Monday 28 October 2013

How can Aung San Suu Kyi – a Nobel Peace Prize winner – fail to condemn anti-Muslim violence?

Source Telegraph, 24 Oct

I never thought I would write this, but Aung San Suu Kyi sent a shiver down my spine when she appeared on the Today programme this morning. Her equivocal attitude towards the violence suffered by Burma's Muslim minority was deeply disturbing.

I'm sorry to say that she employed the standard devices used by people who want to play down – and avoid condemning – something utterly reprehensible.

The first common tactic is to draw a parity between perpetrators and victims. Suu Kyi duly said: "This is what the world needs to understand: that the fear is not just on the side of the Muslims, but on the side of the Buddhists as well."

She went on: "Yes, Muslims have been targeted, but also Buddhists have been subjected to violence. But there's fear on both sides and this is what is leading to all these troubles and we would like the world to understand: that the reaction of the Buddhists is also based on fear."

Hang on a moment. Muslims are only 4 per cent of Burma's population. The Rohingya Muslims, who have borne the brunt of the violence, are a smaller minority still. The idea that we should place the fears of the 90 per cent Buddhist majority alongside those of a small and vulnerable minority – and one that has been "targeted" for violence – is pretty extraordinary.

Suu Kyi then goes further by saying: "You, I think, will accept that there's a perception that Muslim power, global Muslim power, is very great and certainly that is the perception in many parts of the world and in our country too."

Global Muslim power? How powerful can a 4 per cent minority be, particularly when the Rohingya are explicitly forbidden from becoming citizens of Burma and therefore have no political weight whatever? What is Suu Kyi trying to say? That Buddhists in Burma are so terrified by "global Muslim power" that we shouldn't be surprised when they turn on Muslims at home?

Suu Kyi also employs the second common device, namely to change the subject to something irrelevant. When Mishal Husain asked her to accept that 140,000 Muslims have been displaced by violence, Suu Kyi replied: "I think there are many, many Buddhists who have also left the country for various reasons. This is a result of our sufferings under a dictatorial regime."

This is also completely irrelevant. If many Buddhist Burmese fled during the era of military dictatorship, this has no bearing whatever on the plight of the 140,000 Muslims who live in refugee camps today.

Suu Kyi then used the third standard tactic: uttering words of condemnation so general as to be meaningless. Asked to condemn a notorious Buddhist hate-preacher who compares Muslims to "dogs", she said only: "I condemn hate of any kind."

And then Mishal Husain asked her bluntly: "Do you condemn the anti-Muslim violence?" Suu Kyi replied: "I condemn any movement that is based on hatred and extremism."

How could a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize fail to answer that question with a simple "Yes"?

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Joint Statement on Aung San Suu Kyi’s outrageous remarks on Muslims

by Admin,                                                                                                       


Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK) and Arakan Rohingya National Organisation (ARNO) strongly condemn Burmese opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi for her outrageous comments on Muslims in an interview with BBC on Thursday, 24 October 2013.


Her remarks on Burma's peaceful living Muslim minority communities are full of prejudice based on fanatical patriotism and islamophobia. In a situation of injustice, ethnic cleansing and genocide against Rohingya and other Muslims in Burma, she tried to defend Buddhist extremism saying that Buddhists in Burma are terrified by "global Muslim power" where there is no such threat from Burma's numerically very small and insignificant Muslim population.  This is a pretext or a fictitious reason, where Burma is a predominantly Buddhist country, particularly when the Rohingya are rendered stateless with no basic freedoms, in order to conceal the real reason. 

Despite repeated requests, Suu Kyi refused to visit the Rohingya areas where credible organization like Human Rights Watch (HRW) had found evidences of mass graves in Arakan. Experts in international law, after examining all evidences, conclude that ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity have been perpetrated against the Rohingya population. Yet she rejects to accept and condemn these international crimes.

She remains indifferent to ongoing 'Rohingya or Muslim extermination', the great humanitarian disaster being faced by the Rohingyas in their squalid displacement camps and villages under siege in segregated and apartheid like situation and continued plight and dilemma of an estimated 1.5 million Rohingya diaspora and boat people around the world. She tries to befool the international community saying "A number of Buddhists had left the country during the era of dictatorship". This remark is completely irrelevant.

It is very worrying that notorious anti-Muslim hate preachers have taken great encouragement from her words. She is not only pushing humanity towards interfaith antagonism but also reducing the possibilities of peace, tolerance and mutual coexistence amongst the country's different societies, ethnic and religious groups. However, her behaviour does not reflect the position of the majority people as history testifies that Burma's Buddhists and Muslims lived hand in hand, peacefully, for centuries.

It is unfortunate that Thein Sein's government rejects and persecutes the Rohingya and other Muslims while some political parties and influential opposition leaders are apathetic audience applauding the oppressors.

Under the circumstance, we urge upon the United Nations to use its opportunity to include in its General Assembly resolutions on Burma, which they are currently drafting, the establishment of UN Commission of Inquiry into these crimes. This could establish the truth and make recommendations for action in the interest of international peace and security.

Meanwhile, it is worth mentioning that Islam advocates peace, love and harmony and decries all unjust violence; and we invite the attention of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all Burmese leaders to the positive and constructive aspects of Islam, its peaceful teachings and philanthropic philosophy and orientation.

Form more information please contact 

Habibur Rahman +88(0) 1817012919

Tun Khin               +44 (0) 7888714866

Wednesday 9 October 2013

Are invisible forces orchestrating Myanmar's anti-Muslim violence?

