Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Troubles in Arakan: 1949 British Perspective!

Three river valleys of North Arakan.
Peter Murray was a pre-war British administrator who spoke fluent Burmese. He was the British Ambassador to Cambodia during 1961-62. 
Peter Murray was also a territorial CAO (Civil Affairs Officer) with the British Army in Northern Arakan during the Second World War. 
He was the same Peter Murray mentioned by Robert Mole in his memoirs "The Temple Bells are Calling" about his time in the Arakan.
Following is his 1949 Foreign Office memo outlining the so-called racio-religious troubles in Arakan due to the Bengali Muslims’ relentless intrusion into Burma.

26th January, 1949.
(F 1323/1015/79)
Letter to RWD Fowler
Commonwealth Relations Office
Dear Bob,
1.   As some anxiety is being felt about the disorders in North  Arakan and as little seems to be known of the factors involved, I have thought it worthwhile to put on record what I know of the background. I must emphasise that this is mainly based on recollections from my own personal experience, including two years in the area during the war, and though I believe all the statements in it to be true, they ought not to be accepted too uncritically. I enclose five additional copies in case you think it worth sending them to our High Commissions. 
The Area
2.    North Arakan consists essentially of three river valleys, the Naaf, the Mayu, and the Kaladan, which run roughly in a north-east to south-west direction. The two latter converge at Akyab, the political, economic and geographical centre of the area. The alluvial floors of the river valleys are very fertile and produce large quantities of rice, vegetables and other crops. The hills between the valleys rise to about 2,000 feet, are extremely rocky, steep and broken, and are for the most part covered with thick scrub and bamboo jungle. There are no hard roads (apart from a short road from Buthidaung to Maungdaw) and the earth roads made during the war will, by now, have reverted to jungle.  Almost all the transport, even between neighbouring villages, is by water. The Pakistan-Arakan boundary runs up the estuary of the Naaf river and thence north-eastward into the hills.

The People
A)       The Arakanese:
 3.      The Arakanese are Buddhists, and are an offshoot of the Burmese race, speaking a strongly differentiated form of the Burmese language. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Arakan was a powerful and important kingdom, stretching to Chittagong in the north, where there was an Arakanese Viceroy, and preying on the shipping of the Mogul Empire in Bengal. The kingdom was subdued by the Burmese at the end of the 18th century, and came under British rule in 1825. There is a fairly strong admixture of Indian blood in the Arakanese, who are generally regarded as the Scots of Burma.  Before the war there was a small but powerful and influential Arakanese aristocracy who provided many of Burma’s ablest politicians and civil servants, and most of her few successful native business men.

Arakanese Buddhist of Maungdaw. 

B)        The Chittagongian Moslems:
4.      These are an off-shoot of the Bengali race, speaking a debased form of Bengali interlarded with Portuguese, Arabic and Arakanese words. They are much more hard working and prolific than the Arakanese and fanatically religious. They are also great seamen: Chittagongian “lascars” manned about 20% of the British merchant navy during the war. For the last several hundred years, they have been moving southwards, gradually displacing and over-running the Arakanese, until in 1941 there were only a few scattered groups of Arakanese villages left in the Chittagong district, and nearly one-third of the 700,000 inhabitants of the Akyab district were Moslems, mostly concentrated in the Northern part of the district. There was a great deal of inter-marriage between the races, usually between Chittagongian men who had come South in search of work and Arakanese women. The children of these marriages were brought up as Moslems and assimilated to the Chittagongian outlook. Every year at ploughing and harvest, about 20,000 Chittagongians from the north moves southward across the frontier and found temporary employment in the rice fields of Akyab.

Rioting Bengali Muslims in Maungdaw.

