How? They survived, thanks to the local Rohingya Muslims who fed them for one.
In the book ‘Another Man’s War’ by Barnaby Phillips who was a war correspondant for the BBC, speaks of ‘The Forgotten Army’ and tells the story of how some soldiers who were badly injured were helped by the Rohingya who nursed them back to health.
One man especially, Shuyiman, cared for the men, eventually hiding them in his basha hut where they lived with his family in the village of Mairong. Two black Africans saved by a family of Burmese Muslims, hardly able to communicate, from opposite ends of the world, caught up in a war that wasn’t theirs; as Phillips calls it, ‘an unlikely but beautiful thing’. After nine months they were reunited with a British unit and sent home.
Isaac, one of the soldiers recalls that in the heat of their frontline rescue he and David had not been able to thank Shuyiman or say goodbye. This had weighed heavily on him. And so Phillips gets Isaac to write a letter, and sets off for Burma.
Miraculously, Phillips meets the grandchildren of the long dead Shuyiman and is able to hand over Isaac’s letter. The family tell Phillips: ‘Our parents said those men were in trouble; they needed help, otherwise they were going to die.’
The Broken Promise
The Rohingya were promised a separate Muslim state when the British reclaimed Burma from Japanese occupation during World War II as a reward for their loyalty. But instead, only those Rohingya that had collaborated with the British were appointed to official posts within the British-controlled colony.
When Burma declared independence in 1948, most Rohingya officials were replaced with Buddhist Arakanis who began to institute policies that many of the Muslim group considered unfair. Since that time, ethnic tensions have divided the two peoples.
Prior to 1962 the Rohingya community was recognized as an indigenous ethnic nationality of Burma, with members of the group serving as representatives in the Burmese parliament, as well as ministers, parliamentary secretaries, and other high-ranking government positions. But since Burma’s military junta took control of the country in 1962, the Rohingya have been systematically deprived of their political rights.
The Rohingya were declared “non-nationals” and “foreign residents,” according to a citizenship law established by the regime in 1982, and were denied the right to participate in multiparty elections held in 1990.
The Rohingya have been subjected to large-scale ethnic cleansing following the formation of an independent Burma. Since 1948, nearly 1.5 million Rohingya have been forced to leave their homeland to avoid this persecution. Many members of the group have fled to Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, but others communities can be found in the U.A.E., Thailand, and Malaysia.
Approximately 800,000 Rohingya still live inside Burma, while an estimated 600,000 live in Bangladesh, 250,000 live in Pakistan, and 300,000 live in Saudi Arabia. Around 100,000 other Rohingya make up parts of the population of the U.A.E., Thailand, and Malaysia.
Communal violence between Rohingya and ethnic Buddhists in Burma’s Arakan state, also called Rakhine, in 2012 left more than 200 dead and tens of thousands homeless, with the Rohingya bearing the brunt of the violence. Deadly clashes erupted again two years later, prompting calls by rights groups and the United Nations for investigations into the unrest.
Helped by human traffickers, hundreds of Rohingya meanwhile began to flee Burma by boat for Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia, leading to a surge of illegal migration by Rohingya and Bangladeshis in May 2015 that saw countries in the region turning vessels filled with hundreds if not thousands of sick and hungry passengers back at sea.
Today the Rohingya still struggle in what many are calling an ethnic cleansing and genocide. But Turkey has been at the forefront in helping the Rohingya with aid and meeting with Myanmar and Bangladeshi officials to discuss the future of these persecuted people.
Sources: rfa.org, spectator.co.uk.