Monday, December 5, 2011

Little Knowledge Too Dangerous: Expert Responses on Bo Bo Lan Sin's RFA Broadcast

Bo Bo Lan Sin's RFA transcript link
http://bobolansin.wordpress.com/2011/12/01/my-burma-3-making-nation-states-in-the-far-east/#more-1118
Response from Dr. Aye Chan

As a historian of Burma, I have to ask Bo Bo lang Sin the following questions.
(1) Why does not he give citations for the facts he has presented? I am sure his presentation is based only on the secondary literatures. He is not dealing with the original Portuguese and Dutch sources.

(2) How can he estimate the numbers of the slaves brought by the Portuguese Pirates? No source material is available to count the slaves brought to the Mrauk-U Slave market or sold to the Dutch East India Company to be brought to Batavia.

(3) Dutch East India Company records give the lists of the nomanclatures of the goods and the costs of the exports loaded on ten ships, bound to Batavia. Of them only six  brought Bengali slaves as 35 heads, 210 heads, 325 heads, 145 heads, 163 heads and 253 heads between 1624 and 1663 (in nearly forty years). How can he estimate such a large numbers?

If he can't read Dutch, I am ready to help him with the original source materials.

See D.G.E Hall. 1960. "Studies in Dutch Relations with Arakan," Burma Research Society Fiftieth Aniversary Publication Volume II.
Sincerely,
Aye Chan
Professor of Southeast Asian Studies
Kanda University of International Studies, Japan

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Response from Khin Maung Saw (Berlin)

Slaves in Arakan
Arakanese kings needed laborers. Portuguese pirates were the slave hunters and sold the Bengali slaves to the Arakanese kings. These slaves were placed in Kyauktaw and Mrauk U areas. Some of them were Hindus and some Muslims. These slaves too were assimilated into the Arakanese society.

Jacques Leider wrote: “Through a Dutch source of the 17th cent., we know that the majority of the countrymen abducted from Bengal to be sold as slaves were Hindoos, but it can be supported that an increasing number of those country-folk were Muslims. I would rather believe that these simple people about whom we do not have much information, formed the majority of the Muslims in Arakan. English sources from the end of 18th and early 19th century pretend that in some areas of Arakan, these Bengalis represented up to a quarter of the population. But in fact these estimations are contradicted by the more reliable figures of the early British period (after 1825) which do not confirm the former opinions”.

R.B. Smart, the deputy assistant commissioner of Akyab wrote: “Since 1879, immigration has taken place on a much larger scale, and the descendants of the slaves are resident for the most part in the Kyauktaw and Myohaung (Mrauk-U) townships. Maungdaw Township has been overrun by Chittagonian immigrants.

Butheedaung is not far behind and new arrivals will be found in almost every part of the district.

Those Bengali settlers in Arakan were noted by British for their administrative purposes either as Hindus or as Muslims according to their religion. Muslim settlers outnumbered the Hindu settlers.

The Census Reports of Akyab (Sittwe) District for 1871, 1901, and 1911 is as follows:1

Races                            1871(year)                     1901(year)                    1911(year)
Mahomedan                       58255                            154887                          178647
Burmese                               4632                              35751                            92185
Arakanese                       171612                             230649                          209432
Shan                                      334                                     80                                  59
Hill Tribes                           38577                               35489                            34020
Others                                   606                                 1355                              1146
Total                                276691                             481666                          529943

This table has proven that the above-mentioned statement of Jacques Leider is correct. Even in 1871, that means Arakan became a British colony for about 45 years, and even after the huge immigration waves of Chittagonian Bengali Muslims started from 1826, the Muslim population in Sittwe (Akyab) District which included Maungdaw, Butheetaung, Rathetaung, Mrauk U and Kyauktaw Townships was not even 25% or a quarter of the total population. Only in 1911, that means almost 90 years after Arakan became a British colony and after suffering very huge immigration waves of Bengali Muslims, the Muslim population in Sittwe (Akyab) District which included Maungdaw, Butheetaung, Rathetaung, Mrauk U and Kyauktaw Townships increased to 33%.

Here too, all of the Bengali Muslims in Maungdaw, Butheetaung and Rathetaung townships were the new settlers after the British annexation of Arakan, however, in Mrauk U and Kyauktaw Townships about one third to a half of the Muslim population were the descendants of the slaves. Islamization of Arakan by the Bengali Muslims (so-called “Rohingyas”)

Bengali Muslims wanted and want to turn Arakan into an Islamic state by all means. Thus they invented many fabricated stories. They claimed that Santikan Mosque in Mrauk U was bulit around 1440 A.D.

On the other hand, Jacques leider wrote: “The origins of a first Muslim community in Arakan have been as well related to the name of the founder of Mrok U (Mrauk-U). The mercenaries at his disposal would have built the Santikan mosque at the Mrok-U. But this attribution to the 15th century seems to belong to the popular tradition. According to Forchhammer, the construction technique of the Santikan mosque is closely related to the Dukkanthein and Chitethaung pagodas which date from the first half of the 16th century. It is precisely at this period that we have a first written account of a Muslim religious mission at the Arakanese court”.

Furthermore, Leider stated his position clearly on the shipwreck story and their claimed settlement since 9th century: “Pretending that Arab traders had come to Arakan since the 8th or 9th century, as has been upheld by those who want to stress the antiquity of Muslim presence in the area, is just a matter of speculation. As far as I understand those who have been arguing the problem, this precise question is linked to the early history of Chittagong. If you sustain that the Arab ‘Sadkawan’ can be identified with Chittagong, you can speculate on the presence of Arab traders in the area. Western Bengal had been under Muslim control since the beginning of the 13th century, but it took much more time to extend and to strengthen the sultans’ control over Southeastern Bengal. An increasing number of Muslim traders may have taken part in the coastal trade from that period onwards, without necessarily settling in the Arakanese kingdom. What kind of influence these traders may have had on the court and on the country generally, is -for the moment – equally a matter of speculation.”

The other fabricated story of the Bengali Muslims (the so-called “Rohingyas”) is about a mosque in Sittwe (Akyab). They boasted that the mosque was built by their ancestors who established that town and the mosque is already more than 1000 years old. In fact, the town Sittwe (Akyab) was built only in 1826 by the British government after the First Anglo Burmese war and therefore the town is not even 200 years old!!
Khin Maung Saw (Berlin)

*Redistribution of materials received via emails.
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Sources: Little Knowledge Too Dangerous: Expert Responses on Bo Bo Lan Sin's RFA Broadcast
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