Rohingya Update: Rohingya forced into being registered as Bengali for President’s census
The recent news of 'Bengalization' of the Rohingya has been a longstanding operation performed by the NaSaKa for number of years, long before last year's violence where many Rohingya had found themselves forced to change their nationality to Bengali.
However, within the last month, this operation has intensified and is now being carried out under the banner of the 'The President's Census', which is due to take place on a national level next year. Sittwe has been the first area targeted, and now, the operation is not only being carried out by the Nasaka but it also reinforced by key authoritative forces- the Police, Immigration, military and Lone Htain (security forces), expecting the Rohingya to easily accept and succumb to their superior demands. The Rohingya are well aware that this operation will lead to the extinction of their race and naturally, they refused to take part, defying all authoritative forces.
On April 26th, we had been informed by our sources in Arakan, in At Khaung Dakkar, a far Southwest village near Ba Du Paw Village in Sittwe, authoritative groups had come to perform this operation for the purposes of the President's census. However they were defiantly challenged, faced with school children who chanted: "Rohingya, Rohingya!", signifying their refusal to succumb to being forced to be Bengali, extinguishing their very existence. This defiance was not taken lightly and consequently led to two boys being shot by the police, one being as young as 10 years old. The boys were immediately taken to the clinic and are currently being treated. The Rohingya community in the area immediately gathered after this incident, fueled by anger, and protested against the authoritative groups. As a result the enforcement of their operation was abruptly ended and the authoritative groups left, without retaliation. Although in this instance defiance had led to a brief peace, it is feared that the authorities will return, but next time with greater force.
Another incident, which took place in the Bawdupha camp, also saw further Rohingya resistance as women and children protested against the President's Census operation. Angered by the lack of cooperation from the Rohingya, the police fired shots which had left a 15 year old boy severely injured; 6 were arrested as a result of the clash between the locals and the authorities, 3 of which have now been released- but like Khaung Dakkar, the authorities eventually retreated from the area, without any Rohingya surrendering to their demands, and without the quarrel escalating to another widespread violence.
The recent 'tolerance' of the authoritative groups comes with great surprise with consideration to previous campaigns. However, it is understandable that the recent international focus on Myanmar has led to a much more cautious strategy being employed. The past week has seen the government of Myanmar receive much criticism (rightly so); the release of the Human Rights Watch Report, the shock and negative response to Thein Sein receiving the International Crisis Group Peace award, and the announcement of the EU lifting all but its arms sanctions. This is all in anticipation of the forthcoming report from the Rakhine Commission, which is reported to propose some sort of identity card for the Rohingya (note, that it will not be a citizenship card) in some attempt to convey positive steps being taken by the authorities to reconciliation by the international community.
Though apparent piecemeal steps may be taken to attempt reconciliation, at all costs, transparency and constant focus must be paid to Myanmar to ensure that our sources' fears are not confirmed: "The situation has calmed down now, but it is not over, this will take place and we will be forced to be registered as Bengali within the next week or 10 days, also it will happen in other parts of Arakan as well".