Published on Monday, 19 January 2015
Written by Nay Htun Naing
Whenever UN's special envoys arrive in Myanmar, they have always provoked Bengali Rohingya problems. After criticizing them and watching them for a long time, it may be assumed that their words and movements are done intentionally.
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, gave her second official visit to the country from 7 to 16 January 2015. She made her first visit to Myanmar in July last year. At the end of her second visit, she also incited the Bengalis issues.
At the end of her visit, she held a press conference on January 16 and she herself read out the statement. Nearly one-third of the Press Release is Rakhine State and Bengali issue. During her nine-day visit, she spent three days in Rakhine State.
Concerning the Bengali issue, the thing we've pointed out is whether the United Nations or International Organization are being misinformed. Although some knew that this news is not true, there are some people who wanted to make it to the point. It is a concern.
Yanghee Lee on her beginning of second visit to Myanmar met human rights activists and politicians. There was no problem in doing so.
When coming back from Rakhine State and meeting with private media, there were some questions to rise. It was a question of what kind of standard they made in choosing the media.
There were six media men Yanghee Lee met. They are Thiha Saw, Sonny Swe, Sithu Aung Myint, Ma Thida (Sausngchaung), Toe Zaw Latt and Kyaw Zwar Moe.
When looking back at the media men, Thiha Saw is from Myanmar Times Journal. Sonny Swe is the C.E.O of Mizzama News media. He was one of the co- founders of Myanmar Times journal established under military intelligence. He is also the son of Brig-Gen Thein Swe (Retired), the Department head of International Relations of Intelligence Office. Mizzama news was once an opposition media established in India. Now, their reputation is fading.
Another one is Sithu Aung Myint. We don't understand why he was chosen. He is a columnist for Mizzama News and it may be assumed that two journalists from Mizzama were invited. Ma Thida (Saungchaung) is one of the leader of “Petinthan” (Echo Journal) and chairperson of PEN Myanmar. Toe Zaw Latt is from DVB News. Kyaw Zwar Moe is an English editor from the Irrawaddy.
Most of the media men Yanghee Lee met were in favour of Muslim affairs. For the Irrawaddy, they stand firmly from the Bengali side and so many criticisms emerged for their standings among the public.
For Sithu Aung Myint, no elaboration is needed. Mmedia was founded by the extremists Islamists.
In his articles written in 2013, it was founded that he had intentions to blames Rakhine Nationals in Bengali issue. In his article "Still burning Rakhine", published in November 7, 2013 issue of Myanmar Times journal; it could be clearly be seen.
In 2014, he not only blamed the Rakhine National but also protrayed Rakhines as extremists. In his article of " Who was responsible for Rakhine Problem" published in April 3, 2014 in Myanmar Times and "The Falling of Rakhine democracy" published in April 4, Yangon Times, this fact could be seen.
When it reaches 2015, he never changes his standings. In the first week of January, Voice of America (VOA) Myanmar News broadcasted his opinion article of "Listen to the voices of international families". The article's message is supporting the UN's standing released on last week of December.
He earned a place among those who support Bengali issue, but his writings caused one sided accusations among the Rakhines.
Here, we have to ask him if he ever visited Rakhine State or if he made detailed observations among the Rakhine and Bengali communities.
In 2012, we went to Rakhine State when the Rakhine conflicts reached its climax, when Sittwe was burning fiercely. We covered voices from both sides and understood that Rakhines were not extremists.
Whatever the Bengali issue or China issue, Eleven Media Group's standing is clear. We stand for the sake of national security and national economic benefit. One thing for sure is that Bengalis will never become a Myanmar ethnicity.
That's why international societies and some media including United Nations never pay attention, or listen to us when it comes to Bengali issue.
At the Asean Summit, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon made a private press brief with ten news agencies. Eleven Media was not invited. Similarly, Yanghee Lee excluded EMG when meeting private media.
Therefore, we asked UN's information officer to Myanmar. Eleven Media was free and independent Media, that has strongest public support and why it was uninvited. What standards UN has made?
UN's officer replied that he has no right to answer. We were not surprised that an information officer from UN declined to answer.
