Dhaka: The Arakanese diaspora in several countries held ceremonies marking the 227th anniversary of the fall of Arakan’s sovereignty and called to demolish colonization in Burma as practiced by the Burmese central government in Arakan State.
The memorial ceremony was held in Bangladesh, Japan, India, Thailand, USA, Denmark, and Malaysia on 31 December, 2011, which was the day in 1784 when Arakan lost its sovereignty when it was invaded by Burma’s King Bodawpura.
In the USA, over 80 Arakanese and other ethnic people gathered in front of the UN building in New York at noon on 31 December 2011 to demand an end to colonization in Burma.
Ko Tin Wai, an organizer for the event, said, “Arakan was a sovereign country until 1784, when the Burmese king invaded. Since then, our people have fallen in one colony after another. Even though Burma regained independence in 1948, our land is s till a colony under Burmese rulers. Our people call it a hidden colony. Because of this, we came to in front of the UN building to demand decolonization of our land.”
Replying to Narinjara’s question about why they claim Arakan is a colony, he said, “We have no right to use our own natural resources for our state development. The Burmese government sells the gas to China and there is not any reserve or revenue for our state. It is colonial-style exploitation by the Burmese government.”
The memorial ceremony was also held in Phuket, a beautiful town by the sea in Thailand, where over 600 Arakanese politicians and workers were in attendance.
Ko Soe Myint, chairman of the ceremony, told Narinjara over the phone, “We have no rights to learn our own literature or history, nor any rights to preserve our cultural heritage ourselves. We have neither human rights nor nationality under the successive Burmese governments. There is no self-determination for our people despite that we have our own land and our own nationality. We held the ceremony to raise awareness about our history and present the situation of our homeland to our people as well as to demand the Burmese government give us our rights.”
The ceremony was also held in front of the press club in Cox’s Bazar during the afternoon with many Arakanese, including politicians, women, and students participating. Arakanese leaders delivered speeches during the ceremony and called for unity among the Arakanese people in the fight against the Burmese Government.
U Pho Hla, chairman of the Arakan freedom movement, urged the people of Arakan to unite in fighting against the Burmese junta in order to reach the national goals of Arakan. He also remarked to attendees that Arakan lost its sovereignty in 1784 as a result of disunity among the Arakanese people, so Arakanese today must unite in achieving their goals. He added that without unity, “we can not achieve our goal.”
Ko Zar Ni, an Arakanese leader in Malaysia who led a ceremony in Kuala Lumpur, said, “The Burmese government has no concern for Arakan as a state of Burma and it rules our state as if it is a territory like a defeated colony because there is much discrimination and no equal rights. Because of this we need to fight unitedly against the imperialism practiced by Burma’s central government.
Arakan was a sovereign kingdom before Burmese King Bodawpara invaded. Arakanese hold ceremonies on 31 December every year around the world to mark the somber anniversary, but the Burmese government has banned any such ceremonies inside Burma.
Arakanese refer to 31 December as “Black Day,” because it is the day their kingdom lost its sovereignty to the Burmese invaders who occupied Mrauk U palace. The Mrauk U royal palace was subsequently burned by the Burmese invaders after the Arakanese king was deposed.
After Arakan lost its sovereignty, it was ruled by Burmese kings from 1784 to 1826. The British then invaded and ruled Arakan from 1826 to 1942, with the Japanese taking control of Arakan and Burma from 1942 to 1945. Britain again ruled briefly from 1945 to 1948, when Burma was granted independence. Arakan has since been ruled by successive Burmese regimes, and is today part of the officially named Union of Myanmar.