Source Aljazeera, 9 Oct

The military has much to lose from democratic reforms and may be using the bloodshed as a way to reassert control.

Francis Wade

Francis Wade is a Thailand-based freelance journalist and analyst covering Myanmar and Southeast Asia.

The Buddhist Rakhine consider Muslim Rohingya to be Bengalis and have directed most of the sectarian bloodshed at them, writes Francis Wade [EPA]

Myanmar's president made his first trip to the violence-hit town of Thandwe last week, days after a 94-year-old Muslim woman was slain by Buddhists in a nearby village. Spurred on by an unrelated argument between a Muslim political leader and a Buddhist taxi driver two days prior, a mob approached her home in a nearby village on October 1. Her daughter managed to escape, but returned to find a charred house and a mother with cuts to her neck, head and stomach.

The state-run New Light of Myanmar later quoted President Thein Sein as saying that he had suspicions about the nature of the Thandwe attacks, where close to 100 houses were razed. "Ethnic Rakhine [Buddhists] and ethnic Kaman [Muslims] have been living here in peaceful co-existence for many years," he said. "External motives instigated violence and conflicts. According to the evidence in hand, rioters who set fire to the villages are outsiders."

For someone who has demonstrated such ineptness at confronting head-on the anti-Muslim violence over the past 16 months, the statement is surprising. In it, he finally appears to acknowledge that organised networks of Buddhist extremists are operating in Myanmar.

It's something that observers have long suspected: the method and style of attacks in Rakhine state, Mandalay region, Shan state and beyond, have been eerily similar, with small trigger events causing mobs to form quickly and descend on towns en masse, weapons already prepared. In most cases, police have stood by and watched, and often locals at the scene have claimed the mobs are formed of "outsiders". A photograph taken near Thandwe this week shows a truckload of armed men sporting red bandanas,which appears at odds with the idea that these groups are just rabbles of aggrieved local civilians.

The role of Buddhist monks in advocating violence against Muslims has also taken many by surprise, although monks were also involved in attacks on mosques during anti-Muslim violence in 1997.

Not a new phenomenon

If there is an organised element to this, then it raises the question of who, and why. There's no clear answer, but powerful forces in Myanmar, particularly the military, would benefit from this unrest. On several occasions in the past few decades, violent clashes directed at an ethnic minority group have coincided with political sensitivities in the country: the 1967 anti-Chinese riots, when the military orchestrated attacks on Chinese-owned properties, in part to distract from General Ne Win's damaging mismanagement of the economy; and in 1988, when attacks on Muslims broke out in Taunggyi and Prome as anti-regime protests swept the country. Many at the time believed the military had sought to inflame ethnic tensions in order to split what could have otherwise been a cohesive anti-regime front.

Can this theory be applied to Myanmar today? Thein Sein's democratic reforms will have unnerved the military, which receives more than one-fifth of the total state budget. With moves towards democratic rule, questions are asked of the colossal resources channeled to the armed forces, and whether its position as the patriarch of Myanmar society is still relevant. This week, the military-backed ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party warned that the country would be in "serious danger and face consequences beyond expectation" if the constitution was overhauled. One of the main reasons the opposition has for revising the junta-drafted 2008 constitution would be to dilute the power of the military.

Societal unrest, whether it be communal tensions or ongoing conflict with ethnic armies, provides a prime opportunity for any military to reassert its waning influence. Already this has worked to surprising effect in a country where ethnic and political divides run deep. Rakhine, who have long resisted military encroachment on their state, now ask for their protection against what they see as an Islamic tide sweeping the state. Prominent members of the pro-democracy movement have said they would join forces with the army to fight off "foreign invaders", namely the Muslim Rohingya minority. The role of Buddhist monks in advocating violence against Muslims has also taken many by surprise, although monks were also involved in attacks on mosques during anti-Muslim violence in 1997.

Rohingya, an existential threat? 

There's no smoking gun in all this, but the evolution of the conflict that began in Sittwe last June between the people of Rakhine and Rohingya suggests something beyond a localised tussle for ethnic or religious dominance. Importantly, the latest attacks in Thandwe were directed at Kaman Muslims, while the vast majority of the violence to hit Rakhine state since June last year has targeted the Rohingya, who are distinct from the Kaman. While the Kaman had until then lived peacefully in the state, the Rohingya were long seen by Rakhine as illegal Bengali immigrants, and their presence there considered an existential threat to the Buddhist population. Campaigns of violence against the Rohingya were therefore justified in the eyes of many Rakhine as a means of defending the land and preserving Buddhism.

That narrative shifted somewhat when violence broke out in Meiktila in central Myanmar in March this year. Meiktila has a Muslim population, but they are not Rohingya, as is the case in Lashio in Shan state, Oakkan in Yangon division and Hpakant in Kachin state, where subsequent deadly attacks on Muslims took place. Rather than an issue confined to one ethnic minority in western Myanmar, it has escalated to a campaign against Muslims in general.

As Myanmar academic Maung Zarni noted in a recent email, not every bout of inter-ethnic violence is state orchestrated. Genuine local grievances can and do result in fits of rage. But, says Zarni, there is a history of manufactured ethno-religious mobilisation "aimed at destablising the order in Burma since the British time", something that independence hero General Aung San had warned of following the departure of the colonial power.

Can this anti-Muslim ideology really have spread across such vast geographical divides without the aid of an entity like the military, the only entity that can operate on a nationwide scale?

