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India needs course correction on Myanmar

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | February 7, 2021

The Modi government made a strident call on February 1 that the “rule of law and the democratic process must be upheld” in Myanmar. The statement, following a prodding from Washington, was unabashedly intrusive, and, ironically, completely overlooking that human rights, rule of law, democratic pluralism, etc. are universal values that India also can (and should) be held accountable for. Lapping up the neocon prescriptions from Washington may not serve India’s interests, in general, and they are very specific to Myanmar. 

The government failed to fathom the US’ motivations in riding the high horse of democracy so soon after the Capitol Riots in Washington, DC. Human rights issues come handy for Washington to rally allies at a juncture when its leadership of the transatlantic alliance is in drift and major European powers do not see eye to eye with its global strategies on Russia and China and mock at its nostalgia-laden slogan that “America is back.” 

Alas, the government failed to consult the ASEAN despite Delhi’s refrain that it attributes “centrality” to that grouping.

The ASEAN Chair’s statement of Feb, 1 recalled the “purposes and the principles enshrined in the ASEAN Charter” which include respecting the principles of sovereignty, equality, territorial integrity, non-interference, consensus and unity in diversity.” 

The ASEAN Chair’s statement of Feb, 1 recalled the “purposes and the principles enshrined in the ASEAN Charter.” Simply put, India chose to bandwagon with the US, Japan and Australia while the ASEAN and China took a differentiated stance. Geopolitics crept in. But the US has since realised the folly and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan scrambled to contact the ASEAN ambassadors in Washington. 

How come Delhi goofed up? Primarily, it is due to a flawed understanding of the Myanmar situation. The Indian analysts increasingly view world developments through their China prism and began fancying that with the massive victory of Aung San Suu Kyi in the November election provided an opportunity for India to “gear up to implement a major strategy with Myanmar under its ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy… to bring Myanmar under the Indo-Pacific construct” so as to align that country “more with ‘like-minded’ countries… to stand firm against China… to make Myanmar a part of the Indo-Pacific policy… (and) steer Myanmar away from the Chinese grip.”  

Such views betray a zero sum mindset borne out of blind Sinophobia. Whereas, the ground realities are much more complex. The point is, Beijing brilliantly succeeded over the years in building a close relationship of mutual trust and mutual respect with Suu Kyi, parallel to the nurture of links between the Chinese Communist Party and her party National League for Democracy. 

Unlike the western narrative of Aung Suu Kyi as Myanmar’s democracy icon, Beijing regarded her as a pragmatic politician who never uttered remarks to the detriment of China-Myanmar ties, was manifestly eager to maintain good relations and consistently adopted a soft stance on the South China Sea issue. 

Beijing was greatly impressed that although Suu Kyi wanted Western support, she was adamant about national sovereignty. Arguably, it was in sync with what China would like its neighbours to practice. Chinese President Xi Jinping received Suu Kyi seven times since 2015.

State Counselor Wang Yi visited Myanmar recently on Jan. 12, met Suu Kyi and expressed strong support for her government and conveyed a strong commitment that China wants to work with her during the second term. And they agreed to push ahead with Belt and Road projects and lock in a five-year pact on trade and economic cooperation. Clearly, the prospect for the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor under Belt and Road Initiative has become uncertain now, as compared to a month ago. 

In fact, the Chinese media reports already sound a word of caution that “Chinese companies operating in Myanmar need to watch out for contractual and default risks amid the current political upheaval… Government default is a major risk, especially for major and strategic projects in sectors including transportation and energy… But Chinese companies can seek international arbitration if they face illegal confiscation of their property.”

It is no secret that the Myanmar army marks a certain distance from China. Suffice to say, Myanmar developments present an extraordinary case study where Beijing silently feels distressed over the sudden eclipse of western style democracy in a neighbouring country. (See the Reuters analysis Myanmar coup does China more harm than good.)

Surely, the coup creates political baggage for China insofar as it cannot (and will not) take a position against the military, but also comes under compulsion to cover or provide protection for the military internationally. On the whole, this situation poses a major political and diplomatic liability for Beijing and cannot bring good news. Therefore, China prioritises that the concerned parties to solve their differences mutually, according to the constitution and within the legal framework, while maintaining peace and stability. Chinese expert opinion is that Suu Kyi’s political career is in jeopardy. 

Of course, Suu Kyi made some serious errors, too. She heavily depended on people loyal to her personally, without bothering about their competence or integrity. It not only spawned corruption but also led to government failure to deliver, especially in job creation. Her leadership style was often dictatorial. She resorted to draconian laws to muzzle or jail critics. (See the Singapore-based Channel News Asia video titled Aung San Suu Kyi: A Fading Legacy dated October 22, 2020 on the eve of the November elections.)

Suu Kyi had no control over some major sectors of the national economy through two entities, Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited and Myanmar Economic Corporation as well as a network of domestic private business enterprises, known as “crony companies,” which generate revenue for the military and strengthen its autonomy.

Suu Kyi’s biggest mistake was in believing that she could, through her brand of nationalism, dismiss accusations of genocide directed against the Rohingya. In the process, Suu Kyi lost western support. From that point, she has been on borrowed time and the military barely hid its distaste for Suu Kyi.

To be sure, the military anticipated the impact and the reaction from the international community and took into consideration the Biden administration’s preoccupations with domestic issues. Myanmar doesn’t even figure in the top 10 priorities of Biden’s foreign policy. But the US Congress is not going to tolerate a coup in Myanmar and will mount pressure on the Biden administration to punish the military by imposing sanctions, cutting aid or targeting the generals and their companies.

