Sunday 28 April 2013

Myanmar's Thein Sein - Oversee a Genocide and then Receive a Nobel Prize?

Source Salam News, 26 April

Once coveted award is now handed to false heroes and a president overseeing a Genocide.

Rohingya expulsion
Image by Carlos Latuff, friend of Salem-News in Brazil.

(SACRAMENTO, CA) - Burma, or Myanmar as it is called today, was run by a military junta for several decades, and in recent years, opened the country to democracy, (cough) and allowed Hillary Clinton and her band of corporate rapists to sink their teeth into this mostly unexploited, virgin-like SE Asian country.

People will do a lot for money and power. In fact Clinton's buddy during all of this, is the once respected Aung San Suu Kyi, who many of us viewed as a hero among world leaders. She spent years under house arrest in her native country, her father was a highly relished Burmese political leader. (see: Aung San Shoot Thee?)

Once 'democracy' started taking hold in Burma, fear of government fell, and the majority Rakhine Buddhists turned their sites on the native Rohingya Muslim population.

Aung San Suu Kyi kept her mouth shut and was given a Nobel Prize, now the national leader, Thein Sein, who has overseen the murder of hundreds, (probably thousands) of Rohingyas, the eradication of their villages by fire, and the placement of survivors in heavily documented 'IDP camps' -

Rohingya mom after Buddhist attack.

has reportedly been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, casting him alongside figures such as "Egypt's Mother Teresa" Maggie Gobran, US army whistleblower Bradley Manning, and a 15-year-old Pakistani schoolgirl named Malala, Mizzima News reports.

The people Sein and Suu Kyi turns her back on, the Rohingyas, are considered the most abused people in the world. Exterminated, abused, Rohingya women are sexually violated almost routinely, with no recourse of any kind.

The goal of the Burmese government and Buddhist mob leaders has been to brand them as "illegal immigrants" from Bangladesh, which they are not. In fact, there is indispensable evidence of Rohingya Muslims living in Burma for hundreds of years.

Of course it goes without saying that only a truly lawless band of religious extremists living as an immoral mass of humanity with extremely poor education, would be so bizarre in their interpretations.

The government of Myanmar wants to kill and oppress Muslims the way Sri Lanka takes out Hindus and Christians. Buddhist militant extremism is one of the biggest problems in the world today.

Summer of 2012

Alleged Buddhist rape murder victim

Myanmar, home of the Buddhist bigot

In June of 2012, a Buddhist woman was reportedly raped and murdered by Rohingya Muslims in Burma, one of whom was executed, the others all died in custody. That should have been enough.

Photos of a woman's dead body with her clothing on was circulated and attributed to Rohingyas. The inside scoop is that the woman was in a relationship with a Rohingya and that she was murdered by her own people - the crime hung on the political enemy of the Buddhists.

In other words, based on a number of credible accounts, the rape and murder of a Buddhist woman was a sham, a false flag event; by all accounts the crime never took place.

As if part of a continuing plan, the following day after this terribly sensational headline was reported, ten Muslim men were ripped out of a public bus on a city street and hideously murdered by Buddhists. These men had nothing in the world to do with the so-called crime involving the Buddhist woman, they lived hundreds of miles from where the alleged incident happened. Since then hundreds of been murdered, and tens of thousands place in camps.

From: My Oh Myanmar !

Insiders say the rape was staged by a militant monk named Wirathu, who is a key leader in the militant Buddhist "969″ movement, which seeks to exterminate all Muslims in Burma. As hard as it may be to believe, the Buddhists of Myanmar wear swastika's on their clothing, according to a recent report. Images of Hitler are common, it makes no sense yet is true.

The alleged rape was all it took to bring the Rohingya population great harm. Less than a year ago, Muslims and Buddhists lived in peace, and now the country has a Bosnia-style Genocide on its hands.

The most recent incident carried out by the government of Nobel Prize Nominee Sein Thein involved forcing Rohingya children to sign a note stating they are immigrants from Bangladesh for the Myanmar national census.

Saturday 27 April 2013

Rakhine Authorities force Rohingya to accept Bengali identity

By Habib,

Rakhine Immigration authority followed by RNDP members, police, NaSaKa (Border Security Force) and military came to force Rohingya villagers to accept Bengali identity. The authorities visited Rohingya villages around 11am of yesterday, are Aungmingala (Moli Fara), Bumay, and Thakkaybyin (Sakki Fara).

When the villagers refused to do so thereofre the authorities said that accepting their offer is only the last resort to solve the crisis and to appease Rakhine community.

It is a recent manner of how the Thein Sein government solving the crisis. From the morning of 23 of April, Rakhine people involving monks are distributing phemplets encouraging to demolish remaining Rohingya villages and firstly to cleanse Aungmingala village (Moli Fara).
Rakhine Authorities target Rohingya villagers of Thakkaybyin (Sakki Fara)
As a result of refusal of Bengali identity and proving Rohingya identities of 1974 by Rohingya villagers, a Rohingya graduate youth who spoke on behalf of his own family and urged the immigration authority to take a copy of his family’s Rohingya identity documents was beaten by immigration officer on 26 April.
The youths and children therefore gathered in the scene and chanted the word ‘Rohingya’. The authorities run away from the scene and came back with forces in the evening. But the family members have been on time disappeared. In the end, the immigration authority accused the acting Rohingya leaders for inciting and took away Mr. Sha-min and medicine shop owner Mr. Ali Ahmed. As per our confirmation, the they have been brutally beaten up and still detained in police custody.
Similar reactions of chanting the word ‘Rohingya’ were occurred in Bawdupa refugee camp on 26 April but the anti Rohingya mainstream media “Eleven Media Group” cunningly portrays as- “the Bengali riot in Bawdupa refugee camp”.

Thursday 25 April 2013

Two Rohingya Fishermen Chopped by Rakhines in Kyauktaw Township

By Habib,
Information received from Mr. Naain from Kyauktaw township confirms that two Rohingyas fishing captured by a group of Rakhine people were chopped to death.
The source said that the first victim was chopped to eight picies. The victim was captured while fishing in the Kaladan River at around 1am of 24 April. The death body was discovered throwing into the trench near by the village.  Later, the Rohingya villagers confirmed the victim as Nurulsalam-35 @ Fokker s/o Abu Fazal from Wakin ward (Khansi Fara). 
The second victim is Dawlar-33 from Pizi Village (Noja Fara), who was took away from fishing in the Pichaung Creek at around 8pm of 24 April.
The number of Rohingyas killed in this manner has been uncountable. 
No Aid agency has power to deliver food while arbitrary killings by Rakhine people and additional oppressions in place by the government authorities. The remaining Rohingyas have therefore no choice to risk to find food.

EU’s flawed approach to Myanmar

Source Mizzima news, 25 April
Mark Farmaner
This week's decision by European Union(EU) member states to lift all sanctions on Burma [Myanmar] except the arms embargo has received widespread criticism. It was, however, just one of the Conclusions published by the EU Foreign Affairs Council on April 22. 

These Council Conclusions are worth examining as they highlight just how far the EU has shifted its policy on Burma in the past two years. 

EU Foreign Ministers have decided to trust Thein Sein, and throw everything they have behind him. There are no caveats or reservations—instead it's a wholehearted endorsement of a man whom the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights in Burma twice named for personally ordering human rights abuses. 

It is an extraordinarily risky and reckless diplomatic move, but having made this decision, they now seem willing to make shocking compromises on human rights abuses and twist reality to try to make it fit their new view of Burma.

