The article “Rohingya caught in battle for national territory” (Insight, April 20) was very disappointing, with historically incorrect facts that invited misunderstandings and doubt.
The article states that “the Rohingya ancient homeland is Arakan, on the eastern coast of the Bay of Bengal” and “Muslims in northern Arakan are not migrants into Burma. Rather Burma migrated into Arakan”. This is absolutely incorrect.
Also untrue were the claims that “when Arakan was assigned to Burma during Partition in 1948, it firmly became part of Burma” and “in 1948, the border hardened: Arakan became, for the first time, the indisputably national property of Burma”. In fact, Arakan has been a part of Burma since the separation of British India and British Burma in 1937. Indeed Arakan had been a part of Burma before the British conquest of Burma.
The author asserts that the “the British conquered Burma in 1824, and Arakan returned to its role as a coastal space” and “Bengali Muslim migratory settlement rose in Arakan as it did in eastern Bengal and Assam, where Bengali farmers specialised in turning heavily flooded land into productive rice fields”, which clearly shows that some Bengali Muslims are not native of Arakan and that they migrated from other places after 1824.
The article was neither informative nor accurate, eschewing reliable history in favour of opinion with statements like, “The Rohingya population has not only been settled in Arakan for many centuries, but some ancestors would have lived there even before Burmans settled central Burma” and “Muslims in northern Arakan are not migrants into Burma. Rather Burma migrated into Arakan”. Such false opinions could have an impact on existing friendly relations between neighbouring countries.
The article inferred that Rakhine and Arakan are two separate entities, when in truth they are one and the same.
Arakan was the name by which the British refered to the region that the Burmese call Rakhine. The land of Arakan has always belonged to the Rakhine people.
We have reason to suspect a hidden agenda behind the article and The Nation’s motive for publishing it at this crucial juncture for resolving the humanitarian problems and complex issues in Rakhine state.
The challenges we are facing today in Rakhine are formidable. Addressing the state’s deep-rooted and complex issues is a fundamental and crucial part of the Myanmar government’s efforts to build peace and national reconciliation in the country. We shall not let these challenges derail our ultimate goal to build a peaceful and developed Rakhine state.
Therefore, I would like to suggest that The Nation publish more constructive and balanced news.
Myo Myint Than
Myanmar ambassador to Thailand