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Myanmar/Burma 2017 – January 2020
Written by Diana Thebaud Nicholson // January 23, 2020 // Myanmar/Burma // Comments Off on Myanmar/Burma 2017 – January 2020
Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA)
From peace icon to pariah: Aung San Suu Kyi’s fall from grace
World Court orders Myanmar to prevent Rohingya genocide
The International Court of Justice has ordered Myanmar to prevent genocide against its Rohingya minority and to preserve evidence of past attacks, in a ruling that was hailed for giving protection to a defenseless group.
In its unanimous 17-0 decision, the top United Nations court rejected Myanmar’s argument – put forward by the country’s top civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi – that the deaths of 10,000 Rohingya, and the flight of 700,000 others to neighbouring Bangladesh, were part of an “internal military conflict.”
While it will likely be years before the ICJ reaches a final ruling on whether the violence that occurred in 2016 and 2017 amounted to a genocide, the court decided on Thursday that the situation faced by the estimated 600,000 Rohingya still in Myanmar was urgent enough to order emergency interim measures.
“The court is of the opinion that the Rohingya in Myanmar remain extremely vulnerable,” said the decision, which was read to a packed courtroom in The Hague by the court’s president, Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf.
The case was brought before the ICJ by the tiny African country of Gambia, which – acting as a proxy for the 57-member Organization of Islamic Co-operation – complained that Myanmar had violated the 1948 Genocide Convention, to which both countries are signatories. Gambia’s legal action was supported by Canada and the Netherlands.
In Myanmar Army’s Corner, Aung San Suu Kyi Will Defend It in Rohingya Genocide Case
(NYT) Once a champion for human rights, she is now expected to argue at The Hague that the world has been deceived by report after report of atrocities against Rohingya Muslims.
For many outside Myanmar, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s evolution from imprisoned opposition leader to apologist for some of this century’s worst ethnic pogroms is a cautionary tale of how power corrupts. But her turn as the generals’ protector has only cemented her popularity at home, where her party, the National League for Democracy, faces elections next year.
To them, the expulsion of Rohingya Muslims from Rakhine State in far western Myanmar, a campaign so vicious that United Nations officials have said that it had genocidal intent, simply did not happen.
Aung San Suu Kyi impassive as genocide hearing begins
World’s failure to act over Myanmar is ‘stain on collective conscience’, UN court told
(The Guardian) Aung San Suu Kyi has sat impassively through graphic accounts of mass murder and rape perpetrated by Myanmar’s military at the start of a three-day hearing into allegations of genocide at the UN’s highest court.
Before dawn on Tuesday, a long queue had formed outside the Peace Palace in the Dutch city to witness the first of three days of hearings that will focus attention on military clearance operations in 2017 against the Rohingya Muslim minority, 700,000 of whom were forced to flee across the border to neighbouring Bangladesh.
A Move For Justice Around the World
… on November 11, Gambia, supported by a team of American, Canadian and British lawyers, filed a case at the International Court of Justice at The Hague, formally accusing Myanmar of acts of genocide against the country’s Rohingya Muslim minority…on November 14, it was announced that the International Criminal Court (ICC) would investigate the atrocities against the Rohingya minority.
IranWire talked to McGill professor Payam Akhavan, senior counsel in both the ICJ and the ICC cases against Myanmar. IranWire asked him about the case against Myanmar, Iran’s persecution of minority religious groups and political prisoners, and the links between the two countries’ shocking crimes.
Because the ICJ case will be heard by the court in the Hague on December 10, he was not able to talk specifically about the case, but he told IranWire he will be arguing for an “urgent request for protective measures.”
Myanmar formally accused of genocide in court case filed at The Hague
A case that Canada was urged to file is taken on by small African nation The Gambia
Last year, Canada became the first country to call the violence an act of genocide, after Parliament voted unanimously to do so. A campaign followed by senators and dozens of human rights groups — as well as a motion in the Senate — urging the Canadian government to take the genocide accusation to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which arbitrates disputes between states.
But Canada has called on the UN Security Council to refer Myanmar to the International Criminal Court instead. The Council is the only avenue for putting the matter before the ICC because Myanmar is not a state party to the statutes that created the court, which means it’s outside of its jurisdiction.
However, a reference by the Security Council was highly unlikely, at minimum due to China’s opposition.
In a novel attempt to get around these challenges, the application Monday by a team of American, Canadian and British lawyers was filed on behalf of the African nation of The Gambia. It is accusing Myanmar of contravening the 1948 Genocide Convention, to which both The Gambia and Myanmar are state parties.
The Gambia is bringing the case forward on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, whose leaders voted to proceed with with a legal challenge earlier this year.
Bangladesh Rohingya island relocation ‘uncertain’ after UN doubts
(AFP) Bangladesh said Sunday plans to relocate thousands of Rohingya living in overcrowded refugee camps to a remote island were “uncertain” after authorities failed to gain support from UN agencies. Dhaka had wanted to begin its long-held plan this month to move 100,000 people to the mud-silt island of Bhashan Char, as frustration grows with the presence of the squalid tent settlements in its southeastern border towns. Bangladesh has said thousands of Rohingya families have volunteered to relocate, with some 3,500 of the Muslim minority due to be moved between mid-November to February during calm seas. But the plan was in doubt as the UN has not supported the relocation so far, Bangladesh disaster management and relief minister Enamur Rahman told AFP. “This has become uncertain,” Rahman said of the relocation to the island, which takes around three hours to reach by boat. “They (UN agencies) still haven’t agreed to the relocation plan.”
What Happened to Aung San Suu Kyi?
She had survived detention, house arrest, and attacks on her life; her bravery, eloquence, and persistence had won her the Nobel Peace Prize.
By Ben Rhodes, a former deputy national-security adviser to Barack Obama.
(The Atlantic) The government Suu Kyi is now a part of—in April 2016 she became state counselor, a role similar to prime minister, after her party won a national election—has curtailed civil liberties and press freedoms, and carried out what the United Nations high commissioner for human rights has called “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” Others have called it a genocide.
… Many Burmese resent people of South Asian descent, in part because when Britain governed Myanmar (then Burma) as part of India, it put Indians in positions of authority. And many Burmese Buddhists fear the fate of countries such as Afghanistan and Indonesia, where an intolerant strain of Islam—at times financed by Saudi Arabia—has supplanted Buddhism.
