Sunday 29 October 2017

Dr Azeem Ibrahim: ‘The ambition of the army and the elite in Myanmar has always been to eliminate the Rohingya.’

Source channel4, 25 Oct,

Dr Azeem Ibrahim: 'The ambition of the army and the elite in Myanmar has always been to eliminate the Rohingya.'


Dr Azeem Ibrahim, senior fellow at the Centre for Global Policy in the United States speaks about what is 'turning out to be the worst humanitarian crisis of this generation.'

World Needs to Speak up Against Myanmar’s Crackdown on Rohingya

Source Globalpost, 23 Oct

Myanmar Rohingya refugee camp
New arrivals at Kutupalong Refugee Camp, Ukheya, Cox's Bazaar, Bangladesh. Photo: Ronan Lee

COX'S BAZAAR, Bangladesh — The scale of the displacement of Rohingya civilians, the systematic way Rohingya villages have been destroyed, and survivors' common claims of being instructed by the Myanmar military to go to Bangladesh, can leave little doubt Myanmar's ongoing military operation in Rakhine state aims to not only quell militants, but to illegally force all Rohingya out of Myanmar.

The Rohingya have been subjected to decades of sustained discrimination by Myanmar's authorities but the scale of the violence currently being inflicted by Myanmar's military is unprecedented. The military is in control of large portions of Rakhine state and they continue to bar U.N. investigation teams, independent media, and most humanitarian actors.

The consequence of this military action is a population displacement of a scale and speed not seen in the region since the Second World War. The methods being used by Myanmar's military are brutal, and were frequently explained to me by the refugees I met in the sprawling camps that have grown quickly along the Bangladesh/Myanmar border.

Myanmar Rohingya refugee campRohingya refugees talked of Myanmar's military shooting indiscriminately at their wooden homes, arresting the young men, often raping women, burning their homes, and instructing the terrified people to "go to Bangladesh". Almost 600,000 Rohingya have done just that within the last eight weeks.

At the refugee camps, the scale of the displacement becomes quickly evident and it is astonishing and horrific. Makeshift camps literally stretch all the way to the horizon. These camps are now home to hundreds of thousands of people who are left mostly reliant on international and local food and medical aid.

Myanmar Rohingya refugee camp
Photo: Ronan Lee

Pointedly illustrating how much this is a human-made disaster was seeing some young Rohingya children playing marbles beside their new makeshift homes during a break in the monsoonal downpours. This was in Bangladesh where they are safe from Myanmar's military but within 50 meters of the international frontier. On the other side of the border fence, charred trees in their burnt village were visible. Where Myanmar's authorities hold sway, Rohingya children like these are not safe.

Human Rights Watch has documented the systematic razing of almost 300 Rohingya villages, and Amnesty International has reported horrific survivor stories and rightly accuses Myanmar's military of committing "crimes against humanity."

U.N. researchers too have interviewed dozens of those arriving in Bangladesh. Their stories make for harrowing reading, describe unimaginable cruelty by Myanmar's military. The military is accused of "brutal" and "well-organized, coordinated and systematic" attacks with the objective of driving Rohingya out of Myanmar and preventing their return. While I've been in the camps, I have heard far too many similarly appalling accounts.

These events will stain Myanmar's international reputation. Its military leader Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing should be treated as the war criminal he is. There can be no justification for the atrocities being committed by his troops.

Myanmar's military should be sanctioned internationally – military cooperation with Myanmar must surely now be unacceptable, arms sales banned and there ought to be travel and economic restrictions placed on military figures.

There have been some laudable moves in this direction already — the UK suspended military cooperation and the U.S. is talking tough about prosecuting rights abusers, but there is little yet in the way of concrete action. This needs to quickly change. The international community needs to back its strong words with immediate actions or Myanmar's military will continue their genocidal actions towards the Rohingya indefinitely.

The standing of Myanmar's civilian administration and reputation of Aung San Suu Kyi is similarly in tatters. True, she is not in control of the military but she has not disagreed with their actions, and she refuses to grant visas for U.N. investigators to enter Myanmar. This makes her complicit with the military's actions in Rakhine.

As the country's civilian leader she is acting as a political and international shield for Myanmar's military. Justifying her decision to support the military's behavior, Suu Kyi said in a recent national address, "no one can fully understand the situation of our country the way we do".

This is an attempt by Suu Kyi to tell Myanmar's residents that international criticism of atrocities committed by their country's military is based on a failure to understand the real situation within Myanmar. But Suu Kyi's efforts to prevent independent scrutiny of Myanmar's military show that she knows they have much to hide from the international community and have a good deal to be ashamed of.

This crisis has been created by Myanmar's authorities and ending the crisis is within their power. The current Myanmar military campaign is the culmination of decades of official discrimination against the Rohingya. In 2015, the International State Crime Initiative (ISCI) described Myanmar's treatment of the Rohingya as "genocide".