Various analysts have tried to rationalise the evolution of this latest anti-Muslim conflict by likening it to a Yugoslavia-style scenario, where ethnic tensions that were bottled for decades burst to the surface following a shift in the style of rule. This has likely played a role in Myanmar, given attempts by successive rulers since independence to undermine the legitimacy of Muslims as "real" countrymen. Fueled on by the rise of social media, the propaganda and provocation can spread like wildfire, so that Meiktila is now not so distant from Sittwe.

But there is something highly suspicious in the commonalities of attacks across the country. On Saturday, a mob gathered outside a police station in Kyaunggon, near Yangon, and demanded they hand over a Muslim man suspected of an attempting to rape a Buddhist girl a month ago. When the police refused, they torched five Muslim homes. A similar situation triggered the Thandwe riots, with police refusing to hand over the Kaman Muslim leader who was arrested in the wake of the argument.

Same tactics used by the junta?

It's a pattern that has played out across the country, across disparate ethnic states such as the Shan, Kachin and Rakhine. In Kachin state, anti-Muslim violenceis a new phenomenon. Yet the only common thread that unites these ethnic groups' nationalism is a resistance to Burmese designs on their states, not Muslims.There are few other obvious synapses that bridge these vast ideological and geographical divides, and across which this anti-Muslim sentiment could pass with such speed. How then has this violent reaction to the presence of Muslims? The anti-Chinese riots of the 1960s and 1970s followed major influxes of Chinese into Myanmar, and were in part a reaction to local fears that jobs were going to immigrants. This pretext for the violence cannot be applied in the same way to Muslims.

It is not beyond reason to suspect that an entity that is able to operate on a nationwide scale (of which there are few in Myanmar) may have a hand in current events. Only two hold this position – the military, and the Sangha, the religious council that administers Buddhist institutions and which, given the historic importance of Buddhism to societal cohesion in Myanmar, has its own vested interests in stemming the growth of the country's Muslim population. So rather than being particular to Thandwe, Thein Sein was echoing something that victims of anti-Muslim violence elsewhere have said, essentially that there is a seemingly invisible force orchestrating the early stages of these attacks.

Who, exactly, it isn't clear. The popular anti-Muslim 969 movement has been traced back to the religious affairs minister under the former junta, but the wider 969 sentiment is alive and well in government today: even Thein Sein, considered a comparative moderate, has publicly called for the removal of the Rohingya, and considers the 969 doctrine, despite its intrinsic links with the violence, to be a "symbol of peace". Last week, Shwe Mann, the powerful speaker of the Lower House, said: "I appreciate the attempts of the Rakhine people to protect Myanmar," which feeds the narrative that Bengalis are trying to take over the country's westernmost state, and must be repelled.

Consequently, it's not too giant a leap to suggest the government could at least be accommodating whatever forces are mobilising mobs to torch Muslim neighbourhoods. If that's the case, however, why would Thein Sein himself hint at this? Again, there's no clear-cut answer, but what's been a surprise to many observers is the disunity in government, with even the military-appointed MPs not always voting as one bloc. Thein Sein appears to want the country to move forward, but others in his cabinet evidently want to retain the control they had under military rule.

Some of the tactics seen in the anti-Muslim violence are similar to those used by the junta, with the "outsider" mobs reminiscent of the plain-clothed civilian militias like Swan Arr Shin, which were used so effectively by the generals to stir up violence and confuse allegiances during peaceful protests. Factor in the numerous reports of police inaction, and even instructions not to intervene until well into the second day of violence in Meiktila, and the picture grows murkier.

Rather than being a case of either/or, what may have occurred is a synthesis between two major interests – those of an embattled military-political elite with willing collaborators in the Sangha and in Rakhine political parties, and those of a civilian population indoctrinated to consider Muslims as lesser or non-citizens.

One feeds the other, and together work in perfect harmony: military or political leaders looking for a pretext to reassert control in a rapidly evolving country would see the undercurrent of anti-Muslim attitudes in Myanmar society as a classic divide and rule opportunity - help manufacture a threat, and jump in to save the day. It serves as both a PR coup in the face of domestic criticism of the security state in Myanmar, and helps split and weaken society - again a boon for the military. This tactic certainly has historical precedence in Myanmar, and may well have been reinvigorated by a military that today has much to lose from democratic reform.

Francis Wade is a Thailand-based freelance journalist and analyst covering Myanmar and Southeast Asia.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

Tuesday 8 October 2013

Neutralising Myanmar's ethnic rebellions

Source Aljazeera, 2 Dec 2011
The military leadership in the country has never been keen on a lasting peace with ethnic resistance movements.
'Is Aung San Suu Kyi a pawn in the generals' neutralising Myanmar's ethnic rebellions?', author questions [Reuters]

London, UK - In his Manifesto of the Communist Party (1848), Karl Marx wrote: "The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles." Such an assessment is only half-right when it comes to Myanmar's internal conflicts, of which ethnicity is of equal importance to class. Whether ethnicity is largely a matter of "political choice", as many academics suggest today, has little relevance in the lives of these ethnic peoples. The Karen, the Kachin, the Mon, the Shan, the Karenni and other ethnic groups have chosen to hold on to their AK-47s or M16s to continue their fight. The unappealing alternative is surrender and subjugation at the feet of their uncompromising enemy in Rangoon and, since 2005, Naypyidaw.

