Network Myanmar

The Exodus of Arakan Muslims to Bangladesh in 1978 and 1991


Prologue: 

The British Military Administration of North Arakan 1942-43: Peter Murray - October 1980


Repatriation of Muslim Refugees from Bangladesh 1978-79

1. Extract from Chapter IV of 'Arakan' by Klaus Fleischmann, Hamburg 1981

2. British Embassy report on the reception arrangements - 23 February 1979

3. British High Commissioner Stephen Miles: Dacca Report - 10 April 1979

4. British Ambassador's despatch on the completion of the repatriation - 3 July 1979

5. Richard Wigg: The Times 31 October 1978 - Barren Ricefields after Muslim Flight

6. Richard Wigg: The Times 27 October 1978 - Repatriation camps stay empty 

7. Associated Press (AP) report from Teknaf Road - 5 June 1978

8. United Press International (UPI) report from Dacca - 29 June 1978

9. United Press International (UPI) report from Cox's Bazaar - 10 October 1978

10. Text of 'Secret' Burma-Bangladesh Repatriation Agreement 9 July 1979 (Princeton Univ.)

11. The Muslim population in Arakan - Peter Nicolaus, Senior Repatriation Officer, 1995

12. The Repatriation of Rohingya Refugees following the exoduses of 1978 and 1991: CR Abrar 1995

13. Unpacking the presumed statelessness of Rohingyas - Nyi Nyi Kyaw 2017


 

Arakan Muslims and “Chittagonian/Arakan Displaced Persons” in 1978


Recent catalogued, declassified materials in the Wikileaks "Carter Cables 2: Plus D" Series - 1978

 

Highlights:

1. Bangladesh démarche on Arakanese Muslim question - 27 April 1978: US Emb Dacca

2. Bangladesh reporting on Arakanese Muslim question - 27 April 1978: US Emb Dacca

3. Meetings and Press continue protests on Arakan Muslims - 4 May 1978: State Department

4. Muslim refugees from Burma - 8 May 1978: State Department

5. Arakan Muslim refugees - 9 May 1978: US Emb Dacca

6. Press Tour of Arakan State - 1 June 1978: US Emb Rangoon

7. Burmese-Bengali talks on Chittagonian/Arakan refugees – 13 June 1978: US Emb Rangoon

8. Chittagonian refugees from Arakan State – 14 June 1978: US Emb Rangoon

9. Chittagonian/Arakan displaced persons – 29 June 1978: US Emb Rangoon

 

Cablegate Wikileaks on Arakan already made public without official clearance

1. ARNO contacts with insurgent groups - 10 October 2002: US Emb Rangoon

2. Muslim repression near Burma's border - 27 February 2003: US Emb Rangoon

3. Rohingya refugees and rebels - 29 September 2005: US Emb Rangoon

 

Selected extracts from the 1978 declassified cables

"BOTH DG NSI AND KAZI JALALUDDIN AHMAD...... GAVE SOME CLARIFICATION ON THE IDENTIFY CARDS. THEY SAID THAT DURING THE UN [U NU] PERIOD SOME ARAKANESE MUSLIMS WERE ISSUED NATIONAL REGISTRATION CARDS (NRCS) AND SOME OTHERS FOREIGNERS REGISTRATION CARDS (FRCS). U NU, THEY SAID, GRANTED SOME MEASURE OF AUTONOMY TO THE MUSLIMS AND GENERALLY LEFT THEM ALONE. UNDER NE WIN THE MUSLIMS WERE PLACED MORE DIRECTLY UNDER THE ARAKAN STATE GOVERNMENT...... AS PART OF A NATIONAL INTEGRATION PROGRAM. NEXT, ACCORDING TO THEM, NRC HOLDERS FOUND THAT THEY WERE UNABLE TO OBTAIN RENEWALS OF THE CARDS AND BECAME,IN EFFECT, STATELESS." (27 April 1978)

 

"ON MAY 3 AND 4, AN EMBASSY OFFICER VISITED THE ARAKAN STATE CAPITAL OF AKYAB. WHILE THERE HE MET WITH MAJ. KYAW MAUNG, CHAIRMAN OF THE STATE PEOPLE'S COUNCIL, WHO REPORTED THAT THERE WERE SOME 400,000 BENGALI MUSLIMS IN THE STATE, OF WHICH HE ESTIMATED MORE THAN 50,000 WERE THERE ILLEGALLY." (8 May 1978)


