In a Renewed Move, Myanmar Gov't Imposes 'Bengali' Identity on 'Rohingya' in Sittwe
Aung Zan Wai Rohingya Today

Sittwe (Akyab) — Since Monday (Jan 7), the Myanmar authorities have resumed to impose 'Bengali' identity on the 'Rohingya' people in Sittwe (Akyab) Township, Arakan State, sources report.

The Myanmar authorities were reported to have used force during the process to register the Rohingyas – remained internally displaced at 'Basara' IDP (Internally Displaced People) Camps in Sittwe since state-sponsored violence in June, 2012 – as Bengalis.

On Monday morning around 8 O'clock, a joint team of Myanmar administrative officials and armed forces – comprising Administrator of Sittwe Township; Immigration Chief of the Township and Staffs; and about hundred Security Police Officers – besieged 'Basara' IDP camps at 'San Pya' village. They entered the camps and forced the displaced Rohingyas to take part in the scrutiny process. 

"The authorities asked the IDP to produce their 'Household Registration Lists'. When they replied that they lost their 'Household Registration Lists' during the violence (against them) in June 2012, the authorities asked them to produce their 'Ration Cards' instead. Using the details mentioned in the Cards, the immigration officials filled up the 'Household Registration Lists' newly being issued under 'Bengali' ethnic identity, without obtaining consents from the IDP at all. 

"Every household/family was ordered to take part in the scrutiny and after that, group photos of the families were taken. Members of some families absent at that time were not registered in the new Household Lists. A total of 160 families were registered and they left at around 5pm", said Maung Myint Aung, an internally displaced Rohingya in 'Basara' camps. There are total 960 displaced Rohingya families in the Basara camps. And it has been reported that, the authorities besieged the IDP camps again on Thursday (Jan 10) and continued the process to register the remaining families. However, this time, the 'ethnic identity' section was left blank (without filling it up). The authorities left in the evening telling the IDP that they would continue the process. 

Karim, another displaced Rohingya in the camps, said "on the first day, they forcefully filled up 'Bengali' for 'Rohingya' in the ethnic identity section in the household registration lists of 160 families. On the second day which was on January 10, they issued new Household Registration Lists for the remaining households/families in the camps, leaving 'ethnic' identity section blank this time. Only three families are left unregistered. They said they would register them any time. 

"Many families in the camps are questioning why they were photographed. The authorities were not transparent. They didn't say anything about why they were taking photographs and where they will use them. Therefore, IDP here are worried." 

The Myanmar Government has started to move in full force to impose the Bengali label on the Rohingya people including the IDP as 'Bengali' – portraying them as illegal foreigners or interlopers – since 2013, in one of its many twisted attempts to delegitimize the 'Rohingya' ethnic identity to strip off their native status and citizenship right by birth. The Rohingya people have categorically rejected the 'Bengali' label and say 'we are Rohingyas, not Bengalis.' 

[Reported by Aung Zan Wai; Edited by M.S. Anwar]

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