By Syed Zain Al-Mahmood
Dec 23, 2016
Thousands of men, women and children from Myanmar’s Rohingya minority have fled the country over what the army is calling a crackdown on insurgents.
A Wall Street Journal article examines the intensification of a long-simmering conflict between Yangon and the Rohingya Muslims, who are denied citizenship in the predominantly Buddhist Southeast Asian state.
Here is a short history of the Rohingya people.
8th Century: The Rohingya, a people of South Asian origin, dwelled in an independent kingdom in Arakan, now known as Rakhine state in modern-day Myanmar.
9th to 14th Century: The Rohingya came into contact with Islam through Arab traders. Close ties were forged between Arakan and Bengal.
1784: The Burman King Bodawpaya conquered Arakan and hundreds of thousands of refugees fled to Bengal.
1790: Hiram Cox, a British diplomat sent to assist refugees, established the town of Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, where many Rohingya still live today.
1824 to 1942: Britain captured Burma—now known as Myanmar—and made it a province of British India. Workers were migrated to Burma from other parts of British India for infrastructure projects.
1942: Japan invaded Burma, pushing out the British. As the British retreated, Burmese nationalists attacked Muslim communities who they thought had benefited from British colonial rule.
1945: Britain liberated Burma from Japanese occupation with help of Burmese nationalists led by Aung San and Rohingya fighters. Rohingyas felt betrayed as the British didn’t fulfill a promise of autonomy for Arakan.
1948: Tensions increased between the government of newly independent Burma and the Rohingya, many of whom wanted Arakan to join Muslim-majority Pakistan. The government retaliated by ostracizing the Rohingya, including removing Rohingya civil servants.
1950: Some Rohingya resisted the government, led by armed groups called Mujahids. The insurgency gradually died down.
1962: General Ne Win and his Burma Socialist Programme Party seized power and took a hard line against the Rohingya.
1977: The junta began Operation Nagamin, or Dragon King, which they said was aimed at screening the population for foreigners. More than 200,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh, amid allegations of army abuses. The army denied any wrongdoing.
1978: Bangladesh struck a U.N.-brokered deal with Burma for the repatriation of refugees, under which most Rohingya returned.
1982: A new immigration law redefined people who migrated during British rule as illegal immigrants. The government applied this to all Rohingya.
1989: The army changed the name of Burma to Myanmar.
1991: More than 250,000 Rohingya refugees fled what they said was forced labor, rape and religious persecution at the hands of the Myanmar army. The army said it was trying to bring order to Rakhine.
1992 to 1997: Around 230,000 Rohingya returned to Arakan, now known as Rakhine, under another repatriation agreement.
2012: Rioting between Rohingya and Rakhine Buddhists killed more than 100 people, mostly Rohingya. Tens of thousands of people were driven into Bangladesh. Nearly 150,000 were forced into camps in Rakhine.
2016: Rohingya militant group Harakah al-Yaqin attacked border guard posts, killing nine soldiers. The army retaliated. More than 25,000 people fled Rakhine to Bangladesh, bringing accounts of killing, rape and arson. Aung San Suu Kyi’s government denied the atrocities.