However, a reversal of the military takeover is not to be expected and the probability is that Washington may lose whatever little leverage it would have had in Naypyidaw. Washington is mulling over policy options

But there may be a Plan B. Indeed, the former US Ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson, who is no stranger to Myanmar, voiced the opinion last week that the time has come for the West to look beyond Suu Kyi for new faces among the opposition. One way is to mould a leadership that will be friendly to the US. There are signs that the western agencies are inciting the youth in Myanmar to stage protests, as had happened in Hong Kong and Thailand. The military has clamped down on Facebook and internet. Shades of colour revolution? 

This is where Russia’s role merits attention. The struggle for influence in Myanmar has a geopolitical dimension, for obvious reasons. Since 2015, following the signing of a military cooperation agreement, Russian presence has increased, and, importantly, it coincides with the lengthening shadows of Russian presence in the Indian Ocean. 

Russia has emerged as a major military partner for Myanmar. Russia operates a servicing centre in Myanmar. The Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin told the media last month that Myanmar plays “a key role in maintaining peace and security in the region.” 

It is entirely conceivable that Russia, which has great expertise in countering colour revolutions, shares intelligence with the Myanmar military. Over six hundred military officers from Myanmar are studying in the Russian military academies presently. Myanmar’s military chief Min Aung Hlaing visited Russia six times in the recent years, more than to any other country. 

During the visit of Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu to Naypyidaw last month, the Russian media quoted Gen. Hlaing as saying, “Just like a loyal friend, Russia has always supported Myanmar in difficult moments, especially in the last four years.” An agreement was signed for supply of a batch of Russian missile and artillery air defense systems Pantsir-S1. 

Tass reported that the “command of Myanmar’s armed forces has shown interest in other advanced weapon systems of Russian manufacture.” Shoigu has reportedly expressed interest to establish visits of Russian warships to Myanmar’s ports. 

All things taken into consideration, we may expect China and Russia to provide a firewall for Myanmar to ward off western penetration, as is happening in Central Asia. (The UN Security Council statement avoids any reference to the military or a coup as such in Myanmar and lays emphasis on national reconciliation, with pointed reference to Suu Kyi’s release.) Russia shares China’s perception of Quad as a destabilising factor in regional security. 

Clearly, India needs to keep the “big picture” in view. It will not be to India’s advantage to create misperceptions that it is bandwagoning with some neocon Anglo-American project for regime change in Myanmar. In regard of Myanmar’s stability, India too is a stakeholder and would have a convergence of interests with Russia and China. 

February 7, 2021 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Military coup in Myanmar a blow against the Biden regime

By Lucas Leiroz | February 2, 2021

This week, news of a coup in Myanmar shocked international society. Official statements by the UN and several Western governments condemning the attitude of the Burmese military in overthrowing Aung San Suu Kyi and its allies are sharing space in public opinion with neutral statements that only call for the country’s stabilization, as was the Chinese position. Between having been dangerous to democratic institutions or merely changing the government by armed means, there is a range of different possibilities, making the case worthy of a technical and impartial analysis.

The events of February 1, 2021 can be summarized as follows: Burmese State Adviser Aung San Suu Kyi, who heads the country’s government, and President Win Myint were detained by the Burmese army, under extremely obscure circumstances. Previously, tensions between the government and the military of this Asian country had been growing, generating fears of a coup in some sectors of Burmese society – however, such a quick and incisive attitude on the part of the military was not expected by the population.

The root of the conflict of interest between the government and the military was, in short, the last electoral process, which the Army classified as fraudulent and illegal. As a result of the crisis, the country’s political leader was arrested, in what was considered a coup by the media and some foreign governments. Some regional ministers were also captured by the military, as well as several other government’s allies. Citizens’ reports attest that military personnel are spread throughout the country’s streets, carrying out patrolling services and avoiding possible riots.

The military’s distrust of the electoral process is due to several factors. The election was held on November 8 and was the second general election since the end of the military government in 2011. Since the fall of the military, a scenario of tension of interests has been established among the civil political elite, interested in the preservation of democratic institutions, and the military elite, interested in conserving their power and continuing their national project. The country’s ruling party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), led by Aung San Suu Kyi, won by an immense advantage, getting 396 seats out of a total of 476. On the other hand, the Union, Solidarity and Development Party, supported by the Army, took the minimum number of seats in Parliament, which further aggravated the rivalry.

The speech of the Burmese military since the elections was unique in stating that there was large-scale electoral fraud. For this reason, the military had been demanding for months that the government postpone the summons to Parliament, which was scheduled for February 1 – which did not occur, resulting in the coup. Before that, representatives of the Burmese Government and Army met to resolve the conflict but were unable to reach an agreement of common interest.

Previously, in the midst of such fears of a possible anti-democratic coup, the country’s military has on several occasions denied the intention to do anything in this sense, categorically claiming that these accusations were unfounded and disseminated by a pro-government media. However, there are reports that the commander of the armed forces, Min Aung Hlaing, said on January 27 that the national constitution could be repealed if the laws were not properly implemented – and this in fact happened.

However, it would be naïve to believe that this event has no sign of external interference. In fact, a polarized political scenario has been outlined in Myanmar for years. Historically, the military has sympathy with China and Democrats sympathize with the West. Last month, Min Aung Hlaing and the head of Chinese diplomacy, Wang Li, met to discuss the Burmese political crisis and the chief of the armed forces alleged electoral fraud in the November process.

