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Rebuttal to Derek Tonkin‘s Misjudgment on “The Rohingya Identity”

By Ibrahim Shah
Burma Times
May 12, 2014

An unauthentic and
illogical commentary by Derek Tonkin: (
The ‘Rohingya’ Identity –The British Experience in Arakan 1826-1948)

Never, I thought I would
have to write against Derek Tonkin, former British diplomat to
Thailand, Vietnam and Laos, an advisor to Bagan Capital Limited and
Editor of Network Myanmar. However, I have to unwillingly write
against Derek Tonkin who intentionally writes unjustly for
endorsement the genocidal practice of Burmese chauvinistic rulers
against Rohingya. The Burmese imperialistic rulers have been imposing
double stand policies in western Burma, Arakan( Rakhine) to eradicate
an existing ethnic group also known as Rohingya from this earth
since 1044 AD. Arakan was a sovereign kingdom until 1784 in which
year it was annexed by Burmese king Maung Wei. Afterwards, it became
a part of Burma known as western Burma.

With the Census in Myanmar on its way to
completion, I looked to see how the British in their time had
handled the issue of the ‘Rohingya’ identity which is
currently a matter of deep concern: there sadly appears to have
been a last minute change of heart by the Myanmar Government not
to allow self-identification by Muslims as ‘Rohingya’, under
the threat by Buddhists in Rakhine State to boycott the census if
that was permitted.

Here the above paragraph
written by Derek Tonkin seems that he recalls the world for colonial
period exercised by his British compatriots, Colonizer British.
Generally, it is the way of colonizers to influence the territory
they occupied with their own wills because they were unaware to
freedom and equality of the native people. Similarly, the Colonizer
British conducted the census in 1872, 1881, 1891, 1901, 1911, 1921,
1931 and 1941 referring the inhabitants according to the respective
religious faiths of the residents to depopulate the indigenous people
of Arakan.

There is a very simple answer to the matter of
British practice. There was no such identity as ‘Rohingya’
known to the British Governments of either India until 1937 or of
Burma after the separation from India on 1 April of that year. In
the 122 years between their conquest of Arakan in 1826 and Burmese
independence in 1948, not a single reference to ‘Rohingya’ is
to be found in any British official report, regional gazetteer,
census, legislation, private correspondence or personal

I would like to remind to
Derek Tonkin and his counterparts that there is not even one single
evidence, except Mogh or mugh , which proved there was Rakhine in
British record.

Asiatic Research 5
(1799):219-240 by Francis Buchanan Stated that Mohammedans who have
long settled in Arakan and who called themselves Rooinga or native of

Identification of
Rohingya Ethnicity was expressed in the classical Journal of London
published in 1811 and also at 1815 of collectiones vocabulorum in
Berlin of Germany.

An Account of the Burman
Empire, Compiled from the works of Colonel Symes, Major Caning,
Captain Cox, Dr Leyden, Dr Buchanan by Henry G. Bell, ESQ in 1852
stated in page (66) that the Mahommedans who have been long settled
in the country, call themselves Rooinga or Native of Arracan.

In page (21) to (36) of
A Short Report on Arakan by Mr Charles paton, Sub- Commissioner of
Arakan in 1826, stated about Head of village divison and the
population of Arakan and its dependencies, Ramree, Cheduba and
Sandway does not at present exceed 100,000 souls, may be classed as
Mughs six tenths , Mussalman three tenths and Burmese one tenths.

Census of India, 1911
vol:(IX) described that in 1829, a census taken in Arakan show that
the population was 121,288. Three years later in 1832, it has risen
to 195,107.This remarkable increase of 60.86% was principally due to
return from Chittagong of the Arakanese, who had fled from Arakan
during the occupation of that Kingdom by Burmese from 1784 to 1826.

Rohingya was categorized
with Indigenous races of Union of Burma as defined in section 3(1) of
Union Citizenship Act 1948 referred to Citizenship Election Officer
of Buthitaung of Judicial Department dated on 31st December, 1949,
No. C.4A. In the speech of Prime Minister U Nu made on 25th September
1954 addressed the Union Nationals, Rohingya race residing at Buthi
Daung, Maung Daw region was Muslim. According to decision of the
cabinet, a Rohingya broadcasting programme had been performed three
times per week as Nationalities programme with effect from May 15,
1961. Such facts were described in page (71),Myanma Radio book for
(30)years published by Department of Information and Broadcasting.
One behalf of Government, Deputy Chief of Defense commander (Army)
described on November15, 1961 that Mayyu district was adjacent to
frontier of Pakistan in the west so that there were Muslims in
Eastern side and Western side of State. The people residing at
Western side were called Pakistanis and the people residing at
Eastern side with Union of Burma were called Rohingyas.

In pages 89 and 90,
vol:(9) of Myanmar Encyclopedia published in 1964 described about
Mayyu frontier Area was declared by Government on 30th May, 1961 and
it had population of (4) Lakhs to nearly(5) Lakhs ,75% were
Rohingyas. Mayyu frontier Area was handover to Ministry of Home
affair from Frontier Area Administrative on 1st February 1964 kept
under Sittwe district Administrative system.

