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By Aman Ullah

In 1962, General Ne Win led a coup d’état and established a nominally socialist military government that sought to follow the “Burmese Way to Socialism.” The Ne Win government nationalized the economy and pursued a policy of autarky, which isolated Burma from the rest of the world. The black market and rampant smuggling supplied the needs of the people, while the central government went down slowly into bankruptcy. Furthermore, political oppression caused many educated Burmese to leave the country.

There were sporadic protests against military rule during the Ne Win years and these were almost always violently suppressed. In 1974, the military violently suppressed anti-government protests at the funeral of U Thant. Student protests in 1975, 1976 and 1977 were quickly suppressed by overwhelming force. 

Following the riots at Rangoon University in 7 July 1962, troops were sent to restore order. They fired on protesters and destroyed the student union building. Shortly afterward, Ne Win addressed the nation in a five-minute radio speech which concluded with the statement: “if these disturbances were made to challenge us, I have to declare that we will fight sword with sword and spear with spear” The Burmese phrase is “dah go dah gyin, hlan go hlan gyin”. Like the Code of Hammurabi, the sixth King Of Babylon dating back to about 1772 BC, “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”

In July 1976 opposition appeared within the ranks of the military itself as a number of younger army officers plotted a coup d’état and the assassination of U Ne Win, U San Yu, and Colonel Tin Oo, director general of the powerful National Intelligence Board. Members of the coup group were apparently disgruntled over the resignation of another popular military officer, Defense Minister Brigadier General Tin U, in March and were committed to reforming the socialist economic system, which they saw as condemning the country to ever-deepening poverty. They were put on trial in September along with Tin U, who apparently knew of the plot but did not inform the government. The coup leader was condemned to death, and the others were given prison terms.

Insurgency continued, and activities by more than a dozen major groups were recorded in 1977. These occurred in the north and northeastern border regions, where the BCP continued to pose the greatest threat when allied with smaller groups and posed a lesser threat in Rakhine and Mon states. The gradual withdrawal of Chinese support from the BCP Northeastern Command led it to engage more actively in the lucrative opium trade.

At the Third Congress of the BSPP in February 1977 there was a purge of the Central Committee, and the socialist economist U Ba Nyein and 40 others were obliged to resign. This ‘schism’ in the BSPP was seen as a power-struggle or in-fighting between the military faction and the ‘ex-Communist’ faction in the BSPP. Many commented that the power struggle was between pro-Ne Win group and pro-San Yu group and San Yu group get upper hand. Among the thousands that were purged from the party were ‘leftists’ or ‘communist’. The congress concluded that the faulty implementation of policy, rather than the “Burmese Way to Socialism,” was responsible for the bad state of the economy. BSPP Secretary General U San Yu called for changes in the management of state and cooperative enterprises and better incentives for private producers.

Arakan which already is one of the poorest provinces of the country became bad to worse after the military coup. The economical life of the people is intolerable and a large number of Arakanese peoples, Buddhists and Muslim a likes, migrated into Burma Proper such as Rangoon and parts of Lower Burma. When Ne Win Saw a large number of Muslims of Arakan scattered bout in Rangoon and Delta area he imposed a law in 1964, which restricted the movement of Muslims of Arakan especially prohibiting the movement out of Akyab District towards east. Thus, the Muslims of Arakan were put into a sort of imprisonment since 1964.

The authorities, however, could not stop all migration effectively as all routes could not be closed. The late 60s saw a sharp decline in economy; bring about large-scale smuggling across the Burma-Thai border. As Arakan became the poorest province in the country, the Arakanese were forced to leave for the new green pastures which were rising in eastern Burma such as the Shan and Karen States and Moulmein area.

In 1973 census the authorities again found that Arakanese Muslims had spread up to these eastern borders and other commercially mobile areas such as Mandalay, Pegu, Prome, Maolmein, Bassein, etc. Ne Win did not want that. The Muslims should be in Arakan only so that the Arakanes Buddhists and Arakanese Muslims could use against each other. This was the best way to keep the national liberation movement of the Arakanese checked.

But the scenario was not like that, since 1967 rice crisis where Muslims and Buddhist jointly participated in the anti-junta protest march and lost both of their people’s lives, the Arakanese came to realize that they need to forge unity between Buddhists and Muslims to oppose the military regime together. With this vision many Muslims joined the Arakan National Organization led by Bo Gri Kra Hla Aung during 1967. Similarly the Rohingyas librations groups also made alliance with the Arakan National Liberation Party led by U Maung Sein Nyunt.

