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Arakan

Historic coastal region in Southeast Asia / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Arakan (/ˈærəkæn/ ARR-ə-kan or /ˈɑːrəkɑːn/ AR-ə-kahn[1]) is a historic coastal region in Southeast Asia. Its borders faced the Bay of Bengal to its west, the Indian subcontinent to its north and Burma proper to its east. The Arakan Mountains isolated the region and made it accessible only by the Indian subcontinent and the sea. The region now forms the Rakhine State in Myanmar.

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In the 17th century, Mrauk U was home to a diverse population including Buddhists, Muslims, Christians and Hindus; from Arakan, Burma proper, Bengal, North India, Northeast India, the Middle East and Europe
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Coinage with an Arabic inscription from Bengali-ruled Arakan, 16th century

Arakan became one of the earliest regions in Southeast Asia to embrace Dharmic religions, particularly Buddhism and Hinduism. Islam arrived with Arab merchants in the 8th century. The Kingdom of Mrauk U emerged as an independent Arakanese kingdom for 300 years. During the Age of Discovery and Bengal Subah's major economic development, Arakan caught the interest of the Dutch East India Company and the Portuguese Empire. In the middle of the 17th century, it was dominated by the Islamic Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. Arakan steadily declined from the 18th century onwards after its loss to the Mughal Empire.

After conquest by the British East India Company, Arakan became one of the divisions of British India and received settlers from the neighboring Chittagong Division of the Bengal Presidency. In 1937, it became a division of British Burma. Arakan Division was once a leading rice exporter. During the Second World War, the region was occupied by Imperial Japan. The Allied Forces liberated Arakan during the Burma Campaign. It continued to be an administrative division after Burmese independence; and later became a province. In the early 1960s, the northern part of Arakan was governed from Rangoon as the Mayu Frontier District.

In 1982, the Burmese nationality law stripped many inhabitants of their citizenship. In 1989, the Burmese military junta changed the official name of Burma to Myanmar. In the 1990s, the junta changed the name of Arakan State to Rakhine State — a name reflecting the dominance of the Rakhine majority.[2]

The region has seen conflict between the Burmese state, Rakhine nationalists and Rohingya rebels. In more recent times, Rakhine State has been notable for the exodus of refugees into neighboring countries because of military operations by the Tatmadaw (Myanmar Armed Forces).