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Myanmar asks for shunning ‘Rohingya’ name

Rohingya were excluded from a UN-supported national census in April [EPA]

Myanmar’s government pressurises foreign officials and aid agencies not to speak ‘Rohingya’ name, activists say.

By AL Jazeera

Myanmar’s government has been pressuring aid workers and foreign officials not to speak “Rohingya” name, activists and UN officials say.

‘How will the rights of the Rohingya be protected by people who won’t even use the word ‘Rohingya’?” Tun Khin, president of the activist group Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK, told the Associated Press news agency.

Khin said by not using it, governments are cooperating with a policy of repression.

Myanmar’s oppressed Rohingya Muslims have been denied citizenship, targeted in deadly sectarian violence and corralled into dirty camps without aid.

Myanmar authorities view the Rohingya as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, not one of the 135 officially recognised ethnic groups.

Long-standing discrimination against this stateless minority, estimated to number 1.3 million, has intensified as Myanmar has opened up after decades of military rule.

More than 140,000 Rohingya have been trapped in crowded camps since violent mobs from the Buddhist majority began chasing them from their homes two years ago, killing up to 280 people.

Rohingya were excluded from a UN-supported national census in April if they identified themselves as Rohingya.

Myanmar’s Information Minister Ye Htut has said that the name had never been accepted by Myanmar citizens.

Htut told the AP news agency that it was created by a separatist movement in the 1950s and then used by exile activists to pressure Myanmar’s former military government at the United Nations in the 1990s.

Avoding tension

The UN officials say they avoid the term in public to avoid stirring tensions between the country’s Buddhists and Muslims.

After Secretary of State John Kerry recently met Myanmar leaders, a senior State Department official told reporters that the US thinks the name issue should be ”set aside”.