Such an alliance alarmed the Rangoon regime. Meanwhile the emergence of the Arakan Independence Organization/Army and Arakan Libration Party under the collaboration with KIO and KNU receptively added much worry to the junta. In 1977 the Ne Win forces wiped out the main army of AIO and ALP, killing their leaders San Kyaw Tun and Khaing Moe Lung respectively along with about 300 men including Muslims.

This event spread a cloud of misery over the Arakanese population. At the same time, a coup attempt by the Arakanese was foiled. This coup had been planned by Aung Sein Tha, Htin Lin and Kyaw Hla (a) Mustafa Kamal. The Burmese Intelligence openly implicated the Military Attaché in the Bangladesh Embassy in Rangoon in the plot that was expelled and declared persona non grata.

General Ne win get a chance for his challenge of ‘sword with sword’ to teach a lesson not only to the Rohingya but also Bangladesh Government. He launched an anti-Rohingya military operation in the Code name of King Dragon in the guise of checking illegal immigrant in 1978. About 300,000 Rohingyas had sought refuge across the border in southern Bangladesh amidst widespread reports of army brutality, rape and murder.

Under international pressure, Burma agreed to “take back” the Rohingyas in the repatriation agreement with Bangladesh.
However, as the Plan-A of Ne Win was not success then he started with his Plan-B that is a legal instrument which may made all the Rohingya illegal status. Then he tried to draw a citizenship law which later known as the citizenship law 1982.

General Ne Win cent per cent knew that the citizenship issue was a settled issue and the Muslims of Arakan who identify themselves Rohingya are citizens by born. As they, their parents and their grandparents were born and bred in Burma and most of them were indigenous, under the sub clauses (i), (ii) and (iii) of Article 11, of 1947 Constitution of Union of Burma. Being one of the indigenous communities of Burma, the Rohingyas were enfranchised in all the national and local elections of Burma including under the Ne Win also.

However, according to sub clause (iv) of Article 11, who was not born in Burma but was born in any of the territories which at the time of his birth was included within His Britannic Majesty’s dominions and who has resided in any of the territories included within the Union for a period of not less than eight years in the ten years immediately preceding the date of the commencement of this Constitution or immediately preceding the 1st January 1942 and who intends to reside permanently there in and who signifies his election of citizenship of the Union in the manner and within the time prescribed by law, shall be a citizen of the Union. This category of citizens is relation to the Union Citizenship (Election) Act, 1948. Rohingyas are not related to this Act, they are not need to apply for their citizenship because they are citizens by born.

General Ne Win in his speech of October 8, 1982 mentioned that, “The Union Citizenship Act, 1948. This Act was promulgated on 4 January 1948, as Act No. 66. The Second Act was the Union Citizenship (Election) Act, 1948. This Act was promulgated on 3 May 1948, as Act No. 26. The aim of the first Act was first to define citizens and their rights. The Aim of the Union Citizenship (Election) Act was to solve the problem of immigrants I had mentioned. These people were already in Burma when we regained independence and they were to elect for Burmese citizenship if they so desired.”

Ne Win, who is neither purely Chinese blood nor Burmese Blood, told in his speech that, “Racially, only pure-blooded nationals will be called citizens and made it very clearly that these ‘tayoke’ and ‘kalars’ cannot be entrusted with any important positions in Burmese officialdom.”

Although Ne Win targeted to the Rohingyas but emphasized on the Section 5 of the Union Citizenship Act, which was not related to Rohingyas. Under the section 5 of the Union Citizenship Act, “persons born after the Constitution had come into force were to be citizens of Burma (a) if born in the Union of Burma of parents one of whom is a Union citizen: where the father is a citizen of a foreign country, that person is to make a declaration within one year after reaching the age of majority that he renounced the foreign citizenship and elected to remain as a Union citizen. If he or she did not make such a declaration he or she cease to be a Union citizen at the end of that year; (b) if born outside of the Union of Burma of a Union Citizen father but had registered his birth in the prescribed manner and within the prescribed period at a respective Consulate of the Union; (c) born outside of the Union of Burma of a parent serving as a Government servant: where one of the parents is a foreigner he or she is to make a declaration within one year of having attained the age of majority renouncing foreign citizenship and electing to remain a Union citizen. If he or she failed to do so he or she is to cease to be a Union citizen at the end of that year.”

Ne Win completed this law with the help of Dr. Maung Maung before October 1982. This law was approved and passed by the third session of the Third Pyithu Hluttaw and promulgated by the Chairman of the Council of State, on 15 October 1982.