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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

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

Over 80,000 Rohingya children ‘wasting’ from hunger in Myanmar: UN

Press TV – July 17, 2017

The United Nations has warned that tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslim children under the age of five are in dire need of treatment for “acute malnutrition” in Myanmar’s western state of Rakhine.

The World Food Program (WFP) reported on Monday that 80,500 children living in the areas are “wasting” and will need treatment for acute malnutrition within the next 12 months.

According to WFP spokesperson in Myanmar, the “wasting” condition, which is a rapid weight loss that can become fatal, impairs the functioning of the immune system.

“Based on the household hunger scale, about 38,000 households corresponding to 225,800 people are suffering from hunger and are in need of humanitarian assistance,” said the report.

The agency warned that “households with children under the age of five,” and those that composed of only one female adult, had the highest frequency of episodes of severe hunger.

The report was based an assessment in April of villages in the Rakhine state, which has been under a military lockdown since October 2016, when the military launched a campaign to hunt down those who allegedly staged deadly attacks on police posts.

A quarter of all Rohingya households composed of only one female adult because the men had left due to the military campaign, it added.

Since the beginning of the army’s operation, some 75,000 Rohingya have fled Rakhine to Bangladesh, according to UN estimates. Those who remain are now reeling from a food crisis.

There have also been numerous accounts by eyewitnesses of summary executions, rapes, and arson attacks against Muslims since the crackdown began.

The United Nations Human Rights Council agreed in March to send an international fact-finding mission to Myanmar, but the country’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has so far denied entry to members of the mission.

July 17, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, War Crimes | , | Leave a comment

Has Myanmar’s iconic leader taken genocide lessons from Israel?

aung-san-suu-kyi-3

By Yvonne Ridley | MEMO | June 23, 2016

Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi is one of the most famous women in the world. She is a holder of the Nobel Peace Prize and hailed as “the Mandela of Asia” because of her human rights record. However, when we look at her continual lack of concern about the plight of the Rohingya people in the former Burma, you have to question the level of her compassion and integrity.

You may gasp at this and I must admit that I never thought that I would ever write that about such an iconic figure. I, like tens of thousands of others around the world, campaigned long and hard to have the pro-democracy leader freed from the shackles of the Burmese junta which kept her under house arrest for years.

When she was finally released to lead her country to a better future there were tears in my eyes, but now I am completely bewildered by her deathly silence about the pitiful state of the Rohingyas living in squalor and inhumane conditions in Myanmar.

The military junta in Burma-Myanmar refused to acknowledge the existence of the Rohingyas and would only ever refer to them as “Bangladeshis”. Now, under the political leadership of Aung San Suu Kyi, the government has gone one step further by banning the use of the word Rohingya, as if 1.1 million people have just disappeared. One has to ask if she and the generals still lurking in the background are following the Israeli manual on how to deal with unwanted citizens and ethnic minorities.

Let’s not forget that Israel’s founding Prime Minster David Ben-Gurion maintained close ties with Burma. In December 1961 he was given the full red carpet treatment during a state visit. Shortly before boarding his flight he gave a press conference: “I am leaving today for a new country but not a strange one; in all of Asia, there is no more friendly nation to Israel than Burma. Israel and Burma are two old countries with old histories which renewed their independence in 1948.”

According to Ben-Gurion, “Both [Israel and Burma] are democratic and both follow the same principle in foreign relations – promoting friendly relations and mutual aid with all peace-loving countries irrespective of their internal regimes and without injuring the interests of any other country; loyal to international cooperation based on United Nations principles.”

Of course the state visits by Israeli leaders didn’t stop at Ben-Gurion; Shimon Peres, Moshe Dayan, Yitzhak Ben-Zvi and Golda Meir all went to Burma along with a string of other politicians. Others, including current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have extended hospitality to Burmese-Myanmar leaders in Tel Aviv.

By flattening more than 530 Arab towns and villages since 1948, controlling the movement of the Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza and airbrushing Palestinian culture, cuisine and lifestyle from everyday life, some say that the Israelis have been engaged in a slow genocide against the Palestinian people. Now I’m wondering if they’ve handed over the genocide manual to Aung San Suu Kyi and Myanmar.

The official narrative pushed out to the media is that there is religious tension between Rohingya Muslims and Myanmar’s Buddhists and that that is the problem. This is untrue. The state-sponsored persecution and oppression of the Rohingya people has gone on for decades. They are denied citizenship and ready access to health care and hospitals, and they have limits placed on their right to free movement and many other basic human rights. Religious persecution has been the order of the day along with land confiscations, forced labour, arbitrary taxation, house demolitions and restrictions on marriage, work and education. These are all forms of state oppression and tyranny the same as or similar to those encountered by Palestinians at the hands of Israel; now they’re being endured by the Rohingyas.

Last year, Asia witnessed a huge refugee crisis when hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas were exploited by people smugglers and took the seas in unseaworthy vessels. Abandoned by the smugglers their boats sailed aimlessly for weeks on end; without the food thrown to them by local fishermen the death toll as they starved would have been much higher.

It was only after an international outcry that neighbouring countries finally offered refuge to the Rohingya boat people, but then they forced them to live in squalid refugee camps in Thailand, Malaysia, India and Bangladesh. Around 150,000 live in conditions that are little better than concentration camps, and reports of mass graves surfaced last year.

Meanwhile, the ever-fragrant female “Mandela of Asia” smiles sweetly during less than robust press interviews and obfuscates at the very mention of the Rohingya people. What’s worse is that she gets away with it because most of the media still eulogises the icon who world leaders and statesmen simpered over when she was released.