With varying degrees of ferocity, intermittent waves of ethnically mobilised wars have flared up since independence in 1948. Most of these were triggered by the non-Bamar communities' perception and experience of being denied a fair share of state power and control over resources by the Bamar-dominated governments, both civilian and military. Like the colonial Burma, the military-ruled Myanmar is in effect a garrison state; unlike British Burma, the generals' Myanmar remains so after a half-century of their monopoly rule. Under the Raj, Burma was the lucrative "rice bowl of the world", exporting nearly half of the total global output; the Myanma generals, on the other hand, have succeeded in turning Myanmar into the region's "basket case", worse off than post-genocide Cambodia.

Suu Kyi's NLD party reentering politics

Whether under General Ne Win or Senior General Than Shwe, the military leadership has never been keen on just and lasting peace with ethnic resistance movements, always attempting to dictate the terms of the "peace". In 1963, a year after the military coup that laid the foundation for military rule, Ne Win launched a series of highly publicised, but half-hearted "peace talks" with non-Bamar resistance groups, as well as the armed Bamar communist movement. When little came of these, Rangoon adopted a zero-sum policy of "annihilation" towards any dissent. Just a year ago, Gen Than Shwe reiterated the military's institutional mission - not of peace and reconciliation, but rather of the reconsolidation of the central government's power vis-à-vis the non-Bamar ethnic communities, the power that was presumably fractured by the century-plus interval of British rule. "I would like to urge you to build on the national reconsolidation that has been achieved," he told the graduating class of a military medical academy, "and avoid all thoughts and notions that might lead to the disintegration of the union".

Consequently, some 60-plus years after independence, the armed conflicts still smoulder. The anti-Naypyidaw armed resistance organisations - 21 as of January 2011 - vary significantly in both size (from 500 to 30,000 troops) and degree of political significance. The expansive conflict landscape encompasses Myanmar's Kachin highlands below Tibet, the 200-mile stretch of landlocked Pegu Yoma; from the Chin Hills due east from Mizoram and the Arakan Yoma that divides the Rakhine coastal region from the rest of Myanmar's; the Wa Hills near the Sino-Shan frontier and the Naga Hills across from Assam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland to the northwest.

Furthermore, the ethnic armed groups - including the Shan State Army, the Karenni National Progressive Party, the New Mon State Party, and the Karen National Union - continue to dot the nearly 1,500-mile-long Thai-Myanmar border, from the Shan plateau in the east and the tiny Karenni state bordering northern Thailand, down to the Karen trans-Salween River region adjacent to the Thai provinces of Tak and Kanchanburi and the 500-mile Tenasserim coastline.

"Upon independence, the non-Bamar communities... found themselves being released from the clutches of the British Raj into the grip of the dominant Bamar nationalists."

Upon independence, the non-Bamar communities (who make up around a third of the population) found themselves being released from the clutches of the British Raj into the grip of the dominant Bamar nationalists. On the eve of independence, the latter promised their minority brethren ethnic equality and cultural and administrative autonomy, as the basis of the independent federated Union of Burma. But the nationalists, both civilian and soldiers, broke this foundational principle for the post-independence Burma. Instead of the agreed-upon federation and a federal Constitution, they were forced to accept a new state and Constitution, which were for all intents and purposes unitary.

The original aims of the armed ethnic groups included secession, an option that the Constitution of 1947 allowed the Shan and Karenni to exercise 10 years after independence, should they become unhappy being part of the Union of Burma. From the 1980s onward, however, new developments in and out of the country forced the anti-Rangoon armed movements to reassess their original missions. Among the external geo-political equations that helped to sustain the civil war in Myanmar were the west's Cold War-era support for the Burmese military's fight against the armed Burmese communist movement, The politically hostile and commercially predatory policies of Thailand (a historical enemy) towards the country, Beijing's substantial military and ideological support for the Communist Party of Burma during the 1970s, and Burma's domestic black market during Rangoon's failed socialist military rule, and the resultant cross-border smuggling, including one of the world's largest narcotics industry.

The economics of Myanmar's ethnic conflicts are not just about the struggle over controlling means of production, wage disputes and working conditions. In fact, they have a far more ominous dimension; these battles are far more primitive than that. Today, the aspiring capitalist state in Myanmar, under a new generation of generals, wants - perhaps needs - nothing less than complete and effective control over all commercial or strategic lands. Worse still, the problem for the anti-Rangoon ethnic rebels such as the Kachin Independence Organisation and Karen National Union was not simply that external support from Beijing and Bangkok dried up; since the 1980s the crucial neighbourhood powers, namely China under Deng Xiaoping and the Thai military, under Supreme Commander General Chaovalit Yongchaiyudh, decided to court Rangoon for highly lucrative commercial deals in resource extraction, arms sales, crossborder trade, and bilateral strategic and commercial cooperation towards market creation within ASEAN.

Not only do the non-Bamar ethnic regions account for up to 60 per cent of the country's total land area; but as "frontier" states, these lands, where much of the battles have been waged, are strategically and commercially crucial for the new post-Cold War priorities. These areas are also home to much of the country's lucrative natural resources, both above and below ground. It is simply not possible to know where the ideological parameters of the military's nationalism (or for that matter those of the non-Bamar ethnic nationalisms) end and where the desire for control of land and other economic resources begin.

"It is simply not possible to know where the ideological parameters of the military's nationalism... end and where the desire for control of land and other economic resources begin..."