Based on what I've witnessed in the refugee camps and the testimonies I have heard, this is undoubtedly the case. It is important now for the international community to ensure the Rohingya continue to be safe, and that any future return to Myanmar includes a guarantee their human rights, including their right to have a nationality, will be respected. Ongoing foreign aid to Myanmar and the continued absence of economic sanctions must now be contingent on safeguarding the Rohingya's human rights.

Aung San Suu Kyi believes only people from Myanmar can understand the situation in their country — the Rohingya I spoke with in the refugee camps certainly understand the situation in Myanmar. They say they were hunted from their homes by a brutally violent Myanmar military who instructed them to leave and then systematically destroyed their villages. Sadly, there are around 600,000 other Rohingya refugees with similar experiences to share, but at least on this side of the border, they are safe to do so.

Wednesday 25 October 2017

‘Suu Kyi government played into the hands of the military’

Source Dhakatribune, 25 Oct
'Suu Kyi government played into the hands of the military'
Director of Euro-Burma Office Harn YawnghweCourtesy

Harn Yawnghwe, director of Euro-Burma Office (European Office for the Development of Democracy in Myanmar), Brussels, recently spoke to the Dhaka Tribune's Syed Zainul Abedin on the Rohingya issue and Myanmar leader Suu Kyi. He shed light on the political instability in Myanmar against the backdrop of recent developments in Rakhine.

Harn is the youngest son of Sao Shwe Thaike, the first president of the Republic of the Union of Burma. Sao was the president of the union from 1948 to 1952. He was arrested in a military coup led by General Ne Win and died in prison in November, 1962. Sao Shwe Thaike and General Aung San were the architects of the 1947 Panglong Agreement, which formed the basis for the modern nation of Burma (the colonial name for Myanmar).

Harn has been in exile in Canada since he was 15 years old. He was forced to leave Myanmar along with his family following the coup on March 2, 1962.

Harn also served as Advisor to Dr Sein Win, prime minister of the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB), which claims to be Burma's government in exile.

What is happening in the Rakhine state of Myanmar?

What is happening in Rakhine State is genocide. Article 2 of the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1951) defines genocide as any of the following acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole, or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, as such: (a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group. All these conditions apply to the Rohingya people in Myanmar.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres admitted as much when he said on September 13, 2017 that ethnic cleansing is taking place in Myanmar. Genocide includes ethnic cleansing. He did not use the word genocide because if he did, the UN would be legally obliged under the Genocide Convention to take action. For the UN to take action, the Security Council would have to authorise it. But Guterres knows that if he took it to the Security Council, Russia and China would veto it. That is the dilemma.

Rohingya refugees stretch their hands to receive aid distributed by local organisations at Balukhali makeshift camp in Cox's Bazar on September 14, 2017 | Reuters

You have been working on the peace process in Myanmar/Burma for a long time. What are the hurdles in the way of the peace process?

First, the Myanmar military still believes that might is right. They entered into negotiations as a delaying tactic when the then President Thein Sein, a former military general himself, called for peace talks. He defined the peace talks as a political matter which under the 2008 Constitution falls under the mandate of the civilian government. Under the Suu Kyi government, the military has managed to define the peace talks as a security matter which under the constitution falls under the mandate of the military. This means the military will exert force on those who will not agree to peace on the government's terms. If they continue to resist, they will be labeled 'terrorists' and the military can use full force against them – as they are doing now with the Rohingya. The Suu Kyi government does not have a plan or strategy on how to bring the peace talks back to the political arena. It also does not have experienced advisors and negotiators.

In the short-term, the future of the peace talks is bleak. The best that can be done is to keep the talks going in the hope that the government will change its position. Nobody wants to go back to war.

Why are the Rohingya people, from among 135 ethnic groups, being specifically targeted by the government/army of Myanmar?

Myanmar Commander-in-Chief Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing said on September 1, 2017, that the ongoing clearing operations in northern Rakhine is 'unfinished business' from World War 2. After the war, during the division of India, some Rohingya wanted to become part of East Pakistan. There was a Mujahid insurgency which the Myanmar military put down. His 'unfinished business', though, means that the Myanmar military does not accept the outcome of the political settlement in the early 1960's that recognised the Rohingya as citizens of Myanmar.

The military also does not recognise the 1947 Constitution, which states that all people who live within the boundaries of Myanmar at independence (1948) are citizens. That is why after seizing power, General Ne Win launched an operation to drive out the Rohingya in 1978. Not satisfied with that, he also changed the Citizenship Law in 1982, making the Rohingya stateless. Another attempt was made in 1998 to drive out the Rohingya.

This third and current exodus is part of the same plan to make Myanmar a homogeneous and 'pure' nation. It is racist. The Rohingya being Muslim makes it easier for the military to garner support from the Buddhist majority who believe that it is their duty to protect Buddhism from all external influences.

FILE PHOTO: Rohingya refugees who fled from Myanmar wait to be let through by Bangladeshi border guards after crossing the border in Palang Khali on October 16, 2017 | Reuters

How would you describe the future of democracy in Myanmar?