First to be abandoned are the EU's own benchmarks for human rights improvements. These were laid out clearly in last year's Council Conclusions: all political prisoners should be released unconditionally (they haven't been); there should be an end to conflict (fighting has actually increased in Kachin State); there should be substantially improved humanitarian access (there hasn't been and lives have been lost as a result); and there should be improvements in the welfare and status of the Rohingya (the situation has deteriorated so badly that the Rohingya have been subjected to ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, with government forces allegedly complicit).

No mention of these benchmarks not being met was made by EU Foreign Ministers. Nor has the EU or any member state issued a statement pledging action or even expressing concern about evidence released by Human Rights Watch on the same day they lifted sanctions, of government involvement in ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity against the Rohingya.

There is no reference in their Council Conclusions of the multiple human rights violations which may violate international law, which were highlighted in the recent UN Human Rights Council resolution on Burma. All talk of justice and accountability has been forgotten.

Any idea of striking a balance between welcoming and supporting reforms so far, while acknowledging their limitations and maintaining pressure for deeper change, has been abandoned. 

Instead Burma is a country with a "remarkable process of reform". The EU "congratulates the government of Myanmar/Burma on what has been achieved". EU Foreign Ministers state that they are willing to "open a new chapter" and look forward to "working in partnership" with the government.

Instead of demanding the immediate release of political prisoners, the EU is now making excuses for Thein Sein keeping political prisoners in jail. Rather than the detention of political prisoners being described as a gross violation of human rights, the release of political prisoners is now described as one of the "complex challenges" Burma faces. EU Ministers noted with "satisfaction" the creation of the political prisoner review mechanism, despite knowing full well that this mechanism is deeply flawed and will not lead to the release of all political prisoners. It does not seem to occur to them to wonder how genuine the reform process is if two years since it started, hundreds of political prisoners are still in jail.

In Rakhine State, government restrictions which violate international humanitarian law and which have led to unnecessary deaths, are described as "humanitarian risks" which are another "complex challenge" the government of Burma needs help with.

Conflict in Kachin State, during which the Burmese army has committed multiple war crimes and crimes against humanity, including rape and gang rape, torture, arbitrary execution, deliberate shelling of civilians, use of forced labour, use of child soldiers and arbitrary detention, is now described using the much softer word, "hostilities". 

Completely ignoring the fact that President Thein Sein asked for international assistance in expelling all Rohingya from Burma, a proposal for what amounts to ethnic cleansing, and ignoring evidence recently published by the Chin Human Rights Organisation of ongoing discrimination against Christians, the EU instead praises Thein Sein for his "commitment to a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-faith society." 

Another example of just how far the EU is going in avoiding highlighting ongoing human rights abuses and other problems is the fact that they have lifted all sanctions except the arms embargo, but not stated why they are keeping the arms embargo in place. 

EU Ministers state that the bloc will "use all means and mechanisms at its disposal to support Myanmar/Burma's political, economic and social transition." Missing from the sentence are the words, "to democracy", although EU Foreign Ministers seem to be taking Thein Sein at his word that such a transition is under way.

It is this assumption, that Thein Sein is genuine about democratic change, rather than just taking Burma on a path to a 'normal' authoritarian regime, that underpins the willingness of the EU to look the other way, even when ethnic cleansing is taking place. It's a massive gamble, and an immoral one. 
Mark-Farmaner-sMark Farmaner is director of Burma Campaign UK, a London-based NGO that advocates for democracy and human rights in Burma/ Myanmar.

Muslim jailed for removing Buddhist logo from shop

Source DVB, 25 April
A sticker of the "969 movement" is seen at a shop in Minhla
A sticker of the "969 movement" is seen at a shop in Minhla on 29 March 2013. (Reuters)

A Muslim man was sentenced to two years in prison in central Burma this week for "insulting" religion, after he removed an extremist Buddhist "969" sticker from a shop, according to local media.

Forty-two-year-old Armin (aka Soe Lwin) from Kyaukgyi township in eastern Pegu division scraped the nationalist symbol – which has been used to promote anti-Muslim propaganda in Burma – from a local betel nut shop's window on Saturday. Local authorities sued him two days later, according to the Voice Daily newspaper.

After a one-day trial, Judge Myint Kyaw from Kyaukgyi township court sentenced him to two years imprisonment under a draconian section of Burma's penal code, which bans "deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs".

The notorious "969" logos have been used as part of a targeted anti-Muslim campaign – led by the self-proclaimed "Burmese bin Laden" or monk Wirathu – to spread Islamophobia across Burma. The movement has been largely blamed for a wave of anti-Muslim riots, which swept through the country in March.

The news comes the same week that seven Muslims, suspected of murdering a Buddhist monk on the first day of the unrest – are standing trial in a Meikhtila court, where they could face the death penalty.

"They should be punished with the death sentence. I would be satisfied with this," a local monk told Reuters.

Last month's violence erupted after a dispute in a Muslim-owned gold shop escalated, culminating in the murder of a local monk – allegedly by 11 men. His death prompted mobs of Buddhists to go on a seven-day rampage throughout central Burma, torching mosques, homes and murdering dozens of Muslim civilians.

The UN's Vijay Nambiar described the violence as being carried out with "brutal efficiency" and fuelled by "incendiary propaganda". Wirathu is known to have held a number of anti-Muslim sermons in nearby Mandalay in the weeks ahead of the violence in Meikhtila.

The Burmese authorities have been criticised for failing to stop the violence, which follows two bouts of ethno-religious clashes between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in western Burma last year. Earlier this week, video footage obtained by the BBC shows police officers standing by and watching as a Buddhist mob sets houses on fire in Meikhtila, while a Muslim man burns to death.

Although President Thein Sein vowed to hold perpetrators – including "political opportunists and religious extremists" – to account for the violence, questions remain over why Wirathu and his legion of "969" followers have been allowed to continue the practice of hate speech.

The nationalist monk is currently touring Karen state in eastern Burma, where he has reportedly delivered a series of inflammatory sermons, in which he described the destruction of mosques as "sinless" because they are "buildings of the enemy". However, Wirathu has repeatedly denied that his "969" campaign played a role in fuelling last month's violence and insisted that his only agenda is to "preserve" the Buddhist faith.

Three Muslims involved in the gold shop brawl, which sparked the riots, were sentenced to 14 years in jail earlier this month. But so far no Buddhists have been prosecuted for inciting violence, although a small number of residents have been charged with "breaching" the state curfew, which carries a much lighter sentence.

The wave of anti-Muslim unrest left 43 dead and displaced over 13,000 people, most of whom are living in temporary shelters near Meikhtila. A number of locals report that renewed threats of arson attacks are preventing them from returning home.

Myanmar's Rohingya left with little hope

Source Aljazeerablog, 24 April

Thousands of Muslim refugees stuck in squalid camps in Rakhine state, left to wait for government to decide their fate.
Last modified: 24 Apr 2013 23:02
Wayne Hay is a roving correspondent covering the Asia-Pacific region.

undefinedMosques in Rakhine state were destroyed in ethnic violence, Human Rights Watch reported [AFP]

For Muslims displaced by last year's religious violence in western Myanmar, there is no light at the end of the tunnel and the strain is beginning to show.

I have visited the refugee camps on the outskirts of the Rakhine State capital, Sittwe, several times, but this was my first visit in six months and I was struck by several changes, none of them positive.

More than 100,000 people remain homeless after attacks that were at first described as communal clashes. Subsequent violence and burning made it clear, however, that this had been largely an anti-Muslim campaign.

Most of the people in the camps are Rohingya Muslims, an ethnic group largely viewed as illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh. Their homes were burned down by groups of Buddhists as part of a campaign that Human Rights Watch described as ethnic cleansing.