If the absence of clarity among Myanmar's domestic ethno-nationalists is an issue, pro-market external players are crystal clear about their priorities. In the eyes of venture capitalists and corporate investors in London, Paris, Zurich, New York, Tokyo, Seoul and so on, or development agencies such as the World Bank, Asian Development Bank (ADB), EU and EU-based development agencies, Myanmar's war zones have come to be seen as strategic yet virgin lands waiting to be penetrated by international business interests. Meanwhile, ASEAN is determined to transform itself from the region's Cold War-era, anti-Communist China bloc to a pro-market competitor of the emerging state-run capitalist system of China. As the largest mainland southeast Asian land-bridge between south and southeast Asia, Myanmar is indispensible for ASEAN as it pursues its grand commercial design.

It may not be going too far to suggest that the commercial stakes are too high for these external players to allow Myanmar's conflict-ridden communities such political luxuries as peace, ethnic reconciliation, basic human rights and some semblance of popular sovereignty. For instance, over a quarter century, a projected $550bn (according to the Asian Development Bank) would change hands in the ongoing scheme of the ASEAN alone, backed by an assemblage of Western institutions to create a single energy market across much of Southeast Asia. In the new single energy market, electricity would be generated in a least-industrialised economy such as Myanmar's, and exported to the fast industrialising economies of China and Thailand. Imagine the windfall from the two-dozen similar schemes currently under discussion.

Ethnicity and guns

For the past two centuries at least, Myanmar has been seen as a strategic venue by outside powers, from Europe to Japan to the US. For outside powers, the country has always been a commercial backdoor to China and India, for mainland Southeast Asian economies, a military launching pad for fascist Japan, a mid-point safe harbour for the mercantilist European powers, a lucrative resource stash for everyone and a virgin export market. From its inception in the military coup of 1962 till the collapse of Ne Win's dictatorship in 1988, Rangoon's military regime fenced off those territories under its direct control and fought myriad ethnic independence-seekers. In those Cold War days, neighbouring powers such as Thailand, India and China allied themselves or supported these anti-Rangoon forces in exchange for serving the interests of the home capital.

As for the ethnic armed resistance movements, reeling from the unexpected loss of their commercial and strategic advantages resulting from China and Thailand's reversal of their strategies, both legitimate resistance movements (such as the Kachin Independence Organisation) and those that are originally drug producers and traffickers (such as the United Wa State Army), opted for ceasefire deals with Rangoon. Bangkok and Beijing replaced their strategy of using anti-Rangoon rebel groups and their bases as military buffers, and in the case of Thailand as lucrative smuggling zones, to courting the central government in Rangoon. But the Karen National Union, the oldest and perhaps only movement to have stayed clear of the narcotic industry, and several others (the Karenni National Progressive Party, the Shan State Army factions and so on) decided to keep up their armed resistance rather than accept Rangoon's ceasefire offers immediately following the popular uprising in central Myanmar of 1988. They saw the ceasefire as not designed to be a step towards lasting peace and reconciliation, but rather as a part of the junta's longstanding policy of "divide and rule" along ethnic lines.

"... when Ne Win's socialist one-party state collapsed in the midst of near-bankruptcy, every military officer was more than happy to move away from socialism towards capitalism."

The rebels' longstanding ties with the Thai and Chinese governments were quickly cut when it became clear that, post-Cold War, the new focus would be on business. The logic of and zeal for economic growth - and the resultant two-fold needs for reliable flows of natural resources and energy and new consumer markets - has subsequently come to dictate the behaviour and priorities for virtually all national governments. Despite Myanmar's ostensible socialist setup, Ne Win and his deputies never actually trusted any entity, or socialist civilians, other than the military. Thus, when Ne Win's socialist one-party state collapsed in the midst of near-bankruptcy, every military officer was more than happy to move away from socialism towards capitalism. Immediately after the bloody crackdown on the popular uprisings of 1988, the new crop of generals decided to open up the country to international capital as a way of shoring itself up - and filling its empty coffers.

The country's new road to capitalism began with the Myanmar military signing away $120m worth of logging concessions to 35 Thai companies with close ties to the Thai military under Supreme Commander Chaovalit Yongchaiyudh, as early as December 1988. Additional concessions were given away for gems and fishing rights, and facilitating Thai-Myanmar cross-border trade. China was allowed to produce and export over more than commodities designed for Myanmar's markets, while importing teak, minerals, forest and agricultural products from Myanmar. The move to open up the country to international businesses has turned out to be the single most important decision for Myanmar's generals, having since precipitated a major windfall in terms of commercial gains, strategic advantages, new international alliances and class-based politics at home - all to the near exclusive benefit of the military.

The military remained cohesive despite the government collapse of 1988. At that time, the leadership decided to pre-empt any inter-ethnic alliance between an Aung San Suu Kyi-led Bamar ethnic majority in "mainland" Myanmar and about 20 armed ethnic movements across the frontier territories. Between 1989 and 1999, some 17 ethnic resistance groups agreed to ceasefire deals with the junta, reasoning that these agreements would at least bring some development benefits - as well as lucrative personal business for the ethnic leaders.

Three new developments characterise this period for Myanmar's ethnic resistance. First, the loss of military, ideological and material support from their neighbourhood backers, and in the case of the Kachin Independence Organisation some military defeats in the battlefield, had forced some of the staunchest foes of the Myanmar regime, to strike ceasefire deals with Rangoon in the early 1990s. Second, because the deals included concessions for the upper echelons of the resistance leaders to do business in their own areas - and get rich quick - these agreements created and deepened the new class division within the individual ethnic resistance communities. Eventually, this led to a fracturing among these movements, to the regime's strategic advantage. Third, these deals also created two new schisms: between the existing inter-ethnic alliances among the anti-regime forces and between the ceasefire groups and the emerging opposition movement of the majority Bamar, led by Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy.