… Whether or not Suu Kyi has changed, the world around her has. Democratizing Myanmar “would have been easier two decades ago,” says Thaung Tun. He’s right. Twenty years ago, democracy was on the march, authoritarian China wasn’t yet flexing its muscles, neighboring India hadn’t turned decisively to Hindu nationalism, a liberal United States was the sole underwriter of the international order, terrorism was a peripheral threat, and the Pandora’s box of social media had not yet been opened.
Chinese influence in Myanmar is growing. One of China’s biggest projects—part of its signature Belt and Road Initiative—is the construction of a deep-sea port on the coast of Rakhine State. China’s ambitions for Myanmar also feature oil and gas pipelines to feed its insatiable energy needs. One of the pipelines cuts right through Rakhine State—suggesting an incentive for the Burmese military’s aggressiveness against the people living there…. The Rohingya crisis presents an opportunity for China. As Myanmar faces Western condemnation, it will become more reliant on China for investment, and for protection at the UN. … China also offers an autocratic model for dealing with Muslim minorities, justifying poor treatment on counterterrorism grounds.
… What does Aung San Suu Kyi want?
There is no doubt that she wants to be the president of Myanmar; she wants to sit in the chair. But why? One answer is that she just wants power over a Buddhist Burma—to claim her rightful inheritance as Aung San’s daughter, to realize her destiny as the heiress who has sacrificed for the throne; democracy, in this view, is just a means to realizing a personal ambition. Acting on behalf of the Rohingya could imperil that goal by undermining her political standing.
A more charitable answer is that she truly does want to transform the country into a democracy—to restore civilian control over the military, to make peace among the ethnic groups, to build a country where people’s lives steadily improve and where ethnic cleansing is unthinkable—and that requires patience and unsavory compromises.
Both answers, I believe, are accurate.
Comment from a Burmese friend:
I agree with a lot of the points described but I worry the single story of our country and her becoming on the global stage. We gotta be careful not to do that otherwise it is equivalent of genocide of many many groups not just one. She had failed to speak out for some, yes, but [is] still the only hope for many
Islamophobia will not solve Europe or Asia’s problems
Neither Hungary nor Myanmar have a ‘Muslim population’ problem.
… the biggest problem of both Myanmar and Hungary (and by extension Europe) is not Muslims per se. But presenting them as a threat is a useful strategy to deflect attention from the real problems of social disintegration, economic stagnation, the rise of populism and far-right movements, the erosion of traditional values, the failure of mainstream politics and a host of other issues that have practically nothing to do with Muslim or other minority groups.
Like Aung San Suu Kyi, Carrie Lam has let her one weakness overpower her better qualities
(SCMP) While Hong Kong’s tragedy was building, another Asian one was acquiring focus far away in Budapest, Hungary, where that nation’s authoritarian, xenophobic prime minister Viktor Orban was hosting Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi. Since saying nothing and doing even less to stop what has been described as a genocide against the Rohingya people in Myanmar’s westernmost Rakhine province, she has been unwelcome in most European capitals, hence the Budapest trip.
The woman who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her refusal to compromise with the country’s military rulers has now confirmed that she is a racist and anti-Muslim bigot. Her silence over the Rohingya massacres was explained in a joint statement issued with Orban at the conclusion of the visit.
Has Aung San Suu Kyi found common ground with Hungary’s Viktor Orban over ‘growing Muslim populations’?
Aung San Suu Kyi’s government has refused to offer assurances to Rohingya now living in refugee camps in Bangladesh
Orban, meanwhile, has an equally bad track record, his government declaring a ‘crisis situation due to mass immigration’ in 2015
Aung San Suu Kyi finds common ground with Orbán over Islam
On a rare trip to Europe, Myanmar leader and Hungary PM discuss issue of ‘growing Muslim populations’
(The Guardian) From her failure to speak out against ethnic cleansing to imprisoning journalists, the reputation of Aung San Suu Kyi in the west has taken a battering in recent months.
But the leader of Myanmar has found a new ally in far-right, staunchly anti-immigrant Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán.
In a rare trip to Europe, state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel peace prize laureate who was once the figurehead of the fight for democracy in Myanmar, met Orbán in Budapest. There, the two leaders found common ground on the subject of immigration and Islam.
He Incited Massacre, but Insulting Aung San Suu Kyi Was the Last Straw
(NYT) Ashin Wirathu, a radical Buddhist monk in Myanmar, has been charged with sedition over what prosecutors say are defamatory remarks he made about the nation’s civilian leader, the Nobel laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
The most notorious of a band of extremist monks, Ashin Wirathu has been traveling the country delivering diatribes against Myanmar’s minority Muslims and accusing Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s government of foiling the military’s efforts to defend the Buddhist-majority nation against what he calls a Muslim onslaught.
Two Reuters reporters freed in Myanmar after more than 500 days in jail
(Reuters) – Two Reuters journalists jailed in Myanmar after they were convicted of breaking the Official Secrets Act walked free from prison on Tuesday after more than 500 days behind bars. They were released under a presidential amnesty for 6,520 prisoners. President Win Myint has pardoned thousands of other prisoners in mass amnesties since last month.
Fading Icon: Once a global hero, what happened to Aung San Suu Kyi?
(Reuters) She won a Nobel Peace Prize for her defiance of Myanmar’s military junta. She emerged from years of house arrest in 2010 a near-mythical figure, admired for her strength and integrity. She was swept into power in a landslide 2015 election that many around the world hoped would bring greater freedom and stability to her country.Three years later, Aung San Suu Kyi is isolated and besieged by critics. The United Nations accuses Myanmar’s military of a “genocidal” campaign against Rohingya Muslims, and says Suu Kyi and her government did nothing to prevent it. She is no longer hailed as a moral icon, but condemned for forsaking the oppressed.How did one of the world’s most admired leaders reach this pass? Reuters spoke to friends, advisers, diplomats and other long-time observers of Suu Kyi. They describe a politician who is principled and devoted but also flawed and alone, burdened with limited powers and impossible expectations.Some say she hasn’t been sympathetic to ethnic minorities and was slow to grasp the scale and brutality of the military’s campaign against the Rohingya. Others say she has been scapegoated for the military’s crimes, then rejected by the international community when she needed it most.
