The Arakan Rohingya National Organisation (ARNO) demanded the removal of the racist term “Ku Lar” from the UN’s Myanmar Information Management Unit (MIMU) official maps of Northern Rakhine in an open letter to Mr. Knut Ostby, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar, dated May 2, 2019.
Nurul Islam, ARNO Chairman, stated in the open letter he was shocked to see villages in MIMU maps had the word “Ku Lar” after their names, designating Rohingya ethnicity of the inhabitants.
The word “Ku Lar” (or “Kala”) has strong racist overtones in Myanmar, and is used derogatively to refer to someone of Indian appearance. “Terms such as this are considered hate speech and were a component of the rhetoric which fuelled the genocidal operations by Myanmar security forces against the Rohingya,” said the letter.
The conduct of the UN in Myanmar is currently under investigation for failure to act as the Rohingya genocide unfolded over the last several decades. The UN-managed MIMU’s use of racist terminology should also be included in this investigation, according to Nurul Islam.
ARNO demanded the immediate removal of the word “Ku Lar“ from all MIMU maps and a public apology for the use of the term. ARNO also asked that the word “Rohingya“ be used to designate ethnicity of a Rohingya village and the original Rohingya village names be always given with any Burmese village names.
In one of the MIMU maps of Northern Rakhine uploaded in January 2019, over thirty villages were labeled as “Ku Lar”, including the main village of Min Gyi in northern Maungdaw, which is marked as “Min Gyi (Ku Lar)”. Min Gyi, known as Tula Toli by Rohingya, is where hundreds of Rohingya villagers were massacred, and scores of women gang-raped and burned alive by Myanmar security forces in August 2017.
About one week after the ARNO sent the open letter, the Northern Rakhine maps containing the word “ku lar” were removed from the MIMU website. However, there has been no public explanation or apology.