United Nations has spoke several times that Bengalis were discriminated in Rakhine State. Rakhines have been oppressed by the UN and international organizations. That is one thing to be aware of.
Another thing is that UN and international organizations called Bengalis, who are absolutely not Myanmar nationals, as Rohingya. In the press release appeared on December, that fact was included.
UN has urged to give Bengalis the Myanmar citizen rights, and to allow them to go freely within Myanmar.
Myanmar government has officially declared that there is no Rohingya in Myanmar. Though the government accepted the use of Bengali, their citizenship is decided according to 1982 Citizenship Law.
The Myanmar people's desire is the same with the government. In Myanmar, there is no Rohingya.
But, the UN doesn't accept this.
Yanghee Lee said that although there is a dispute in naming, when submitting the report, she will use the word "Rohingya”. She insisted to use the word objected by the Myanmar public and Rakhine.
She added that if the Rohingya are accepted as Bengali, many rights including the rights to citizenship may be lost.
So, we don't want to argue whether these people are called Rohingya or Bengalis. They can be named as their wish. The Government has officially set the word Bengalis and for the examining the rights of citizens, those called themselves as Bengalis are to be scrutinized.
If they desire to be Myanmar citizen, they must allow themselves to be called Bengalis. If Rohingya is used, they will be left out. So, this problem must settle with the government. Those want to be the Myanmar citizens, whether he may be Bengali or Rohingya, they will be decided by 1982 Citizenship Law.
What is true is that there is no Rohingya ethnic in Myanmar. But the word Rohingya race was used.
In Myanmar Encyclopedia, Volume-9, page-89, the subject about "May-Yu border district" was mentioned. May-Yu was a district comprising of Buthidaung, Maungdaw, and western parts of Yathedaung Townships. There was a paragraph in May-Yu district statement.
It stated, "In May-Yu border district, there are nearly 400,000 or 500,000 people living there. Most of their livelihoods are agriculture and fishing. Majority of them (about 75 percent) are of Rohingya race where Rakhine, Dainet, Mro, Khamwe ethnics are also residing there."
Those who favour Bengalis mentioned this fact and said that Rohingya lived in Myanmar. According to the paragraph, there were Rohingya. But, it never used the word "ethnic" just mentioned as the word Rohingya.
Among Myanmar ethnicities, there is no Rohingya. They entered Myanmar from neighboring country in colonial era. When their numbers were large, they demanded establishing a Muslim State. That is one thing to note.
Another thing is in 1955-56, during Pha-Sa-Pa- La Era, Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League (AFPFL ). One big mistake was made under U Nu administration. U Nu was the first Prime Minister of Myanmar. Wanting to win at the election, he allowed people from neighboring country to enter Myanmar. He issued temporary citizenship cards and identity cards and permitted those people to vote at the 1956 parliamentarian election. In these regions, Pha-Sa-Pa-La won and elected Begalis entered the Parliament.
After 1960s, the population of the Bengalis, so-called Rohingya, reached almost 500,000 in Buthidaung, Maungdaw, and western parts of Yathedaung. Their distribution is so great that they reached to Rakhine State and gradually increased in numbers.
The operation of collecting Bengali census was made in 1966, “Myat Mon” operation in 1969, “Sabei” operation made in 1974 were made for scrutinizing the Bengalis. “The Dragon king” operation made in 1978 is the most serious one among these operations.
Due to the Dragon King operation, more than 150,000 Bengalis fled to Bangladesh. At that time, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spoke for the first time about them. According to them more than 250000 Bengalis fled to Bangladesh and according to international media, nearly 100000 Bengalis were killed.
In July 1978, “Hintha” operation was drawn for reaccepting the fleeing Bengalis. According to that operation, nearly 190,000 entered Myanmar again. That number is larger than the number of Bengalis that fled Myanmar.
In post-1980s, till now, there may be Bengalis of 500,000 to 800,000 living in Rakhine State. Among them, about 500,000 may be elligible according to 1982 Citizenship Law. If they meet the standards mentioned in the Law, they will become Myanmar citizens. But at least, 30,0000 won't become Myanmar citizens.
