The ROHINGYA PEOPLE are from the ‘province’ or ‘state’ of Rakhine within the Republic of Myanmar, also known as Burma, bordering Bangladesh and Thailand.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, in a recent report, called upon Myanmar to put a stop to what he described as ‘ethnic cleansing’, which is the action of wiping out a group of people by another group based on differences such as race, religion or language. The Republic of Myanmar, using its army, has been driving out some of its own citizens from the Rokhine state, on the apparent basis that these citizens are Muslims. The number of refugees, according to the BBC and UNICEF, has now reached up to 800,000 in this mid-October 2017.
We called for agreement between Myanmar and Bangladesh, to facilitate the return of these people to Rakhine. How? By the setting up of an independent republic for them. No international organization can realistically continue to provide water, food, shelter, health services and security to 1 million people in one of the poorest district of an already poor country, Bangladesh, on an indefinite basis. The first timid attempts of calling some refugees to come back to a camp in the North of Rahkine did not work since all these mostly poor and in many cases illiterate Rohingya were asked to prove their previous residence in Rahkine. Knowing full well that the Myanmar Army did a “good” job by burning all the Rohingya houses as soon as they fled for their lives, practically NO ONE could prove appurtenance. In addition, the Army has mined some area of the border. A desperate situation, for which the world has to find a solution! In the past, the world has been powerless to stop genocides of the Jews, Armenians, Tutsis of Rwanda, Yazidi of Syria, just to mention a few! It must not fail the Rohingyas or the concept of world solidarity will reduce to naught.
Rakhine State consists of five districts, namely Sittwe (12,500 km2), Mrauk-U,Maungdaw (3,540 km2), Kyaukphyu (9,985 km2) and Thandwe (10,755 km2) making a total of 36,775 km2 with a population (2001 figure) of 2,915,000 people.
The 800,000 Rohingyas who have fled Myanmar in 2017 have, so to speak, voted with their feet by fleeing. Their vote is equivalent to a vote for self-rule and for independence.
A strong case therefore exists for the UN to pass a resolution declaring two of the Rakhine districts (about 14,000 km2 out of the total of about 36,778 km2 of that state) excised from the sovereign Republic of Myanmar, to form a new independent Rohingya Republic’. The exact borders will follow those of two existing districts from the state of Rakhine where the Rohingyas are (or were) in majority.
Countries of Africa, of Europe and of Asia to should introduce and support such a resolution at the UN, recognizing a ‘Rohingya state’. We call upon Ms Aung San Suu Kyi to put all her wonderfully expressed views and struggle in favour of democracy to facilitate such a solution. To be followed by a huge United Nations led interagency mission to Myanmar to implement it and to lay the structures of a new state to welcome the legitimate return of all Rohingya refugees to ‘their’ country.
Dr Michael ATCHIA
(Former Programme Director at the UN)