The future of democracy in Myanmar is precarious. Everybody wrongly believed that Aung San Suu Kyi would strengthen the democratic transition and make it impossible to return to a military dictatorship.

It is somewhat similar to the situation in Iran when the Shah was overthrown and the Ayatollah Khomeni came to power. He consolidated his power and imposed his own brand of authoritarian rule. The same is true in Myanmar. Democracy is not practiced within the ruling National League for Democracy. Aung San Suu Kyi makes all the decisions. Younger generation leaders are not being groomed. Internal dissent is not tolerated and opposition parties are not encouraged. The active civil society networks are shunned by the NLD and Aung San Suu Kyi. Other than the military-backed Union Solidarity Development Party, there are no viable nationwide political parties to choose from as an alternative to the NLD. Media freedom is also at risk.

Is there any geopolitical issue behind the ongoing situation in Myanmar, triggering this Rohingya crisis?

As mentioned before, geopolitics do play a part. Myanmar is considered to be in China's backyard. Neither Russia nor China want Myanmar to move into the orbit of western powers. They have long seen human rights as a western tool to infiltrate into the region. But the main trigger is domestic. The Myanmar military does not want a democratically-elected government to succeed. It wants to prove that a civilian government does not have the capacity to govern Myanmar.

Also Read- Pope Francis deplores plight of Rohingya children

The Rohingya crisis was re-ignited in 2012 when the Thein Sein government started making headway with its peace talks with the other ethnic minorities. The crisis became full-fledged in 2016 after the Suu Kyi government took power. When it became clear that the Suu Kyi government did not have the capacity to deal with the peace talks, the military took advantage of that weakness to carry out its plan to finally expel the Rohingya as terrorists under the cover of a democratic government. The government's denial of any human rights abuse by the military and the refusal of Suu Kyi to allow a UN Fact-Finding Mission have all played into the hands of the military.

How do you describe the communal harmony in Myanmar?

Myanmar is and has always been a multi-ethnic and a multi-religious society. Different communities used to exist harmoniously in the past. Things changed after Ne Win took over. He expelled all foreigners, especially Chinese and Indians, confiscating their businesses. His agenda, like the Shah's, was to create a modern homogeneous nation and this created problems. Each ethnic group began to look after its own interests for survival. Today people look on each other with mistrust. Fake news and rumours can trigger inter-communal violence as it did in 2012. Many people today are preaching hatred and religious bigotry. People who disagree do not dare to speak out. Fear is beginning to take hold again.

A view of the the Rohingya refugee camp in Tang Khali near Cox's Bazar, on October 18, 2017 | Reuters

How are the rest of the people in Myanmar responding to this crisis?

Most would not react unless it affected them personally. This is especially true of the ethnic minorities. They do not want to draw attention to themselves by speaking out about the Rohingya. But for the majority, they believe what the government is saying – that the Rohingya are foreigners who bought their way into Myanmar; they have four wives and their population is growing rapidly; their plan is to Islamise Myanmar.

Please describe the role of the state-run media in Myanmar.

The state-run media has been managed by the military for over 5 decades. They are putting out the same propaganda as when the country was still under military rule. The sad part is that the private media that used to fight for human rights have also started to toe the government line – that the Rohingya are terrorists and have to be defeated to protect Myanmar's sovereignty.

You wrote an open letter criticising Suu Kyi. Could you please elaborate on that?
I am concerned that she is not nurturing democracy for the time after she steps down. If we want democracy to flourish, we have to start practising it. Authoritarianism, no matter how well-intentioned, will not bring democracy. Democracy is messy and people make mistakes but without starting to practice it, we cannot expect democracy in Myanmar in the future.

Where does the solution to this crisis lie?

The crisis is two-fold. One is the crisis of democracy – how do we ensure that the military does not come back in the future? How can we entrench democracy in the nation? The solution lies with the people of Myanmar. They need to wake up to the crisis and start practicing democracy. It is not too late. We have until 2020, 3 years, to promote democracy.

The other crisis is the Rohingya people. We do not have time. People are dying and hundreds of thousands have been displaced. The clearing operations are continuing in spite of government denials. The UN, Bangladesh and other neighbouring countries need to exercise their Responsibility to Protect. If they do nothing now, the Rohingya will be driven out of Myanmar. But in the longer-term, the solution lies in treating the Rohingya as human beings created in the image of God, equal with all Myanmar citizens.

This will take moral courage on the part of the Myanmar government and determined and well-thought out long-term programmes to eliminate racism, and religious bigotry from Myanmar – something like the civil rights movement in the US.

A genocide is taking place. Luckily we Americans have other things to worry about.

Source  Washintonpost, 23 Oct

Rohingya refugee children carry supplies through Balukhali refugee camp near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, on Monday. (Hannah McKay/Reuters)

Here in the United States we have a lot of important stuff to think about. Justin Timberlake has been picked to perform at the next Super Bowl. One of those celebrities whose name I can never remember is suing the Kardashians. The president of the United States is trading insults with a congresswoman. And best of all, the stock market has hit new highs.