C)          The Hillmen:
5.    The barren hill jungles between the river valleys are sparsely inhabited by small groups of Hillmen akin to the Chins further east. They are extremely timid and seldom approach the villages of the valleys. They tend to associate with the Arakanese, to whom they are closer by race, rather than with the Moslems.
6.     The two communities lived intermingled under British rule for 116 years without much incident, though the latent hostility between them flared up into occasional riots and murders. At the beginning of 1942, the British administration collapsed, and the Japanese with the assistance of the  Arakanese occupied Akyab early in May.  They did not move north of Akyab until October 1942;  and in the meantime, the area of mixed population was the scene of repeated large-scale massacres in which thousands of people perished or died subsequently of starvation and exposure. Eventually the two communities separated into distinct areas, the Arakanese in the south supporting the Japanese and the Chittagongians in the north supporting the British. The area was a battleground for the next two years, and was thoroughly devastated by either side. Numbers of Moslems fled northward to their relatives or to refugee camps in Chittagong; but the fact is that at no time did the Japanese succeed in overrunning the entire area was in great measure due to the staunch loyalty to the Allies of the Moslems who remained.
 7.  In 1945 the British advanced and drove the Japanese from Arakan. Contact was made with elements of the “Burmese National Army” in Arakan, who as elsewhere in Burma, came over to our side and were given arms.
8.  As elsewhere in Burma, the young men who had been in the “Resistance” were unwilling to return to their humdrum life as cultivators or clerks; the old Arakanese nationalism and impatience of rule by Burmese officials flared up, and the whole Division remained in a disturbed condition up to the time f the transfer of power (4th January 1948) since when, by all accounts, the Government has controlled little outside the main towns.
9.   The Moslems in the north, finding themselves at the end of the war in an undisputed majority in the Maungdaw and Buthidaung Townships, at once turned their thoughts towards secession from Burma and accession to India (or Pakistan as that part of India later became). Indeed, if these thoughts were not already in their minds, they were probably put there by a fanatically Moslem I.C.S. officer who visited the area at the end of 1942, nominally to whip up support for the British-Indian war effort. Some of their leaders interviewed Mr. Jinnah in 1947, but received no encouragement of any irredentist Moslem movement in north Arakan.

Bangladesh with 160 millions is only 1/5 of Burma with 60 millions.

10.   It appears, however, that the Burmese, with little appreciation of the factors involved, made no attempt to reassure or placate the north Arakan Moslems. No doubt the congenital incompetence of minor Burmese officials made things worse. Eventually, in March or April 1948, the area appears to have got out of control altogether, and since then the Burmese garrisons have maintained themselves with difficulty in the midst of a hostile Moslem population. The leaders of the revolt called themselves “Mujahed” which, I believe, means a Moslem refugee from oppression, usually the oppression of a non-Moslem Government; their numbers have been put at 3,000 – 5,000 but they undoubtedly have the sympathy and probably active support nor only of the Moslem population of the area which I suppose must be 100,000 – 120,000 but also of the Moslems across the frontier in the Chittagong district, with whom they are connected by the closest ties of race and religion – the frontier is in fact quite artificial at this point.
11.   A great deal has been made in reports of a Communist menace. Some of the Arakanese rebels further south are known to be under so-called Communist influence, though it is doubtful whether their Communism is more than  a mere label. It seems to me unlikely that the “Mujahed” are Communists. They may have allied with Arakanese Communist rebels against the Burmese administration in the hope of establishing an independent state in Arakan after the over-throw of the Burmese Government’s authority by means of such an alliance; but alliance of this kind must have been extremely temporary and could not long withstand the deep racial and religious jealousies between them. 
The Future
12.   It seems unlikely that the Burmese Government will be able to restore order in Burma proper in the near future, let alone in Arakan. The people and the minor officials in Chittagong Division cannot be expected to watch unmoved the struggles of their brothers across the frontier against an alien and infidel administration, and will no doubt continue to support them. If the Pakistan (today Bangladesh) Government were driven by events to abandon their present correct attitude and to intervene they would I think find it very hard to stop short of Akyab, which is the only harbour in the area and the natural trade and communications centre; it controls the broad and fertile Kaladan rice plain, the source of most of the 300,000 tons of rice which used to be exported annually from North Arakan before the War. But this of course is mere speculation.
Yours sincerely,

Monks Protest against Army Killing Buddhists in Arakan

Since the disturbances reignited again in the troubled Arakan our overzealous Army has been shooting dead many Yakhine Buddhists, probably just too many, while protecting the Bengali Muslim minority from them.

Sittwe Hospital is now filled with many young Yakhine Buddhist men with gunshot wounds caused by Burmese guns, not Bengali guns, and it boils the red hot blood of our Buddhist monks all over Burma.

Buddhist monks in Burma especially the young ones calling themselves “Yahan-Pyos” hate the Bengali Muslims and they think the job of Burma army is to shoot the Bengali illegals not the Yakhine Buddhist vigilantes killing the Muslims and burning the Bengali wards and villages in the Arakan.

