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European countries ‘challenge Myanmar on Rohingya issue’

By Kay Zuu, Min Aung Khine
Some European countries have challenged the Myanmar authorities to prove the claim that Rohingya do not exist in Myanmar by providing strong evidence, according to Rakhine State Chief Minister U Maung Maung Ohn.
The minister raised the issue during an October 22 press conference held at the Rakhine State government office on the subject of the recent Asia-Europe Meeting held in Italy that was attended by Myanmar President U Thein Sein.
Myanmar has come under fire over its handling of the Muslim Rohingya in Rakhine State who the government refers to as “Bengalis”, claiming they are illegal immigrants.
U Maung Maung Ohn said these European governments suggested that the Myanmar central government should publish a book to “prove” that Rohingya do not exist in the Rakhine State.
“There are some books published by some countries, which claim that Rohingya exist. But there is no book saying Rohingya do not exist, so the government should publish a book and give strong evidence, they said,” the chief minister told the media.
He said their suggestion was good, so he will inform the president about it.  
“Instead of using the words ‘Rohingya’ or ‘Bengali’, they urged us to consider choosing a label that can be accepted by both sides,” said U Maung Maung Ohn.
U Hla Maung Thein, the chairman of Rakhine Thahaya, a Rakhine cultural association, said, “We want the government to bravely prove it not only in Myanmar but to the international community.”  
According to figures compiled by the Central Census Commission, when the nationwide census was carried out, only 20,000 out of what the government classes as the estimated 1.09 million Bengali community in Rakhine State agreed to not be listed as Rohingya.
Although no officially sanctioned book has been published to dispute the Rohingya claims to citizenship, Dr. Aye Chan, professor of Southeast Asian Studies, Kanda University of International Studies, Japan published a book entitled “Influx Viruses – The Illegal Muslims in Arakan” that claims those who identify themselves as Rohingya are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.