NLD must tell the world ‘no Rohingya in Myanmar’: MP

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.

Support more independent journalism like this. Sign up to be a Frontier member.

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.

By Nyan Hlaing Lynn

By Nyan Hlaing Lynn

Nyan Hlaing Lynn is a former editor at People's Age Journal and Mizzima. He writes about politics, the military, ethnic conflict and social issues and is based in Nay Pyi Taw.
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on email

More stories

Latest Issue

Stories in this issue
Respect the election result, but don’t gloss over the flaws
The large turnout on November 8 powerfully demonstrated society’s commitment to democracy, but this should not overshadow deep flaws in the electoral process that threaten to undermine future progress.
Image, strategy and friends with money: How the NLD did it again
Trust in Aung San Suu Kyi, a tight social media strategy and help from business leaders were among the factors behind the National League for Democracy’s landslide election win.

Stay on top of Myanmar current affairs with our Daily Briefing and Media Monitor newsletters

Our fortnightly magazine is available in print, digital, or a combination beginning at $80 a year

Sign up for our Frontier Fridays newsletter. It’s a free weekly round-up featuring the most important events shaping Myanmar