Since the crackdown in 1988, and after having been condemned and shunned by the West for two decades following the Cold War as a consequence, the generals have successfully primed Western interests in Myanmar's economic and strategic potentials, including those of the country's frontier areas. Thanks to Asian commercial interests and global oil corporations, the regime has succeeded in filling its once-empty coffers with billions of dollars. Apparently, Naypyidaw has decided that it is in its best interest to invert its strategic logic in dealing with dissent and rebellion at home. From 1989 till earlier this year, it went on to crush the Bamar mainstream opposition while neutralising the non-Bamar ethnic armed movements with temporary ceasefire deals.

Now, the generals have decided to zero in on any ethnic resistance groups, ceasefire or active, that refuse to accept peace on Naypyidaw's terms. In August 2009, the Burmese military attacked the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance in the Kokang region, a local ethnic Chinese ceasefire group, causing the eventual exodus of 30,000 Kokang Chinese refugees fleeing into China. In June 2011, the regime broke the 17 years of ceasefire with the Kachin Independence Organisation by provoking the latter in order to flush any KIO units from the billion-dollar Sino-Burmese hydropower projects on the Irrawaddy River in Kachin region.

New strategies of old

This new strategic logic underlies the regime's moves following the election of November 2010, including the limited political liberalisations that are meant purely for the Bamar majority. The regime's strategic measures both before and after the election were designed to further weaken the non-Bamar ethnic voices and fracture whatever inter- and intra-ethnic alliances that were emerging in the ethnic political scenes. Between 1993 and 2008, the military regime brought ceasefire groups and other non-Myanma ethnic representatives into the National Convention, which laid down the principles and guidelines for the military's Constitution of 2008, with the lure of the "legal" opportunity to present their federalist ideas.

In reality, their concerns and aspirations were uniformly ignored by the military and its handpicked delegates. Further, in the months leading up to the 2010 elections, the regime barred ceasefire groups (and leaders with ties to these groups) that refused to submit to the state military's central command. The regime also disenfranchised a large number of eligible voters in Wa and other ceasefire regions by opting not to hold elections in large tracts of these areas, on grounds of poor security.

"The military today is also replicating the old colonial pattern of divide and rule by preventing any attempts by the Bamar politicians and dissidents to reach out to the non-Bamar."

Historically, the British Raj made sure the lowland ethnic groups, most specifically the Bamar, did not get to form alliances with highlanders in Chin, Kachin, Shan, Karenni and others by restricting the freedom of movement for the Burmese by the ethnic frontiers. The military today is also replicating the old colonial pattern of divide and rule by preventing any attempts by the Bamar politicians and dissidents to reach out to the non-Bamar. Soon after her release from house arrest a year ago, Suu Kyi attempted to reignite popular interest in the multiethnic country's need to build a federal system of government on the principal of ethnic equality. As of mid-November, Suu Kyi has reiterated her offer of help on the issue of ethno-military conflicts, something that Naypyidaw has ignored, even though the ethnic minority groups have publicly welcomed her offer of mediation.

In August, President Thein Sein offered the ethnic armed resistance groups an olive branch, billing his post-election quasi-civilian government as a government for peace and reconciliation. Curiously, he urged all the armed organisations to get in touch with provincial administrations, instead of with the national government in Naypyidaw. This was clearly a move designed to signal the new regime's stance that ethnic peace and reconciliation is merely a parochial and provincial matter. However, the terrains of "peace and reconciliation" are hardly better for the non-Bamar ethnic parties, which have agreed to work within the military's political framework.

A cursory glance at the parliamentary statistics suffices. In addition to the military's Constitutionally allocated 25 per cent of the seats in all legislatures at all levels, the regime's proxy party, the Union Solidarity and Development party (USDP), holds 883 of 1,154 parliamentary seats (76.5 per cent); the National Unity Party, the party of military dinosaurs from the previous military government of General Ne Win, came second with 63 seats. The latter's attitude towards the country's non-Bamar ethnic communities is no less colonial and paternalistic than the USDP. Against the regime's near-monopoly of the parliamentary space, the only two ethnic non-Bamar parties - the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party (SNDP) and Rakhine Nationalities Development Party, with 57 and 35 seats, respectively - have absolutely no chance of their concerns and aspirations being taken seriously, let alone honoured, by the military.

These are indeed exciting days for Myanmar's generals. Having failed to vanquish their nearest enemy with domestic and Western support - namely, Suu Kyi and the NLD - they have now gotten her, along with the country's commercial and technocratic elites, on board Naypyidaw's carefully choreographed market reforms. Meanwhile, anti-Chinese Western and ASEAN commercial and strategic interests are converging nicely in the generals' favour. Since China's attempt to claim much of the South China Sea, ASEAN members, especially the maritime members, have made concerted efforts to help expand the involvement of the West (particularly Washington), in their region as a counterweight against the growing might and wealth of China. Both ASEAN and Washington deem it to be within their converging interests to ensure that Myanmar's generals do not tilt any further towards Beijing's strategic orbit. For the first time since the ethnic rebellions broke out 60 years ago, the military today finds itself in the best position to make peace deals with the non-Bamar resistance organisations. These will be offers the minorities cannot refuse.


