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Jan-02-2013 14:03printcomments

Burmese Rohingya American Friendship Association (BRAFA)

A Presentation at the Milwaukee Turkish Muslim Center on 12/29/2012

Members of the Burmese Rohingya American Friendship Association (BRAFA) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Members of the Burmese Rohingya American Friendship Association (BRAFA) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

(MILWAUKEE, WI) - Before submitting my presentation on the situation of suffering Arakan Muslim people, I want to introduce all of you about myself and our organization that is called “The Burmese Rohingya American Friendship Association. My name is Shaukhat (aka) MSK Jilani and currently, I am serving the duty as a Chairman in the Burmese Rohingya American Friendship Association.

For your information, the Burmese Rohingya American Friendship Association (BRAFA) is a non-profit community based organization in Milwaukee, Wisconsin State and it was recently formed by the Burmese Rohingya residents and American citizens living in the whole Milwaukee area to advocate the suffering cause of ethnic Rohingya minority people of Arakan with a peaceful and non-violent diplomatic means to create awareness on the plights of Burmese Rohingya people and other suffering minorities and as well as to restore fundamental human rights of Rohingya ethnic people in Burma.

Today, the Arakan Muslims, especially the Rohingya people, are the worst victims of a pre-planned massacre, suffering genocide, ethnic cleansing and massive human rights violations at the hands of Burmese government security forces with the active coordination and collaboration of extremist, racist and xenophobic Rakhine Buddhist people led by the Buddhist Rakhine National political forces, Rakhine academicians and intellectuals, Buddhist monks, etc.

Arakan Muslims known as Rohingyas have historical and constitutional roots in Burma; a large and strategically placed country located between South Asia and South East Asia, with an area of about 261,970 square miles and a population of over 60 million. Burma received independence from Britain on January 04, 1948 as the “Union of Burma” (Now Myanmar). It has borders with India, Bangladesh, China, Laos, and Thailand.

Burma is resourceful, multi-national, multi-cultural and multi-religious country with nearly 140 ethnic races and Rohingya is one of them. Currently, Burma has a population of over 60 million of which nearly 8 million are Muslims. Of the Muslim population about 3.5 million (both at home and abroad) are Muslim Rohingyas. In Burma, the Buddhists are majority people and the Muslims are the second largest religious community. Christianity and other religions are also practiced.

(1) What is Rohingya and who are the Rohingya people?

The word “Rohingya” is derived from Rohang, the ancient name of Arakan. Arakan is situated on the Burma’s south-western part with bordering Bangladesh. The Muslims of Arakan are the direct progeny of the early Muslims. They are the descendants of the Muslim Arabs, Pathans, Moors, Persians, Turks, Afghans, Mughuls, and Bengalis who came mostly as traders, warriors and saints through over land and sea-route. Many settled in Arakan and mixing with the local people developed the present stock of people known as “Rohingyas”.

Rohingyas are a nation with distinct culture, civilization, language and literature of their own and were living in their native land since 8th century A.D. They have been living in old Arakan kingdom which was known as Rohang or Roshang from generation to generation with other fellow countrymen; Rakhine Buddhist and tribal people, in peace and harmony. There were no religious or racial problems in Arakan until it was invaded and occupied by Burmese king Bodaw Maung Waing in 1784. After the annexation of the independent province of Arakan in 1784 by the Burmese king, the atrocities, violence, hatred, ethnic cleansing, discriminatory policies and persecutions against the Arakan Muslim community basically introduced.

On March 28, 1942, there was a pogrom and violent attack against the defenseless Rohingya people instigated by ultra-nationalist Buddhist Bama Thakin leaders in which more than one hundred Thousand Rohingyas were killed by the Rakhine Buddhist people. This is a major attack against the Rohingya people and as a result of 1942 massacre, 307 Muslim villages were uprooted and had disappeared from the soil of Arakan and more than 80,000 Muslims fled to Chittagong and Rangpur Refugee camps to escape Buddhist Burmese and Rakhine’s persecutions.

(2) Burmese Military Operations against Muslim Rohingya Community

Since independence of Burma in 1948, the Burmese Buddhist Government authorities carried out the following mentioned 20 major armed operations against unarmed and defenseless Muslim Rohingya community in Arakan are: -

-        Military Operation (5th Burma Regiment)-November 1948
-        Burma Territorial Force (BTF)-Operation 1949-50
-        Military Operation (2nd Emergency Chin Regiment)-March 1951-52
-        Mayu Operation-October 1952-53
-        Mone-Thone Operation-October 1854
-        Combined Immigration and Army Operation – January 1955
-        Union Military Police (UMP) Operation-1955-58
-        Captain Htin Kyaw Operation-1959
-        Shwe Kyi Operation-October 1966
-        Kyi Gan Operation-October-December 1966
-        Ngazinka Operation-1967-69
-        Myat Mon Operation-February 1969-71
-        Major Aung Tha Operation-1973
-        Sabe Operation February-1974-78
-        Nga-Min (King Dragon) Operation-February 1978-1979 (Resulting in exodus of some 300,000 Rohingyas to Bangladesh)
-        Shwe Hintha Operation-August 1978-80
-        Galon Operation-1979
-        Pyi Thaya Operation- July 1991-92 (Resulting in exodus of some268,000 Rohingyas to Bangladesh
-        Na-Sa-Ka Operation- since 1992
-        Anti-Muslim riot in Sittwe (Akyab)-February 2001