Far away, off on the other side of the world, 600,000 people are crouching in the mud, shivering with terror, telling the same stories of how a husband was shot, a sister was raped, a baby was thrown on a fire – stories multiplied tens of thousands of times. They've been forced out of their homes by soldiers who mocked them, beat them, torched their houses. The whole point of this state-sponsored campaign of terror – for that's exactly what it is – was to drive them across a nearby border into a neighboring country, which can't really afford to harbor hundreds of thousands of refugees, since it is already one of the poorest in the world. (Close to a million Rohingya now live as refugees in Bangladesh; 600,000 of them arrived since August.)

The terror is still going on. Right now – even though there aren't a lot of people left in their homes to terrorize. And that has left some of us who follow this situation to ask a simple question:

The people I'm talking about are the Rohingya, who are sometimes referred to as "the most persecuted people on the face of the earth." The government of the country they used to live in, known as Burma (aka Myanmar), hates them so much that it even stripped them of their citizenship 35 years ago. I remember many Burmese telling me, during my last visit a few years ago, that the Rohingya were just vermin, not truly human at all. After all, didn't I know that they had really, really dark skins? And that they were Muslim – not at all like the majority Buddhists, who were, in general, so much nicer, more cultured, more pure?

And it's true, the Rohingya don't have a lot of friends right now – but that has more to do with geopolitics than imagined personal traits. The Chinese (who support Burma's military) and the Russians (who would like to tap into the country's natural resources) couldn't care less about the Rohingya's human rights. The Europeans, who don't want to offend anyone, might send a strongly worded letter or two.

As usual, that leaves the United States. Ah yes, I can hear my compatriots groan – another distant land that's trying to draw us into its problems. But this isn't about sending the military or getting mired in conflict. It's about finally raising our voice, a powerful voice that everyone in the world listens to – or used to listen to, at least. The United States can demand and orchestrate sanctions against the Burmese military and government. It can organize pressure in international bodies. And it can demonstrate its visible oppositionto those responsible and its support for the refugees.

Now here's a thought: We Americans have always prided ourselves on straight talk. What if our United States government were to come straight out and officially designate what's happening to the Rohingya as a "genocide"? That could potentially transform how the rest of the world discusses the issue. Genocide is defined as "a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves."

That is a pretty good description of current Burmese state policy toward the Rohingya. Thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, have already been killed; we don't know precisely how many, since the government of Burma isn't allowing independent witnesses into the area.

What's eminently clear is that Burma's military is doing its best to drive these poor, stateless people out of the country and never let them back in again. And once that's done, the foundations of Rohingya life in Burma will be over. Their refugees will be scattered among the nations that host them, but their life in Burma will be beyond reconstruction. Burma will have "finally solved the Rohingya question," to paraphrase a certain German statesman.

Isn't this something that our country, at least, should go on the record as opposing?

But I get it, of course. We Americans have so many other important things to focus on: the next game, the next phone, the next episode of our favorite show. Why should we have to worry about things that are happening in faraway countries, to people we don't even know? Don't we have a right to be – unbothered?

Christian Caryl is an editor with The Post's Global Opinions section.

  Follow @ccaryl

I am humanly vain and immoral: A confession of an honest scholar

Source Maungzarni, 22 Oct

I am as vain and immoral as any human. - ZARNI 

​Dear Friends,

​This is a confessional reflection: I am as vain -and even immoral - as anyone. Don't treat me like I am something special, super-human. 

Get this. ​

Back in the days, I remember feeling overcome with rage inside me as world leaders attempted to outdo one another in heaping praise on the 'extraordinary democratic transition' that the generals and ex-generals were undertaking. The American politicians led the choir of World Class Delusions. 

Obama famously urged Dear Leader in N. Korea and Ayatollahs in Iran to behave like Myanmar's old-time crooks and thugs in generals' uniform. 

Ex-General Thein Sein was nominated - and even short-listed for the Nobel Peace Prize. ICG in fact picked him to be their man of the hour for the world peace, alongside Brazil's Lulu. Ah, the "pursuit of peace". (For the record, Thein Sein's final legislative act was the Nuremberg-style 4 "National Race and Faith Protection Laws", in the months running up to the 2015 Re-Elections.)

The Burmese nationalists, whether raised in New York City's diaspora or in the heart of the Dry Zone of Burma were completely wild-eyed. Virtually all analysts and scholars, and Burma watchers threw their caution into the wind, and chimed in the political chorus of the day. 