“UNDP DIRECTOR ZAGORIN (PLEASE PROTECT) TOLD THE AMBASSADOR THAT THE REFUGEES WERE IN A STATE OF SEVERE SHOCK AND APPEARED TO HAVE LEFT BURMA AS A RESULT OF A "MASS HYSTERIA" WHICH CAUSED VIRTUALLY WHOLE VILLAGES TO FLEE." (9 May 1978)


“REITERATING THE STANDARD GOVERNMENT LINE THAT THE MASS EXODUS OF MUSLIMS WAS VOLUNTARY, THAT NO FORCE WAS USED ("NOT A SHOT WAS FIRED"), THAT EVERY EFFORT WAS MADE TO DISSUADE PEOPLE FROM LEAVING BUT THAT THEY WERE INCITED TO FLEE BY BANDITS AND RELIGIOUS LEADERS. GUB OFFICIALS RENEWED THE OFFER TO TAKE BACK ALL THOSE WHO CAN PROVE THEY ARE LEGALLY ENTITLED TO LIVE IN BURMA.” (1 June 1978)


“LOCAL JOURNALISTS WHO MADE THE TRIP TOLD US THAT REPORTERS WERE GIVEN SURPRISING FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT CONSIDERING THE JUNKET WAS UNDER GOVERNMENT AUSPICES. THEY SAID INTERVIEWS WITH MUSLIMS FAILED TO SUPPORT ALLEGATIONS OF FORCEFUL EJECTION OF BENGALIS, BUT RATHER TENDED TO CONFIRM THAT THOSE WHO FLED DID SO OUT OF FEAR, NOT AS A RESULT OF MISTREATMENT.” (1 June 1978)


“AT DINNER ON JUNE 13, THE AMBASSADOR DISCUSSED BURMESE-BANGLADESHI ISSUES WITH THE BRITISH, AUSTRALIAN, WEST GERMAN AND MALAYSIAN AMBASSADORS. TO A MAN THE OTHER DIPLOMATS AGREED THAT ON THE BASIS OF THEIR INFORMATION THE BANGLADESH CHARGES APPEARED TO BE CONSIDERABLY EXAGGERATED AND INCONSISTENT. THEY ALSO NOTED THAT JOURNALISTS OTHER THAN THE ONE AMERICAN EMBOFFS MET WITH (RANGOON 2132) SAW NORMALLY FUNCTIONING MUSLIM VILLAGES IN THE ARAKAN WHICH WERE NOT BEING HARASSED BY GUB AUTHORITIES......WE REMAIN SKEPTICAL THAT THE GUB HAS EMBARKED ON A SYSTEMATIC CAMPAIGN TO DRIVE MUSLIMS OF CHITTAGONIAN ANCESTRY FROM THE ARAKAN, OR THAT THE REFUGEE-ALLEGED ATROCITIES HAVE OCCURRED.” (14 June 1978). 


Derek Tonkin writes: These 1978 officially released reports are consistent with UK diplomatic reports already released to UK National Archives. It is worthy of note that at the time (1978) the US authorities referred to the Muslim population of Arakan as “Arakan Muslims” or “Chittagonians”. The word “Rohingya” is to be found only in the names of Bangladesh-based organisations. By 1991 however the word “Rohingya” was being used in US cables from Rangoon. 

 

The attached article from AsiaWeek, a subsidiary of Time Inc., dated 14 July 1978 highlights the problem which has arisen because "the proportion of 'Chittagong Muslims' has been steadily rising; these are people who moved into Burma from the Chittagong area of Bangladesh. They have settled down as farmers and fishermen, but many are active in the smuggling trade. They apparently have access to relief goods supplied to Bangladesh, such as clothing and medicine. They also bring bicycle accessories, Horlicks, Ovaltine, biscuits and talcum powder through the well-trodden jungle paths into Maungdaw. In the village of Phone Nye Leik, all the people I saw were Chittagong Muslims. Burma looks upon these people as illegal immigrants...." 


 

Exodus of Muslim Refugees to Bangladesh 1991-1992

 

1.  Report of clashes on Burma/Bangladesh border: British Embassy Rangoon 27 December 1991

2.  Rohingya Solidarity Organisation and Arakan Rohingya Islamic Front: MODUK 10 January 1992

3.  Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh: British High Commission Dhaka 6 February 1992

4. Visit to Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazaar: British High Commission Dhaka 21 March 1992

5. Blatter UNHCR director briefs diplomatic missions: British Embassy Rangoon 17 September 1993

6. The Repatriation of Rohingya Refugees following the exoduses of 1978 and 1991: CR Abrar 1995

7. Unpacking the presumed statelessness of Rohingyas - Nyi Nyi Kyaw 2017

 









































































































































































































































































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