By NYAN HLAING LYNN | FRONTIER
NAY PYI TAW — The National League for Democracy government must do more to tell the world “there is no such race as the Rohingya in Myanmar” a military-linked lawmaker said in parliament on Monday.
Former army general U Tin Aye (Union Solidarity and Development Party, Matman) asked Immigration Minister U Thein Swe what the government is doing to inform the world that the group does not exist in the country.
Tin Aye said he asked the question because the NLD government has never made an official statement about the presence of the Muslim minority in Myanmar, unlike the previous USDP administration.
Senior officials and much of Myanmar’s population rejects the term “Rohingya” and instead refers to the Muslim minority as “Bengali”, implying that they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. The term Rohingya is widely used by members of the international community.
Responding to Tin Aye’s comment, Thein Swe said that the government must respond “wisely and calmly” when the word Rohingya is used to describe the group.
“As we all know, the term Rohingya has never been used in speeches and messages made by leaders of the state,” said Thein Swe. “In national censuses taken before and after independence, there is no name of the Rohingya in the national races. Rohingya has never been used in state-owned media.”
However, the term was used by the government of Myanmar’s first independent Prime Minister U Nu. In a radio speech broadcast on September 25 1954, U Nu described the Rohingya as “national brethren”.
Thein Swe said that Myanmar officials travelling abroad never use the word Rohingya and object if it is used by others. Asked if he was satisfied with the minister’s response Tin Aye said he was yet to hear the comments about the Rohingya made at a national level.
Tin Aye resigned from the Tatmadaw before the 2015 election, in which he ran as an independent candidate. After he was elected, he joined the military-linked USDP.
Speaking after the parliamentary session, Thein Swe told Frontier that Myanmar must respond “calmly and with wisdom” whenever the issue was raised.
“We do this for the interest of the country,” he said.
In May 2016, in a joint press conference with then-US Secretary of state Mr John Kerry, State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said that the country needed “space” to deal with the issue and cautioned against the use of “emotive terms” that she said were making the situation more difficult.