Yangon was Democracy's Saudi Arabia, and Suu Kyi's residence at 54 University Avenue turned from a Must-Drive-By spot in the old colonial city in the Lonely Planet's Myanmar Guide to Mecca for the Rich, the Glamorous, the Powerful and the Ignoble. Hilary and Bill Clinton, Norwegian royals (who were not allowed to see poverty on the bank of the famed Irrawaddy River in my fabled town Mandalay), David Cameron, Angelina Jollie, Kevin Rudd, the widower​-President ​of Benazir Bhutto​, ​the Chinese-Malaysian Bond-woman Datuk Michelle Yeo, Tony Blair and the lesser mortals, all descended on the Lady's residence. 

A kind of a Burmese Robin Island ​pilgrimage. Reserved Royals globally soaked up on the Asian Mandela's halo with as much glee on their faces as the dodgy politicians and empty Hollywood-types did. 

Nations' highest awards were hand-delivered in boutique little ceremonies at 54 University Avenue, when Suu Kyi was too busy to travel receive them. 

Meanwhile, Telenor and other investors wasted no time to move in and striked up multi-billion $ deals with the ex-Generals.

World class journalists didn't get enough interview times with the reformist-duo - the bespectabled ex-General Thein Sein with the barely existent command of English and the Nobel Lady-cum-the-mix of King-Gandhi-and-Mandela. The fawning diplomats did their bed to show their reverence and get a selfie with the Lady. ( I confess. I do have one with her, except that I put it right above our toilet at home - where it belongs - as every guest who has ever been to our house). 

The victory laps! Private jets from the Hollywood-types to Singaporean Prime Minister, occasionally escorted by the likes of Bono. 

This was Burma's - nay, Myanmar's Moment - with the capital M - to shine. Myanmar Spring! 

The country widely, and wildly, considered to be one of two post-WWII countries with the greatest development potentials - the other was the Philippines - after Japan, was now resuming its rightful place: to become the "next Asian tiger". 

The phraseology coming from ​the likes of ​my old - or former - friend Thant Myint-U was ​the transition was "not perfect" because of the 2008 Constitution that placed the military above any democratic process - right, it wasn't "perfect"! - but still incomparably better than what it had been: a text book example of a military dictatorship.

There were a few of us - maybe just me - who were stupid enough to call out on what we knew to be a complete farce, obviously a World Class Farce, worthy of an entry into the Guinness Book of Records - insofar as the pervasive and popular Fairy Tale of the hitherto Dodgy Generals leading these "top down reforms", switching from the "baby steps" to steady strides. 

It was the experience of swimming against the tide, trying to pierce through the thick fog of extraordinary delusions, on the streets, in the chattering classes of New York Times, the Guardian, TIME, BBC, CNN, and all the lesser known media entities, and in the World of Money and Power. 

I have never seen or read anything like what transpired in those 5-long years - from 2010-2015: the various strands of delusions based on shallow or ill-informed descriptions of what my country was, what it was going through, and what the elites and the leaders were doing to lift all boats and to democratize, all jelling into ONE BIG SEA OF MADNESS. 

​As the Burmese saying goes, when every other person around has lost his or her mind it was an utterly stupid act to sound the horn of reason and analysis. 

Alas, a mad man on the margins of power, influence or relevance. A spoiler. A negativist.

Not a Saint myself, I must confess my own pathos, a disease, inside which triggers a cool sense of vindication. Alas, the cliche of "I told you so". 

Sad and pathetic as it is, I do feel a deep sense of satisfaction that I have been right about my own country's worst inhuman tendencies, the utter stupidity of the elites, now civilian and military, that have chronically self-destroy​ed throughout the recorded history of Burma, pre- and post-colonial. 

But in the context where silver-linings are hard to find I pause to pat my own back, now that the democratic transition has gone south completely. And ir-reversibly, certainly not in Suu Kyi's lifetime, considering that she has herself participated in the murder of Buddha in the land where his teachings have been replaced with racism of the most genocidal kind. 

My own indulgence in the vanity as an analyst and scholar may be short-lived - but to deny that there is a part of me that is rotten would be utterly dishonest: I do enjoy being proven right. 

Alas, we are all too humans. I don't put myself above the rest.

I am not afraid to stare into the mirror. 

Now back to my morning cup of coffee! Enjoy your day!


Maung Zarni: Military-Controlled Ethnocracy in Myanmar Causing Exodus of 100,000 Rohingyas Every Week

Source FarsNewsAgency, 18 Oct

TEHRAN -- Activist and scholar Maung Zarni says that the plight of Muslim Rohingyas has gotten worse under the administration of Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and now there are about 100,000 Rohingyas fleeing their homeland every week.

The Burmese scholar in an exclusive interview with FNA said that Aung San SuuKyi's leadership has been the direct product of the icon manufacturing by Western media and activists which was intended to give acceptability to what, he believes, is a "military-controlled ethnocracy, wrapped in Buddhism".

According to the rights activist, Rohingyas in Myanmar live under restrictive measures of movement, marriage and child control in either open prisons or internally displaced persons camps (IDP camps). He also added that the Muslim minority's access to food supplies and medical care is awfully limited.