Chinese interest in Myanmar is clear. Maintaining an allied government in a border country is extremely strategic for Beijing and avoids a greater degree of Western influence in its continental zone. Bilateral trade between China and Myanmar has always been intense, but it has declined with the rise of the recently overthrown government, whose pro-Western positions have weakened ties with Beijing. Also, due to the latest events of ethnic conflict and persecution of the majority Buddhist military against Islamic minorities, the West has imposed several sanctions on the Burmese military, which have been consented by the civilian government. It does not seem to be by chance that the Chinese reaction to the coup was limited to a request for both sides to resolve their differences, without any condemnation against the military.

If Chinese influence is real, the military coup in Myanmar can be interpreted as a test and a warning against Washington. Losing space on the Chinese border is unpleasant for American interests but, in the midst of a strong internal crisis, will Biden really react strongly or will his response be limited to mere notes of repudiation?

Lucas Leiroz is a research fellow in international law at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

February 2, 2021 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

Iran, China, Russia to partake in Caucus 2020 military drills

Press TV – September 10, 2020

Military forces from Iran, China, and Russia are scheduled to take part in joint military exercises with a number of other countries in southern Russia later this month.

China’s Defense Ministry made the announcement in a news release on Thursday and said troops from Armenia, Belarus, Myanmar, and Pakistan would also participate in the drills, code-named “Caucus 2020.”

The ministry added that the exercises, to be held from September 21 to 26, would focus on defensive tactics, encirclement, and battlefield control and command.

The drills have special significance “at this important moment when the entire world is fighting the pandemic,” the ministry said.

The United States administration has insinuated that the coronavirus was artificially developed in a Chinese lab. China has rejected that insinuation.

Iran, China, and Russia have over the past years increased their military and diplomatic cooperation to counter the United States’ hostile policies and extra-territorial presence in their regions.

Late last year, the three countries held four days of naval exercises code-named the “Marine Security Belt” to promote regional security and peace and safeguard international trade in the Sea of Oman and the Indian Ocean.

September 10, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Israel, Myanmar sign agreement to teach about the Holocaust

MEMO | May 31, 2018

Israel and Myanmar have signed a cooperation agreement on educational programmes including curricula on teaching about the Holocaust, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said on Twitter on Tuesday.

“We continue to cooperate with our friends around the world,” Hotovely wrote, referring to Myanmar whose army has been accused by the UN of committing ethnic cleansing against the Muslim Rohingya minority and where hundreds of thousands of survivors have been displaced as refugees.

“The two countries will work to develop two official curricula for schools in both countries to teach about the Holocaust and its lessons as well as the negative consequences of intolerance, racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia,” Haaretz newspaper reported Wednesday.

Israel has continued to supply Myanmar with arms despite allegations of genocide. The armaments sold to Myanmar include over 100 tanks, weapons and boats that have been used to police the country’s border and perpetrate numerous acts of violence against the Rohingya, such that the UN suspects the army is committing ethnic cleansing.

May 31, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , | 1 Comment

Red Cross says life has ‘stopped’ in Myanmar’s Rakhine

Press TV – December 13, 2017

The International Committee of the Red Cross says life has “stopped” in Rakhine state due to the fear of violence, nearly four months after a new wave of crackdown by the government erupted against the persecuted Rohingya Muslims.

The ICRC director of operations, Dominik Stillhart, said Wednesday that tensions between the Muslims and the dominant Buddhist community were preventing Muslim traders from reopening shops and markets.

“The situation in the northern Rakhine has definitely stabilized, there are very sporadic incidents, but tensions are huge between the communities,” Stillhart said after a three-day mission to the remote area. “You get a sense, especially of the two main communities being deeply scared of each other.”

He visited the towns of Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Rathedaung in northern Rakhine, where the ICRC, the only aid agency operating in the violence-hit region, is providing food, water and other aid to 150,000 people.

Stillhart said the Red Cross hoped to reach all of the 180,000 Rohingya it estimated remained in the “politically-sensitive” region after more than 600,000 people fled to Bangladesh.

“You travel through the countryside and you really see on both sides of the road villages that are completely destroyed. It just gives you a bit of a sense of the scale of destruction. There is also this pervasive sense of absence.”

“It is as if life has stopped in its tracks, people do not move, markets are closed in Muangdaw town,” Stillhart said.

He said the main problem facing the Muslims was “the very limited possibilities for them to access their own livelihoods like fields, and especially markets and services.”

Late last month, Bangladesh and Myanmar reached a deal to repatriate the Rohingya refugees within several months.

The Red Cross said the returns must be voluntary and safe. “But for now we really don’t see a significant return movement and I’m also not expecting that we will see massive return anytime soon,” Stillhart said. Citing UN figures, he added that nearly 300 Muslims still fled daily.

About 650,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar to Bangladesh since late last year, when Myanmar’s soldiers and Buddhist mobs began vicious attacks on the minority Muslims in Rakhine. The crackdown on the Rohingya has intensified since August 25.

All along, government troops and the Buddhist mobs have been killing, raping, and arbitrarily arresting members of the Muslim community. They have also been setting the houses of the Muslims on fire in hundreds of predominantly-Rohingya villages in the northern parts of Rakhine, where nearly all the Rohingya reside.

Myanmar’s government denies full citizenship to the Rohingya, branding them illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Dhaka, in turn, regards the desperate refugees as Myanmarese. The Rohingya, however, track their ancestors many generations back in Myanmar.

The UN has already described the Rohingya as the most persecuted community in the world, calling the situation in Rakhine similar to “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

December 13, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , | Leave a comment

Rohingya resettlement risky business for Myanmar

By David Scott Mathieson | Asia Times | October 19, 2017

Nothing better illustrates the disconnect between Myanmar government policy plans to address the humanitarian catastrophe in Rakhine state and the reality of the ongoing flight of Rohingya Muslims than to view the stunning drone footage by photographer Roger Arnold from the Myanmar-Bangladesh border.