One cannot blame the Burmese Buddhist monks as they know what would happen once the Bengali Islamists took over Burma, from their own experiences and the harrowing experiences of fellow Buddhists living dreadful lives in Islamic countries like Bangladesh and India and Pakistan.

Especially in Pakistan and Afghanistan the Muslims had killed off all the Buddhists, and all their pagodas and temples razed to the ground. The Talibans in Pakistan even kill young girls wanting to go to school. In their Islamist eyes our Buddhist monks are pure evil and our Buddha statues are just evil icons.

Monks Protesting against Army Killing Yakhine Buddhists

Yesterday Burmese Buddhist monks staged a peaceful protest against Burma army killing Yakhine Buddhist vigilantes in current Arakan incidents. Hundreds and hundreds of Buddhist monks gathered first at Sule Pagoda in Rangoon at about one pm on October 25 and later moved to the Rangoon City Hall.

Their four points demand to the President Thei Sein is as follows.
1.      To protect Yakhine Buddhists from the enemy Bengali Muslims.
2.      To stop the army from shooting the national ethnics.
3.      To permanently Segregate the Bengali Muslims from the Yakhine Buddhists.
4.      President to act decisively on the Bengali Illegals issue.

Their particular concern was the army’s shooting of Yakhine Buddhists in current Arakan incidents. Many monks said that they were heavily saddened by the lives lost of Yakhine Buddhist in the hands of Burma army and they wanted the army to immediately stop shooting the Yakhine Buddhists.

“First, we demand the government to immediately and effectively protect Yakhine Buddhist from the harms of Bengali Muslims, Second, to immediately stop the army from shooting the Buddhists, and Third, drive out the illegal Bengali Muslims from our land,” demanded one leading monk at the protest.

Presidential Orders to Shoot the Yakhine Buddhists?

When the Islamist mob led by local Muslim politicians at Ramu (formerly a Burmese town of Panwar) ran riots in Bangladesh the Bangladeshi army and police quietly stayed still inside their fortified compounds and wilfully let the 50,000 strong Muslim mob of mainly teenage Madrassa students burn the 300 years-old Buddhist temples to the ground and kill the Buddhists including the monks the whole night.

Buddhist-cleansing in Ramu, Bangladesh.
The same thing happens in Pakistan, Malaysia, and Indonesia. That typically Islamic approach to Buddhist-cleansing is called “Letting the Extremist the Free Run in removing Infidels,” but our Burmese government has a very different approach.

Our beloved president will rather order the army to shoot the Buddhist crowd to protect the Bengali Muslims who are more than willing to kill the Buddhists including the old monks as they had displayed with ample evidence in last June Bengali riots at Maungdaw-Butheedaung region, their stronghold of Northern Arakan which they brutally captured in 1942 after killing all 100,000 odds Yahine Buddhist in an Islamic genocide while the whole Burma was in turmoil during the Second World War.

Our president and his advisors seem to worry more about Burma’s image abroad than the survival of their people on the western fringe of Burma or the western gateway into Burma. They are probably forgetting the population explosion in Bangladesh and there are more than 160 million people who have been eagerly eyeing our deliciously rich and bountiful country, Burma.

Please do not forget the most important fact that our brothers Yakhines are guarding that western gateway with their lives so that we have our Buddhist way of life still thriving in the Burma proper. If they fall we are gonna fall too.

OIC's Three stage Islamization of Burma.
The Bangladeshis want to come in and build their mosques and madrassa all over Burma and OIC and Saudi Arabia are right behind them with their military and financial might. It is scary for a Buddhist like me and the monks protesting on the streets of Rangoon.

The smell of death knell for Buddhism is all over Burma. Burma is the last frontier in stopping the relentless Muslim tide and our brothers Yakhines are doing it now and we have to help them with all our might.

But our president, who’d tasted a sweet flavour of being an internationally-acknowledged statesman in recent New York trip, has even threatened to take legal actions against the Yakhine nationalist parties and the Yakhine patriots behind the current and previous disturbances in Arakan.
Presidential threat to take legal action against Yakhine Buddhist Nationalists.

Everybody in Burma knows the Yakhine nationalist parties and their leaders are behind the attacks on Bengali Muslims. They’d been marching with their Yahine crowd in the protest rallies against the Multinational Muslim Mafia OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation) all over Arakan.

