The recent exodus of approximately 400,000 Rohingyas from the Arakan province of Myanmar to the coastal part of Bangladesh is the result of systematic ethnic cleansing. This ethnic cleansing is due to the religion and the skin colour of the Rohingyas. Historically these inhabitants have lived in the Arakan province of Myanmar for hundreds of years. They have been systematically decimated and their lands, houses and crops have been set on fire by the Myanmar military junta and the Mog people.

In order to understand the situation it is necessary to define ethnic cleansing and cite some examples. ‘Ethnic cleansing’ is defined as the attempt to get rid of, through deportation, displacement or even mass killing, members of an unwanted ethnic group in order to establish an ethnically homogeneous geographic area. Ethnic cleansing is happening across the world. The Rohingya crisis is only the latest to receive international attention. This mass influx will have a major political, social and economic impact on a small nation like Bangladesh.

The Nazi Holocaust, which killed some six million European Jews, the Turkish massacre of Armenians during World War I, the forced displacement and mass killings carried out in the former Yugoslavia and the Rwandan genocide during the 1990s are examples of ethnic cleansing.

After the republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina declared its independence in March of 1992, Bosnian Serb forces waged a systematic campaign – including forced deportation, murder, torture and rape – to expel Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) and Croatian civilians from territory in eastern Bosnia. This violence culminated in the massacre of as many as 8,000 Bosniak men and boys at the town of Srebrenica in July, 1995.

Now let’s focus on ARSA — the Arakan Salvation Army — who are involved in some insurgent activities with the support of some Islamic countries in an attempt to establish a Rohinyga state. The research shows that this group lacks the vision, mission and objectives for such struggle. It is a futile attempt to make the Burmese bow down to them and give in to their demand for a separate state. Those pseudo-intellectuals who advocate for the ‘liberation’ of Arakan for the Rohingyas and compare that situation to Bangladesh’s 1971 War of Liberation are living in a fool’s paradise. We must consider the philosophy of this insurgency, its mission and vision of the struggle. From my secondary research it seems that Rohingyas simply want citizenship and rights within Burma. In fact the 1.5 to 2 million Arakan inhabitants are not fighting for an independent Arakan. But, in recent years ARSA has pushed for a separation which will be counterproductive without any foreign help! In the 21st century no foreign country would wage a war with Myanmar.

So the Arakan separatist movement is a non-starter for the Rohingyas. It lacks the political will, mass movement and mass mobilisation for issues that affect the Rohingyas. If ARSA continues with this armed insurgency, the Burmese military junta is likely to drive out or kill all the 1.5 to 2 million Rohingyas. Vested interest groups, like China, the US and India, could then extract gas, oil and other natural resources from the abandoned land.

The pitfalls for Bangladesh are immense. Firstly, we would have to bear the bill for the accommodation, food and shelter of 400,000 to half a million refugees. But the costliest part is the infiltration the ARSA members, who could be used by quarters such as ISIS, the Taliban, Hefazat or Jamaat-BNP to destabilise Bangladesh. It will not only impact the social and political fabric of the country, but will also turn back the economic development we achieved in the last decade.

The Bangladesh government must now play its cards with great care on both the domestic and international fronts. Our diplomatic efforts have to be swift and efficient. Strict security measures should be adopted in consideration of Bangladesh’s interests. Put complete faith and trust on our efficient stateswoman, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to resolve the issue once for all.

Selim Sheris a retired Professor of Economics at Algonquin College, Ottawa, Canada and a researcher on politics in South Asia.

6 Responses to “ARSA, Chaos and Ethnic Cleansing by Myanmar Military Junta”

  1. Ak Hossain

    Yes, ARSA or any other arms struggle to liberate Arakhan for the Muslims is a non starter.
    Bangladesh must try to achieve two things: send the Rohingyas back; and keep vigil so that no arm group can use BD territory to launch anti Burmese insurgency.

    1971 Bangladesh War of Liberation and Rohinghya issue are far apart.

    Rohinghyas are just unfortunate people; there are so many unfortunate people in this world.