Amal Clooney calls on Myanmar’s Suu Kyi to pardon Reuters reporters
(Reuters) – The families of two Reuters reporters imprisoned in Myanmar have asked for a pardon, human rights lawyer Amal Clooney told a press freedom event at the United Nations on Friday as she pressed the country’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi to agree.
(Reuters) A U.S. government probe into Myanmar’s campaign against the Rohingya Muslim minority was not aimed at determining whether genocide or crimes against humanity had been committed, but those responsible could still be held accountable for those crimes, a top State Department official said.
In unprecedented move, Commons passes motion to strip Suu Kyi’s honorary citizenship
In an unprecedented move Thursday, the House of Commons unanimously agreed to strip Myanmar’s beleaguered de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, of her honorary Canadian citizenship after an international outcry over her failure to stem the violence against Rohingya Muslims in her country.
The support from all parties in the House came one day after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau raised the prospect of Parliament reconsidering whether Ms. Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, is still deserving of the honour. The action means that Ms. Suu Kyi will no longer be a member of an exclusive group of only five other honorary Canadians: Nelson Mandela, Malala Yousafzai, the Dalai Lama, Raoul Wallenberg and the Aga Khan.
Honorary citizens do not have any Canadian rights or privileges, according to the Immigration Department.
A chance at justice for the Rohingya?
Following Canada’s declaration that crimes against the Rohingya constitute ‘genocide,’ Payam Akhavan asks: Do the refugee camps in Bangladesh hold the key to prosecutions by the International Criminal Court?
(Open Canada) My visit to Kutupalong some months earlier was in pursuit of justice against seemingly impossible odds. I was there at the invitation of the Bangladesh government, gathering facts, speaking to people on the ground, trying to see what could be done. Some time before, I had hosted Bob Rae, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s special envoy to Myanmar, for a lecture at McGill University. In the Q&A, students had asked what Canada could do to ensure accountability. The fundamental question that emerged from those exchanges was: Does the ICC have jurisdiction over these crimes, and if so, on what basis?
The discussion was sadly an all too familiar ritual for those of us who toil in the human rights world. The vows of “never again,” the expressions of regret, the lectures on lessons learned, the condemnation of genocide, the calls for justice at The Hague; these exhausted moral mantras are soon overtaken by new abominations, and the cycle of recrimination and remorse repeats itself again and again — Bosnia, Rwanda, Congo, Darfur, Iraq, Syria, and now, Myanmar.
Places we never knew existed are now seared into our consciousness as sites of grief and rage, mourned and condemned for a time, only to be forgotten in the fleeting attention span of the news cycle.
Myanmar court jails Reuters reporters for seven years in landmark secrets case
(Reuters) Press freedom advocates, the United Nations, the European Union and countries including the United States, Canada and Australia had called for the journalists’ acquittal.
“Today is a sad day for Myanmar, Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, and the press everywhere,” Reuters editor in chief Stephen J Adler said in a statement.
“We will not wait while Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo suffer this injustice and will evaluate how to proceed in the coming days, including whether to seek relief in an international forum.”
Factbox: Reactions to verdict on Reuters’ Myanmar journalists
Aung San Suu Kyi ‘bears some real responsibility’ for Rohingya crisis, says Bob Rae
(CBC The Current) Rae stressed that Myanmar’s leadership needs to tackle “underlying causes of hatred and the underlying causes of discrimination” in the country to reach a peaceful solution.
According to former UN war crimes prosecutor Payam Akhavan, Suu Kyi’s responsibility for the humanitarian crisis falls under two distinctions: moral and legal.
This past June, Akhavan travelled to a Rohingya refugee camp on the Bangladesh-Myanmar border to gather evidence for a potential International Criminal Court case.
“There is no question that as someone who has been entrusted with a Nobel Prize, she must act with moral courage even if it’s politically inconvenient,” he told Walker.
Verdict postponed in Reuters journalists case as pressure mounts on Myanmar
Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone were investigating the killings of 10 Rohingya Muslims by soldiers when they were arrested.
Timeline: Reuters journalists detained in Myanmar
(Reuters) – Two Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, have been detained in Myanmar since Dec. 12, 2017. At the time of their arrests, they had been working on an investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys in a village in Rakhine state.
U.N. calls for Myanmar generals to be tried for genocide, blames Facebook for incitement
(Reuters) – Myanmar’s military carried out mass killings and gang rapes of Muslim Rohingya with “genocidal intent”, and the commander-in-chief and five generals should be prosecuted for the gravest crimes under international law, U.N. investigators said.
The report also could serve as a major catalyst for change in how the world’s big social media companies handle hate speech in parts of the world where they have limited direct presence but their platforms command huge influence
Report of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar (A/HRC/39/64) (Advance Unedited Version)
Myanmar: Tatmadaw leaders must be investigated for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes – UN report
GENEVA (27 August 2018) – Myanmar’s top military generals, including Commander-in-Chief Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing, must be investigated and prosecuted for genocide in the north of Rakhine State, as well as for crimes against humanity and war crimes in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan States, a report by the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar* today urged.
The Mission, established by the UN Human Rights Council in March 2017, found patterns of gross human rights violations and abuses committed in Kachin, Rakhine and Shan States that “undoubtedly amount to the gravest crimes under international law”, principally by Myanmar’s military, the Tatmadaw, but also by other security forces.
Capturing Their Genocide on Their Cellphones
The Rohingya refugees of Myanmar have enough raw footage to make a case at the International Criminal Court.
(NYT) The video op-ed above reveals shocking footage that Rohingya refugees have gathered, documenting the genocide occurring in Myanmar. The only way the international community will end up on the right side of history is if perpetrators are prosecuted for these mass atrocities, and we know Myanmar is unable and unwilling to ensure justice at home. This situation is precisely why the International Criminal Court exists. The United Nations Security Council should waste no time. It should pass a resolution referring the situation in Myanmar to the I.C.C., and once that happens, prosecutors can start to build a case. U.N. member states should also create leverage to persuade China to abstain from blocking such an effort.
