Arakan massacres in 1942

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Arakan massacres in 1942
Part of the Burma Campaign in the South-East Asian theatre of World War II
LocationArakan, Burma (present-day Rakhine State, Myanmar)
TargetArakanese Buddhists, Rohingya Muslims
Deaths20,000 Arakanese deaths
40,000+ Rohingya deaths[1]
VictimsArakanese Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims
PerpetratorsArmed Arakanese and Rohingya locals,
British loyalists,
Burmese nationalists

During World War II, Japanese forces invaded Burma (now Myanmar), that was then under British colonial rule. The British forces retreated and in the power vacuum left behind, considerable inter communal violence erupted between Pro-Japanese Buddhist Rakhine and Pro-British Muslim villagers. As part of the 'stay-behind' strategy to impede the Japanese advance, the Commander-in-Chief of forces in Delhi, Wavell, established "V-Force" which armed Rohingya locals in northern Arakan to create a buffer zone from Japanese invasion when they retreated.[2]

The period also witnessed violence between groups loyal to the British and Burmese nationalists.[2]

Inter communal violence[edit]

Tensions boiling in Arakan before the war erupted during the Japanese invasion of Southeast Asia, and Arakan became the frontline in the conflict. The war resulted in a complete breakdown of civil administration and consequent development of habits of lawlessness excaberrated by the availability of modern arms.[citation needed] The Japanese advance triggered an inter-communal conflict between Muslims and Buddhists. The Muslims fled towards British-controlled Muslim-dominated northern Arakan from Japanese-controlled Buddhist-majority areas, which stimulated a genocide of Rakhine Buddhists in British-controlled areas, particularly around Maungdaw. Failure of British counter-offensive attempted from December 1942 to April 1943 resulted in abandonment of even more of the Muslim population as well as increase in inter-communal violence.[3]

Moshe Yegar, a research fellow at Truman Institute, Hebrew University of Jerusalem noted that hostility had developed between the Muslims and the Buddhists who had brought about a similar hostility in other parts of Burma.[citation needed] This tension was let loose with the retreat of the British. With the approach of Japanese into Arakan, the Buddhists instigated cruel measures against the Muslims. Thousands, though the exact number is unknown, fled from Buddhist-majority regions to eastern Bengal and northern Arakan with many being killed or dying of starvation.[citation needed] The Muslims in response conducted retaliatory raids from British-controlled areas, massacring scores of Buddhists and causing many Buddhists to flee to southern Arakan.[4]

Aye Chan, a historian at Kanda University in Japan, has written that as a consequence of acquiring arms from the Allies during World War II, Rohingyas tried to destroy the collaboratonist Arakanese villages instead of resisting the Japanese.[citation needed] Chan agrees that hundreds of Muslims fled to northern Arakan though states that the accounts of atrocities on them were exaggerated.[citation needed] The British Army's liaison officer Anthony Irwin in contrast praised the role of the V Force.[5]

Muslims from Northern Rakhine State tortured, raped, and killed more than 20,000 Arakanese, including the Deputy Commissioner U Oo Kyaw Khaing.[6][better source needed] In return the Buddhist also killed a large number of Rohingya Muslims.[7][better source needed] The total casualty of both parties in that conflict is not certain and no concrete official reference can be found.

Persecution by the Japanese forces[edit]

Defeated, 50,000 Arakanese eventually fled to the Dinaspur Chittagong Division of Bangladesh after repeated massacres by the Rohingya and Japanese forces.[8][not in citation given]

Imperial Japanese forces slaughtered, raped, and tortured Rohingya Muslims and Indian Muslims. They expelled tens of thousands of Rohingya into Bengal in British India. The Japanese committed countless acts of rape, murder and torture against thousands of Rohingyas.[9] During this period, some 22,000 Rohingyas are believed to have crossed the border into Bengal, then part of British India, to escape the violence.[10][11] Defeated, 40,000 Rohingyas eventually fled to Chittagong after repeated massacres by the Burmese and Japanese forces.[12]

British report stated, that after massacres "the area then occupied by us was almost entirely Mussulman Country".[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b Field-Marshal Viscount William Slim (2009). Defeat Into Victory: Battling Japan in Burma and India, 1942–1945. London: Pan. ISBN 978-0330509978.
  3. ^ Christie, Clive J. (1998). A Modern History of Southeast Asia: Decolonization, Nationalism and Separatism. I.B. Tauris. pp. 164, 165–167. ISBN 9781860643545.
  4. ^ Yegar, Moshe (2002). Between Integration and Secession: The Muslim Communities of the Southern Philippines, Southern Thailand, and Western Burma/Myanmar. Lexington Books. pp. 33–35. ISBN 9780739103562.
  5. ^ a b Chan (Kanda University of International Studies), Aye (Autumn 2005). "The Development of a Muslim Enclave in Arakan (Rakhine) State of Burma (Myanmar)" (PDF). SOAS Bulletin of Burma Research. 3 (2): 396–420. ISSN 1479-8484. Retrieved 3 July 2013.
  6. ^ Kyaw Zan Tha, MA (July 2008). "Background of Rohingya Problem": 1.
  7. ^ <
  8. ^ Asian profile, Volume 21. Asian Research Service. 1993. p. 312. Retrieved 12 April 2011.
  9. ^ Kurt Jonassohn (1999). Genocide and gross human rights violations: in comparative perspective. Transaction Publishers. p. 263. ISBN 978-0765804174. Retrieved 12 April 2011.
  10. ^ Howard Adelman (2008). Protracted displacement in Asia: no place to call home. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 86. ISBN 978-0754672388. Retrieved 12 April 2011.
  11. ^ Human Rights Watch (Organization) (2000). Burma/Bangladesh: Burmese refugees in Bangladesh: still no durable solution. Human Rights Watch. p. 6. Retrieved 12 April 2011.
  12. ^ Asian profile, Volume 21. Asian Research Service. 1993. p. 312. Retrieved 12 April 2011.

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