The aerial footage shows around 15,000 civilians crammed on a thin split of land headed to Cox’s Bazar over the past few days to join over 550,000 others who have fled a brutal military campaign which began seven weeks ago in the wake of attacks by the insurgent Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on Myanmar security forces.

Yet despite the continued exodus from Myanmar to Bangladesh, the embattled and increasingly maligned Aung San Suu Kyi announced plans on October 12 for a comprehensive resettlement of some of the Rohingya who have fled the conflict.

The de facto national leader outlined three priorities: repatriation of those who have crossed over to Bangladesh and the effective provision of humanitarian assistance; resettlement and rehabilitation; and economic development for Rakhine state that leads to durable peace.

While all fine sentiments, if not badly belated, but are they politically feasible? In recent days, Suu Kyi’s government has established a humanitarian assistance, resettlement and develop body she first broached in a recent speech on the Rakhine situation.

The new ‘Committee for the Union Enterprise for Humanitarian Assistance Resettlement and Development Enterprise’, a collective of government, civil society and international groups, will aim to manage both public and private donations for humanitarian relief and resettlement operations, including through an online portal where donors can “Adopt an Area” or make cash donations.

However, the body’s announcement doesn’t once mention the security forces who have driven out over half a million people in one of the swiftest forced population transfers in recent history.

The Union Enterprise appears initially to be a government scheme to spark social support for the reconstruction of Rakhine state, evoking the organic community response and assistance to victims of the devastating 2008 Cyclone Nargis, and the 2015 country-wide flooding when thousands of people raised cash donations and material support for hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the natural disaster.

Myanmar’s business identities too, are being tapped to donate as they often do after natural calamities.

The opposed realities of the official announcements and documentation of the extreme state-sponsored violence makes the resettlement and rehabilitation plan seem surreal. State media reported this week about special government plans for the reconstruction of 48 ethnic Mro houses allegedly destroyed by ARSA terrorists, 22 new Myanmar Post and Telecommunications phone towers, and 156 miles worth of upgraded roads in Maungdaw, an epicenter of the recent violence.

Meanwhile, the economic zone long planned near Maungdaw town has been launched amid the death and destruction. The initiatives would all seem progressive if not for the concurrent release of a devastating Amnesty International report, fittingly titled “My World is Finished”, that documents widespread killings, systematic destruction of villages by arson, and sexual violence in the Myanmar military’s recent ‘clearance operations.’

For now, the government’s repatriation ideas are at an aspirational phase. It is impossible to see conditions anytime soon being in any way conducive to large scale refugee returns, which if done without careful planning would inevitable be another dark chapter in the repression of the Rohingya.

While Suu Kyi’s government forms new committees to give the illusion of progress and planning, the absence of an overarching framework of principles and requisite risk assessments could fuel further violence or an even greater humanitarian catastrophe. There are several serious challenges to resettlement, rehabilitation and development.

First is the security dilemma. At this early stage, it’s hard to fathom who would feel safe to return given the sadistic nature of military’s recent lethal security operations. Government initiatives, committees and Suu Kyi’s speeches do not appear to fully comprehend the gravity of the crisis in terms of its scale, speed and savagery.

How many refugees would voluntarily return when those same security forces remain in the vicinity and are likely to have a heavy hand in the implementation of any repatriation? The threat of renewed ARSA attacks, meanwhile, risk provoking another round of violence targeting civilian populations.

The abysmal conditions in the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar could soon become a petri dish of desperation ripe for recruitment by extremists, drug dealers, and other exploitative forces. If, as the United Nations and the European Union have said in statements in recent weeks, the security operation was pre-planned, why would the security officials who planned and conducted the operation stand by to watch it be reversed, even partly, by resettlement?

Second, where will the refugees be allowed to return in Myanmar and under what circumstances? The government’s scheme in general terms has the air of a sinister ‘Field of Dreams’ scenario: build it and they will (be forced to) come.

The worst case possible is the resettlement sites become squalid, slow-death camps, locked off from regular access to basic provisions and ripe for ARSA recruitment and extremism. Some already see an early phase equivalent of a social engineering scheme to replicate the isolation of Palestinians in Israel’s West Bank.

The least bad scenario is that they become a Rakhine version of Potemkin villages that Suu Kyi can tour and pronounce success as she rolls out the Rakhine Advisory Commission’s recommendations for reconciliation elsewhere in the state.

Her government has already conducted a series of horror tours for diplomats, the media and the UN that clearly illustrate the extent of the carnage in Maungdaw, how the security forces rendered northern Rakhine state a charnel house, and yet then issue blanket denials of the scale of the problem.

Third, what role will Bangladesh play? Bangladesh has had an immense human catastrophe thrown across its border, joining existing Rohingya refugees and migrants the government obviously wants to return. But how much can Dhaka be involved in any returns that reek of refoulement? UN principles of refugee returns being conducted in safety and dignity are a long shot right.

Bilateral relations between Naypyidaw and Dhaka are dreadful and have been for years, and the latest crisis has plunged ties into a new downward spiral. Two previous large scale returns, in 1978 and 1995, were rife with reports of abuses by both sides. What documentation is Bangladesh providing for new arrivals and how will they be accepted under the Myanmar government’s resurrected 1992 repatriation plan?