There are 3.5 million Rohingya people living both inside and outside Burma (Myanmar). Due to the above mentioned armed operations, wide spread persecution, prejudice and ethnic cleansing inside Burma, the majority of the population ( almost 2 million) have been compelled to live in exile, particularly in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, U.A.E., Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. Recently, few thousands Rohingyas were resettled in US, EU countries, Canada and Australia, and New Zealand under the refugee resettlement program of UNHCR. Now, there are 1.5 million Rohingyas are left in Burma, an estimated 500 thousand Rohingyas are living scattered all over Burma and one million still lives in their ancestral homeland Arakan state which was renamed as Rakhine state recently by the Burmese military Government.

(3) Rohingya National identity and Citizenship Status in Burma

Prior to 1962 the Rohingya ethnic community has been recognized as an indigenous ethnic nationality of Burma. “The first elected President and founding member of the Union of Burma - U Sao Shwe Thaike said that “Muslims of Arakan certainly belong to one of the indigenous races of Burma. In fact, there is no pure indigenous race in Burma, if they do not belong to indigenous races of Burma, we also cannot be taken as indigenous races of Burma.”

During the previous democratic parliamentary rule from 1948 to 1962, Muslim Rohingyas of Arakan have enjoyed full fledge Burmese citizenship rights. There have been foreigners’ act and foreigners’ registration rules but, Rohingyas were not required to register under those acts and rules. The Burma’s Prime Minister U Nu, Prime Minister U Ba Swe, other ministers and high-ranking civil and military officials stated that Rohingya people are like the Shan, Chin, Kachin, Karen, Kayah, Mon, Burman and Rakhine. They have the same rights and privileges as the other nationals of Burma regardless of their religious belief or ethnic background.

Besides, according to 1947 Burma Constitution, 1947 Burmese Residence and Registration Act, 1948 Burmese citizenship law, and 1974 Burmese Constitution, Rohingyas are Burmese citizens. Rohingya people have enjoyed public employment in all level and also obtained Burmese passports as citizens of Burma. Being an integral part of the Burma citizenry, Rohingya people had exercised the right of franchise in all general public elections held in Burma during the later colonial period from 1935 to 1948, parliamentary democracy rule (1948 – 1962), Ne Win’s Burma Socialist Program Party (BSPP) period (1974- 1988), 1990 multi-party general election held by the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) and finally, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC)’s 2010 elections, including its constitutional referendum held in 2008. In their exercise of franchise, The Rohingya people elected their representatives to the Legislative Assembly, to the Constituent Assembly, to the Parliament, to the People’s Assembly and People’s Councils of different levels.

Rohingyas representatives were appointed as Cabinet ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries and in high government positions. As an indigenous race and community group of Burma, Rohingya had their own political, cultural, and social organizations as well as they had a program in their own language in the official Burma Broadcasting Services (BBS) and also Rohingyas’ participation in the official “ Union Day” celebration in Burma’s capital, Rangoon, every year.

(4) Revocation of Citizenship Status of Rohingyas in Burma

In Burma, the ethnic Rohingya community has been systematically deprived of their national identity and citizenship status after former military dictator General Ne Win take over the power in March 1962 from the civilian democratic government. With the promulgation of the most controversial and discriminatory citizenship law of 1982 which violates several fundamental principles of customary international law standards, the Rohingya people who had inhabited in Arakan as early as 788 A.D., were now legally considered as non-nationals or illegal immigrants in their own country-Burma. In spite of their indigenous status recognized by the previous parliamentary governments, the Rohingyas were not listed among the so-called 135 ethnic nationalities of the country recorded by the Burmese Successive military regimes with an ulterior motive to make them “stateless people” within the country. Since then, military regime used Rohingya issue as an instrument to win the hearts of civilian Buddhist people in Arakan State.

To restore the rights of citizenship of the Rohingya minority in Burma, the restrictive and controversial 1982 Burma citizenship law which offends the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) should be repealed immediately, and replaced with a new law founded on basic principles of human rights. The new law should honor equality and non-discrimination, and help create an inclusive and tolerant Burma.

(5) Recent violence, and genocide against the Arakan Muslims

The recent eruption of violence, ethnic cleansing and genocide against the ethnic Rohingya minority and Kaman Muslims in Arakan in June-2012 witnessed the brutal killings of ten Muslim pilgrims who were returning to Yangon (Rangoon) after the completion of their spiritual services at Thandwe Township. The ten Muslim pilgrims were killed on June 03, 2012 in the presence of security police and local Burmese government officers by an armed mob of 300 ethnic Rakhine in Taung Goke Township after the rape and murder of a Rakhine lady (27 years old) called Ma Thida Htwe in Kyauk Ni Maw, Rambree Township on May 28, 2012 by three alleged local Muslim youths. The government arrested the three Muslim youths on the spot and one committed suicide whilst in police custody according to police statement. The remaining two Muslim youths have recently been sentenced to death by military judge in the court of Kyauk Pru District.

