Naypyidaw (TeleSUR) – One of the organizers leading the march advised Buddhist Rakhines to “take advantage of the weakness of the government and march toward the goal of sovereignty.”
At least seven Rakhines have been killed and 12 injured in clashes during the commemoration event for the 233rd anniversary of the fall of the Arakan (Rakhine) Kingdom to the Burmese army in 1785. It was held at a Buddhist monastery in Rathedaung Township, Rakhine State.
Despite the government banning the march, some 4,000 people gathered in Mrauk-U, the ancient Arakan capital, to mark the event.
On Tuesday, charges were filed against at least two leaders for delivering inciting speeches supporting Rakhine independence, including the organizer of the rally, Aye Maung, who is also a founder of the region’s largest ethnic Rakhine political party.
Per the statement issued by Myanmar’s Ministry of Information, Aye Maung, one of the leaders leading the march advised Buddhist Rakhines to “take advantage of the weakness of the government and march toward the goal of sovereignty.”
The government is now facing a political crisis, and this is advantageous to us. It is the right time for us to take up armed struggle to regain our independence. All must participate in this struggle,” he said to the audience.
“Burmese people consider Rakhine people as slaves and do not give equal rights to us. There are only two ways to regain our sovereignty, and one is armed struggle.”
The Myanmar cabinet discussed the leaders’ fiery speeches in a meeting Tuesday, who were charged under Section 17(1) of the Unlawful Associations Act, presumably for their support of the nationalist Arakan army fighting for the Rakhines or the Arakanese, also considered illegal by the government.
They were arrested Wednesday.
Animosity between Rakhines and Rohingyas dates back to 1823. The term “Rohingya” was coined as recently as 1951 to differentiate between Bengali settlers who were brought to the region during the British colonial era.
“The problem is the political motive behind the term (Rohingya). I used to have a number of Bengali friends when I was young. They never claimed they were Rohingya … they first coined the term a few decades ago,” U Aung Hla Tun, vice-chairman of the Myanmar Press Council, told BBC.
The 1982 Citizenship Act was put in place to systematically exclude Rohingyas from claiming their right to citizenship in the region by disenfranchising the Rohingyas from being considered as an ethnic community.
“Rakhine State has lost its sovereignty for 233 years, or around five generations,” Wai Hin Aung said, as quoted by the Ministry of Information.
“Today, the Arakan Army, led by Twan Mrat Naing, is undertaking an armed struggle to regain Rakhine State and its sovereignty and to free us from Burmese servitude. All the people of Rathedaung Township have a duty to seek freedom from Burmese servitude.”
Over 655,000 members of the minority Rohingya community have fled Myanmar’s Rakhine state since late August following the brutal military operations, described by the U.N. as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
This post was originally written for and published by TeleSUR English.