Monday, 16 July 2018
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Myanmar keeps ducking the word “Rohingya”

Redwan Ahmed

Myanmar has always objected to the use of the word “Rohingya” when addressing the persecuted Muslims from the Rakhine. Very strategicallyimplying that they are Bengali and entered the region during the British Empire and later as illegal immigrants after Bangladesh’s independence war in 1971. During the recent summit of Association for Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), a draft of the closing statementdidno mention of the exodus of Rohingya Muslims from Rakhine state following the crackdown that United Nations stated as “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” The draft was prepared by the Philippines, the current chair of the association. However, sources say Myanmar’s de facto leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi encountered questions regarding the issue.Two of the unnamed ASEAN leaders raised thematter during a plenary session of thesummit in Manila on 13th November.When Suu Kyi assured his fellow leaders that Myanmar is already taking steps to address the plight of the Rohingya people, but with a very careful selection of wordings, internally displaces persons instead of Rohingyas. “The process of repatriation of IDPs (internally displaced persons) will conclude within three weeks after a signing of a memorandum of agreement for understanding with Bangladesh,” Philippines Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Roque said quoting the de facto leader of Myanmar. In other news, Myanmar cardinal urged the soon-to-be visiting Pope Francis to avoid the term “Rohingya” during his visit to Myanmar later this month. Cardinal Charles Maung Bo told Reuters the Pope would raise the need to provide humanitarian assistance to the Muslim minority mentioning them as “These are people who are suffering and these are the people in need of help now.” “We have asked him at least to refrain from using the word ‘Rohingya’ because this word is very much contested and not acceptable by the military, nor the government, nor the people in Myanmar,” Bo explained Reuters in an interview in Yangoon. Bangladeshi human rights activist Nur Khan says this denial to label them Rohingya is a part of language conspiracy that fuels the anger of the local Buddhists towards the ethnic minorities “They (The Burmese government) want to establish the Rohingyas as outsiders, Bengalis who came from intrusions.

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