Maung Zarni

Maung Zarni
Maung Zarni is founder of the Free Burma Coalition  (1995-2004) and a visiting fellow (2011-13) at the Department of International Development, London School of Economics. His forthcong book on Burma will be published by Yale University Press.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

Monday 7 October 2013

‘We begged them not to kill us’

Source Burmatimes, October 7, 2013

(Burma Times) Muslim and Buddhist residents have lived side-by-side in Thandwe's Thabuchai village for generations. But that peace was shattered on October 2 when Buddhist mobs stormed the town, inflicting shocking damage on the normally quiet community.
Among the dead was Daw Aye Kyi, a disabled 95-year-old woman who was brutally stabbed in her own home. Her daughter, Daw Zaw Lay Kha, broke down in tears as she recounted how the family was forced to abandon Daw Aye Kyi in their escape from the mob.

"About 40 Rakhine people approached our house. At first they threw stones. We tried to save our mother, who is a paraplegic and always in bed.

"Three people ran at us … We begged them not to kill us but they came into our house. We abandoned our mother. We heard only a brief shout from her, in the last second as we were leaving," she said.

Daw Zaw Lay Kha and her daughter, Daw Mi Mi Khaing, returned to their home a few hours after the violence. Daw Aye Kyi's body was covered in stab wounds. "I saw five or six wounds – deep cuts – on her body."

It was in the afternoon and more Rakhine were coming up again to burn more homes. We left our mother's body. All we know is that it was taken to the hospital in the evening by the authorities. We still haven't been back to our house yet."

The trauma of being targeted by the deadly mob has already become clear. "I can't sleep and I can't eat. I can't be at peace in my mind when I think about how they killed a sick woman who was almost 100 years old," Daw Zaw Lay Kha.

The violence, Muslims said, was far from spontaneous.

"Only Muslim houses were burned. It was very easy to see which house was Muslim because Buddhists hung theirreligious flags in front of their homes a few days before it happened," said Daw Aye Kyi's granddaughter, Daw Mi Mi Khaing.

Unable to move quickly, the elderly represented easy prey for attackers. U Adu Samat, 89, was also among the dead. "He lived together with his youngest son," said U Myo Win, another of his sons. "When it happened, my father was alone at home. He tried to escape but he couldn't run like everyone else because of his age and poor health. He was caught and killed. We found his body in the evening."

Father-of-three U Myint Lwin, 48, was the youngest victim of the mob. "He [U Myint Lwin] urged us to run away when the outbreak started," said his wife, Daw Tin Tin Lay, 48. "As we were fleeing, he hurried back on his own to set our cattle free. We didn't see his body. Someone else found it and told us had been killed as he was leaving the house."

The family home is now little more than a pile of ashes and the tense situation makes it hard to go near their farmland.

"We found nothing left, everything was burned. We haven't found our cattle yet. Now we are staying in our relatives' house in another part of the village," Daw Tin Tin Lay said. "Our farms are in the other side of our village, close to a Rakhine village. My eldest son just passed the matriculation exam this year and our younger two daughters are still at school. I don't know what do."

Another Muslim farmer, U Adu Miyar, was also killed in Thabuchai violence. "We were having lunch at that time," said his daughter, Ma Yin May Than, 24. "Our father urged all of us to run away. He was alone and they stabbed him with a sharp pole."

Divas come to the aid of Rohingya children in Malaysia

Source nst, 7 Oct

COMMUNITY WORK: Soroptimist International Club of Johor Baru holds glittering fundraiser for its projects to equip the children with education and life skills

JOHOR: THE Soroptimist International Club of Johor Baru (SIJB) hosted a "Diva Evening" recently.

The glittery affair had guests arriving dressed in glamorous gowns and tuxedoes for a good cause.

They came in support of SIJB's community projects, the main one being Project ABC, a school project that had its humble beginnings in 2007 at a surau in Kota Tinggi.

At that time, 61 Rohingya students between the ages of 6 and 15, attended classes sitting on the surau's concrete verandah floor for about 6 months.

In line with the United Nation's Millennium Goals, the SIJB's Project ABC I & II was established in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to help Rohingya refugee children get a basic education.

While the Rotary Club of Kota Tinggi contributed towards the extension of the verandah and provided students with schoolbags in 2007, it was hardly a conducive environment for learning so SIJB worked hard to raise funds to acquire a proper place for a school.

Through the generosity of donors, sufficient funds were raised to rent the top floor of a new shophouse in Kota Kechil that was renovated to create four classrooms and the first SIJB education centre which started in May 2008.

Today, Project ABC has expanded to two education centres in Kota Tinggi and Kulaijaya with over 150 students studying a syllabus that includes English, mathematics, Bahasa Melayu, science, moral, physical exercise and life skills.

Handicraft skills in sewing, embroidery, cross-stitch as well as baking and cooking are taught in the life-skills classes.

During the Diva Evening, some of the handicraft items and food baked by the students were also on sale.

The highlight of the evening's programme was the Rohingya Children's Choir who delighted the audience with songs in English and Bahasa Melayu.

Guided by musician, conductor and composer Juliette Lai, the choir presented their rendition of, We Are the World followed by local favourites, Lenggang Kangkong, Rasa Sayang and Geylang Sipaku Geylang.

It was their first time performing for a large audience and they were encouraged by the support of several teachers as well as SIJB president, Soraya Alkaff-Gilmour.

"It's not so much about their talent but their participation which is important," said Soraya who was also the event organising chairman.

Working closely with her committee, they coached the students and provided an entertaining programme for the audience.

