Rakhine or Arakan was an independant kingdom until 1784, when it was conquered by the Burmese king Bodawpaya. It’s capital Mrauk-U was set on fire and the kingdom’s most sacred Buddha image, Mahamuni, was carted away. Arakan was annexed outright and had become Burma’s western gate.
Arakan is separated from Myanmar by a chain of mountains (altitude 2000 – 3000 meters). The large majority of the people was Buddhist. But for centuries, without any problem, there have been small communities settled of Hindus and Muslims, partly because of Arakan’s strategic location.
There have been three waves of Muslim immigration from neighbouring Bengal (Chittagong): from the first Burman-British war (1824-1826), from Burma’s independency (1948) and from Bangladesh’s independency (1971). More recently there seems to be a Jihadi movement operating, supported from the Middle East (Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, ARSA).
To illustrate the complexity of the current situation: there are still feelings of conflict/independency between Rakhine and the rest of Myanmar, resulting in an armed group called Arakan Army (AA).
Below I introduce two experts who explain and illustrate Rakhine’s history: Rick Heizman and U Khin Maung Saw.
August 9 2018 Rick Heizman published a movie about the history of age old Buddhist kingdom Arakan (Rakhine): ARAKAN – Ancient Buddhist Kingdom, Endangered by Jihad. Here part 1, part 2A, part 2B and part 3.
Rick Heizman (San Francisco) has been in Myanmar countless times since 1980, partly in UN service. In September and October 2017 he was in Rakhine State. Many videos of interviews with Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims made by Heizman are to be found here.
21 of November 2017 he was interviewed in Toronto, Canada for one and a half hour, in what the presentator, Kevin Johnson, entitles as the interview of the year. After the interview he ambushed the Myanmarese dissident Maung Zarni (‘the most hated Myanmarese after the generals Ne Win en Than Shwe’) in a meeting in the same town, where Zarni thought to be unobserved while sharing his fraudulous talk with Canada’s lefties. Here is a more recent talk with Rick Heizman.
In 2012 for Burma Democratic Concern (BDC) Heizman wrote the article ‘History, issues and truth in Arakan-Rakhine state’.
While Heizman is only explaining and defending Buddhist tradition, his opponents world wide use to see him as anti-Muslim and even racist. His Facebook page, after having been blocked for 30 days twice, has been removed from Facebook in August 2018. Possibly as a result of this policy.
U Khin Maung Saw
U Khin Maung Saw (1946), originating from Rakhine, has been living in the West since 1968 and was a lecturer at Berlin Humboldt University 1980 – 2011. In an eloquent way he renders the recent history of Arakan/Rakhine, herein also critical to the role of the respective Burmese governments after 1948 independency (U Nu), the 1962 coup d’état (Ne Win) and the 1988 revolt (Than Shwe). January 2018 he did send an e-mail to UK’s Prime Minister Theresa May with a kind of summary of his discourse.
On his Facebookpage he is posting regularly in detail many anecdotes and inside information about Burma during the past 200 years, especially his own life time. So we meet for instance Aung San, U Nu, Ne Win, Than Shwe and NLD.
Nurul Islam (London) is one of the many who opposes him in defending the ‘Rohingya’. In my eyes his discourse is less more than a victim story with mainly emotional attacks and defendings.