‘Put in a cage’: Rohingya remaining in Myanmar consigned to life of fear
(The Guardian) Twelve months after brutal attacks by Burmese military sent 700,000 Rohingya pouring into Bangladesh, the group is barred from healthcare, work and school
Rohingya in Rakhine state, where the violence took place, are locked out of healthcare, work and education. Denied citizenship cards, they must apply for permission from the government if they want to travel and face daily discrimination. ..attacks were launched last year in August by Muslim militants in northern Rakhine State, killing 12 members of the security forces. In response the Myanmar army began brutal attacks killing at least 6,700 Rohingya and razing their villages. Human rights groups have documented cases of widespread torture and rape of women and the United Nations say these crimes could amount to genocide.
The Rohingya in Yangon and other parts of the country keep a low profile. Finding jobs that don’t discriminate is a challenge and they can’t open bank accounts or access government hospitals without a citizenship card. They fear arrest for travelling to see their family in Rakhine without a permit, or being blocked from returning to Yangon.
Despite calls from the UN for the Rohingya to be granted citizenship, the plight of the Muslim minority is ignored by the government, which continues to refuse to use the word Rohingya or acknowledge their identity.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s government has said it would allow “verified displaced people” to return to Rakhine from Bangladesh, but the situation inside the state remains unclear. Media access is largely blocked and restrictions on aid agencies that were brought in 12 months ago remain in place.
(CNN) ‘Everybody’s talking about them, but who’s talking with them?’: Documenting Rohingyas’ stories
A year after the assault on the Rohingya, Myanmar’s generals are unapologetic
(WaPost) Today, even as sanctions mount and the U.S. State Department and the United Nations ready reports that are likely to detail premeditated efforts by the military to effectively rid the state of Rohingya Muslims, generals remain defiant. They believe they essentially eliminated a threat that was “growing bigger and bigger,” according to one account of conversations top Myanmar military leaders have had with counterparts from Southeast Asia.
“There was a sense that their problem in Rakhine had been solved, that this was their solution,” said a person familiar with the conversations, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. Militants, the military alleged, had embedded in villages and towns, and they had to be stopped.
Myanmar: New evidence reveals Rohingya armed group massacred scores in Rakhine State
“Our latest investigation on the ground sheds much-needed light on the largely under-reported human rights abuses by ARSA during northern Rakhine State’s unspeakably dark recent history.”
(Amnesty International) A Rohingya armed group brandishing guns and swords is responsible for at least one, and potentially a second, massacre of up to 99 Hindu women, men, and children as well as additional unlawful killings and abductions of Hindu villagers in August 2017, Amnesty International revealed today after carrying out a detailed investigation inside Myanmar’s Rakhine State.
Based on dozens of interviews conducted there and across the border in Bangladesh, as well as photographic evidence analyzed by forensic pathologists, the organization revealed how Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) fighters sowed fear among Hindus and other ethnic communities with these brutal attacks.
UN and Myanmar on a collision course
Government’s denial of UN access to Rakhine State’s killing fields will not shield it from renewed sanctions and pariah status
(Asia Times) As Myanmar descends again into pariah status, its loudest critic is perhaps the one that matters most: the United Nations.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has castigated Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy-led government for the military campaign that has expelled some 700,000 Rohingya Muslims from Rakhine state with widespread charges of ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.
The UN and Myanmar are now in a conversation of cognitive dissonance: What many observers view as pyromania-fueled mass murder in Rakhine state, Suu Kyi sees as a mere misunderstanding.
Myanmar’s relationship with the UN is now arguably at its lowest level in a decade, since the previous military government denied UN humanitarian access to populations badly affected by the Cyclone Nargis disaster in 2008.
Suu Kyi has still failed to condemn what are by now well-documented human rights violations perpetrated by security forces, shunned concerns from UN Secretary-General Guterres, and barred UN investigators access to the country to probe widespread allegations of rights abuses, including emerging revelations of mass graves in areas ‘cleared’ by the military.
“ethically catatonic national leader”
‘No Such Thing as Rohingya’: Myanmar Erases a History
(NYT) … human rights watchdogs warn that much of the evidence of the Rohingya’s history in Myanmar is in danger of being eradicated by a military campaign the United States has declared to be ethnic cleansing. … In a report released in October, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said that Myanmar’s security forces had worked to “effectively erase all signs of memorable landmarks in the geography of the Rohingya landscape and memory in such a way that a return to their lands would yield nothing but a desolate and unrecognizable terrain.” … The United Nations report also said that the crackdown in Rakhine had “targeted teachers, the cultural and religious leadership, and other people of influence in the Rohingya community in an effort to diminish Rohingya history, culture and knowledge.”
Pope Francis finally used the word “Rohingya.”
On his last day in Bangladesh, the pope listened to the stories, and held the hands, one by one, of 16 Rohingya survivors of persecution in Myanmar, where he visited this week but did not utter the name. The pope, in emotional remarks at a large interfaith gathering, above, asked for forgiveness “for the indifference of the world.” ‘I Ask Forgiveness,’ Pope Francis Tells Rohingya Muslims in Bangladesh
Tripti Lahiri Even if the pope doesn’t say “Rohingya” in Myanmar—we still know where he stands
(Quartz) With Pope Francis in Myanmar on the first papal trip ever to the country, there has been furious speculation over whether or not he will say the R-word: Rohingya.
The pope arrived in Myanmar today (Nov. 27), just days after the government agreed, with conditions, to begin working towards the return of tens of thousands of Rohingyas who fled the Southeast Asian nation for Bangladesh… Outside Myanmar, the word is just the name for the country’s beleaguered Muslim community. Inside, the use of the word implies the user is siding with the Rohingya, and against the many people in Myanmar who insist the Muslim community are outsiders and ‘Bengalis,’ like the people of neighboring Bangladesh.”
(PBS) Pope Francis’ delicate mission in Myanmar
Roger Cohen: Myanmar Is Not a Simple Morality Tale
The West made a saint of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. The Rohingya crisis revealed a politician.
“Turning saints into ogres is easy. Completing an unfinished nation, clawing it from the military that has devastated it, is far more arduous — the longest of long games.”
NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar — Military leaders in Myanmar wanted a capital secure in its remoteness, and they unveiled this city in 2005. Yangon, the bustling former capital, was treacherous; over the decades of suffocating rule by generals, protests would erupt. So it is in this undemocratic fortress, of all places, that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, long the world’s champion of democracy, spends her days, contemplating a spectacular fall from grace: the dishonored icon in her ghostly labyrinth.