Aside from the choir, a group of boys presented a Nasyid or religious song while another group of boys showed off their hip-hop dancing skills.

At the close of the presentations, 13-year old Mohd Zubai Abu Tahir and Nur Hafizah Fir Mohamad, gave a thank you speech to express their gratitude to generous donors and sponsors.

Speaking in flawless English without referring to written notes, their clear enunciation and confident voices was quite admirable.

The evening continued with performances by guest artistes, Tengku Atiah, Nadhirah and Chin Pei Jia who performed on the erhu, a Chinese musical instrument.

To raise funds for SIJB projects, three oil paintings by artist Sunil Chitrakar @ Sun Chitra entitled, Nepalese Women Bathing in Bagmati River, Kathmandu, Nepal, Dancing during Teej and Daily Life in Kathmandu, Nepal were successfully auctioned off.

To end the evening, a musical comedy skit was presented by popular Singapore comedian, Hossan Leong, who captivated the audience with his brand of humour.

SIJB is aware that helping Rohingya students does not end when they are past school-going age.

To help them become financially independent, they should be equipped with marketable skills and in view of this SIJB is seeking ways to provide them with further education and equip them with life skills.

At the moment, SIJB is working in partnership with HELP University to train and equip students with certificate and diploma courses in culinary, plumbing, carpentry, tailoring, mechanical and electrical wiring skills.

For their commitment to the Rohingya School Project in Kota Tinggi, SIJB was awarded the 2008 Soroptimist International Region of Malaysia (SIROM) Best Practice Award.

SIJB needs sponsors because the education centres operations depends solely on public funds for monthly expenses such as staff salary, rental and utilities as well as volunteers for future projects for students.

For details, visit

Juliette Lai (on the piano) leading the Rohingya Children's Choir as they sing English and Malay songs. in delighting the audience with several songs in English and Bahasa Melayu. Pix by Peggy Loh

Saturday 5 October 2013

Recent Violence in Tandwe: Video of Rakhine mobs approaching to set fire of muslim houses by seeking permission from security forces

by Admin,

This the video footage of Rakhine mobs approaching to set fire of muslim houses by seeking permission from security forces during October 2013. 
Such approaches are taking place from last year June and so they are successively attacking one after another..

Thursday 3 October 2013

Cruelty against Rohingya Muslims

Source Arabnews, 3 Oct

Our hearts bleed for the innocent Muslims killed in Myanmar. It is so strange that the international community and organizations particularly the United Nations is doing nothing to address the issue. According to various reports available on the Internet, a slow-burning genocide of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar is under way. Buddhist terrorists are on the prowl, hunting Muslims and destroying their villages and whatever little properties they own. As a matter of fact, Muslims in Myanmar are forced to live in dilapidated conditions without any rights.
Although comparing the situation in Syria would not be such a nice thing to do, but one has to admit there is not much difference. Both the regimes are brutal and killing their own people. One may argue that Myanmar does not recognize Rohingya as its citizens. These poor Muslims had been living in this area for generations. Stripping them of their nationalities does not mean they do not belong there. If, for argument's sake, we accept the claim that they are not "original" Burmese, this does not validate the brutality of the Buddhist terrorists who are acting in connivance with the authorities.
If the Myanmar government claims not to support these terrorists in the garb of monks, then what has it done so far to check the situation. The answer is, nothing. Had it been serious about doing something for the Rohingya Muslims, it would have had allowed the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to open its offices in Myanmar. Foreignindependent media is not allowed to report about the issue. All this means that something really fishy is going on in Myanmar against the Rohingya Muslims.
One more thing about the whole issue is that: Had this been happening in a Muslim country, it would have been branded as Islamic terrorism. But in this case nobody is calling it Buddhist terrorism.
However, I strongly believe that linking terrorism to any religion is a stupid thing to do. But if there is Islamic terrorism because a group of Muslims are up in arms against some group etc., then it would not be wrong to coin the terms: Christian terrorism, Hindu terrorism or Buddhist terrorism.
Anyway, I urge the United Nations to look into the matter and do something urgently before the Rohingya Muslims become extinct. — George FernandezRiyadh

Wednesday 2 October 2013

Rioters run rampage in Sandoway: 70 homes burnt down

Source DVB, 1 Oct
Police put up blockades in Sandoway on 1 October (DVB)Police put up blockades in Sandoway on 1 October (DVB)
Between 60 and 70 households in three villages in Sandoway district in western Burma were burnt down by a mob on Tuesday morning and afternoon.

"Fourteen houses were burnt down in Thabyuchaung," said district administrator Htun Wai. "At 11am, the police started shooting to disperse the crowd."

According to a local witness, three rioters were injured when security forces shot them with rubber bullets and they were taken to a local police station.

"However, later in the day, the mob descended on the police station and demanded their release. Soon after, the riots started again," he said.

He said that homes in Thabyuchaung, Pauktaw and Aungmingalargon, located about two miles from Sandoway, were set alight by the mob.

Meanwhile, Associated Press has reported that between 70 and 80 homes belonging to Muslims were burnt down by the mob, which was Buddhist in nature. It also said that a 94-year-old Muslim womanwas stabbed to death in the melee.

It follows two days of unrest in the township, which was reportedly sparked by a Buddhist taxi drivertelling police that he had been verbally abused by Muslim shop owner.

Muslim-Buddhist violence has been on the rise in Burma since President Thein Sein took office,casting a shadow over the country's democratic reform programme.