The only way refugees can leave the camps is by getting on a boat and heading south in the hope of finding a better future in Thailand or Malaysia, but few can afford the bribes that need to be paid along the way. For many Rohingya, there is no choice but to sit and wait for the Myanmar government to decide their fate.

Government promises

The best they can hope for, at the moment, is for is some sort of more permanent housing to be built by the government. Such shelter has been promised for some time, but not delivered.

In my previous visits there had been a lot more fervor in the camps. People surrounded us, wanting to tell us their often-horrific stories. We were asked to spread the word to the international community.

Those feelings and memories haven't gone away, of course, but this time I was left with the sense that the refugees are understandably being worn down. An air of hopelessness is setting in.

People are hungry, but there is plenty of food around. People are dying, even though there is a hospital just down the road. If you were a Muslim caught up in the violence, your freedoms have now been taken away.

Yet, amid the desperation there are incredible stories of people helping their own. I was fortunate to meet Maung Maung Hla, a health worker who for 30 years was employed by the government to provide assistance at hospitals in Rakhine State.

Ten months ago, the government stopped paying him. Why? Because he's Rohingya. Now, he lives and works in the camps providing what medical assistance he can to those who live there.

There is not enough medicine to go around and not enough room for those who need in-patient treatment in his tiny medical centre.

Buddhist doctors make brief visits from the town and very occasionally a seriously ill patient is allowed to be taken to the main Sittwe hospital for treatment and medication. In some cases, much-needed surgery is denied because the patient is a Muslim.

Maung Maung Hla busily moved from one end of the medical centre to the other. He took the blood pressure of pregnant women, checked the cast on a fisherman's broken leg, and provided what little comfort he could to a man who was bitten by a rabid dog and was having regular seizures.

The man will die soon and should be in a proper hospital. He's not, because of his religion.

I asked Maung Maung Hla why he continued to do this work even though the government has cut him off. He broke down and said his people have no one else to turn to.

The people of these camps are not just being let down by the government of Myanmar, but by governments around the world who continue to trip over themselves in the rush to reap the financial rewards on offer in this evolving democracy.

Indonesian president urges Myanmar to address Muslim violence

Source Yahoo
  • Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono talks at a Reuters Newsmaker event in Singapore April 23, 2013. REUTERS/Edgar Su
    View Photo

    Reuters/Reuters - Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono talks at a Reuters Newsmaker event in Singapore April 23, 2013. REUTERS/Edgar Su

By Jason Szep and John O'Callaghan

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - The president of Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, said on Tuesday he would urge Myanmar's leaders to address Buddhist-led violence against Muslims that he said could cause problems for Muslims elsewhere in the region.

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's visit to Myanmar on Tuesday and Wednesday comes a month after at least 43 people, mostly Muslims, were killed in four days of violence led by Buddhist mobs in the central city of Meikhtila, 80 miles north of the capital, Naypyitaw. That sparked a wave of anti-Muslim violence.

"If it's not addressed in the best way possible, its impact is not good for Myanmar and even for Indonesians who are majority Muslims," Yudhoyono told a Thomson Reuters Newsmaker event, a forum held in Singapore.

Calm has been restored in Meikhtila and other volatile central areas after authorities imposed martial law and dispatched troops. A Reuters examination showed it was well organized, abetted at times by police turning a blind eye.

"I will encourage that Myanmar will address it wisely, appropriately and prevent tension and violence. We in Indonesia are ready to support them to reach those goals," he said.

Yudhoyono will meet with Myanmar President Thein Sein during the visit and sign a memorandum of understanding on rice trade, an Indonesian government official said.

His visit also follows deadly unrest last year against Muslim Rohingya, an ethnic minority, in western Rakhine State which Human Rights Watch, a New York-based rights watchdog, described in a report on Monday as ethnic cleansing -- a charge rejected by the government.

"There are other challenges in Myanmar like communal tensions facing the ethnic Rohingya," Yudhoyono said.

Last year's violence in Rakhine State killed at least 110 people, mostly Rohingya Muslims, and left 120,000 homeless.

Rohingya activists claim their historical lineage in Rakhine dates back centuries, but Myanmar's government regards the estimated 800,000 Muslim Rohingyas as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and denies them citizenship. Bangladesh has refused to grant Rohingyas refugee status since 1992.

The violence has sparked an exodus of thousands of Rohingya fleeing Rakhine State by boat. Many have ended up in other Southeast Asian countries including Indonesia, where Buddhist and Rohingya Muslims clashed in an overcrowded immigration detention center last month.

Yudhoyono said Indonesia has a long history of engaging with Myanmar's leaders dating to military rule "to encourage them to continue their process of democratization so they didn't need to be hurt by embargoes".

The European Union on Monday lifted sanctions imposed in response to human rights abuses during nearly five decades of military rule that ended in March 2011. The country, also known as Burma, has since embarked on a series of democratic reforms.

"World leaders now are visiting Myanmar because they see Myanmar has changed," he said. "I will visit Myanmar today firstly to support and promote the process of democratization, of nation-building, of the rule of law, human rights."

(Editing by Neil Fullick)

Burma's Rohingya Ghettos Broke My Heart

Source Vice,

Sittwe, the capital of Burma's restive Rakhine state, is a town divided. Or, put more accurately, segregated, thanks to the majority Buddhist Rakhine people developing a passion for beating, raping, murdering, and setting fire to members of the local Muslim Rohingya minority. As it stands, the Rohingya have been ghettoized into a series of internally displaced-person (IDP) camps just outside of Sittwe.

Things have been this way since last June, when the region witnessed a massive outbreak of sectarian violence following the alleged rape and murder of a Rakhine woman and a revenge attack that killed ten Muslims. From there, things escalated dramatically. Countless houses have been razed, and large numbers from both communities displaced. However, only the Rohingya suffered from systematic persecution by government security forces—again, involving rape and murder—in the aftermath. Further violence elsewhere in the state during October pushed the total number of IDPs over the 100,000 mark, almost all of them from the Rohingya community.

Such persecution for the Muslim minority is nothing new—they have been subjected to marginalization and violence within Burma for decades, mostly at the hands of the former ruling junta. Almost all have been effectively stateless since a citizenship law was passed in 1982, which effectively classified the group as foreigners, despite their presence in the country for centuries. Many NGOs have characterized the law and its consequences as part of a long-standing campaign to pressure the Rohingya into leaving Burma.

The situation for the minority, described by the UN as one of the world's most vulnerable, is undeniably rough. Yet not everyone sees them as victims. During a visit to one of Sittwe's many Buddhist monasteries, a resident cenobitic monk told me, "All the problems here are the fault of the kalar." (Kalar being a racist term for the Rohingya). "They want to take over all of Rakhine state," he insisted. They were "terrorists" and the Rakhine people could not be made to live with them or violence would break out once again, he asserted.

A day later, visiting the Rohingya IDP camps, I had the opportunity to gain a very different perspective. I sat in on an art-therapy session hosted by a visiting humanitarian volunteer, in which children were encouraged to draw their memories of last year's violence using colored pens and paper. Many of their drawings depicted members of the Burmese government's Hlun Tin paramilitary outfit shooting at people outside of burning homes. One child, explaining what she drew in a particularly affecting piece, mentioned calmly that she had seen the severed head of a mentally disabled boy she once knew lying by the bank of a river. Another said that she saw a Rakhine man smash a woman's skull in until some of her brains spilled out.