  2. golam arshad

    India has reservations on Rohingah issue! Why ? They fear upsurge of mass migration from Bangladesh. Both Modi and Sonia Gandhi, this time will be vouching on anti-Indian platform, that is strategically beneficial to their interest! US wooing India, will hit the wall, China will like to dominate the smaller nations of South Asia. Economically and politically. Modiji is tagged as Muslim hater. Congress is weaken to its core, lack of leadership.
    In Bangladesh political scenario both the two major Parties, fixated on obtaining support from India. In fact, India will strategically want, current deadlock be unlocked, with a third party which can garner support from Islamic forces. India cannot arm twist Bangladesh, because People of Bangladesh are united. The late Jagjivan Ram, Defense Minister of India, and I paraphrase, by dismembering Pakistan, India has opened two potential enemy borders. One is Pakistan, and the other is Bangladesh.
    It seems his prophecy turned out to be true. India should respect Bangladesh as a sovereign Nation. Muslim rank and file will be the potential NOAH’S ARC of peace and harmony. Three hundred plus Muslims are living in the sub-continent, they have the inner strength not to be bullied by anyone, now are educated, tasted freedom, Muslims can turn the wheel of progress, reuniting on their terms with the majority Hindus.
    India is at a fix, how to stop mass migration from Bangladesh. A drastic action will spill the apple cart, therefore, destablising in any format will be rough and delicate to handle. Who can unite the freedom loving people of Bangladesh? India can be better served with a pro-Islamic Government in Bangladesh. People in Bangladesh like freedom of speech. BNP knows, to fight for Caretaker is useless, if they can motivate The Unity for an Anti-Indian post and platform, they can overcome the Awami League. The humongous corruption by AL leaders and supporters worries India most. BNP is also on a tight and thin rope, can they handle a backlash if Awami League losses the next election. A big headache for India!

  3. golam arshad

    China and Myanmar are deeply involved. Royingya issue will remain unresolved without China’s support!

  4. Sohail

    I agree with the author. It is a typical case of cleansing. ARSA has no support, no ideology, and no funds to wage a prolonged fight. We need a diplomatic solution. It is a horrific provocation by Myanmar, but Bangladesh has to remain calm.

  5. Shelley Shahabuddin

    I agree with the writer that the ARSA objectives are a completely futile issue.

    So, who is the top beneficiary of this latest Man made calamity?
    Writer rightly analysed that Bangladesh is the victim.
    Obviously, Pakistan is the number one beneficiary if Bangladesh is destabilised.

    The surprisingly prompt offensive that the Myanmar Military took against Rohingya civilians after an insurgent attack on them, and the more surprisingly determined and aggressive follow up of Rohingya genocide by Myanmar government, which increases exponentially against these extremely poor people, is now a pattern.

    The pattern is diagnostic of a deliberate proactive plan.
    Myanmar government must have known that this attack would come at this time. They must have known the extent of the insurgent attack that will give them a staged excuse to start this massacre.

    The promptness with which China, Russia and India ‘blindly’ supported Myanmar, in spite of the extensive press coverage of the massacre and a worldwide condemnation, is also unusual, and impossible without preparation ahead. They all knew it.

    Knowing all that we know about the recent history of Rohingiyas, Myanmar, Pakistan & Jamaat, I believe that ISI colluded with Myanmar Intelligence to stage this insurgent attack.

    China, Russia, and India had nothing to do with it. But they knew that it will come, and agreed.

    I suggest that UN investigate the insurgent attack on which Myanmar is banking its justification of Genocide. May be the cat will come out.

  6. Moinoor Hossain Khan Chowdhury

    Yes, I agree that the recent crackdown by the military forces of Myanmar to the Rohingya people has made their lives vulnerable as they have been fleeing from Rakaine to the coastal part of Bangladesh. It is nothing but a subtle plan of ethnic cleansing. Myanmar military forces want to uproot the rohingyas from the Rakhaine State forever.

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