I guess they aren’t afraid of the threatening rhetoric of the President who was an army general and who has the blood of thousands of Burmese Buddhist including the monks on his own hands especially during the Saffron Uprising in 2008.

Burmese soldiers attacking a crowd (1988).
But shooting our brothers Yakhin Buddhist dead is just too much for me and every patriotic Burmese, I believe. Our president should reconsider his orders to the army and the Burmese soldiers should really think before shooting at their own Buddhist brethren.

Buddhist soldiers killing Buddhists, unbelievable? It reminds me of the faces of Chin soldiers shooting at us the protesting students during the 1974 U Thant Uprising and other similar uprisings in Burma’s past. Burma army has that deviant practice of using minority ethnic battalions to kill the majority Burmese protesting on the streets of Rangoon.

Maybe our Burmese army now has Islamic battalions filled with Bengali Muslim soldiers specially trained to shoot Buddhists and Buddhist monks just for these violent occasions in Arakan!

Related posts are at following links:
Buddhist-cleansing in Bangladesh
1942 Islamic Genocide of native Buddhists in Maungdaw District
North Arakan (1944-45) by Robert Mole

Indonesia Shuts Down Buddhist Temples in Aceh

Jakarta (Asia News) - Authorities in Banda Aceh, capital of the Aceh Special Territory, ordered the closure of nine Christian home churches and six Buddhist prayer houses for alleged irregularities in their building permit.

According to Deputy Mayor Hajjah Illiza Sa'aduddin Djamal, the buildings were illegal because they lacked the right permit. Under the law, private homes cannot be used "for religious ceremonies or functions."

"Aceh is a special territory that enforces Sharia," she said and home churches violate the law because they lack the appropriate building permit (Izin Mendirikan Bangunan in Indonesian).

The issue is more complicated in the case of Christian places of worship because the latter require the agreement of a certain number of local residents and that of the local interfaith dialogue group. Under the pressure of radical Muslim groups, permits are often denied.

Deputy Mayor Djamal also wants the authorities to monitor the activities of Buddhist and Christian communities to ensure that their services are performed in the right places. This is necessary, in her view, to "maintain interfaith harmony." At the same time, "we shall not issue any new permit for other churches or vihara (Buddhist temples)."
Local Muslim extremists welcomed the decision. Yusuf Al-Qardhawy, head of the Aceh branch of the Islamic Defence Front (FPI), called on other jurisdictions to follow Banda Aceh, enforce Islamic law and stop any non-Muslim worship activity that is not approved.

He said the situation would be monitored constantly to ensure that rules are respected. Local sources note that the municipal order shutting Buddhist and Christian places of worship follows a complaint filed by Islamists concerning an "improper" use of buildings.

The province of Aceh, the westernmost of the archipelago of Indonesia, is also the only one which is subject to Sharia. Compliance is ensured by the 'morality police,' a special force that punishes violations in dress and behaviour.

In the past, a relative calm and religious harmony between the Muslim majority and "foreigners," members of various non-Islamic faiths, prevailed under the leadership of former guerrilla leader, now Governor Irwandy Yusuf.
More recently the situation has changed however. Attacks against religious minorities have started and fundamentalists have gained more power and freedom of action.

In last April's elections, Zaini Abdullah, a former guerrilla leader who lived in exile in Sweden, won promising to fight corruption and impose Islamic law. The strict application of Sharia was one of the conditions separatist rebels imposed on Jakarta to end their armed struggle.

As a result of a recent spike in sectarian tensions, the area saw violence and attacks against Christian communities, which led to the closure of places of worship on the order of the authorities claiming that they lacked proper building permits.
(It is a clever and legal way to get rid of infidels the Buddhists and Christians from the Islamic Republic of Indonesia instead of burning down their temples and churches and killing them like what has been happening in Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Probably the Muslim Indonesians have learned from the Christians Aussies in Australia where the development applications for the mosques and the madrassas are being rejected outright by using overtight building codes and strict zoning laws while the home-mosques are being zealously shut down by using the same codes and laws.

My fellow Burmese Buddhists, please take note, that's the civilized way to do it if you want to stop rapid Islamization of Burma by the OIC and ilegal Bengali Muslims. Use the Municipal by-laws to shut the mosques mushrooming all over Burma like what Indonesian Muslims are doing to shut down the Buddhist temples. Stop burning mosques and killing the Bengali Muslims!)