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Myanmar Ambassador: We did not abuse the Rohingyas
Myanmar Ambassador to Indonesia U Aung Htoo. Photo: Private doc.
Wednesday, 30 November, 2016 | 22:22 WIB
Myanmar Ambassador: We did not abuse the Rohingyas

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Last week the Myanmar Embassy in Jakarta was crowded with a number of public organizations who came to show their support for ethnic Rohingyas by demonstrating in front of the embassy building. Myanmar Ambassador to Indonesia U Aung Htoo said that he respected the groups' concerns.

"I jokingly said to my colleagues, maybe this is what President Joko Widodo means by the 'noises' of democracy. We have been bombard with loud noises. But we respect democracy and freedom of speech," Htoo said on Friday, November 25, 2016.

Hundreds of people demonstrating in front of the embassy demanded Indonesia to severe diplomatic relations with Myanmar following the alleged murder and rape of ethnic Rohingyas in the country

Responding to questions from Tempo via WhatsApp messenger, Htoo explained about the actual conditions inside the country. Excerpts:

How is the current situation in Rakhine?

Situation in Rakhine have been exacerbated by provocations from bad people. If they did not attack to our police outposts like terrorists, our security forces will not have to respond by force. At times we were uncertain whether we are the victims or is it the other way around. These bad people declared jihad against us.


And your response?

Our state counsellor requested the security forces restrain themselves and deal with the issues in accordance with the law. We will not use forces unless we were attacked. These bad people mobilize mobs after launching their attacks. So should we let them do whatever they like?


How did the Rohingya issue came about?

During the colonial period, Muslims in Rakhine are listed as Mohamadin. In 1990, they change their name to Rohingya and they said that they are the indigenous people of Rakhine, claiming they were here before Myanmar existed. They also demanded for citizenship in accordance to our 1982 citizenship law, whereas they came here as temporary labourers at certain times during the British colonial rule. They stayed in myanmar for two to three months during the harvest season. However, during the 1970s, they came in as migrant labourers and stayed permanently in the country.


What is the government’s response towards the accusation on abusing the Rohingyas?

We did not abuse the Rohingyas. In 2012, a Muslim raped and killed an innocent Rakhine woman, violence would not have broken out. Security forces and international NGOs never had to step in.                   


So what is the government’s next step?

The government aims to restore peace and stability in the region and continue to distribute of aid. Madame Aung San Suu Kyi had also ordered authorities to investigate the incident and ensure the effectiveness of aid distribution to those who really needs it. She is also preparing a plan to prevent similar incidents in the future. She personally oversees the economic development of Rakhine and trying to find a long-term solution for Rakhine. Madame Suu Kyi had also appointed an advisory commission for Rakhine, which is led by former secretary general of the United Nations Kofi Anan.


What is your thought on Indonesia's support towards the Rohingyas?

We appreciated Indonesia's constructive role in providing assistance to Rakhine. Muslim countries have moral responsibility to help the people of Rakhine.


Are the Rohingyas banned from having Myanmar citizenship?

If they want to have Myanmar citizenship, they must live peacefully with local residents and go through the citizenship verification process. Most importantly, they must speak Burmese (the language spoken in Myanmar). Only then they can be part of Myanmar and accepted by all of the people.


How does a person gain Myanmar citizenship?

If a person can prove that their forefathers have been living in Myanmar before 1823, as stipulated by our citizenship law, the person would be automatically considered to be a citizen. The law stipulates that naturalized citizenship, associate citizenship and permanent residence status for foreigners depend on how long they have stayed in the country. Therefore, instead of creating disturbances and asking their Muslim brothers for help, the Rohingyas should go through the process. In Rakhine, there is another other Muslim group called Kamen. They were granted automatic citizenship because they can prove that they have been living in the country since the Mongolian era.


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