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Myanmar to write Rohingya out of history books

December 13, 2016

As a military crackdown continues in Myanmar's Rakhine state, the country's cultural affairs ministry has said via a Facebook post it will publish a book refuting the Rohingya people's claims to ethnic minority status.

Bangladesch Rohingya Flüchtlingslager
Image: Getty Images/S. Rahman

The Ministry of Cultural and Religious Affairs in Myanmar has announced that it plans to publish a book detailing the "true Myanmar history" – which will not include the Rohingya Muslim minority.

According to a statement posted by the ministry on Facebook, the text would be published as a response to foreigners who "aim to tarnish Myanmar's political image" and "stir things up by insisting the Rohingya exist."

"The real truth is that the word Rohingya was never used or existed as an ethnicity or race in Myanmar's history," the statement added.

Ethnic minority status

There are an estimated one million Rohingya living in Myanmar. They claim that their descendants have populated the country's western Rakhine state for generations.

Myanmar Rohingya Flüchtlinge
Members of a Rohingya family sit in the charred remains of their home in Rakhine state in 2012Image: Reuters

However, since Myanmar's independence from British colonial rule in 1948, successive governments have classified the Rohingya as illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh, denying the group citizenship and voting rights.

The former military government introduced a law in 1982 ruling that any recognized ethnic minorities must have lived in Myanmar before the first Anglo-Burmese war of 1824-26.

Sectarian violence

In 2012, clashes between the Rohingya and Buddhist nationalists led to scores of deaths. Tens of thousands of Rohingya have now fled to Bangladesh, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia in the face of escalating sectarian violence.

Symbolbild Massengräber von Flüchtlingen in Malaysia
Multiple boats packed with Rohingya refugees have been turned back by Bangladesh border guardsImage: picture-alliance/dpa/Y. Pruksarak

Tensions flared again in October this year when Rohingya militants were blamed for the murder of nine border guards.

The government claimed its response to the incident targeted only Rohingya "attackers", but observers reported that unarmed civilians were among the casualties. Human Rights Watch released satellite images showing that homes in Rohingya villages had been burnt to the ground.

Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh have described acts of gang-rape, torture and murder, allegedly at the hands of Myanmar's security forces.

International pressure

Under mounting international pressure, Myanmar has called an emergency meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in order to discuss the growing crisis.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has accused Myanmar's de facto leader and Nobel peace prize-winner Aung San Suu Kyi of failing to stop the "genocide" of the Rohingya.

rs/jm (AFP)