Those bilateral agreements may have been functionally sufficient then, but the 1992 plan outlines criteria for repatriation, including documents of proof of Myanmar citizenship, almost impossible to fulfill following the several weeks of violence and several years of Myanmar slowly stripping away the legal rights of the Rohingya.

Past bilateral agreements state that after Bangladesh issued Refugee Registration Cards then Myanmar would agree to: “repatriate in batches all persons inter-alia; carrying Myanmar Citizenship Identity Cards/National Registration Cards; those able to present any other documents issued by relevant Myanmar authorities and; all those persons able to furnish evidence of their residence in Myanmar, such as addresses or any other relevant particulars.”

Fourth, what role will the UN and INGOs be allowed to play in the proposed repatriation? The UN is not likely to be willingly complicit in the construction or supply of return settlements that could easily turn out to be detention facilities with even sharper restrictions on basic freedoms than the Rohingya faced before the August 25 ARSA assault that reignited the conflict.

The UN and INGOs were expelled from northern Rakhine state during the first days of this crisis. It is hard to envision a scenario where they will be permitted unfettered access to refugees in need, particularly amid recent vilification as accomplices of ARSA terrorists.

Suu Kyi waving her magic wand of promises seems insufficient to facilitate the reconciliation between Myanmar and the UN anytime soon, even as dysfunctional as the UN’s operations in Myanmar have been. It is not clear Suu Kyi’s government fully comprehends the gravity of the UN’s outrage or that its fact-finding mission is in effect a UN investigation into state security forces.

The issue has incensed UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, seized the attention of the Security Council, and made High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad, apoplectic. The UN Human Rights Council is now on a crusade to document the abuses of the Maungdaw violence and hold Myanmar accountable. Its latest report based on research in Bangladesh concluded widespread abuses that demonstrate pre-planning by security forces to drive out the Rohingya.

Fifth, Myanmar’s domestic appetite for Rohingya returns is at a racist rock-bottom.

If Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy-led government calculated that standing up for the rights of the Rohingya was political suicide before the crisis, then it should be in overdrive for spurious spin to sell the repatriation plan to the country, especially after several weeks of vituperative social media support for the official line against ‘extremist Bengali terrorists.’

Any large-scale returns could inflame the bonfire of Rakhine nationalist anger into a firestorm, and imperil any implementation of the Rakhine Advisory Commission’s recommendations in other parts of the state, particularly without a more acute commitment to ‘do no harm’ principles than previously.

Six, the international community, including Western donors, the UN, rights groups and media, has made the issue one of the central global stories of 2017. Myanmar’s reputation, however unfairly overblown and misreported by sections of the media, is now at its lowest point in decades after a period of accolades for a supposedly successful democratic transition.

Even in a peripatetic international news cycle, the issue of repatriation will rightfully evince intense scrutiny and judgement. The government can expect any report of abuses will be amplified and any restrictions on monitoring intensely condemned. The media will likely report from these resettlement sites on the existing prevailing narrative that Myanmar spontaneously violently expelled and pre-planned the extirpation of the Rohingya.

The government and military have shown themselves to be almost pathologically incapable of presenting the complexity of the situation, putting their trust deficit on the issue in the deep red. It has also made an enemy of the international media and will likely never rebuild the relationship if they continue their current mix of denials, threats and vague remedies.

Finally, Suu Kyi’s government will be dragged into addressing all the many other crucial issues it promised to prioritize that have backslid down its agenda. Two years after a partial nationwide ceasefire was signed by eight insurgent groups, Suu Kyi’s peace process is floundering with many ethnic armed organizations criticizing the government and military for its hardline stance and lack of facilitating negations.

Fighting continues in Shan and Kachin states, with sharp curbs placed by the military on humanitarian assistance and over 100,000 civilians still living in internally displaced people camps.

Myanmar still faces immense development challenges in health, education, and employment and business opportunities, issues the NLD’s dreadful handling of the Rakhine situation and the security forces’ resurgent ruthless character have kept on a back-burner.

And while Suu Kyi and her NLD may feel the need to discuss repatriation and set in train planning ideas, the challenges and complexity of the situation are now well beyond her in-denial government’s control.

David Scott Mathieson is a Yangon-based independent analyst

October 19, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , | 2 Comments

14,000 orphans among Rohingya refugees: Bangladesh

Press TV – October 15, 2017

A new influx of Rohingya refugees that hit Bangladesh contains around 14,000 orphans, authorities say, as new details emerge of a brutal crackdown in neighboring Myanmar which forced over half a million Rohingya Muslims to flee their homes.

Bangladesh’s social services department said Sunday that some 13,751 children without a parent or parents were identified in the crowded refugee camps along the country’s border with Myanmar.

“The majority of them said they lost one or both parents in the violence in Rakhine,” said Pritam Kumar Chowdhury, a department deputy director, adding, “Others said they didn’t know what happened to their parents, and they came to Bangladesh with relatives.”

The United Nations says children comprise the bulk of the exodus of Rohingya refugees who have fled Myanmar since violence erupted in the country’s western state of Rakhine in late August. The total number of arrivals currently stands at 536,000, of which some 320,000 are children, one-third under five years of age.

The exodus began when the army and Buddhist mobs launched sweeping attacks on villages populated by Muslims to the north of Rakhine. The government rejected claims about torching of villages and killing of innocent residents, saying military forces were simply hunting for suspected militants who had carried out deadly attacks on border and police posts on August 25.

However, rights campaigners and international organizations have documented numerous accounts of gang rapes and massacres against the Rohingya Muslims as the refugees continue to recount the violence they suffered back home.

