The Labyrinth of the Rohinga Conundrum
Derek Tonkin PDF Version
There is indeed more than enough good reason for the Museum
to organise a special exhibition on the matter. Yet as I have already
shown, I am concerned that the special exhibition is being used as a
propaganda platform to disseminate a particular historical narrative of the kaleidoscope of
Muslim communities, Indian and Indo-Burman, who have in recent years coalesced into the
“Rohingya” community, an ethnicity in the making. Most Myanmar citizens, I
believe, would find the exhibition controversial. It will not help to promote
reconciliation between the Buddhist and Muslim communities in Rakhine State.
Its implicit portrayal of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as somehow complicit in genocide
is unfortunate and widely disputed, however naïve and
ill-informed she may well have been.
Path to Genocide
Derek Tonkin - 29 March 2022 PDF Version
In his determination of genocide by the Myanmar
Armed Forces delivered in the US Holocaust Memorial Museum on 21 March 2022, US
Secretary of State Anthony J Blinken drew significantly on materials in the special
exhibition “Burma’s Path to Genocide” set up in 2021.
In a series of tweets between 20 and 26 March 2022 I drew attention to what seemed to me to be
inaccuracies and distortions in the Exhibition’s presentation. Indeed, of the
five Chapters in the online presentation, many of the captions do not in my
view reflect historical fact, and this is particularly true of Chapters 1 and
The main problem is that the Exhibition
reflects not an independent analysis of who the Rohingya are, their origins and
identity, but an idealised, ideology-based narrative which ignores the reality
that they are mainly descendants of British-era (1824-1948) agricultural
migrants from the Chittagong Region of Bengal. Jacques Leider has presented a seminal paper on “Chittagonians in Colonial Arakan”.