Some words which are
accurately similar to the Rohingya language from the book Asiatic
Researches volume the fifth by Dr.Francis Buchanan that was published
in 1799:
* Tara

The current spoken
language of the oldest native people of Arakan or Rohingya people in

The linguistic difference
between Bengalee and Rohingya is like the distance between sky and

The language of the stone
inscription of Ananda Chandra which was written by Nagri literature
at the end of 8th century is exactly similar to neither the intruder
Burman nor their settler Rakhine, except, the Rohingya language by 70

“The Anand Chandra
Inscription, which contains 65 verses (71 and a half lines) and now
sited at the Shitthaung pagoda, provides some information about these
early rulers.

Is there any witness or
evidence of the official language of any state declared with either
alien language or the mother tongue of the majority of that state?
Yes, it is only with mother tongue of the oldest native people of
that state. I.e. in Malaysia, the official language is either Burmese
or Bahasa Melayu: Bahasa Melayu, in USA, is it either US English or
Chinese: US English, in Middle East, is it Arabic or Urdu: Arabic.

Undoubtedly, we find here
the foremost indigenous people of Arakan is only the Rohingya due to
the official language of Chandra dynasty is similar to only Rohingya
by 70 percent according to the stone inscription of Ananda Chandra
written at the end of 8th century.

Genealogically Rohingya
are Indo-Aryan descendants who converted into Islam in 8th century
Genetically, they are
mixed blood of Arab (788 A.D – 801 A.D) plus Persian (700 AD -1500
A.D) plus Bangali (1400 AD – 1736 AD) plus mogul in 16th century
AD. They are in South Asian appearance in contrast to Southeast

A logical debate : who
will know exactly the situation of a family either its members or a
guest? The answer is simple, its family member. Similarly, how Derek
Tonkin, a stranger for Arakan territory, can express about the ethnic
background of its native inhabitants, Rohingya?

We might ask whether the Arakan Muslims of
yesteryear in Akyab were indeed the descendants of the original
Muslim residents of Arakan. This seems very likely. But where are
they today, after the vicious sectarian fighting which followed
the Japanese invasion in 1942, the disruptions of the Second World
War, the Jihadist Uprising which lasted from 1948 to 1961 and the
massive exodus to Bangladesh first in 1978 and then in 1991, and
eventual repatriation? Are there any Muslim residents who can
today provide historical documentation and assert, in the style of
President Kennedy: “Ich bin ein Arakaner”?

According to above
paragraph by Derek Tonkin, I think he wrote it blindly for his
humanity-eyes have been transformed into racist-eyes. Dictator Ne
Win conducted a major operation known as King Dragon Operation (Naga
Min Si’Sin Yey in Burmese) in 1977-1978 and expelled all the
Begalees, who were settled by British, including Rohingya -mixed
blood of Bengalees.

Many Rohingya men and
women with children fled to Bangladesh in fear of arrest as they
married Bengalees. Afterwards, they never return to Burma since
Burmese brutal rulers mistreat people of Burma while democratic
rulers practise democracy in Bangladesh. Since then, there was not
left any Bengalee inside Arakan.

Naturally, any kinds of
liquid discharge from upper place to lower place. Similarly, human
beings prefer to live in peaceful and convenient places rather than
catastrophic and inconvenient places.

Questions to Derek
Tonkin on “The Rohingya Identity”, dear distinguished former
British diplomat to Thailand (1989-1989) Derek Tonkin,
  1. Do you ever ponder
    and judge over your inner-self that how do the people of Bangladesh
    who experience Democracy with great joy will migrate into Burma
    while people from Burma flee into its neighboring
    countries—Bangladesh, India, Thailand and China— to escape the
    systematic discrimination and persecution of Hilterite Burmese
    militaristic rulers?
  2. Do you know that how
    long the innocent Rohingya people have to struggle to restore their
    deprived rights for such a minute, unauthentic and illogical
    commentary— (
    The ‘Rohingya’ Identity – The British Experience in Arakan 1826-1948) ?
Derek Tonkin knowingly
omitted the influx of Chinese into central Burma Mandalay where the
native Mandalians have to flee. Derek Tonkin never expressed how and
why the new arrivals Chinese can hold Burmese Citizenship card.
Similarly, Derek Tonkin seems to be blind on this matter that many
Bangaldeshi Rakhines (Anokka Mogh) penetrate into Burma and bear
Burmese Citizenship Card.

There is a genocidal
motto at every immigration office in Arakan that reads “Mye myo
ywey lumyo ma pyok, lumyo ma’lumyopyouk mi” its nigh translation
in English “a Race can’t be swallowed by Earth but by another

Rohingya people are being
segregated from Rakhine Buddhists at Aungminglar quarter in Sittwe.
The segregated Rohingya are kept in internally displaced people (IDP)
camps. According to the 6 out of 8 stages of Genocide Watch, the
segregation is to be called Rohingya genocide.

Accordingly, the ongoing
endemic discrimination and persecution against Rohingya is genocide.
I think there is no one to interpret the above motto alternatively to
protect the racists.

I think Derek Tonkin
mistakenly or irresponsibly wrote his racist commentary— (
The‘Rohingya’ Identity – The British Experience in Arakan1826-1948) which acknowledged itself that its writer prefers to
racism or genocide.

*The writer is the chief
editor of Burma Times and a student of comparative religion based on
esoteric thoughts. He can be reached at @ibrmshah