That night I refreshed my memory on what the government line on the unrest had been last year. President Thein Sein mystifyingly appeared to deny that that the violence was connected to racial tension. His foreign minister, Wunna Maung Lwin, told the Irrawaddy newspaper that the violence was "not the fault of the government or the people of Myanmar"—a grouping that, tellingly, did not exclude the Rohingya from blame, but managed to clear the Rakhine. It was hard not to see such remarks as indicative of discrimination against the worst victims of the violence—those children included.

Two days later, I visited one of the most deprived parts of the camps, an area populated by "unregistered" IDPs who don't qualify for the limited official aid allowed into Rohingya wards. According to a source within the human rights community, the decision to confer registered status on some IDPs and not others was determined on an "arbitrary" basis.

As I walked around the dusty encampment, malnourished children approached me, making plaintive begging gestures while pointing to their stomachs. I saw an infant whose skin had been nearly burnt off much of her upper body after a cooking accident in one of the makeshift straw-covered tents. Her only aid came from a visiting nongovernment doctor.

In the midst of this shocking scene, a modestly sized food truck appeared, announced with a sudden uproar of joy from the camp's children, who chased it excitedly up a worn path to an unloading point above their field. I had no idea where it had come from, yet the people there seemed to assume its cargo was meant for them. The feeling of relief expressed was infectious, and it was impossible not to be deeply grateful on their behalf.

Within minutes, the mood darkened. It emerged that what had seemed to be a marvel of deliverance was more like a sadistic joke. We were told by some of the IDPs that, despite initial impressions, they now believed the food would be distributed exclusively in the registered camps nearby. I was later informed by reliable sources that no one in the unregistered area received a single bag of rice from the truck.

I went back to my hotel that night, acutely aware of my own privileges, feeling a sickening blend of exhaustion and seething anger. As bad as the false hope of the rice was, it was a greater agony to consider what the coming weeks promised for them and the rest of the camps: death and sickness on a massive scale.

In May, the rainy season will begin and the open-air prisoners of Sittwe's ghettos will almost certainly face what Human Rights Watch, relevant UN bodies, and the European Commission predict will be a humanitarian disaster. Malaria and many other diseases will likely kill thousands—a scenario only made more inevitable by the criminal inaction of the Burmese authorities, who have dismissed calls to move the IDPs to grounds that will not flood. It's almost as if they want them to die.

That's still the impression I have. It's no consolation to consider how little the West has done so far to step up and help these desperate people, given its newfound influence over Burma. As astute commentators have observed, Washington is seeking to "counter rising Chinese assertiveness by engaging its neighbors," which may account for its apparent reluctance to get tough with those in power in Naypyidaw. Meanwhile, the EU—which has been similarly muted—is on the verge of permanently lifting sanctions against Burma over the objections of rights groups.

Perhaps only when displacement and humanitarian disaster mutate into full-blown ethnic cleansing will the global community act decisively to help this imperilled population. That this may occur seems far from impossible, particularly given the enduring tensions in Rakhine state and the recent wave of anti-Muslim violence elsewhere in the country.

That it may take such an event to get the West to intervene should be an international scandal in itself. But it seems the world has a short memory, and while economic imperatives dominate over moral ones in global affairs, it's entirely plausible that Rohingya children may be sketching corpses for some time yet.

Follow Emanuel on Twitter: @EmanuelStoakes

Monday 22 April 2013

Burmese government accused of complicity in 'ethnic cleansing' of Rohingya

Source Independent, 22 April
Buddhist monks rally in Mandalay in September last year in support of the president and against the UN over violence against Muslims
Violence against Burma's Rohingya Muslims in October last year was a carefully planned and co-ordinated assault involving Burmese security forces and Buddhist monks, according to fresh evidence unearthed in a report released today by Human Rights Watch (HRW).

The report, which includes interviews with more than 100 people on both sides, and visits to all major camps where displaced Muslims are now living, concludes that there is compelling evidence of official involvement in the violence in Arakan state in October. More than 180 people were killed and 100,000 left homeless by anti-Rohingya violence last year.

The report states: "The absence of accountability against those to blame lends credence to allegations that this was a government-appointed campaign of ethnic cleansing in which crimes against humanity were committed."

This week the European Union is due to eliminate the trade and economic sanctions on Burma – except the arms embargo – which were suspended one year ago, in recognition of the country's moves towards democracy. But in light of the report's findings, David Mepham, of HRW in London, told The Independent: "Lifting all the sanctions on Burma is premature and unjustified. European governments are relinquishing their leverage over Burma when concerted pressure is most needed to investigate anti-Muslim violence and crimes against humanity."

The spark for the violence which began in the far west of Burma last June was the rape and murder of a 28-year-old Arakanese Buddhist woman by three Muslims. Tensions between Buddhists and Muslims that have simmered and periodically erupted for generations quickly exploded into an orgy of violence in which lives and homes on both sides were destroyed.

But when the violence flared up again in October 2012, it was in the form of simultaneous attacks on Muslim communities in nine of Arakan's 21 townships.

"On 22 October, after months of meetings and public statements promoting ethnic cleansing, Arakanese mobs attacked Muslim communities in nine townships, razing villages and killing residents while security forces stood aside or assisted the assailants. Some of the dead were buried in mass graves, further impeding accountability," says the report, entitled "All You Can Do Is Pray".

In July, President Thein Sein, the former general who was building a reputation as a democratically minded reformer, had appeared to approve a plan to expel Rohingyas from Burma. "We will take care of our own nationalities," he said. "But Rohingyas who came to Burma illegally are not of our nationalities and we cannot accept them here… They can be settled in refugee camps… If there are countries that would accept them, they could be sent there."

That proposal was echoed in crude pamphlets distributed in the state. One of them was baldly headed: "Arakan Ethnic Cleansing Program of bad pagan Bengalis… taking advantage of our kindness to them".

HRW documents other attempts during the summer of 2012 to inflame the fear and hatred of the majority community against the Muslim minority, while security forces demolished mosques and homes abandoned during the June violence, making it difficult for the Muslims to return the areas where they had previously lived.

Then on 22 October came the co-ordinated assault. "Carrying machetes, swords, spears, home-made guns, Molotov cocktails and other weapons, sizeable groups of Arakanese men simultaneously descended on Muslim villages in several townships in a coordinated fashion," the report says. "Far from being a brief flash of violence, the carnage lasted over a week in nine of the state's 17 townships… Most of these areas had not experienced violence in June."

In perhaps the worst case, in Yan Thei village in Mrauk-u, Arakan's historic capital, the day-long massacre led to the deaths of 70 Rohingyas, of whom 28 were children, 13 of them under the age of five.

Today, with the rainy season about to descend, around 120,000 Rohingyas are living in hastily improvised camps around the state, barred from returning to their homes or going anywhere else. Many of the most desperate have fled: the United Nations refugee agency estimates that some 13,000 people, including Rohingyas and Bangladeshi nationals, took to the Bay of Bengal in flimsy boats during 2012.

After October's murderous attacks, President Thein Sein softened his rhetoric. In a letter to the UN Secretary-General in November, he promised that "once emotions subside on all sides" his government was prepared to "address contentious political dimensions ranging from resettling of displaced populations to granting of citizenship". Critics voiced suspicion that this more emollient tone was aimed at the ears of US President Barack Obama on the eve of his historic visit to Burma in November, which were heightened when the Foreign Ministry released a statement the following month referring to "so-called Rohingyas" and "Bengalis". It denied that the government had played any part in the attacks on them.


West will never pressure Myanmar over Muslim genocide: Dr. Kevin Barrett

Source Presstv, 20 April
{Also click to see the video link}
A political analyst says the international community and particularly the West has not pressured the government in Myanmar to stop the violence and to stop this genocide or ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya people.