Seldom has a reputation collapsed so fast. Aung San Suu Kyi, daughter of the assassinated Burmese independence hero, Aung San, endured 15 years of house arrest in confronting military rule. She won the Nobel Peace Prize. Serene in her bravery and defiance, she came to occupy a particular place in the world’s imagination and, in 2015, swept to victory in elections that appeared to close the decades-long military chapter in Myanmar history. But her muted evasiveness before the flight across the Bangladeshi border of some 620,000 Rohingya, a Muslim minority in western Myanmar, has prompted international outrage. Her halo has evaporated.
… Rakhine, also called Arakan, was an independent kingdom before falling under Burmese control in the late 18th century. Long neglect from the central government, the fruit of mutual suspicion, has spawned a Rakhine Buddhist independence movement, whose military wing is the Arakan Army. “We are suffering from 70 years of oppression from the government,” Htun Aung Kyaw, the general secretary of the Arakan National Party, whose objective is self-determination for the region, told me.
The steady influx over a long period of Bengali Muslims, encouraged by the British Empire to provide cheap labor, exacerbated Rakhine Buddhist resentments. The Muslim community has grown to about one-third of Rakhine’s population of more than 3.1 million and, over time, its self-identification as “Rohingya” has become steadily more universal.
Within Myanmar, this single word, “Rohingya,” resembles a fuse to a bomb. It sets people off. I could find hardly anybody, outside the community itself, even prepared to use it; if they did they generally accompanied it with a racist slur. The general view is that there are no Rohingya. They are all “Bengalis.”
The Dangerous Rise of Buddhist Chauvinism
By Yuriko Koike, newly elected Governor of Tokyo, former defense minister, national security adviser, and a member of Japan’s National Diet.
(Project Syndicate) For now, Suu Kyi is precluded from running for President by a cynical constitutional provision that excludes anyone whose spouse or child has a foreign passport (Suu Kyi’s two sons by her late English husband hold British passports). Nonetheless, the regime, still fearing her popularity, is playing the race and religion card in order to discredit her and her party, the National League for Democracy, which won all but one of the parliamentary seats contested in the recent general election (and swept the annulled 1990 election).
By stoking Buddhist violence against the Rohingya, the regime aims to damage Suu Kyi and the NLD’s chances of victory in two ways. If she speaks out for the Rohingya, her appeal among Buddhists, the vast majority of Myanmar’s citizens, may be dented enough to preserve the army’s grip on power. If she does not defend the Rohingya, her aura of moral leadership may be dimmed among her own supporters, both at home and abroad.
So far, Suu Kyi has circumvented this booby trap with the verbal evasiveness that one would expect of an ordinary politician, rather than someone of her courage and standing. But, as the violence grows and the election nears, her room for maneuver will undoubtedly narrow. Instead of highlighting the country’s real needs – serious land reform, an anti-corruption drive, and freeing the economy from oligarchic control – she may instead be drawn into defending an unpopular minority. (28 July 2015)
The Hateful Monk
(NY Review of Books) Ma Soe Yein is the largest Buddhist monastery in Mandalay, Myanmar.
The contrast between the monastery’s inner calm and this exterior display of violence is a fitting inversion of Ma Soe Yein’s most infamous resident, Ashin Wirathu, the subject of Barbet Schroeder’s new documentary, The Venerable W. On the outside, Wirathu is composed and polite, with large brown eyes and a sweet, impish grin. His voice is smooth and its cadence measured. Yet beneath this civil disguise seethes an interminable hatred toward the 4 percent of Myanmar’s population that is Muslim (the wall of carnage stands outside his residence). Wirathu is responsible for inciting some of the worst acts of ethnic violence in the country’s recent history, and was described by Time as “The Face of Buddhist Terror.”
The film charts Wirathu’s rise from provincial irrelevance in Kyaukse to nationwide rabble-rouser. It centers on the crucial moments of his budding ethno-nationalism, such as in 1997, when he says his eyes were “finally opened” to the “Muslims’ intentions” after reading a pamphlet entitled In Fear of Our Race Disappearing, which appeared in print by an unknown author; or 2003, when he delivered a chilling sermon—caught on camera—against Muslim “kalars” (kalar is the equivalent of “nigger”). “I can’t stand what they do to us,” he says to rapturous applause. “As soon as I give the signal, get ready to follow me…I need to plan the operation well, like the CIA or Mossad, for it to be effective…I will make sure they will have no place to live.” One month later, in Kyaukse, eleven Muslims were killed, and two mosques and twenty-six houses were burned to the ground. Wirathu was arrested by the military junta for inciting violence, and spent nine years in Mandalay’s Obo prison.
The state of race relations in Myanmar is far more complex than Schroeder’s film allows. It is not uncommon to hear members of the Bamar majority say they “hate Islam” but, when pressed, admit they have no issue with Muslims living in their towns. One of the film’s other blind spots is the military. Aside from a brief glance at the mass population shifts between Rakhine and Bangladesh in the late 1970s, there is very little on how the army had been inciting ethnic violence in places like Rakhine long before Wirathu appeared, nor is there any mention of a popular theory that Wirathu is paid, or at least encouraged, by senior generals, some of whom are often photographed at his monastery. (31 August 2017)
Aung San Suu Kyi expresses willingness to solve Rohingya crisis in Trudeau meeting
(Globe & Mail) Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with Aung San Suu Kyi in Vietnam Friday, where, despite a difference of opinion, Myanmar’s embattled leader demonstrated a willingness to find a solution to the humanitarian crisis that displaced more than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims.
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and Canadian special envoy to Myanmar Bob Rae joined Mr. Trudeau for the bilateral meeting with Ms. Suu Kyi on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation leaders’ summit in Da Nang, Vietnam. It marked the first time the leaders have met since the massive exodus of Rohingya from Myanmar to Bangladesh.
“(It’s) an opportunity to talk about a number of issues, including the refugee situation and how Canada can continue to help in a situation that, obviously, a lot of people back home are concerned about,” Mr. Trudeau said after shaking hands with Ms. Suu Kyi.
Mr. Rae said that while Mr. Trudeau was “candid” in expressing his concerns over the situation facing the Rohingya, Ms. Suu Kyi was not defensive during their 45-minute meeting.
“There were some differences of perspective and differences of opinion but it was a good exchange of information. It was not two sides talking past each other,” Mr. Rae told reporters after the meeting.
Did the World Get Aung San Suu Kyi Wrong?