The 1982 Citizenship Law is the most suitable act for Myanmar. Neighboring countries like India, Bangladesh and China, are over populate.
So, it is not possible to amend the 1982 citizenship Law. The UN is urging Myanmar to amend the law. There are two things that the UN and international organizations must aware of.
First, it was impossible to accept Rohingya as nationals. The second thing is that deviating from the 1982 Citizenship Law, accepting Rohingya as Myanmar citizens will never be done.
We are not supporting everything the government is doing.
We have strongly criticized the facts that reform process is stopping in the President Thein Sein administration, corruption is uncontrollable, the judicial pillar is being destroyed and unfair in giving sentences, poverty among the public reached the highest, poor farmers became the subject of oppression, and imprisonment of journalists prevails.
But for the Bengalis issue, the government handling of this issue is fair, we supposed. President Thein Sein and Rakhine State Chief Minister Maung Maung Ohn's handling of Bengalis issue is correct. Besides, they are supported by the Myanmar public.
No matter President Thein Sein or whoever or which party becomes president of Myanmar in future, Bengalis will never become nationals. Even if the NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi said and NLD party will carry out for the Bengalis to become nationals, the Bengalis never become nationals. Whoever thinks that the Bengalis as national, a big public protest will appear.
President Thein Sein and his government's approach on the Bengali issue is still correct. But, it couldn't be use as bait for the winning at the election.
Recently, President Thein Sein made a remark that White Card holders should be allowed for voting in coming election. It couldn't be done like this.
If the White Card holders are allowed for voting, they must go under the 1982 Citizenship Law. If they meet the standards of the Law, they will become citizens of Myanmar.
Rakhine State and Bengalis issue not only concern with the Rakhine nationals. It is not a problem between the Rakhine national and the Bengalis. It concerns with the entire country. The problem isn't a regional problem but it is a nationwide problem.
To repeat my word, Bengalis issue isn't a matter of Rakhine State alone. It concerns with more than 50 million people of Myanmar. It is a national issue.
At the moment, the number of Bengalis in Rakhine State is between 500,000 to 800,000. For the entire Myanmar, it is between one and a half of million to 2 million. So, Bengalis are everywhere in Myanmar. They live in Kachin State as well as Taninthayi Region to Kayin State to refugee camps in Thai-Myanmar border areas.
When the millions of Bengalis' population is distributing across Myanmar, to use the words like" accept Bengalis as nationals" couldn't be say easily. If accepted, the identity of a nation can be lost. Therefore, the UN couldn't give pressure in doing so or pushing Myanmar for that matter thinking it (the issue) isn't a significant thing.
Yanghee Lee said that Rakhine State problem is a complicated matter for international societies. It became confusing because of the UN and some of the international societies. For our country, the problem is real simple. As the Bengali issue becomes the national issue, Bengalis will never be accepted as nationals.
For the UN or the international societies to be aware is that they have to bear in mind and accepted that Rohingya or Bengalis aren't Myanmar nationals. Beside, the citizenship must decide according to 1982 Citizenship Law.
Turning aside from the above mentioned two points and instigating Bengalis will not solve the problem. It will only contribute more to the problem.
Don't say to amend the 1982 Citizenship Law. If it is necessary to amend for modernizing, the facts mentioned in the Law couldn't be amended.
Concerning the Bengalis refugees, clarification is needed. It may be around 800000 Bengalis in Rakhine State. At least, 300000 Bengalis may not meet the requirement of the 1982 Citizenship Law.
Bengalis Illegally entering Myanmar in the refugee camps may reach above 100,000 after the 2012 conflicts.
There are two points in UN's press Release. One thing is to give the Bengalis citizenship. The second thing is to allow them to go freely in the nation.
For being the citizens, if they meet the criteria of the Law, they will become Myanmar citizens. The Immigration and Population Department will investigate for that issue. They will go according to the procedures and customs.
If they become the Myanmar citizens, the government will allow them to go freely in the nation.
There are criticisms that people from the Rakhine refugee camps are allowed to go freely while people from Bengali camps are restricted. The people in Rakhine refugee camps are Myanmar nationals.