The comments came after the UN refugee agency warned of a "humanitarian catastrophe" in Myanmar as the country's displaced Rohingya Muslims face the threat of monsoon floods. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Friday said it is "seriously concerned about the risks facing over 60,000 displaced people in flood-prone areas and in makeshift shelters." Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar account for about five percent of the country's population of nearly 60 million. They have been persecuted and faced torture, neglect, and repression since the country's independence in 1948.

Press TV has conducted an interview with Kevin Barrett, from the Muslim-Christian-Jewish Alliance, to further discuss the issue. What follows is an approximate transcription of the interview.

Press TV: Kevin Barrett, I would hate to see this monsoon season obviously pretty much have an effect on the lives of these already most persecuted minority being the Rohingyas but it seems like that maybe their fate.

What has not occurred when we look at this really disaster that's been going on for the past six months in terms of the persecution, the government involvement and etc.?

Barrett: Well what hasn't happened is that the international community and particularly the West has not pressured the government in Myanmar to stop the violence and to stop this genocide or ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya people.

Why is that? Quite often we do hear the West making loud noises about human rights and sometimes in situations where the violations of human rights are a lot, less extreme than they are in Myanmar.

And I think the answer is in this particular situation, the West and particularly the USA has opened up good relations with the Myanmar government just at the moment that the Myanmar government has started to commit and countenance genocide on its territory.

And the US is basically playing a geo-strategic game, is trying to take Myanmar out of the orbit of China and place it more firmly into the Western orbit. The US is deluging Myanmar with representatives trying to establish more trade ties, more business relationships, the money is flowing more than ever and rather than use the pressure and the leverage that they certainly do have to stop these very, very large scale abuses and this horrible suffering of the Rohingya ethnic cleansing victims.

The US and to some extent even the international human rights community have tended to downplay it and ignore it. So this is just another example of the hypocrisy of the way Western countries especially the US use human rights more as a tool of their foreign policy in their geo-strategic objectives rather than out of concern for humanity.

Press TV: So quickly, when you say they want to pull Myanmar out of this fear of China, of influence of China, I mean so that that border is an area that they will probably going to, if they had not already placed the military power whether it is soldiers, equipments etc. Is that another aim that the US has obviously to counter China militarily?

Barrett: Absolutely. US is ringing China with military bases. There is a containment of China strategy going on, Obama has called it the shift to Asia . They are winding down the Middle Eastern war on terror, although you would know that from what is going on in Syria and they are ramping up the future war on China to prevent China from continuing to rise and taking its place as the world's biggest economy and most powerful technological country.

So it is a big geo-strategic game and the Rohingya Muslims are caught in the middle.


Saturday 20 April 2013

The battle for Myanmar’s future

Source Arabnews, 19 April

Last month, as the anti-Muslim violence in Myanmar spread from Rakhine state in western Myanmar to the central Burmese city of Meiktila, Aung San Suu Kyi sat among the generals on the reviewing stand as the Burmese Army marched past on Armed Forces Day. She is seen as a saint by many people — but she didn't say anything about Meiktila, where just days before at least 40 people were killed and 12,000 made homeless.

 She hasn't condemned the far greater violence against the Muslim Rohingyas of Rakhine state during the past year either, but there she had at least the flimsy excuse that this group is portrayed by the military regime as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. The military regime even revoked their Burmese citizenship in 1982, and they have never got it back.
The claim that the Rohingyas are foreigners is a despicable lie — the first written mention of Rohingyas in Rakhine dates back to 1799 — but Aung San Suu Kyi didn't say that. She just murmured that "We have to be very clear about what the laws of citizenship are and who are entitled to them." Meiktila, however, was different.

 The Muslims of Meiktila, who make up a third of the city's population, are not Rohingya, and there is no question about their Burmese citizenship. There is a large military base in Meiktila, and yet for two days the army did not intervene to protect the Muslims. And once again, Aung San Suu Kyi did not condemn what was happening. What is going on here?

 There is a long game being played in Myanmar, and we will not know its outcome until the national elections scheduled for 2015. The officer who launched a democratic transition after he became president in 2011, Gen. Thein Sein, seems willing to return the country to civilian control after 50 years of military rule — but he certainly intends to retain a major role for the army in Myanmar's politics.

 Thein Sein's main motive for withdrawing the military from power is probably to end the country's pariah status. As a result of the brutal and corrupt rule of the generals, Myanmar has long been the poorest country in the region. But there are several reasons why he would want to keep the army's influence high.
One reason is that his fellow generals would overthrow him if he did not protect them from future prosecution for their past crimes. Another is that the army is obsessed with maintaining Myanmar's unity.

 Only two-thirds of the country's 60 million people are actually ethnic Burmese, living mostly in the Irrawaddy river basin. All around the frontiers are large ethnic minorities — Shan, Karen, Mon, Kachin — most of which have fought against the centralizing policies of the military dictatorship in the past.

 The military don't believe that a strictly civilian government would be tough enough to hold the country together, so they have no intention of giving up power completely. As things stand now, however, that is precisely what will happen: In last year's by-elections, Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy won 43 out of 44 parliamentary seats at stake. The military's candidates would be simply wiped out in the 2015 elections. The army has to find some way to make itself more popular politically, and the obvious way is to position itself as the defender of Burmese unity against treacherous minorities. Then it might win support from the majority population — or so it clearly believes.

 The real separatists are way up on the frontiers of the country, far from the view of the majority population — but the Muslim (5 percent), Chinese (2.5 percent) and Indian (1.5 percent) minorities live right amongst the ethnic Burmese majority. So far only the Muslims have been targeted, but there is reason to suspect that the military was implicated even in the first outbreak of anti-Rohingya violence in Rakhine.

 There is no doubt that the army is now complicit in anti-Muslim violence elsewhere in Myanmar. The military is clearly hoping that Aung San Suu Kyi will speak out in defense of the Muslim Burmese, and thereby lose her popular support among the highly nationalistic majority. Knowing this, she has chosen to remain silent, presumably thinking that all this can be fixed after she wins the 2015 election. This is almost certainly a mistake.
The transition from a long-lasting tyranny to a democracy is particularly tricky in ethnically complicated countries, and there are two recent examples that might offer her some guidance.

 One was the end of Communist rule in Yugoslavia in 1991, when the Serbian Communist elite, led by Slobodan Milosevic, tried to keep its hold on power by playing on Serbian resentment of the other nationalities. The result was a decade of war and the fragmentation of the former Yugoslav federation into seven successor states.

 The other was South Africa, an even more complex ethnic stew. There the ruling white minority surrendered power voluntarily, and Nelson Mandela's African National Congress did not pursue the politics of vengeance. As a result, the country is democratic, and it is still united and at peace.
At some point in the next two years, Aung San Suu Kyi is going to have to decide which way she wants to go.

— Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries

A Geography of Anti-Islam Violence: Burma

Source zgeography, 18 April

The 2000s are not a good time to be a Muslim, because "Muslims" (if there is such a generalized community, which of course there isn't) are routinely vilified in the media. But this post isn't about the "lamestream" media that the West (and the U.S. in particular) finds itself saddled with. This post concerns the anti-Islam sentiments of "societies" themselves, specifically in South Asia. A cursory look at recent history will uncover plenty of evidence of violence, sometimes pogroms, against Muslims. Of course, the latent desire for certain people to target, discriminate against, and kill other certain people isn't helped by current events and the way they're portrayed.

You know the elephant in this blog post. September 11, 2001. When the actions of 19 individuals, tied to a single organization, not only destroyed two towers and thousands of lives, but was used as justification to vilify the system of beliefs for well over a billion people. Sadly, the media (and the rest of us) are all too willing to present and discuss these conflicts in one dimensional terms, "they were Muslim". This is the first in a series (not necessarily in order!) of discussions of violence targeting Muslims, today's post focuses on Burma.