Maung Zarni is a democracy advocate, Rohingya campaigner, and an adviser to European Centre for the Study of Extremism. He is also a research fellow at Genocide Documentation Centre and has been frequently interviewed by international media outlets such as BBC, Al Jazeera, Press TV and TRT World.

FNA has conducted an interview with Maung Zarni about the terrible living conditions of the Rohingya Muslims and the reasons behind the inaction by the so-called international community to stop what the United Nations calls "textbook ethnic cleansing" of Rohingya.

Below you will find the full text of the interview.

Q: Rohingya Muslims are not included in Myanmar's list of 135 official minorities meaning they are deprived of the right to citizenship. Why do you think the Rohingyas have been left stateless by their own government in the first place?

Firstly, 135 official minorities are nothing but a fiction used by the Burmese military to justify their institutional narrative that Myanmar faces constant threat of Balkanization, if the military return to the barracks. So, I don't and won't repeat the regime's self-serving propaganda. The military has since early 1960's shifted its policy of the official embrace of Rohingyas as an ethnic community of the Union of Burma to a radical strategic perspective according to which a sizeable pocket of Muslims in a single geographic pocket next to a populous Muslim region of the then Pakistan was a threat to Burma's national security. Every wave of expulsion, violence, death and destruction of Rohingyas over the last 40 years has been triggered by this dangerous strategic paradigm. 

Q: Aung San SuuKyi's coming to power as the Nobel Peace laureate and first democratic government brought about major hopes to the Burmese including the Rohingya. In your opinion, has anything changed for the Muslim minority since she took office?

Suu Kyi's leadership, and Suu Kyi the person, have been the direct product of the icon manufacturing by Western media and activists. Her ascendency to de facto leadership has only lent the veneer of acceptability to what really is a military-controlled ethnocracy, wrapped in Buddhism. The plight of Muslim Rohingyas has gotten worse, with 100,000 fleeing every week. Mirroring the military's Muslim-free armed forces, she presides over her party, National League for Democracy (NLD), and the NLD-controlled Parliament, with not a single Muslim representation. 

Q: There are reports about mosques across Burma being damaged or completely destroyed and authorities have been refusing to allow Muslims to repair their mosques. Why is the government refusing to allow the Muslim minority to access their place of worship which is considered to be a fundamental right to freedom of expression and religion?

Mosques – like any places of worship in any religion – serve as the anchor of Muslim communities throughout Burma. The severe restrictions on the repair, renovation, or expansion of mosques are motivated by the intent to prevent the growth of the community in spirit and strength. It is a part of the Buddhist ethnocratic state's attempt to monitor, control and subjugate Muslim communities – although Islam in Burma has long been a peaceful religion for centuries since it arrived centuries ago.

Q: Could you please let us know about the conditions of displaced Rohingyas living both in and outside Myanmar's borders?

Even seasoned humanitarian workers would tell you how shocked they are at the first sight of the conditions under which Rohingyas living in India and Bangladesh. Inside Myanmar, Rohingyas live in two different types of situation: open vast prisons and the internally displaced persons camps. They have no freedom of movement; all aspects of their lives are totally controlled by the Burmese military authorities at the top of the administrative structures and local Buddhist Rakhine who occupy the majority of the admin posts. Rohingyas' access to food and food systems (such as streams and rivers, paddy fields, etc.) as well as opportunities to earn a living has been controlled and restricted. Doctor-patience ratio for the two major towns – Buthidaung and Maungdaw – are estimated to be 1: 150,000 – while the national average is 1: 1,000 – 2,000. Extreme malnutrition is prevalent with sub-Sahara-like conditions. Only Rohingyas are singled out for strict marriage control and child control. Rape and gang-rape of Rohingya women and even girls are rampant. Mass arrests of Rohingya males are routine. Summary execution, forced labour, extortions, etc. are routinely practised by the security troops that split Rohingya region into two dozen security grids. It is this kind of inhuman conditions under which Rohingyas are forced to exist – not live as humans – that has been a major push factor behind regular, if less dramatic and less reported than the most recent one, waves of fleeing Rohingyas. Emphatically, I must state that these conditions are maintained as a matter of policy by the central governments since the late 1970's: to destroy life as we know it, for the entire Rohingya community as a distinct ethnic group, whether recognized by the State officially, as such or not. Precisely because of the policy of destroying Rohingya community as a group I have been calling this a genocide – a textbook genocidal act as defined by the Genocide Convention. 

Q: The state counsellor faces mounting criticism over what the United Nations calls "textbook ethnic cleansing" of Rohingya. This systematic persecution has been ongoing for years. Why do you think we do not see any strong reaction by international human rights organizations, namely the United Nations to stop all the injustice and atrocities?

