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Toward Full Recognition of the Dignity of the Rohingya People in Myanmar

The persecution of the Rohingya people in Myanmar must be brought to end. Their citizenship should be declared and recognized by Myanmar. But it remains the responsibility of Myanmar's neighbors and the international community to assure the human rights of these Muslim minority people in a predominantly Buddhist Myanmar and that full dignity is accorded to the people.

Reports of government sanctioned persecutions of the Rohingya people have been well documented over the years. Even Buddhist Monks have been said to abuse the Rohingyas. However, the condition of the Muslim group has worsen in recent months after militants attacked a border station and killed nine policemen back on October, 9, 2016. The entire Rohingya population, which numbers at least 800,000, has come under more intense pressure since that attack. 

Last November, a policeman filmed the persecution of an entire Rohingya village by a security force. Since Rakhine State, where most of the Rohingya live, in the Northwest of the country, is closed to journalists and humanitarian observers, very little was done to investigate the humanitarian crime. However, with the release of the police-beating film and pressure from the international community, Myanmar authorities have now promised to investigate the event.

Yet, hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas continue to live as stateless people each day, with another 140,000 internally displaced in ghetto camps, while 30,000 have fled into neighboring Bangladesh. 

The story of the Rohingyas is another tragedy of the failed effects of colonialism upon a people and the impacted dominance of a majority group upon a minority.

More than six-hundred-years-ago, the Rohingya people settled the western border state of Arakan, today's Rakhine State, in Burma(modern day Myanmar). They were welcomed and encouraged at the court of Burmese royalty. Then around 1785, Buddhist Burmese moved from the south and conquered Arakan. All the Muslim men were executed or driven out to Bengal(today's Bangladesh).

Great Britain took control of Arakan after the First Anglo-Burmese War(1824-1826) as the empire expanded its rule over the India region. England encouraged farmers from Bengal - the original Rohingyas and native Bengalis to populate Arakan. This sudden major arrival of many immigrants from British Indian sparked a strong reaction from the mostly Buddhist Rakhine people in Arakan sowing the seeds of many of the ethnic tensions of today.[Source: www.asianhistory.about.com.]

Adding to the ill-fate of the Rohingyas, the British abandoned Arakan at the start of World War II under Japanese expansion. In the chaos the British withdrawal, Muslims and Buddhists inflicted massacres upon each other. The Rohingya continued to look to the British for protection as some became spies for the Allies behind Japanese lines. Unfortunately for the Rohingyas, the Japanese got wind of their collusion with the British and the Japanese tortured, raped and murdered many of the Rohingya people in Arakan. Thousands also fled to Bengal. 

At the end of World War II as the Rohingyas sought to create a nation in Arakan, the military junta of General Ne Win crushed any hopes to statehood for the Muslim minority, denied them any citizenship and persecuted both separatists and non-political Rohingyas. The Burmese government classified the Rohingyas as stateless Bengalis. And such is still the saga of the Rohingya people in 2017.