Since then, Rakhine extremist together with Buddhist monks under the leadership of Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP) and Rakhine Youth Association (Wanthanu Rakhetha Group) began to burning, looting, destroying, and demolishing of Muslim villages and houses in Akyab (Sittwe), Ratheydaung, Buthidaung, Maungdaw, Pauktaw, Minbra, Mrohaung, Kyauktaw, Mreybone, Kyaukpru townships in Arakan State.

This violence is directed against the Rohingyas and Kaman Muslim in Arakan. The government did nothing to prevent it. The army, police and security forces have become killer forces. The popular slogan of the Buddhist Rakhines under the leadership of RNDP (Rakhine Nationalities Development Party) is “Arakan is for Rakhine Buddhist people. Muslim Rohingya has no rights to live in Arakan and needed to be kicked out of the country.

“Dr. Aye Maung, Chairman of Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP) and one of the great masterminds who create June-2012 communal violence in Arakan against the Muslims, said that Rakhine state must be established like Israel. He issued the statement describing how the Rohingya must live in separate areas and should be promptly settled in other countries within a short period.”

In fact, it is a government sponsored pre-planned massacre, and it is a state terrorism against unarmed and peaceful living ethnic Rohingya people. Silent extermination with sporadic killings, arrest, rape, destruction and extortion continue unabated today.

Unfortunately, the news media has been quoting the highly controversial government’s statement giving the number of deaths as few hundreds whereas at least 2,500 Rohingyas were killed and thousands of people disappeared that were presumably killed. Unknown numbers of Muslim girls and women have been raped and sexually abused by the Burmese security forces and Rakhine Buddhist youth, shops and business locations have been looted and seized by the Arakan State Government agencies, and at the present moment, more than 135,000 Rohingyas including Kaman Muslims become refugees and internally displaced persons, about 16,000 Muslim houses plus 57 mosques from 70 Muslim villages have been burned down and destroyed across 8 townships in Arakan while the number of injuries of adults and arbitrary killing of child is uncountable during the attack and ethnic cleansing since the month of June to October 2012.

(6) Crimes against the Rohingyas and present situation

1.     Arbitrary arrests, torture, summary execution, custodial killings are rampant,
2.     Confiscation of farm lands, uprooting of Muslim settlements, establishment of new Buddhist settlements on evacuated Muslim land,
3.     Demolishing, destroying, and burning of mosques, Muslim houses and villages, Islamic religious schools,
4.     Confiscation of Muslim owned shops and Business centers,
5.     Rape and dishonoring of Muslim women and girls, banning hijab wearing of Muslim women, 
6.     Restriction on movement, even from one village to another within the same locality, on socio-cultural and religious activities, Islamic marriages, trade and business,
7.     Revocation of citizenship depriving the Rohingya citizenship rights including the right to seek higher and professional education,
8.     Unbearable taxation on all agricultural produces and even on domestic livestock like cattle and goats etc.,
9.     Uprooting of villages and eviction of inmates creating internal refugees or making them to wander from place to place while causing refugee exodus  off and on in to neighboring countries,
10.  Issuing notification to the local Buddhist people not to do any business deals with Muslim Rohingyas in Arakan, and including,
11.  Creation of artificial famine and forced starvation by blocking the distribution of humanitarian goods and medicines  are also counted as crimes against humanity,
 

The above mentioned 11 points are crimes against Muslim humanity at present day by the military government in Arakan-Burma and the extermination policies towards the Muslims including ethnic cleansing of Arakan Rohingya Muslim population have been continued effectively while world Medias and international community leaders keep continuing their role but still, there is no positive sign have reached for a concrete solution. In order to find a permanent solution for the Arakanese Rohingya community, the international community, world leaders, ASEAN member countries, European Union, Muslim World, the US Administration including the United Nations must effectively engage with Burmese government as well as putting strong pressure to end the violence and crimes against ethnic Rohingya and other minorities in Burma.

Final Appeal

In view all of the above, on behalf of Burmese Rohingya American Friendship Association (BRAFA), I would like to appeal all brothers, all American communities to come forward in favor of Rohingya Muslim population of Arakan-Burma and join with us for the peaceful movement to save the lives of suffering Muslim humanity from the genocidal actions of the Burmese Buddhist authorities as well as to advocate for the rightful citizenship status of Rohingyas in Burma by all available peaceful means as they are a part and parcel of 1.3 billion Muslim Ummah around the world. Thank you very much and Wassalam.

With best wishes,

Shaukhat @ MSK Jilani

Burmese Rohingya American Friendship Association (BRAFA)

Milwaukee, Wisconsin.



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