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International Law on Minorities’ Right to Self-Identify

By Destination Justice  •  August 8, 2016

The Rohingya are a predominantly Muslim minority concentrated in Rakhine State (also known as Arkan State) in Myanmar. According to the late Gordon Luce and Than Tun, leading historians of pre-colonial Burma, stone inscriptions dating back to 1400 AD establish the historical presence of the Rohingya people in what is today western Burma. This presence was also confirmed by an early ethno-linguistic survey published by a British East India Company employee in 1795.  During the British colonial period, however, official census records grouped different ethnic communities under broad categories. As a result, the Rohingya were grouped together with other ethnic groups of the Islamic faith, a fact that anti-Rohingya nationalists have used as evidence that the Rohingya are colonial era additions: seasonal and/or migrant labourers who arrived in the State during British colonial rule, from 1825 to 1947, and remained behind after the British left. In the immediate post-independence period, the Rohingya ethnic identity resurfaced as the successive Burmese governments, both the civilian and military governments of Prime Minister U Nu and General Ne Win, extended official recognition to the Rohingya as one of the integral ethnic communities of the Union of Burma.

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This post is in: Children and Youth, Displacement, Health, Human Rights, Law

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