the Nobel Peace Prize she won in 1991.

The violence could disrupt Myanmar’s detente with the West, however. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on June 11 called for “Muslims, Buddhists, and ethnic representatives, including Rohingya . . . to begin a dialogue toward a peaceful resolution.”

The United States suspended some sanctions on Myanmar, including those banning investment, in May as a reward for its democratic reforms. But the White House kept the framework of hard-hitting sanctions in place, with President Barack Obama expressing at the time concern about Myanmar’s “treatment of minorities and detention of political prisoners.”

The European Union, which also suspended its sanctions, said on Monday it was satisfied with Thein Sein’s “measured” handling of the violence, which the president has said could threaten the transition to democracy if allowed to spiral out of control.

ILLEGAL MIGRANTS

Rohingya activists claim a centuries-old lineage in Rakhine, which like the rest of Burma is predominantly Buddhist. The government regards them as illegal migrants from neighboring Bangladesh and denies them citizenship. “There is no ethnic group named Rohingya in our country,” immigration minister Khin Yi said in May.

Communal tensions had been rising in Myanmar since the gang rape and murder of a Buddhist woman last month that was blamed on Muslims. Six days later, apparently in retribution, a Buddhist mob dragged 10 Muslims from a bus and beat them to death.

Violence then erupted on June 9 in Maungdaw, one of the three Rohingya-majority districts bordering Bangladesh, before spreading to Sittwe, the biggest town in Rakhine. Scores are feared dead, and 1,600 houses burnt down.

One measure of the pressure the Rohingya are under is the growing number of boat people. During the so-called “sailing season” between monsoons, thousands of Rohingya attempt to cross the Bay of Bengal in small, ramshackle fishing boats. Their destination: Muslim-majority Malaysia, where thousands of Rohingya work, mostly illegally.

Last season, up to 8,000 Rohingya boat people – a record number – made the crossing, says Chris Lewa, director of the Arakan Project, a Rohingya advocacy group based in Thailand. She has studied their migration patterns since 2006.

BANNED IN BANGLADESH

The violence in Rakhine could cause a surge in Rohingya boat people when the next sailing season begins in October, Rohingya leaders say. “The amount of boat people will increase and increase,” said Abu Tahay, chairman of the National Democratic Party for Development, a Rohingya political party.

In what could be the start of a regional refugee crisis, many Rohingya are already attempting the shorter voyage to neighboring Bangladesh.

Bangladesh, like Myanmar, disowns the Rohingyas and has refused to grant them refugee status since 1992. Now, according to a Bangladeshi commander, hundreds have been turned away.

At Shah Pari, a Bangladeshi island on the Naf River dividing Bangladesh and Myanmar, Lieutenant Colonel Zahid Hassan of the Bangladesh Border Guard said the force has sent back 14 wooden country boats since the violence flared in early June, bearing a total of some 700 men, women and children.

Hassan said the boat people were given food, water and medicines before being turned back. His men are now holding back local Bangladeshi villagers and limiting how far fishermen can go out into the river to prevent them from helping would-be “illegal intruders.” Peace has been restored since Myanmar imposed its state of emergency, he said, and his men are telling the boat people it is safe to return.

Asked to explain why majority-Muslim Bangladesh did not feel an obligation to take the Rohingyas in, he said: “This is an over-populated country. The country doesn’t have the capacity to accommodate these additional people.”

WAITING FOR DEMOCRACY

Government officials say they already harbor about 25,000 Rohingyas with refugee status, who receive food and other aid from the United Nations, housed in two camps in southeastern Bangladesh. Officials say there are also between 200,000 and 300,000 “undocumented” Rohingyas – with no refugee status and no legal rights. These people live outside the camps, dependent on local Bangladeshis in a poverty-plagued district for work and sustenance.

Among them is 48-year-old Kalim Ullah, a Rohingya father of three living in an unofficial camp where children bathe in a chocolate-brown pond. He fled here in 1992, after violence that followed the watershed 1990 vote won by Suu Kyi and overturned by the military. He holds up a hand to show a half-stump where his thumb had been before he says it was shot off by a Myanmar soldier.

“They tortured me and I was evicted from my house so we came to Bangladesh,” he said. “Now I am waiting for repatriation, I am waiting for democracy in my own country.”

Myanmar’s neighbors have quietly pressed the country to improve conditions in Rakhine to stop the outflow of refugees. Perhaps as a result, Thein Sein’s government this year began easing some travel restrictions, says Rohingya leader Kyaw Min. But these small gains look likely to be suspended or scrapped after the recent bloodshed.

The Rohingya in Myanmar are usually landless as well as stateless, and scratch a living from low-paid casual labor. Four in five households in northern Rakhine State were in debt, the World Food Program reported in 2011. Many families borrow money just to buy food.

Food insecurity had worsened since 2009, said the program, which called for urgent humanitarian assistance. A 2010 survey by the French group Action Against Hunger found a malnutrition rate of 20 percent, which is far above the emergency threshold set by the World Health Organization.

UNDER THE ‘NASAKA’

The Rohingya are overseen by the Border Administration Force, better known as the Nasaka, a word derived from the initials of its Burmese name. Unique to the region, the Nasaka consists of officers from the police, military, customs and immigration. They control every aspect of Rohingya life.

“They have total power,” says Abu Tahay, the Rohingya politician.