The UN and other agencies have also warned about humanitarian problems that could occur in crowded refugee camps in Bangladesh, especially given the high number of vulnerable children and women living in those areas. Bangladesh is building the world’s largest refugee camp in the area with plans in place for setting up an orphanage to deliver extra assistance and familial support to unaccompanied minors and those without a parent.

October 16, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, War Crimes | , | Leave a comment

UN: Myanmar’s ‘systematic’ crackdown on Rohingya aimed at permanent expulsion

Press TV – October 11, 2017

The United Nations says Myanmar’s “systematic” crackdown on the persecuted Rohingya Muslim community is aimed at permanently expelling them from their home in Rakhine state.

A report published by the UN on Wednesday detailed a campaign by Myanmar’s military to terrorize the Rohingya through atrocities that range from indiscriminate killings to rape.

“Brutal attacks against Rohingya in northern Rakhine State have been well-organized, coordinated and systematic, with the intent of not only driving the population out of Myanmar but preventing them from returning to their homes,” the UN report said.

Myanmar’s troops often operate “in concert with armed Rakhine Buddhist individuals,” the report added.

“In some cases, before and during the attacks, megaphones were used to announce: ‘You do not belong here, go to Bangladesh. If you do not leave, we will torch your houses and kill you’,” it said.

The investigative report also contradicts claims by Myanmar’s government that the crackdown was a response to militant attacks on security posts on August 25. The probe found that the latest wave of military “clearance operations” in Rakhine actually began before that date, possibly in early August.

The investigation outlines an army-led campaign to erase the Rohingya connection to their homeland in the majority Buddhist country.

Teachers, as well as cultural, religious and community leaders have also been targeted in the latest crackdown “in an effort to diminish Rohingya history, culture and knowledge,” the report said.

“Efforts were taken to effectively erase 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 latest UN report is based on interviews with refugees who have fled to Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar area since August 25. The UN team spoke to hundreds of people in a series of 65 interviews, some with individuals and some with groups of up to 40 people.

UN figures show more than half a million people have fled the ongoing violence.

The researchers also found evidence of abuses designed to “instill deep and widespread fear” among the Rohingya. This included accounts of soldiers surrounding homes and firing indiscriminately as residents ran for their lives as well as uniformed men gang-raping women and girls, some as young as five. One statement, “received by an extremely credible source, referred to a (pregnant) woman whose stomach was slit open after she was raped.”

Speaking to reporters in the Swiss city of Geneva, researcher Thomas Hunecke said the UN had “very credible information” that Myanmar’s military had planted landmines along the Bangladesh border. “It is highly likely that these mines have been planted in order to prevent the Rohingya population from returning.”

The United Nations believes the government of Myanmar might have committed ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity in its crackdown. The Rohingya are considered by the UN the “most persecuted minority group in the world.”
Bangladeshi army personnel direct Rohingya volunteers carrying ice boxes with cholera vaccines at the Thangkhali refugee camp in Ukhia district, October 10, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

EU to cut ties with Myanmar military chiefs

The European Union is to cut ties with senior Myanmar military chiefs to protest the “disproportionate use of force” against the Rohingya, according to an agreement approved by EU ambassadors and set to be signed off at a meeting of foreign ministers on Monday.

The agreement said the rapid flight of so many people from Rakhine “strongly indicates a deliberate action to expel a minority.”

“In the light of the disproportionate use of force carried out by the security forces, the EU and its member states will suspend invitations to the commander-in-chief of the Myanmar/Burma armed forces and senior military officers and review all practical defense cooperation,” the agreement says.

According to the agreement, the EU “may consider additional measures” if the crisis does not improve. The bloc currently bans the export of arms and equipment that can be used for “internal repression.”

October 11, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , | Leave a comment

Bangladesh set to relocate all Rohingya to mega refugee camp: Official

Press TV – October 5, 2017

Bangladesh says it plans to expand a massive settlement under construction in its southernmost district to house nearly 900,000 persecuted Rohingya Muslims who have fled violence in Myanmar.

Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya, minister for disaster management and relief, said on Thursday that the estimated 890,000 refugees would eventually be moved to the new site near the border town of Cox’s Bazar.

“All of those who are living in scattered places… would be brought into one place. That’s why more land is needed. Slowly all of them will come,” media outlets quoted the minister as saying.

Elsewhere in his remarks, the minister said that families were already moving to the new site, known as the Kutupalong Extension.

There are currently nearly two dozen camps and other makeshift camps along the border. Two of the existing settlements have already been shut down.

Last month, two thousand acres of land next to the existing Kutupalong camp were set aside for the new Rohingya arrivals. Another 1,000 acres were later set aside for the new camp.

The number of newcomers has exceeded 500,000 — adding to 300,000 already in Bangladesh.

The mega camp project has, however, caused concern among doctors and charities on the ground that they fear a disease like cholera could spread quickly through such a congested, overpopulated site.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) says the situation is “slowly spiraling into a catastrophe of biblical proportions.”

According to Mark Lowcock, UN emergency relief coordinator, the world body would be seeking around $430 million to scale up the humanitarian operation for the destitute Rohingya.

In a fresh bout of violence in Myanmar, soldiers and Buddhist mobs have been attacking Rohingya Muslims and torching their villages since October 2016. The attacks have seen a sharp rise since August 25, following a number of purported armed attacks on police and military posts in the western state of Rakhine.

Many witnesses and rights groups have reported systematic attacks, including rape, murder and arson, at the hands of the army and Buddhist mobs against Rohingya Muslims, forcing them to leave their generations-old homes and flee to overcrowded and squalid refugee camps in Bangladesh.