By Amanda Taub and Max Fisher
(NYT) It is worth asking how much of the Western anger now directed at Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, including calls to revoke her Nobel Peace Prize, is partly buyers’ remorse from supporters who regret their own role in transforming her into such a powerful symbol.
Today Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, the de facto leader of Myanmar, is the target of worldwide criticism for standing by as her country’s military wages a campaign of murder, rape and torture against the Rohingya minority group.
Though her fall from grace was exceptionally spectacular, this is a common story. Western leaders champion individuals, often activists who have made heroic sacrifices, as the one-stop-shopping solution to the problems of dictatorship or shaky new democracy.
In their zeal to find a simple solution to the complex problem of political change, they overlook their heroes’ flaws, fail to see the challenges they will face in power, and assume that countries are the products of their leaders, when it is almost always the other way around.
Across Myanmar, Denial of Ethnic Cleansing and Loathing of Rohingya
(NYT) The divergence between how Myanmar and much of the outside world see the Rohingya is not limited to one segment of local society. Nor can hatred in Myanmar of the largely stateless Muslim group be dismissed as a fringe attitude. Government officials, opposition politicians, religious leaders and even local human-rights activists have become unified behind this narrative: The Rohingya are not rightful citizens of Buddhist-majority Myanmar, and now, through the power of a globally resurgent Islam, the minority is falsely trying to hijack the world’s sympathy.
Trudeau appoints Bob Rae as special envoy to Myanmar
Rae expected to seek permission to visit region where Rohingya live under ‘brutal oppression’
(CBC) The move comes in response to growing public pressure to act in the face of what Canada and the United Nations have labelled ethnic cleansing of a long persecuted minority in Myanmar. As of Sunday, it’s estimated 603,000 Rohingya, mostly from the troubled Rakhine state, have fled to shelter in neighbouring Bangladesh.
- ANALYSIS | A war over words is central to the Rohingya crisis: Nahlah Ayed
- CBC IN BANGLADESH | ‘The scale is just vast’: Authorities, aid workers in Bangladesh overwhelmed by Rohingya refugees
How the Burmese Military Endeared Itself to the World
Leaders in Europe and Asia falsely believed it was ready to turn the page on the an atrocity-filled past.
Aung San Suu Kyi Shows Feet of Clay
By David T. Jones
We are seeing a textbook illustration of “real politik.” While she is technically Burma’s leader as “prime minister,” the Burmese armed forces hold defining power with constitutional authority over security affairs and 25 percent of the parliamentary seats. She will not act to succor an unpopular minority at the potential cost of vital domestic support. She has relatively narrow parameters within which she can operate. Her vision for Burma does not include Quixotic charges at windmills to which she is indifferent
(Epoch Times) If there were statues to Aung San Suu Kyi outside of Burma, they would be surrounded by angry crowds seeking to pull them down.
Her 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, which critics want revoked, now seems as meaningless as that awarded to President Barak Obama.
And even Jean Chrétien’s former Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy (1996-2000) has chimed in suggesting that Ottawa should cancel her honorary Canadian citizenship. (Probably not high among her concerns).
Over her long years in house arrest by Burmese generals unwilling to do away with her, but unable to contain her image as an iconic representative of democracy, she built a global following akin to Mother Teresa’s.
And, having finally been released from custody with the overwhelming victory of her political party, democracy representatives around the globe expected that she would embrace the Muslim Rohingya as a persecuted minority needing her support and protection.
Instead, we have seen the other side of the coin: Suu Kyi as a Burmese nationalist, more than a little skeptical of the position of the Rohingya in Burma and dismissive of UN demands that she act on their behalf. Indeed, she (reflecting the attitudes of other Burmese) refers to them as “Bengalis,” claiming falsely that their presence in Burma is relatively recent, and they should settle in Bangladesh.
Democracy Under Gunpoint in Burma
By David Kilgour
(Epoch Times) On Aug. 24, the Advisory Commission on Rakhine state, chaired by former UN secretary general Kofi Annan, released its report, accepted in full by State Counselor Suu Kyi, suggesting peaceful ways to end the regional conflict. Rohingya, who have lived in Burma for centuries, were citizens until 1982, when legislation by the military removed citizenship, rendering them stateless and subject to forced labor and arbitrary confiscation of their property.
Burma’s Cardinal Charles Maung Bo addresses two new concerns: the rise of transnational insurgent groups and the demographic balance in Rakhine State. The government is worried that the indigenous population—already a minority in the state—will be overwhelmed if the Rohingya are given citizenship.
He credits Suu Kyi with resurrecting the peace process between the army and various ethnic militias, and organizing two conferences to provide space for dialogue among antagonistic parties. She also began the process of seeking a solution to the situation in Rakhine State.
The Misunderstood Roots of Burma’s Rohingya Crisis
“This fear is very deeply felt and not understood in the West—and it comes from a real place rooted in history.”
(The Atlantic) That “real place” dates back to the aftermath of World War II, when the forebears of the Rohingya appealed to Pakistan, which at the time included what is now Bangladesh, to annex their territory. Pakistan did not do so. Subsequently, many of the Muslims took up arms and fought a separatist rebellion until the 1960s, though vestiges of the rebellion continued until the 1990s.
“So when the Rakhine and others in Myanmar look at what’s going on with the name Rohingya, the desire for recognition as an accepted ethnicity, now this militant activity in their name, and calls by some for international intervention, including a safe zone, they see that as a separatist agenda by other means,” [Derek Mitchell, who served as U.S. ambassador to Burma from 2012 to 2016] said. “And those caught in the middle are hundreds of thousands of innocent Rohingya.”
The Rakhines themselves are an ethnic minority in Burma, though they are predominantly Buddhist, and so share the same faith as nearly 88 percent of the rest of the country.
Aung San Suu Kyi, a Much-Changed Icon, Evades Rohingya Accusations
(NYT) … she expressed uncertainty about why Muslims might be fleeing the country, even as she sidestepped evidence of widespread abuses by the security forces by saying there had been “allegations and counter-allegations.”
It was a remarkable parroting of the language of the generals who locked her up for the better part of two decades, and in the process made a political legend of her: the regal prisoner of conscience who vanquished the military with no weapons but her principles.
But she is also the daughter of the assassinated independence hero Aung San, who founded the modern Burmese Army. And she is a member of the country’s elite — from the highest class of the ethnic Bamar Buddhist majority.