Documented human-rights abuses blamed on the Nasaka include rape, forced labor and extortion. Rohingya cannot travel or marry without the Nasaka’s permission, which is never secured without paying bribes, activists say.

The former military government has in the past called these allegations “fabrications.”

“There are hundreds of restrictions and extortions,” says Rohingya leader Kyaw Min. “The Nasaka have a free hand because government policy is behind them. And that policy is to starve and impoverish the Rohingya.”

Burmese officials say the tight controls on the borders are essential to national security. Speaking in Myanmar’s parliament last September, immigration minister Khin Yi made no mention of alleged abuses, but said the Nasaka was vital for preventing “illegal Bengali migration” and cross-border crime.

‘ANNIHILATE THEM’

At Takebi’s market, an agitated crowd gathered before the violence erupted to tell a reporter of alleged abuses by the authorities and ethnic Rakhine: a Rohingya rickshaw driver robbed and murdered, extortion by state officials, random beatings by soldiers at a nearby army post. The stories couldn’t be verified.

Some Burmese officials have betrayed bias against the Rohingya in public statements. Rohingya people are “dark brown” and “as ugly as ogres,” said Ye Myint Aung, Myanmar’s consul in Hong Kong, in a 2009 statement. He went on to extol the “fair and soft” complexions of Myanmar people like himself.

Last week, the state-run New Light of Myanmar published a correction after referring to Muslims as “kalar,” a racial slur.

The sectarian hatred in Rakhine towns and villages is echoed online. “It would be so good if we can use this as an excuse to drive those Rohingyas from Myanmar,” one reader of Myanmar’s Weekly Eleven newspaper comments on the paper’s website.

“Annihilate them,” writes another.

A nationalist group has set up a Facebook page called the “Kalar Beheading Gang,” which has almost 600 “likes.”

Meanwhile, the Kaladan Press, a news agency set up by Rohingya exiles in the Bangladesh city of Chittagong, blamed the violence on “Rakhine racists and security personnel.”

BOUND FOR MALAYSIA

Not far from Sittwe is Gollyadeil, a fishing village with a jetty of packed mud and a mosque that locals say dates back to the 1930s. The stateless Rohingya villagers here face fewer restrictions than their brethren in the sensitive border area to the north. They can marry without seeking official permission and travel freely around Sittwe district.

Even so, jobs are scarce and access to education limited, and every year up to 40 villagers head out to sea on Malaysia-bound boats. They each pay about 200,000 kyat, or $250, a small fortune by local standards. But the extended Rohingya families who raise the sum regard it as an investment.

“If they make it to Malaysia, they can send home a lot of money,” says fishmonger Abdul Gafar, 35.

Many Rohingya in Myanmar depend upon remittances from Malaysia and Thailand. A Takebi elder with a white beard tinged red from betel-nut juice said he gets 100,000 kyat ($125) every four months from his son, a construction worker in Malaysia.

Remittances have lent a deceptive veneer of prosperity to Takebi, where a few houses have tin roofs or satellite dishes.

Ask shopkeeper Mohamad Ayub, 19, how many villagers want to leave Gollyadeil, and he replies, “All of us.”

For every Rohingya who makes it to Malaysia, hundreds are blocked, or worse.

Many are arrested before even leaving Myanmar waters. Others are intercepted by the Thai authorities, who last year were still towing Rohingya boats back out to sea, Human Rights Watch reported, “despite allegations that such practices led to hundreds of deaths in 2008 and 2009.”

“When someone tries to enter the country illegally, it’s our job to send them back,” says Major General Manas Kongpan, a regional director of Thailand’s Internal Security Operations Command, which handles the boat people. “Thailand doesn’t have the capacity to take them in, so people shouldn’t criticize so much.”

Sayadul Amin, 16, set sail in March 2012 in a fishing boat crammed with 63 people, a third of them boys and girls. The weather turned bad, and Sayudul’s boat was pounded by waves.

“I felt dizzy and wanted to throw up,” he said.

By day five, they ran out of water and his friend, also a teenager, died. They prayed over his body, he said, then tossed it overboard.

THE UNCOUNTED

The boat eventually ran aground somewhere on Myanmar’s Andaman coast, where local villagers summoned the authorities to arrest the boat people.

The adults were jailed in the southern Myanmar town of Dawei, while immigration officials escorted Sayadul and the other minors back to Sittwe by bus. The journey took several days and he saw more of Myanmar than most Rohingya ever do. “There were satellite dishes on all the houses,” he said with wonder.

On her historic visit to Myanmar last year, Hillary Clinton praised the country’s leaders for trying to resolve decades-old wars between government troops and ethnic rebel armies. But the Rohingya stir far greater nationalist passions that could prove even more destabilizing and intractable than conflicts in Kachin State and other ethnic border regions.

Rohingya leaders have long called for the scrapping of the 1982 Citizenship Law, which was enacted by the former dictatorship and rendered stateless even Rohingya who had lived in Myanmar for generations.

“We are demanding full and equal citizenship,” says Kyaw Min, the Rohingya leader.

Judging by the inflammatory rhetoric pervading Myanmar, that demand is unlikely to be met before next year’s potentially controversial census.

The last one, in 1983, left the Rohingya uncounted.

(Additional reporting John Chalmers in Shah Pari, Bangladesh. Editing by Bill Tarrant and Michael Williams)

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