To the UN and all the world powers, typically all genocides are inconveniences. The refusal to recognize the nature of the heinous crimes by its proper legal name, that is, genocide speaks volumes about the absence of collective will to end this international crime. I find it utterly disgusting that UN and even human rights agencies opting to call it by Milosevic's original euphemism. The genocidal Serb was a clever bastard who knew 'ethnic cleansing' was not a crime under international law. If a crime is recognized as genocide that the UN system would be obliged to intervene to end it. Truth is international law is nothing without the political will to enforce it. Ending genocide has never been deemed strategically or commercially profitable. Hence, empty talks and outcome less meetings.

Q: On several occasions we have seen the western countries, namely the US and the UK, acting without a mandate from the United Nations Security Council. We have seen them imposing sanctions and even taking military action against countries solely based on their own political and geopolitical interests. But when it comes to Myanmar, they do not seem to be much concerned about the ongoing genocide and ethnic cleansing as we do not see any strong reaction. What do you think is the reason behind the double standard?

UK and USA are known to bypass the Security Council, in pursuing their strategic interests, however defined. They have launched invasions in countries throughout the world, from Korea and Vietnam to Africa and the Middle East. But ending genocides is viewed as part of their strategic interest. Additionally, they delude themselves into thinking that some semblance of democracy and human rights regime can still be salvaged with its Burmese proxy Aung San Suu Kyi, although she has lost the support and admiration of the world. The truth is UN and international law, as well as the institutions of global governance do not work for the oppressed majority of peoples around the world. Rohingyas are not an exception. 

Q: Aung SanSuu Kyi did not attend this year's UN General Assembly session. She did so without providing any reason for the withdrawal. As we discussed, the United Nations so far has failed to act properly to stop the violence. Why do you think then she decided to cancel her trip to the UN?

It's a clear sign that she now views the world as a hostile place for her to go. The world no longer sees her as "the hopes of Burma", let alone "the voice of the voiceless". She has become world-infamous for hiding her head in the sand when it comes to issues of crucial import to the country. Forget going to the UN where she expected strong criticism of her leadership failures. She has no moral or intellectual integrity to confront inconvenient realities of her country, particularly the issue of Rohingya genocide that concerns the world.

Monday 16 October 2017

Zarni's Open Letter to Thitinan Pongsudhirak, the anti-Muslim racist Thai-American academic who came out to join the Rohingya Genocide Deniers' Club

Source Maungzarni, 15 Oct

My dear friend Thitinan,

​Re: ​Myanmar's moves against Rohingya a get-out campaign, not genocide

I am grateful that you were my host at Chula. But you crossed the line with your ill-informed and immoral genocide denial. 

I know Asia is a Dark Continent whose rise is only matched by its decline of intellectual and political world.

Given the fact that your own country of Thailand - and mine, not to mention Hunsan's Cambodia - are heading back to the Dark Ages, I didn't expect Cambodian, Thai or Burmese Establishment intellectuals to take a stance against my country's Buddhist genocide against Rohingyas.

I have studied this issue for much of the past decades, and I am competent to comb through the Burmese original, know the military leaders intimately, can read the Burmese military in ways you know your country's Thai military.

The difference between you and I is this: that you know and stay within the parameters which your protector (s) in the Royal Thai Armed Forces allow you to operate and I know well what those Burmese army-acceptable boundaries are, and I refuse to allow considerations of State Power and the self-censorship you practice as a civil servant of the military-controlled Thai State education system.

We make our own individual choices based on our circumstances, lived values and personalities. I don't judge you on what you write about your own country's sordid affairs under the military rule today. 

But your op-ed in the Straits Times, the official mouthpiece of Singapore which has long supplied Burmese military arms and trained the Burmese intelligence, is really pathetic beyond words. 

I wish that you do not join the club of Genocide Deniers - in Europe the genocide denial is a criminal offence. I am glad you don't live and work in Europe, or you would find yourself in the accused dock.  

I can prove in any court of opinions, or law, the INTENT of the Burmese military is nothing less than GENOCIDAL. My own late great-uncle was deputy commander of the predominantly Rohingya Mayu Distric, when Rohingyas were officially granted full citizenship and full official recognition of their identity, presence and history in Burma. I also know two generations of military leaders who implemented - and who are still implementing - the military's policy of destruction of Rohingyas, from the identity and history to the physical and biological destruction of the group as such, in whole or in part. 

I didn't formally train myself as a genocide scholar, and the study of genocides is not a rocket science. With a LSE PhD and US Santa Barbara undergraduate training, you could have easily done the background research on the original conceptual literature on genocide as a widespread historical and contemporary political process. You could also have engaged with the credible, academic and human rights research literature on the substantive issue of Rohingyas persecution across the borders from Thailand - and how the Thai military and authorities, as well as Thai trafficking mafia networks have profited from the Burmese Buddhist genocide. 

I can't explain your failure to come to grips with the genocidal nature of my country's persecution of the Rohingya: you have an impeccable academic training as a scholar.

The only thing I can think of - forgive me if I am wrong - that will explain your refusal to acknowledge what is widely viewed by world's leading scholars of genocide as a textbook example of a genocide must be your anti-Muslim racism.

Your piece reeks your disdain for what you falsely argues as "faith-based separatists".

