U Ba Sein, a Rohingya based in the U.K., talks about his popular blog — perhaps the only one — on his community
U Ba Sein doesn’t quite fit your idea of the indigent Rohingya refugee from Myanmar. An accountant in Sheffield, U.K., he is a graduate of Rangoon University, doesn’t even use his Muslim name Mohammad Shah. “Many Rohingyas have two names, I prefer to use my Burmese name because it is on all official documents,” says Ba Sein.
Having grown up in Arakan, Ba Sein says, “I know how Rohingyas have been persecuted in the last four decades from my personal experience but not too many people globally knew about it till recently.” In 2005, while working in Saudi Arabia, Ba Sein thought of starting a blog on his community, perhaps the only one till date.
“Being away from the region, my idea was to gather as much news as possible published by international media on the ethnic and religious discrimination of the Rohingyas in Arakan. I also thought blogging would help me make more and more people aware of the plight of my community. Though later, I went about gathering information from the ground,” says Ba Sein in an email interview.
Today, he has a small team of volunteers that helps him run his blog, www.rohingyablogger.com, a popular one-stop stand for information on Rohingyas — their history, language, culture, videos and photographs of their life in Arakan and news from across the world related to the refugees living in various countries today. It also has a twitter and facebook account now.
“As I have only a team of volunteers, I can’t move forward like professional media but I am still managing to get some news from the ground (read Arakan) on my blog. That is valuable information for the global media. It has helped me get international audiences. The blog has also become a source for PhD students researching on Rohingyas,” he says. “Since many Rohingyas want the Myanmar Government to know their sufferings,” Ba Sein’s blog is in two languages — English and Burmese.
Sinch he started the blog in Saudi Arabia, a Muslim country, he says, “I didn’t face any problem. Of course, I would be arrested if I do this in Myanmar. I left Myanmar in 1993, have never gone back.”
He feels the world “is sympathetic towards the Rohingyas” but adds, “with the fragile reforms going on in Myanmar, the international community can’t pressurise much the present Government.” Though Rohingya refugees have been living across the world for years now, the issue, he says, “became international after violence broke out in Arakan in June, 2012. Before that, the world didn’t consider it a serious issue.” The President of Myanmar Thein Sein, he states, “has promised many that he will change the situation of the Rohingyas. But so far, it is just talking.”