The UN has described the crackdown on Rohingya in Myanmar as a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.

October 6, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | | 1 Comment

Corbyn criticizes UK foreign policy, Israel oppression, Trump

Press TV – September 27, 2017

British Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn has slammed London’s foreign policy, asserting that “terrorism is thriving in a world our governments have helped to shape.”

“The targeting of our democracy, of teenage girls at a pop concert, of people enjoying a night out, worshipers outside a mosque, commuters going to work — all of these are horrific crimes…But we also know that terrorism is thriving in a world our governments have helped to shape, with its failed states, military interventions and occupations where millions are forced to flee conflict or hunger,” Corbyn said at the party’s annual conference in Brighton on Wednesday.

Military solutions to the threats of terrorism in Europe were another area of Corbyn’s speech.

“We have to do better and swap the knee-jerk response of another bombing campaign for long-term help to solve conflicts rather than fuel them,” Corbyn said.

Corbyn also hinted at the double standards of British foreign policy in the Middle East region, criticizing arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

“Democracy and human rights are not an optional extra to be deployed selectively. So we cannot be silent at the cruel Saudi war in Yemen while continuing to supply arms to Saudi Arabia, or the crushing of democracy in Egypt or Bahrain, or the tragic loss of life in Congo.”

The Labour leader addressed the brutal suppression of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and demanded that Aung San Suu Kyi end the violence against the Rohingya and allow the UN and international aid agencies into Rakhine state. “The Rohingya have suffered for too long,” Corbyn emphasized.

Corbyn criticized Israel’s 50-year oppression of Palestinians and called for an end to the “oppression of the Palestinian people, the 50-year occupation and illegal settlement expansion.”

On Donald Trump

US President Donald Trump’s speech at the UN and his policies were another area that Corbyn critically addressed.

Corbyn said Trump’s UN speech was “devoid of concern for human rights or universal values” and “was not the speech of a world leader.”

Pointing to the historical relationship between the UK and the US, Corbyn said, “If the special relationship means anything, it must mean that we can say to Washington: that way is the wrong way.”

As a veteran peace activist, Corbyn has long been critical of London’s involvement in US-led wars across the world its support of Israel in its unending oppression against Palestinians.

Corbyn has stood up for Palestine and Palestinian rights and has been a strong advocate against Britain’s foreign wars in the Middle East.

September 27, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, War Crimes | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Israel refuses to stop arms sales to Myanmar despite Rohingya massacre

Press TV – September 27, 2017

The Israeli regime will not put an end to its sale of ammunition to Myanmar in light of incontrovertible evidence and United Nations data that the Southeast Asian nation’s military has perpetrated various forms of atrocities, including systematic rape and expulsions, against Rohingya Muslims.

English-language Haaretz daily newspaper reported that a group of human rights activists had filed a petition in the so-called High Court of Justice, demanding an end to the arms sales.

Senior Israeli official Shosh Shmueli, in return, said the court should not interfere in Israel’s foreign relations.

Shmueli’s comments came as Israeli arms companies have sold more than 100 battle tanks, as well as patrol boats and light weapons to the Burmese military in recent years.

Meanwhile, TAR Ideal Concepts has trained Burmese special forces in Myanmar’s restive western state of Rakhine, where a wave of serious communal violence continues unabated.

The Tel Aviv-based company posted pictures on its website in August last year, showing its staff training Myanmar’s forces on combat tactics and how to handle weapons.

The High Court of Justice was set to rule on the petition filed by Eitay Mack along with 10 other activists later on Wednesday.

The judges hearing the case – Yoram Danziger, Anat Baron and David Mintz – issued a gag order on Tuesday regarding the court’s decision on the Myanmar arms sales controversy. The measure was adopted at the request of the Israeli regime.

Myanmar’s forces have been attacking Rohingya Muslims and torching their villages in Rakhine since October 2016. The attacks have seen a sharp rise since August 25, following a number of armed attacks on police and military posts in the troubled western state.

The government of de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has snubbed and obstructed UN officials who have sought to investigate the situation. The government has prevented aid agencies from delivering food, water and medicines to the refugees.

Suu Kyi has also rejected UN accusations that Myanmar’s forces are engaged in the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims.

Considering Suu Kyi’s reputation for micromanagement, political analysts say it seems unlikely that the ongoing violence is taking place without her approval.

In early September, peace activists launched an international campaign calling on the Nobel Peace Prize Committee to take back its 1991 prize to Suu Kyi over her complicity in what is viewed as the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya.

September 27, 2017 Posted by | War Crimes | , | 3 Comments

No way back for Myanmar’s Rohingya refugees

A military plan to strike a new ethnic balance in Rakhine state’s conflict-ridden northwest means a minority of the 420,000 refugees now languishing in Bangladesh will likely ever return home

By Bertil Lintner | Asia Times | September 22, 2017

Yangon – Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi says that her government is prepared to begin taking back Rohingya refugees recently driven into Bangladesh in a national verification process. Suu Kyi said the repatriation can start “at any time” in a speech on September 19, her first since the refugee crisis began in late August after a surge of insurgent attacks and harsh military counter-measures.

The violence has pushed an estimated 420,000 mostly Muslim refugees into Bangladesh, which considers them natives of Myanmar and calls for their full return. While Suu Kyi’s offer to accept “verified” refugees may have aimed to defuse international criticism of military “clearance operations” the United Nations has likened to “ethnic cleansing”, it’s altogether unclear how many of the departed the autonomous armed forces will accept back.