Those living in the Bengali refugee camps aren't Myanmar nationals. It is natural that they are restricted in going freely.
If one look at the refugee camps in Thai- Myanmar border areas, the same thing could be seen. I have been to some refugee camps in Thai- Myanmar border areas. Those living in the camps have no right to go outside apart from the designated areas. There is some illegal goings from the camps but no official right for going freely in Thailand is granted.
But, Myanmar nationals living in Thailand are not problem makers.
Among the refugees, comparing human rights standard, priority is given on poverty stricken appearances. International media publishing these images, they created the situation of Bengalis are worsening. Actually, there were inhumane cases or violation of human rights among the Bengalis refugees. The UN should pay more attention on those cases.
Another thing is that there are some organizations and media using the name of Rohingya outside Myanmar. We are investigating where these organizations and media got support and how they are standing, what are they doing. We will write as soon as the detailed facts and figure are obtained.
Some organizations don't use the word Bengali, Rohingya but based in outside of Myanmar made movements and they became rich. The lives of Bengalis in the Bengalis refugee camps compared with them, the gap is like the sky and earth.
For the UN, it becomes a custom for paying attention to Bengali affairs only in connection with Myanmar. Whenever they visited Myanmar, they only emphasized on Bengali issue.
For the United Nations, there are many things in Myanmar which need attention rather than Bengalis issue.
In Kachin State, 20 percent of population is in IDP camps. It's been at least four or five months that UN's assistance doesn't go to Kachin refugee camps.
Previous assistances didn't cover the number of refugees. It is like UN is turning a blind eye to Myanmar nationals IDPs under the severe weather with insufficient food.
The UN didn't make an effort for giving effective supports to the IDPs. There may be various reasons that the food and shelters and assistances didn’t reach the IDPs. But, the UN's strenuous effort couldn't be seen either.
Yanghee Lee's second visit didn’t reach Kachin refugee camps. She cancelled her schedule to go to some refugee camps in northern Shan State giving the excuses of safety on clashes between the government and the ethnic armed forces. It wasn't a sound excuse.
In Kayin State where stability is seen, clearing of land mines couldn't be done till now. No one has been implemented mine clearing in last four years. The UN has given no pressure. For them, they may have excuses but it isn't worth saying.
For the UN, there are many things to be done in refugee camps in eastern Shan State, Shan State, Mon State and Taninthayi Region.
But, there is no significant arrangement. Although they undertook some projects in Myanmar, they prioritised the completion of those projects rather than fulfilling the needs of local residents.
Myanmar has a lot of human rights’ problems and challenges. The current situation is a time to pay a special attention for general election.
Although there have been perfunctorily efforts, finally the UN made a very favourable impression on only Bengali’s issue when reviewing the UN’s exhortation.
Due to the results, UN’s power is now decreasing in Myanmar. So also UN’s image is being damaged. The UN is looked like an organization that favours only Bengali’s affair and they don’t play a vital role in Myanmar.
At present, Ban Ki-moon is the UN’s Secretary General. His position term will end in 2016. At the time of Kofi Annan, former UN’s Secretary General, he didn’t make strong desire on Bengali issue. However, when the incumbent Ban Ki-moon had taken office, there are many accusation made by the UN.
Yanghee Lee, UN’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights for Myanmar, is a South Korean citizen like Ban Ki-moon.
Tomas Ojea Quintana, former UN’s Special Rapporteur of Human Rights in Myanmar, got a bad name for Bengali issue due to one-sided accusation.
In July last year, Yanghee Lee paid a first visit to Myanmar. Regarding Bengali’s affair, entire Myanmar people hoped to emerge free and fair reviews. However, it has failed. She also made unilateral accusation and pushes for Myanmar like Quintana.
UN’s incitement to Bengali’s issue had damaged the relations between Myanmar and UN. Moreover, the UN’s movements are leading the damages of relations not only between Myanmar and UN but also between Myanmar and South Korea.
Surely, Begali’s issue is not a problem among Rakhine nationals and Bengali Rohingya. It concerns all entire Myanmar people. Nobody can give the pressure on Myanmar.