But like all conflicts, the ones I present have multiple dimensions. These discussions revolves around the point that these societies (all societies in fact), made up population groups, are all fractured along multiple identity lines. Sometimes the cracks aren't visible, nothing manifests in the news. Otherwise the cracks are all too visible. You can see them in your own society, if you know where to look (hint: the cracks). The cracks though run in multiple directions. But as humans, we try to generalize and simplify – in order to make sense of complex situations. The problem, of course, is that we believe our own simplifications and take these as truth. The only truth, of course, is that it is complex and any one thing could never be (fully) explained in a single blog post.

Burma has been experiencing periodic violent conflict, cast in the light of ethno-religious terms by the media, over the past several years. Considering the way the media is structured, especially with the "24-hour news cycle", and the authoritarian nature of the military regime, we can be certain that the Myanmar conflict has been ongoing (or simmering) for years, perhaps decades. International news are unlikely to report "continued tensions between Muslims and Buddhists", since this isn't likely to grab a reader's attention. However, one-off stories of "Gang of [fill in religious group] kill scores in [fill in place of worship of other group]" are likely to generate readership and interest. A sufficiently authoritarian government (see: Stalin, Tito, Asad for example) is also more apt to keep inter-population group tensions at a minimum through a combination of carrots and sticks. The carrot is providing state/public resources to favored population groups. The stick is… they'll kill you if you cause trouble. With Burma's tentative steps towards democracy, ethnic tensions are boiling over. Probably because there's increased international scrutiny, meaning we're paying attention more AND because they (Rohingya and Burmans) know we're paying attention and probably because the government is on its "best" behavior, i.e. not killing trouble-makers.

Last year anti-Muslim violence was concentrated in the west, in Rakhine (formerly Arakan) state. This state hosts, in very broad terms, the Rohingya and Rakhine communities. The Rohingya speak an Indo-Aryan language, similar to (but distinct from) Bengali, and typically practice Sunni Islam. Because of this cultural and linguistic similarity with the majority population group in Bangladesh (the Bengalis), a number of Burman sources in Burma (Myanmar) contend that the Rohingya are "illegal immigrants." In contrast, the Rakhine community speak a dialect of Burmese, which is a Sino-Tibetan language. They principally adhere to Theravada Buddhism (the so-called "Hinayana"/"Lesser Vehicle" ). The community is also related to the Burman population group (the largest ethnic group in Burma) as well as the Marma and Chakma groups in Bangladesh (which principally reside in the Chittagong Hill Tracts). The recent change has been the spread of Buddhist violence to new areas quite far from Rakhine/Arakan, where there isn't much of a Muslim minority population to speak of.

The fundamental question is… are the Rohingya illegal immigrants? No. First, who would choose to settle in an isolationist, authoritarian military state. Would anyone want to illegally settle in North Korea? Turning to our history books, Islam was present in South and Southeast Asia centuries before the arrival of the British. It first arrived via Sufi saints and mystics who integrated with local communities, adapting to their customs. It came again through the sword of Turkish invaders. Obviously, the Sufis had more of an impact on local populations. Over the intervening centuries, Muslim traders often settled in commercial and port towns and used their connections to facilitate international trade (much like Chinese traders elsewhere in Southeast Asia). Arakan was one such commercial outpost. Importantly, Arakan also bordered Chittagong and the rest of Bangladesh, which had become increasingly Islamic during the British Raj (due in no small part to the eastern province's (East Bengal) depressed economic status and the crushing oppression of the Hindu caste system). The history of the last independent Arakan kingdom, Mrauk U, is intimately tied with Bengal. After Burman conquest of Arakan in 1785, the Burma Empire engaged in atrocities amounting to ethnic cleansing (though the source discounts the existence of "Rohingya" in Burma prior to the 1800s).

The lamestream media's darling, Aung San Suu Kyi (winner of the ::cough, cough:: Nobel Peace Prize) made "rare" (not even my words) comments on the violence gripping the country recently. Honestly, they weren't even comments it was a shrugging response, a lame answer. It was (gasp) a politician's response. ASSK commented that she was "not a magician" and couldn't use magic to make tensions dissipate. Thanks for clearing that up! Prior to this I cannot recall ANY substantive comments from ASSK on ethno-religious violence in Burma (of which there are several instances). As the BDnews24 article observes, ASSK herself is a "devout (Theravada) Buddhist." I'm guessing that ASSK is a Burman Buddhist. While the decision to support or criticize violence between two population is an individual decision, that she shares a similar language and religious affinity is a hurdle. The violence is focused around the Muslim minority community of Burma, some of whom also happen to share a similar language with Bengali (spoken in Bangladesh and India). Of course, the Muslims have existed in western Burma since before the absorption of the last independent kingdom of Mrauk U in 1785. However, Burma was part of the British Raj, which would facilitate a great deal of "internal" migration within the Raj. This migration, often encouraged by the British to foster economic advancement, would not have been welcomed by the "native" population.

Finally, all of this violence comes about a year before Burma conducts its first census since 1983 (the pilot census should have just been completed a week ago). A census typically forms the basis for the distribution of public resources and political power, it is a catalog of a state's most important resource – people. People are not, as you should know by now in this post, a homogeneous mass. There is no single Burmese nationality. In a country dominated by a single ethnic group, the Burman for instance, what would happen if a census showed that a minority group, the Rohingya, had actually experienced faster population growth than the Rakhine? If the Rohingya knew and could put aside their own internal differences, they could be reasonably confident of forming a state government sensitive to their rights and desires. Why might the Rohingya be a larger population group? For the simple reason that they are oppressed and poor. Children are their social security, the state doesn't provide for this group like it does for the favored Rakhine.

Demography always returns to bite autocrats in the ass.

Thursday 18 April 2013

Suu Kyi calls on citizenship law to be revised

Source DVB,
 17 April 2013suu Kyi pic 2
Aung San Suu Kyi addresses a crowd of Burmese migrants in Tokyo, Japan, 15 April 2013 (Reuters)

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has called for a review of Burma's controversial 1982 citizenship law, which renders the Muslim Rohingya stateless, during a trip to Japan this week.

Meeting with Burmese families in Tokyo on Monday, she said that the law needed to be revised in accordance with international standards. She added that everyone who is entitled to citizenship under the existing law must be given equal rights.

"We have to find out whether our citizenship law is fair or not; if it meets international standards, and based on the findings, if necessary, the [law] must be revised," said Suu Kyi.

"There is discrimination among citizens in our country," said Suu Kyi. "We should also determine if certain laws are a hindrance to equal rights among citizens in the country, and revise them if we can."

Suu Kyi has faced growing international pressure to speak up for the stateless Rohingya minority, after two bloody clashes with Arakanese Buddhists in western Burma last year. It follows reports that expatriate Rohingyas were barred from meeting the democracy icon upon her arrival in Japan on Saturday.

The right to citizenship is enshrined under international human rights law, but many leading Burmese politicians have insisted that the 1982 legislation, which was drafted by the military junta, was thoroughly researched.

In an exclusive interview with DVB last month, President Thein Sein insisted that Burma had "no plan" to revise the legislation, which he claims was drafted with "input from experts".

"I believe the law is meant to protect the country and the government has no plan to revise it," he said, adding that it would ultimately be up to the parliament.

Under its current provisions, the 1982 law guarantees citizenship only for those who can prove that their family has lived in Burma for at least three generations. But many Rohingya, who have lived in limbo along the Bangladeshi border for generations, lack the necessary documentation and birth certificates to qualify.