Exactly how many Rohingya live in conflict-ridden western Rakhine state is debatable because Myanmar-conducted censuses don’t recognize the Rohingya as an ethnic group. The 1.1 -1.5 million figures quoted in international media reports are made without reference to any official or credible independent source.

According to the most recent 2014 census and UN estimates, the combined population of Rakhine state’s three northwestern townships of Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Rathedaung – where the conflict is confined – before the recent exodus was around 950,000, of which between 80% and 90% were Muslims. It is uncertain how many of those Muslims would identify themselves as Rohingya – a contested term in Rakhine state where ethnic Kaman and other minority Muslim groups reside – but in any counting the total number of Muslims there is well below one million.

The total population of Rakhine state is 3.2 million with a clear Buddhist majority, according to the latest census. Whatever the correct figure may be, it appears that nearly half of the Muslim population of the three affected northwestern townships have recently been forced to flee into Bangladesh.

Myanmar’s military has deployed more than 70 battalions to Rakhine state to carry out its clearance operations, nominally aimed to flush out insurgents hiding in civilian populations. With both regular and light infantry battalions deployed, security analysts estimate there are between 30,000-35,000 Myanmar troops now on the ground in Rakhine state.

The deployment of that many troops must be motivated by strategic considerations other than suppression of the emergent Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), a vicious but small group of rag-tag guerrillas fighting with mostly rudimentary weapons. According to military insiders, the overriding strategic aim is to “balance” the demographic composition of the state’s three Muslim-majority townships.

According to well-placed sources in Yangon, the military aims to reduce the Muslim majority in the northwestern townships to no more than 60%, with Buddhists making up the remaining 40%. Towards that demographic aim, the sources say, the military is now preparing to resettle thousands of ethnic Rakhines and other Buddhists into the Rakhine area’s now abandoned and burned out villages.

The Muslims that are ultimately permitted to return will undoubtedly be put through a deliberately torturous process rooted in deeply contentious history.

Suu Kyi’s reference to a “verification” process harks to an April 1992 joint statement made by then Bangladeshi foreign minister Mostafizur Rahman and his Myanmar counterpart Ohn Gyaw that said Myanmar’s government agreed “there would be no restriction on number of persons [repatriated] as long as they could establish bona fide evidence of their residence in Myanmar.”

At that time, an estimated 250,000 Rohingya Muslims from Rakhine state had taken refuge in Bangladesh after a border skirmish which had resulted in a military crackdown on the Myanmar side. As with the current humanitarian crisis, the flight of refugees into Bangladesh in the early 1990s also attracted big international media attention and support from the Arab and Muslim worlds.

Prince Khaled Sultan Abdul Aziz, then commander of the Saudi Arabian contingent in the 1991 Gulf War, visited Dhaka and recommended a Desert Storm like (the name of the US-led campaign to drive Iraq out of Kuwait) action against Myanmar. That multinational offensive never came to fruition, but Myanmar eventually agreed to take back the refugees under United Nations’ pressure and on the terms of its verification agreement with Bangladesh.

Many but not all returned to Myanmar; it was uncertain how many actually stayed in Rakhine state or returned to Bangladesh because little remained of the villages they had left behind. Some had been destroyed while others were populated in their absence by migrants from other parts of Myanmar. The area between Bangladesh’s city of Chittagong and Teknaf on the Naaf river which forms the border between Bangladesh and Myanmar is still full of people who claim they were born and grew up on the Myanmar side.

The early 1990s exodus was the second big movement in modern times. The first came in 1978 when 200,000 Muslims from Rakhine state fled to Bangladesh as Myanmar security authorities carried out an operation against illegal immigrants codenamed Naga Min, or “Dragon King.” That crisis also led to a repatriation agreement between Myanmar and Bangladesh signed on July 9, 1978.

That agreement was not different from what was stated in 1992, namely that Myanmar agreed to the earliest repatriation of its lawful residents on the presentation of [Myanmar] national registration cards. Some, but far from all, Muslims in Rakhine’s three northwestern townships have proper government issued identification cards or citizenship papers. Others have been systematically denied such documents and being effectively stateless face restrictions on their movements in Myanmar.

Now as then, Myanmar’s policy remains the same: only those who can produce proof of citizenship or residency will be allowed back. That may not be an unreasonable demand, but it will be a messy and contentious task given the current chaos and deprivation along the border and in refugee camps. It’s unclear how many of the estimated 420,000 refugees Myanmar will actually be taken back and how much international pressure will factor into that human calculation.

What is clear is that the Myanmar armed forces that carried out the brutal and controversial clearance operations in border areas don’t want the Muslims back as strategic planners aim to rebalance the region’s ethnic demographics.

Judging from anti-Rohingya and anti-Muslim demonstrations recently held in Yangon and other Myanmar cities, it’s a stance shared by many Myanmar citizens who don’t consider the Rohingya a national ethnic group but rather illegal immigrants.

Yet another bilateral repatriation agreement will likely be signed in the coming days that allows for some refugees to return to Myanmar to placate both Bangladesh and the international community. But given the deliberately high hurdles to proving Myanmar citizenship or residency, and a military bent on using the crisis as an opportunity to change the area’s demographics, the repatriation will likely be smaller than seen in the late 1970s and early 1990s.

In the meantime, Rakhine state’s once predominantly Muslim region will remain heavily militarized, both to guard against ARSA from carrying out further attacks on undermanned security outposts and to prevent unverified refugees from returning across the border.

Regardless of any new bilateral agreement, recent events will be leveraged to create a new ethnic balance in Rakhine state, one with less Muslims, more Buddhists and over which Myanmar’s military has absolute control.

September 22, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , | Leave a comment