Kyle Matthews on CTV discusses the current situation in Myanmar and the persecution of the Rohingya, what Canada can do – revoking Aung San Suu Kyi’s honorary citizenship would send a strong message.
Myanmar Follows Global Pattern in How Ethnic Cleansing Begins
Violence against Rohingya ‘looks a lot like ethnic cleansing,’ Freeland says
Comments come as pressure mounts for Canada to help establish safe-zone, take concrete action
(Quartz) Myanmar spurned a ceasefire offer by Rohingya rebels. The government said it would not make a deal with “terrorists” after the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, the militant wing of the country’s repressed Muslim minority, announced a truce on Sunday. The United Nations said the targeting of Rohingya Muslims “seems a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
Desmond Tutu condemns Aung San Suu Kyi: ‘Silence is too high a price’
Nobel laureate issues heartfelt letter to fellow peace prize winner calling for her to speak up for Rohingya in MyanmarThe 85-year old archbishop said the “unfolding horror” and “ethnic cleansing” in the country’s Rahkine region had forced him to speak out against the woman he admired and considered “a dearly beloved sister”.
Despite Aung San Suu Kyi defending her government’s handling of the growing crisis, Tutu urged his fellow Nobel peace price winner to intervene.
“I am now elderly, decrepit and formally retired, but breaking my vow to remain silent on public affairs out of profound sadness,” he wrote in a letter posted on social media.
Kyle Matthews: Time to revoke Aung San Suu Kyi’s honorary Canadian citizenship
Aung San Suu Kyi’s denialism and lack of leadership and courage to try to reign in the Myanmar military from committing human rights abuses against the Rohingya is a disgrace to humanity and conduct unbecoming of a Canadian. Her honorary Canadian citizenship must be revoked.
(Ottawa Citizen) Few Canadians know of the Rohingya and their plight in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma). That is about to change. The reason is that atrocity crimes are now being committed against the Rohingya Muslim minority by the Myanmar government. And who is Myanmar’s political leader at this precise moment in time? None other than 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, who also happens to be one of Canada’s six honorary citizens.
… What is even more worrying is that the plight of the Rohingya will follow the same farcical and inhuman path that so many Syrians have suffered recently: that is, both Russia and China might once again use their veto power to protect the government of Myanmar from censure and condemnation at the UN Security Council. Hope that the UN system will work this time to protect civilians seems a bit naïve, as does the idea that Myanmar will correct its behaviour as a signatory of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
What has happened to Aung San Suu Kyi?
(Globe & Mail editorial:) It’s true that the generals maintain a grip on many parts of the state, and she needs them to govern. But that’s why this looks suspiciously like another triumph of realpolitik, and a trade of moral authority for political power.
Rohingya crisis: Suu Kyi says ‘fake news helping terrorists’
(BBC) Ms Suu Kyi was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for her work bringing democracy to Burma, but some have called for her Nobel Peace Prize to be taken back.
While she has previously acknowledged problems in Rakhine state, she has denied there is ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya,
Several fellow laureates have called on her to act in the latest conflict, and the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar this week said she must “step in”.
Her biographer Justin Wintle said he was “flabbergasted” by Ms Suu Kyi’s response – telling the BBC he thought she was “impervious” to international opinion and was now “in the army’s pocket”.
(Quartz) Narendra Modi visits Myanmar. The Indian prime minister is set to discuss the plight of the Rohingya people who are fleeing Myanmar (paywall), after the Indian government said it plans to deport the 40,000 or so refugees who are taking refuge in India.
Take away Aung San Suu Kyi’s Nobel peace prize. She no longer deserves it
Once she was an inspiration. Now, silent on the plight of the Rohingya in Myanmar, she is complicit in crimes against humanity
In her Nobel lecture, Aung San Suu Kyi remarked: “Wherever suffering is ignored, there will be the seeds of conflict, for suffering degrades and embitters and enrages.” The rage of those Rohingya people who have taken up arms has been used as an excuse to accelerate an existing programme of ethnic cleansing.
She has not only denied the atrocities, attempting to shield the armed forces from criticism; she has also denied the very identity of the people being attacked, asking the US ambassador not to use the term Rohingya. This is in line with the government’s policy of disavowing their existence as an ethnic group, and classifying them – though they have lived in Myanmar for centuries – as interlopers. She has upheld the 1982 Citizenship Law, which denies these people their rights.
Photograph: KM Asad/AFP/Getty Images
Myanmar’s Suu Kyi under pressure as almost 125,000 Rohingya flee violence
(Reuters) – Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi came under more pressure on Tuesday to halt violence against Rohingya Muslims that has sent nearly 125,000 of them fleeing over the border to Bangladesh in just over 10 days.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned of the risk of ethnic cleansing and regional destabilization. He urged the U.N. Security Council to press for restraint and calm in a rare letter to express concern that the violence could spiral into a “humanitarian catastrophe.”
The International Organization for Migration said humanitarian assistance needed to increase urgently and that it and partner agencies had an immediate funding gap of $18 million over the next three months to boost lifesaving services for the new arrivals.
Myanmar conflict: Aung San Suu Kyi ‘must step in’
(BBC) Satellite images show many fires across northern parts of the state, and Human Rights Watch has released an image which it says shows that more than 700 homes were razed in one Rohingya village.
The military says it is fighting a campaign against Rohingya militants who are attacking civilians. Independently verifying the situation on the ground is very difficult because access is restricted.
Myanmar blocks all UN aid to civilians at heart of Rohingya crisis
Exclusive: Military offensive against insurgents leaves thousands stranded without life-saving supplies
The UN halted distributions in northern Rakhine state after militants attacked government forces on 25 August and the army responded with a counteroffensive that has killed hundreds of people.
Staff from the UN refugee agency, the United Nations Population Fund, and Unicef have not conducted any field work in northern Rakhine for more than a week – a dangerous halt in life-saving relief that will affect poor Buddhist residents as well as Rohingya.
Why Aung San Suu Kyi’s Nobel Peace Prize Won’t Be Revoked
(NYT) “Over the last several years, I have repeatedly condemned this tragic and shameful treatment,” Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani Muslim and the youngest recipient of the award, said in a Twitter post on Monday. “I am still waiting for my fellow Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to do the same. The world is waiting and the Rohingya Muslims are waiting.”