Any amendment to the law is also likely to face significant parliamentary opposition.

Thein Nyunt, chairperson of the New National Democracy Party, insisted that the law should not be revised at this time and criticised Suu Kyi for raising the issue abroad rather than in parliament.

"The citizenship law is intended to protect our race; by not allowing those with mixed blood from making political decisions [for the country], so the law is very important for the preservation of our country," he said.

"If one wants to change the law, then the idea should be proposed in the Lower House with coherent reasons for discussion."

In November last year, a representative from the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) submitted a proposal to revise the 1982 Citizenship Law but it was "put on record", meaning that it was indefinitely postponed.

The United Nation's Special Rapporteur for human rights in Burma, Tomas Quintana, recently called on the law to be revised, but faced an immediate backlash from parliamentarians and political parties who say the law is meant to protect Burma from "illegal immigrants".

The Rohingya were stripped of their citizenship in 1982 by former military dictator Ne Win, even though many have lived in the country for generations. They face routine discrimination, including restrictions on their right to travel and marry, and have been described by the UN as one of the world's most persecuted minorities.

Wednesday 17 April 2013

Update News of Kyauktaw and Mrauk U

Four Rohingya shot by Rakhine Rebels in Kyauktaw twonship
by Habib,
According to Mr. Rofiq from Kyawtaw township, Rakhine rebels came to ransack the Rohingya village of Taung Taung Khaya (Fulbari Fara) and opened fire at the villagers when some villagers came out to check them.
The incident took place in the afternoon (local time) of 14 April and confirmed four Rohingyas were shot but one was died on the spot and the rest three others have been hospitalized.
The victims are identified as
1) Zafar Ahmed-30 (died)
2) Kalu
3) Abu Ali, and
4) Zawbaw.
The Thein Sein government just curtailing international pressure by delivering gentle speeches across the media. However, similar like Rohingya in other areas, restriction of Rohingya aid, confinement by authorities and occasional attacks by Rakhine people, have been going on against Rohingya of Kyauktaw township.
Five Rohingya held in Mrauk U
Source Mayupress, 14 April

Mohamed Farooq
The Rakhine mob had flogged barbarously five Rohingya and pushed to Burmese army sentry post near Bandulla Bridge of Mrauk U at about 3 am on 14th April 2013.

The victims Rohingya are hailed from Paunn Doke village in Mrauk U. They were coming back passing a Rakhine village from the market getting household bazaar and rice for their family. Impetuously, a Rakhine mob appeared towards them and squeezed all their belonging consisted of money. The Buddhist Rakhine racists stroked them unconscious to put down flat in the ground.

The Rakhine racists tied those Rohingya with steel chain in one line. As usual falsified allegations against vulnerable Rohingya minority, the extremists also made them carrying gallons and rubber containers of Diesel and matches as the Rohingya entered Rakhine village to be blazed the houses.

A crowd of Rakhines dragged those Rohingya to the nearest Army personnel with a complaint of suspicious be arson to Buddhist village.

International concerned units; UN, USA, EU, OIC, Human Right Watch, Amnesty International and other peace wants NGOs and organizations attempt to halt immediately sectarian unrest to Muslims in Burma whereas Buddhists Rakhine and state officials striving much to drive out Rohingya from Arakan soonest with long term imprisonment, killing, raping, vandalizing, blazing, looting and extorting money etc.

List of Rohingya arrested:

  1. Dilmohammad,20, s/o Abdu Malik
  2. Abdukarim,21, s/o Amin Hossain
  3. Sabbir Ahmed.40, s/o Foto
  4. Potia @ Maung Chaye,20, s/o Shamsu
  5. Yunus,20, s/o Yusuf

Religion and Human Rights: Buddhist Hatred in Sri Lanka and Burma

Source Huffinpost, 16 April

Faith can be a comfort and faith can be a cudgel. Faith has been and remains for many to be a wellspring of inspiration that can be used to check one's moral compass and to recharge one's internal resources the struggle for all people's human rights. It is also important to recognize that there is a long tradition of religion being misused to justify the systematic denial of people's human rights, or indeed their very humanness. We must always be vigilant in watching religion.

The documented misuses of religion are considerable in their impact for human rights. Catholic Inquisitions spanned nearly six centuries and the justification to deprive people of rights, liberty, and in many cases life itself, was framed in the need to correct "heresy." From the Partition Riots early in India and Pakistan's independence, through the destruction of a mosque in Ayodhya, to the bombings in Mumbai, the use of religion to justify violence by both Hindus and Muslims is well-documented. The deployment of state force to dispossess Palestinians and to build Jewish-only settlements is defended on the basis of religion.

In cases too numerous to list, and across the spectrum of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Hinduism, the world is often aware of the capacity of religion to anesthetize so-called "true believers" to their individual actions. We can look back at considerable documentation of the ways in which travesties are committed (or are being committed) because they have become normalized by the misuse of religious doctrines and the active campaigning or complicity of real-or-imagined religious leadership. That these things happened in some cultures and faiths is unquestionable. The fact that they continue to happen is one of the many motivations of others of faith that work in solidarity with human rights. Awareness of a problem is always a key point in beginning to solve it. After all, with a history of Christianity being used to justify the ugliest parts of racism from slavery to segregation, Martin Luther King Jr. tapped the wells of faith to inspire generations of people to use their religions as a force to increase freedoms and rights for all.

With this in mind, what religion is usually cited as being somehow beyond these concerns? In the West, the popular view is that Buddhists would never do such things as the nightmares brought about by the misuse of other religions' doctrines. It is important to see that Buddhism is being misused to justify horrific abuses right now. In the displacement and deprivation of basic human and political rights of the Tamils in Sri Lanka and the incredible unrest and displacement of the Rohingya in western Burma's Arakan/Rakhine State, it is Buddhism itself that is being misused to justify and normalize the abuse of others for being different.

In Sri Lanka, an imperative to "protect" Buddhism has been used to discriminate against non-Buddhist peoples for decades. Disturbingly, there have been mobs either composed of or led by robed monks that have attacked churches and have made pronouncements of the imperative to "protect Buddhism" a rallying cry for violence against Tamils of different faiths and of other peoples who are not practitioners of Sri Lankan Theravada Buddhism. Though the civil war there was conclusively won by government forces in 2009, there remains an alarming tendency to dismiss non-Buddhist peoples in the country as being less-than in ways that infringe on the very fundamentals of political and human rights. Colombo has refused to allow independent human rights monitors or the United Nations to have access to the areas and peoples most at-risk and their popular internal support for such actions are often couched in the language of "defense of Buddhism."

The Rohingya minority in Arakan/Rakhine state in western Burma is often considered one of the most disempowered peoples in the world. Formally stripped of citizenship and recognition in 1981, tension has long simmered along these people who live not far from the border with Bangladesh. The current tensions and violence has been abetted by government security forces and that is unsurprising. What is disturbing is that the discourse from some in the opposition democracy camps that received so much support internationally for their struggle are now calling for the forced expulsion of these people to Bangladesh, in spite of Bangladesh emphatically denying that option. Most alarming is the fact that there are robed Buddhist monks calling for this expulsion, for maintaining the Rohingya in separate camps, and in actively blocking basic food and medical aid from reaching them. The excuse? The claim is made to "defend" Burmese Buddhism.

The privileging of an exclusive religious, ethnic, or national grouping (or almost anything else that creates an in-group/out-group model) becomes a problem when other groups are considered to be intrinsically "less." The world mustn't see any religion as being somehow beyond being used for horrific ends, not even Buddhism. The most inspiring religious models for human rights are those that focused foremost on human equality, on the important of individual character, and the belief that we're all in this world together.

