Rohingya / Rakhine Conflict and the Question of Statehood
Another important element that contributed to the deterioration of relations between the Rakhine and the Muslim communities in Arakan has been the issue of statehood. The Arakan Muslims vehemently objected to the demands of the Arakan Party for the status of a state for Arakan within the framework of the Union of Burma. They were apprehensive that any such arrangement would ensure the domination of the Rakhine Buddhists over Arakan. Instead the majority of the Muslim organizations demanded ‘autonomy for the region, to be directly governed by the central government in Rangoon without any Arakanese officials or any Arakanese influence whatsoever’. This placed the government of U Nu in a difficult situation because in the general elections of 1960 he promised to confer statehood on Arakan, on a par with other states of the Union of Burma. In the face of growing opposition of the Muslim organisations such as the Rohingya Jamiyat al Ulama, the Rohingya Youth and Students’ Associations, the government in May, 1961, created the Mayu Frontier Administration covering the provinces of Maungdaw, Buthidaung and the western portion of Rathedaung. The Administration was not accorded autonomy and was under the control of Army officers. With the consent of the Muslim leaders when U Nu government was about to grant statehood to Arakan, excluding the Mayu district, the plan was thwarted by the military coup of General Ne Win in 1962,
The Rohingya militancy was revived following the dissolution of the Mayu Frontier Administration in 1964 by the Military Council and its incorporation into the Arakanese administration. This led to the creation of a new organization, the Rohingya Patriotic Front, and demand for autonomy was back on the political agenda.
By AFK Jilani
The Mayu Frontier District, From the Pages of History
If they were not Muslim kings mentioned in the inscription, the Muslim kings might be Rohingya Muslim kings, from the Mayu River valley, the eastern side of the Naf River. Rohingyas claim their existence there of over thousand years. If not thousand years, their existence might be from the time of 1202 C.E. when the Muslims conquered Bengal that is 800 years. (Dr. Than Tun) In 1942 the Muslim Rohingyas liberated all area up to Razabil [Zaydebyin] in the Rathedaung Township. The whole Mayu frontier area comprising Maungdaw, Buthi daung and most part of the Rathedaung Township were brought under the administration of the Muslim Peace Committees set up by the Rohingya Muslims of the north Arakan. Mr. Omrah Meah became the president of the Peace Committees. In 1945 while taking power from the President of the Muslim Peace Committee, Mr. Omrah Meah, by Col. Phillip, Col. Edgerly and other British military Officers, the British promised they would make North Arakan a “Muslim National Area”. The same promise was also given to Atura Raja (Abdul Majid) of TaungBazar by the British officers in Writing. On First May 1961, the elected democratic popular government of Prime Minister U Nu created the Mayu Frontier Administration Area covering Maungdaw, Buthidaung and the western part of Rathidaung townships. Though it was a military administration, as it did not involve subordination to the Rakhine authorities the arrangement earned the support of the Rohingyas. A special police force known as’ Mayu Ray” was raised with recruits from local Rohingyas and the law and order situation was improved. Economic, educational, health and cultural improvements were done by the Frontier Administration. It was the only administration, which favoured Rohingyas during the post-independent Burma.
The Mayu valley sits on the traditional Rohingya homeland of North Arakan between the Kaladan river and the Naf. Some people say it is called Mayu because once upon a time it was a place of free heaven for the peacocks where various kinds of the peafowls inhabited with freely dancing and singing. In Rohingya language peacock is called Mayur (in Pali it is called Mayura).Some says Malay people crossed through this place in the early days of the history and the place is called Mayu.But both the sayings may be from the folk-tales. The Mayu Range rests between the Naf and Kaladan rivers. The highest peak of the range is (2174) fts.Since it is connected with the Himalayan Mountains, various kinds of wild animals are found in this range. The commonest wild animals found in these mountains are elephants. The highly revered white elephants by the Buddhists are often found in these mountains near Maungdaw Township. Tigers, gauyals (gaurs), the wild goats, wild cattle, Malay deers and various kinds of deers and birds are common fauna in this majestic Mayu. Mayu is a land of mountains, thick tropical forests, rivers and creeks. Its 70 percent of the land is covered with forest. Teak, Pyinkado, Kamaung, Kayin, canes and bamboos are found in the forest of Mayu. Mayu river is famous for its beautiful natural Saindaung water-fall at the height of 220ft.There is a very beautiful beach lies between Alaysangyaw (Hashorata) and Ahngumaw. In 600 AD Maha Wira Min founded his kingdom at Purma (now a village in northern Maungdaw) at the east bank of the Naf river (Pamela, 1976, PP44_45). In the ‘Kyaukza’ serial No.963/20-23-804Burmese Era, 1442C.E. there is indication of Muslim king`s reign of Arakan in 14th century who were friends of Burmese kings and used to visit them. The kings of Arakan had Muslim titles.
Rohingya language was aired by the government’s official Burma Broadcasting Services twice a week till 24 October 1966. Every year Rohingya representatives, including wrestlers were invited to 12, February Union Day celebration. Rohingya feast and cultural shows were part of the Union Day celebration. During the Frontier Administration the Rohingya people were as happy as that of 1942 to 1945 Peace Committee period. In 1962 the government drafted a bill for Arakan statehood excluding Mayu area in the territory projected Arakan state as the inhabitant of Mayu area are Rohingyas. General Ne Win staged a coup on 2 March 1962.The revolutionary government of Ne Win cancelled the plan to grant statehood to Arakan. But the Mayu Frontier Administration remained till it was put under the administration of the Ministry of Home Affairs in first February 1964. On that day all the government servants of Mayu District were assembled at Mayu House (4th mile) Maungdaw by the order of Frontier D.C. Major Tin Oo. Lt. Col. Than Nyunt, head of the Frontier Administration of Burma handed over the Mayu area to Lt. Col. Sein Lwin (afterwards Gen. Sein Lwin, President for 17 days ), the then Secretary of Home Ministry in front of all the attending government servants. In a sympathetic mood Col. Than Nyunt told the audience not to be sorry for the change of the administration. However, in a haughty manner Col. Sein Lwin warned the audience to be faithful to the new administration with a voice of thunderbolt nodding excessively his head and moving his hands in support of what he was saying. In 1974, the Revolutionary Government of Burma, renamed as the Socialist Republic of Burma popularly known as BSPP government convened the first Pyithu Hlut Taw (Parliament) which ratified the constitution drawn by BSPP. The new constitution granted ‘state’ to Arakan manned by Buddhists only without the participation of Muslims of Arakan though half of the population of Arakan is Muslims, Cont. P. 5
Dr.Than Tun the reactor of Mandalay University and professor of history wrote, the kings of Arakan had Muslim titles, and the kings mentioned in the Kyaukza might be Rohingyas from the Mayu valley of eastern Naf River who claims their existence of over thousand years.
Brigadier U Aung Gyi stated in 1961 that Rohingyas are an indigenous race in Burma as other ethnic groups….. (28).In 1959-61 university of Rangoon granted permission to the students of the university to organize and operate under the name of ‗university Rohingya student Association‘.
Rohingya Language program was allowed to broadcast as per indigenous‘ program of BBS from 1961 to 1964 twice weekly.
In fulfillment of Rohingyas‘ demands for an autonomous state for Muslims of Arakan the then Democratic government of Burma headed by U Nu granted local autonomy to the Rohingyas and declared establishment of the ‗Mayu administration Frontier‘ to be administered by local Rohingya recruits under central Government and was abolished in 1964 by Gen.Ne Win.