Last year, several Nobel laureates — including Ms. Yousafzai, Desmond Tutu and 11 other recipients — signed an open letter that “warned of the potential for genocide.”
Both the open letter and Ms. Yousafzai’s Twitter post were met online by critics of Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, who blamed her for the crisis and called for her prize to be revoked.
The Nobel Committee, all Norwegian citizens appointed by the country’s Parliament, has never rescinded a prize and will not in Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s case either, said Gunnar Stalsett, a former committee member. … “The principle we follow [in] the decision is not a declaration of a saint,” Mr. Stalsett said. “When the decision has been made and the award has been given, that ends the responsibility of the committee.”
UK calls for UN meeting on Myanmar violence
UK urges Security Council to hold meeting after reports of Rohingya civilian casualties from raids by Myanmar forces.
(Al Jazeera) Deadly attacks on border posts broke out on Friday that killed one soldier, 10 police officers, an immigration official and 77 alleged fighters of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), the Office of State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi said in a statement.
Media reports emerged later that said security forces used disproportionate force and displaced thousands of Rohingya Muslim villagers, destroying homes with mortars and machine guns.
Satellite data accessed by a rights body and released on Tuesday showed widespread fires burning in at least 10 areas in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.
Residents and activists have accused soldiers of shooting indiscriminately at unarmed Rohingya men, women and children and carrying out arson attacks.
Bangladesh is already host to more than 400,000 Rohingya refugees who have fled Buddhist-majority Myanmar since the early 1990s. Dhaka has asked the UN to pressure Myanmar over its treatment of the Muslim minority, insisting it cannot accept any more.
Still, more than 8,700 have registered in Bangladesh since Friday, the UN said.
Pope Francis to visit Bangladesh and Myanmar in November
Pontiff’s visit to Myanmar, the first by any pope, set to focus international attention on plight of Rohingya Muslim minority
Francis has regularly spoken out in defence of the Rohingya, a persecuted Muslim group in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar.
On Sunday he bemoaned the latest “sad reports of the persecution of a religious minority, our Rohingya brothers” adding: “I would like to express my closeness to them and all of us ask the Lord to save them and to prompt men and women of good faith to help them and ensure their full rights.”
At least 96 people have died since Thursday in clashes between the security forces in Myanmar and the Rohingya ethnic minority. Myanmar is overwhelmingly Buddhist, but roughly 1 million Muslim Rohingya live in Rakhine, the western state where the violence is taking place. State officials said government forces were trying to restore peace in the area, while a Rohingya insurgent group accused the army of using civilians as human shields. Advocates for the Rohingya told Al Jazeera that at least 800 people from the minority group, including women and children, have been killed in the violence
The Rohingya: Silent Abuse (film)
Denied citizenship, forced from their homes, and subjected to cruelty; we investigate the plight of Myanmar’s Rohingya.
(Al Jazeera) The government says these reports are exaggerated – but the UN has since reported a raft of human rights violations. It has even gone as far as suggesting that Myanmar’s strategy may be to expel the Rohingya altogether. It announced a fact-finding mission to Myanmar but the government said in June that it would deny entry to officials taking part in the UN investigation.
Former Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi now holds the post of State Counsellor and is effectively the head of the Myanmar government. But since her days as an anti-government campaigner, she has been accused of ignoring the plight of the Rohingya in Rakhine state.
With Sustained Violence Against Rohingyas, Is Myanmar on the Edge of Islamist Insurgency?
Since Myanmar’s approach to the Rohingya has been marked by extreme prejudice, it was only a matter of time before the reaction set in.
(The Wire) Over a quarter century ago, a Karachi-based newspaper known as Ummat carried an interview with the late Osama bin-Laden where he issued a dire warning that should echo with policy makers and government leaders in India, Bangladesh and Myanmar, especially now: “There are areas in all parts of the world where strong jihadi forces are present, from Bosnia to Sudan and from Burma to Kashmir.”
Even if we do not reflect on the ‘K’ word, we should be curious and concerned about the reference to Burma, the old name for Myanmar, by the late Saudi founder of al-Qaeda. Because there can be little to dispute that he was probably referring to the Rohingya, today one of the most oppressed and wretched of the earth, stateless and homeless, driven from their towns and villages by relentless strikes by the Myanmar army, living in fear and poverty.
Today, for the first time in the recent history of the region stretching from the Himalayan foothills of Nepal to the plains for Myanmar, the impact of years of neglect, oppression and discrimination have triggered what appears to be a stunning new spectre – the incipient growth of a Islamist insurgency in the Rohingya areas. The closest situation is the long-simmering unrest in southern Thailand.
Facing disaster: The Muslim Rohingya of Myanmar
The plight of the Rohingya, a Muslim minority from Myanmar, mirrors the struggle of the Palestinians, the Sahrawi and other oppressed Muslim groups which have suffered from decades of relentless state-backed persecution.
The region, home to an eponymous city and the longest stretch of beach in the world, also hosts a growing number of Rohingya Muslim refugees who have fled from neighbouring Rakhine state in Myanmar. There, roughly a million Muslims live in apartheid-like conditions, coexisting with the dominant ethnic Rakhine community, who are largely Buddhist.
This mostly stateless minority have endured decades of persecution in Rakhine, punctuated by occasional pogroms, the latest of of which may be occurring now.
In 2012, tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims were burnt out of their homes across Rakhine and forced to live in squalid camps for the displaced. According to Human Rights Watch, it was part of an ethnic cleansing campaign involving state security forces and Buddhist mobs.
Since then, the Rohingya Muslims have seen their few remaining rights eroded further, a process culminating in outright disenfranchisement prior to an historic poll in 2015, the first openly-contested general election in 25 years.
A report released on 3 February by the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), accuses Myanmar’s military of committing possible crimes against humanity as part of “clearance operations” against rebels, allegedly resulting in “hundreds” of deaths, and involving systematic rape (around half of the women interviewed by the organisation said that they had been violated). Reports by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch corroborate many of its claims.
Until recently, the Myanmar government in Naypyidaw simply responded to such charges with blanket or pat denials. A foreign ministry spokeswoman summarised the official stance by stating that, when it comes to allegations of abuse levelled by the Rohingya Muslims, “the things they are accusing us of didn’t happen at all.”