It is Buddhism that gave the world the Kalama Sutta, which specifically shuns accepting statements because of any speaker's authority and encourages critical thinking as the only way to know if a statement is true or not. It is Buddhism that asks for Five Precepts of adherents, the first of which is to not harm other living beings. When people of faith use their religions to support human rights, we end up with figures like Martin Luther King, Jr. Who will come out of the horrors and misuses in Sri Lanka and Burma to return to a Buddhism that supports and protects human rights for all? We must support each other in the struggle for dignity and rights from a ground of loving one another instead of dividing. It is more important than ever before. Examine religion in the daily details. Does it deny human rights or does it support them? More than ever, religion must adhere to the rules of tolerance and embracing diversity.

Mauk Police net 16 migrants from Myanmar

Source Jakartapost, 16 April

The police of Mauk district, Tangerang regency, detained on Monday 16 migrants from Myanmar who were hiding on an offshore floating fish trap.

Chief Insp. Suhendar said that local fishermen files a police report after discovering the migrants on the fish trap earlier in the day.

"We are collecting data on the migrants. We will hand them over to the immigration office for processing," Suhendar said.

Khalid Husain, 27, one of the migrants, said they had traveled from Myanmar on a vessel heading for Australia via Malaysia and Indonesia.

"We are so scared of the ongoing political conflict that has claimed many lives," he said.

Husain said that each of them had paid the equivalent of Rp 3 million (US$309) to an agent who promised to help them enter Australia to seek asylum.

Indonesia has sheltered many migrants from the Rohingya ethnic group in Myanmar. The Rohingya, who are not recognized as a minority group by the Myanmar government, have become the target of attacks by the Buddhist Rakhine ethnic group.

Monday 15 April 2013

Is Burma’s Anti-Muslim Violence Led by “Buddhist Neo-Nazis”?

Source vice,

The logo of the 969 group.

When most Westerners think of Buddhism, they think of smiling men with potbellies and inspirational quotes from Phil Jackson. "Buddhist neo-Nazi" sounds like a contradiction in terms.

But in Burma, vicious anti-Muslim sentiment has been on the rise, and Buddhist extremists are responsible for attacking Muslims and burning down their houses and mosques, a state of affairs that was largely ignored until Anonymous launched a Twitter campaign to teach the world about the genocide against the Rohingya people, the officially stateless Muslims who many believe will be massacred if the world does not respond.

According to Dr. Muang Zarni, a Burmese human rights activist and research fellow at the London School of Economics, much of the blame for the current situation in Burma can be laid at the feet of the 969 group, which he describes as an neo-Nazi organization of hatemongers who are using Hitlerian tactics to "purify" the country by getting rid of the Muslims—it's also, he says, one of the fastest-growing movements in the country.

I spoke to Dr. Zarni to find out more about what's going on in Burma and how a Buddhist can be a "Nazi."

VICE: Who are the 969, and what does the number mean?
Dr. Muang Zarni: The 969 leaders are Burmese men in monks' robes. It's a bit difficult to describe them as genuine monks because they are preaching a message of anti-Muslim hatred and Islamophobia that is completely incompatible with the Buddhist message of universal kindness. The 969 number stands for three things: the 9 stands for the special attributes of Buddha, the founder of the religion; the 6 stands for attributes of his teachings of dharma; and finally, the last 9 stands for special characteristics or attributes of the clergy.

You've described the 969 group as "Burma's fastest-growing neo-Nazi 'Buddhist' nationalist movement." What makes them neo-Nazis and why are they targeting Muslims?
I use the word neo-Nazi because their intent is genocidal in the sense that the Muslims of Burma—all of them, including the ethnically Burmese—are considered leeches in our society the way the Jews were considered leeches and bloodsuckers during the Third Reich when Nazism was taking root.

There is a parallel between what we saw in Nazi Germany and what we are seeing today in Burma. The 969 movement and its leading spokespersons call for attacking the Muslims of Burma—not just the Rohingyas in western Burma who were incorrectly framed as illegal migrants from Bangladesh, but all Muslims from Burma. Buddhist people who try to help Muslims or buy groceries from Muslim businesses are either beaten up or intimidated or ostracized by other Buddhists.

Also, the military is involved with this movement. At best, the military authorities are tolerating the message of hatred coming from the Buddhist preachers. At worst, and I believe this to be true, elements within the military leadership are passively backing this movement. Over the past 50 years since the military came to power, there has been a consistent pattern of the military leadership using proxy organizations within Burmese communities across the country to incite violence against targeted groups, be they dissidents, Chinese, or now, Muslims.

What does the Burmese government have to gain from this violence?
There are three goals, as far as I can tell. One is, the military leadership has swapped their generals' uniforms for civilian clothing, but at heart, they still remain irredeemably authoritarian and dictatorial. They are security obsessed and some of them feel the reforms that are unfolding in the country are going too far. So they want to slow it down and roll back the reform process. In order to do that, they must create social instability and use volatile situations as an excuse to say, "The people can't handle freedom of speech, freedom of movement, and freedom of organization. Therefore, we need to have a strong handle on the situation to make sure people stay in line and don't kill each other."

Secondly, when all these waves of violence against Rohingya Muslims started last year, the military and the proxy political party of the military was in a worrisome situation because it lost by a landslide in the elections. So within two months of their defeat, they decided to create this very powerful anti-Muslim communal sentiment around the country. And now, [activist and political leader An San] Suu Kyi is in a difficult situation because she can only speak the liberal language of human rights and democracy, which is not as powerful as the ideology that the military and these neo-Nazi monks have whipped up. When it comes to fighting this kind of abnormal religious movement, the language of human rights is never enough.

Thirdly, I think the military is not leaving anything to chance. They have another round of elections in 2015, and they want to make sure that they have a new proxy political movement that they can use to square off Suu Kyi's party. As a result, the 969 neo-Nazi movement is the most popular movement in the country.

In a YouTube video of a sermon given by Wirathu, one of 969's leaders, he says that Muslims are taking over the country and destroying the Buddhist way of life. Is this way of thinking only popular in extremist circles, or are everyday Burmese buying it?
The reaction is mixed. We Burmese tend to be prejudiced against people with darker skin color. And that's typical among Far East or Southeast Asian countries where lighter, paler skin is considered more prestigious and desirable. This 969 movement is preying on the historical and cultural prejudices we have as a society towards darker skin color.

Also, when you have a country that is the poorest in Southeast Asia, the language of economic nationalism is appealing, and that's what the neo-Nazi movement is using. They tell people they are poor because their wealth is taken away by the "Islamic leeches."

What role, if any, do Western governments have in this?
Burma is a crucial element in Obama's new foreign policy of rebalancing American interests and power. It sits in between two major powers: India and China. And we're also next to Thailand, which is the United States's strategic hub for diplomatic, economic, and intelligence operations in Southeast Asia.

American and EU businesses are looking for new markets to get out of their economic decline and Burma has massive resources of oil, gas, uranium, timber, you name it. So they're not going to frame their new business partner in an emerging market as genocidal.

If the West portrays what is happening in Burma accurately as genocidal, the international community will demand action and demand the perpetrators be brought to justice. That's why I think the international community is going very easy on the Burmese military.

Follow Ray on Twitter: @RayDowns

More on the sectarian violence in Burma:

The Rohingya Movement, as Seen by a Journalist in Burma

Anonymous Taught Twitter About the Rohingya Genocide

Screwdriver's and Slingshots: Inside Burma's Erupting Sectarian Strife