I know hundreds of Rohingyas inside my country, and in diaspora. I am sure many of them are sympathetic to those who risk their lives trying to resist the power that is determined to destroy them all. 

I know of NOT A SINGLE ROHINGYA who say they want a separate Muslim state out of N. Rakhine. Not even those Rohingya militants who resort to violence say they want a separate state. Even if they did who are you to make the judgement as to what they - living the lives as the world's most wretched Muslim people - should aspire to or not, while you are living in extreme comfort of your affluent Thai Buddhist home, in the wealthy suburb of Bangkok, commuting to your work in your BMW? 

This passage is jaw-dropping as you apparently attempted to mis-characterise angry, desperate Rohingyas who feel they and their communities are sitting ducks waiting for the next large wave of genocidal killings at the hands of the trigger-happy Burmese military, which has used or invented various pretexts - immigration check, Rohingyas' support for NLD and Suu Kyi in 1989-92, a local criminal case of petty murder of a Rakhine Buddhist woman, to the social transition (social because power/democratic transition has taken place only in name) and now ARSA attack. 

The military has openly opposed Kofi Annan's involvement from the inception of its Rakhine Commission: it attempted unsuccessfully to table the motion in the NLD-controlled parliament - 10 months before the Commission's report was due out; it had used it proxy monks and "civil society' groups to openly stage protests against Kofi Annan's involvement; it has successfully persuaded Rakhine state officials and Rakhine leaders to refuse to meet or cooperate with the Commission and its military leadership of Min Aung Hlaing told Kofi Annan face to face the military didn't accept the main thrust of his commission's report - even in the morning of the report's release.

And you blatantly chose to ignore all evidence that would weaken or demolish your argument that Rohingya militants - whom you were at pain to paint as Saudi- and Pakistan-linked Muslim separatists - were the one to blame for the recent "disproportionate and heavy-handed reaction" by the Burmese military.

Aside from the issue of your own closeted racism towards Muslims, your argument that the Rohingya militants provoked the military to nip the Annan report in the bud a complete while arguing that the military was using that as the pretext for its "get-out' (Rohingya) campaign would get F - (FAILURE) were I to grade it as an undergraduate essay.

You can't call an event which the Burmese military had jumped on as the "perfect pretext" as a trigger. It was the State that had been making operational preparations, for instance, air-lifting of hundreds of its most notorious special commando units, a few weeks before the Rohingya stormed border guard posts with machetes, spears and sticks - for the large scale genocidal killings and expulsion. 

Here is a sample of your tortured logic and anti-Muslim racist passage (all Rohingyas have relatives and friends in both Saudi Arabia and Pakistan - hundreds of thousands as those are the countries where they could at least live not as hunted fugitives but in relative safety. does that make all Rohingyas potential terrorists, in your eyes?)

"Coalescing in mid-2016 from Harakah al-Yaqin (or "Faith Movement"), and led by Ata Ullah, a Rohingya who was born in Pakistan but grew up in Saudi Arabia, Arsa deliberately provoked the Tatmadaw into overreacting in order to alienate Muslims and gain recruits to its separatist cause. Prior to its Aug 25attacks, Arsa's first salvo took place in October last year under similar circumstances but on a smaller scale. This time, the confrontation may have reached a point of no return.

Arsa now has the full-blown insurgency it wants, with support from Pakistani and Middle Eastern sources and an ample pool of recruits from disaffected young Rohingya Muslims who have no prospect of a better life in northern Rakhine's hilly shacks and poverty-stricken towns."

This anti-Muslim pervades Thai Buddhist society, from your Royal family, with the late God-king known to be an anti-Muslim racist - down to the Chinese-dominated Bangkok's elites, just as it pervades my Buddhist society and that of another Theravada country, namely Sri Lanka.

As intellectuals and scholars, we are supposed to rise above our societal racist boundaries of thought and feelings, and NOT to succumb to the ingrained and inter-generationally reproduced new Fascism - called Islamophobia. 

I am pained to call you out on your ugly racism on the genocide of Rohingyas as you were my host at Chula when I was doing research on this issue and how the Thai state was mistreating the Rohingyas desperate to be smuggled into Malaysia. 

We have not been in touch, and I don't intend to engage with you on this issue. I just want to openly put it in writing, and publicly at that, that I find your cleverly concealed Islamophobia and sub-stanceless arrogance about what you think you know about my country's affairs intellectually and morally repugnant.


P.S. Here is the analysis of what counts as genocide, ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity by two people who know what they are talking about. I think you should shut your racist mouth, instead of weighing in on the side of my genocidal nation where my own former personal friends and colleagues, in the military and in the NLD, are leading this campaign of genocide. . 

Confronting genocide in Myanmar, Katherine Southwick, Asia and the Pacific Policy Forum, ​2 Dec 2016

Genocide in the Making, Foreign Policy, Sir Geoffrey Nice and Francis Wade, 13 Nov 2016​