The so-called head of state in Myanmar’s first “democratically elected government since 1962” maintains silence over the plight of the Rohingyas. Recently, she appeared a little tetchy when asked about them by US Secretary of State John Kerry, who was told to be more cautious over the “sensitive issue”. Even the Dalai Lama has been blanked by the diminutive leader after he called publicly and privately on several occasions for her to show compassion and act to stop the persecution.

If she has taken genocide lessons from the Israelis, then the State Counsellor and Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi has learned well. She has now declared that her government will not use the term “Rohingya” when referring to the “Muslim community” in Rakhine State. It is an echo of the occasion when former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir declared infamously that there was “no such thing as Palestinians.”

“Suu Kyi does not use the terms ‘Rohingya’ or ‘Bengali’,” announced Aye Aye Soe, the deputy director general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs during a visit by the UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, Yanghee Lee. “The words of war do not support the current situation. Now, citizenship is under close scrutiny, and the use of the terms does not support the scrutiny process for citizenship. Suu Kyi requested that UN officials and other guests not use these controversial terms in case they should lead to conflict.”

As far as chutzpah goes, some might say that Aung San Suu Kyi has outdone the Israelis in her determination to shut down discussion or questions about the Rohingyas. In her world, it seems, they simply do not exist.

Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein, the current UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, issued an 18-page report on 20 June calling for a halt to discrimination against Rohingyas and human rights violations when Aung San Suu Kyi and Yanghee Lee met. There were warnings that crimes against humanity were suspected of being committed. The UN official criticised the Myanmar government for not releasing the plans for the “peace and stability and development implementation work committee” for Rakhine State, led by Aung San Suu Kyi.

Mary Scully is a veteran of political activism, including in the anti-war, women’s rights, civil rights and Palestinian solidarity movements; she was blunt about Aung San Suu Kyi: “She won that election through a loathsome compromise with the military junta and by supporting their neoliberal policies bringing in foreign investment and mining projects at the expense of farmers and rural workers.”

Some of those farmers and villagers were way ahead of the rest of the world in understanding her betrayals, she explained. “They booed her out of town for saying the expropriations of their lands and destruction of the environment were ‘for the greater good’. Now the New York Times reports that in a recent meeting, Suu Kyi advised the US ambassador against using the term ‘Rohingya’ to describe the Muslim people of Myanmar because her government does not recognise them as citizens.”

Scully, who is also running as an independent socialist candidate for US president later this year, added: “Using the same kind of marble-mouthed deceits she used to blither to reporters, her representative told the ambassador, ‘We won’t use the term Rohingya because Rohingya are not recognised as among the 135 official ethnic groups. Our position is that using the controversial term does not support the national reconciliation process and solving problems’.”

If Aung San Suu Kyi has indeed studied Israel’s ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians then the student is on her way to becoming the master. Or, as Scully sees it: “Solidarity with Rohingya Muslims against genocide and for justice means educating about their struggle against genocide and part of that education requires exposing the murderous duplicity and collusion of Suu Kyi.”

Strong words, but given the evidence that is coming out about Aung San Suu Kyi, it is hard to see how the veteran campaigner could have said anything less.

June 23, 2016 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 1 Comment

Cognitive Dissonance on Democracy Now

By Eva Bartlett | In Gaza | May 31, 2015

This post stemmed from a comment made that DN should be covering the tragedy of the Rohingya and the complicity of Suu Kyi, as detailed in Tony Cartalucci’s “Who’s Driving the Rohingya into the Sea?,” excerpts of which I will paste at the bottom of this post.

On Democracy Now, on the subtle side of corporate presstitutery, Eric Draitser commented:

“Goodman is a foundation funded hack who did yeoman service for Obama and the cause of “humanitarian intervention” in Libya. She and Democracy Now disseminated lie after lie, parroting State Department talking points and lies from Human Rights Watch and Navi Pillay. Their “reporter” was a liar embedded with NATO-backed terrorists and they all have Libyan blood on their hands. In all that time reporting about Gaddafi alleged “crimes” (all of which have been debunked and proved to have been lies), they deliberately ignored the ethnic cleansing of Black Libyans in Fezzan, the Tawergha people, etc because it didn’t jive with the “Good rebels vs bad Gaddafi” script they were feeding the so called “progressive left”. Now they try to pretend they didn’t and they were against the war on Libya.

Goodman has done similarly with regard to Syria. They are discredited liars whose good work only comes in opposing Republican wars which takes no courage at all. They are, put simply, left liberal imperialists.

I said in 2011 that Democracy Now and Young Turks and all these other foundation funded left liberal imperialists would never be forgiven for their treachery, and they haven’t been, no matter how they try to whitewash their records.”

Draitser wrote a more detailed review of the criminal lies that enabled the destruction of Libya and murder of innocent Libyans in his “The Truth of Libya (Finally) Goes Mainstream,“ in which he also addresses the war propaganda of DN:

“Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International should face serious investigations into criminal negligence, or at least gross misconduct, in terms of their dissemination of lies – lies which were used as the prime justification for the war in terms of how it was sold to the people. Is it a crime to inflate by 1000% casualty figures, the end result of which is a justification for war? If not, it should be, as without such propaganda, the war could never have been sold to the public.

Media organizations, especially some ostensibly on the Left, should also be held to account for their misinformation and disinformation. Democracy Now is at the top of the list of guilty organizations. As Bruce Dixon, Managing Editor of Black Agenda Report, wrote at the height of the war:

So like every other Western reporter, Anjali Kamat [Democracy Now’s Libya correspondent] never saw any “mercenaries,” just their oversized bullets. She never saw any mass graves of the hundreds or thousands allegedly killed by Khadaffi’s “heavy machine gun fire” either, or that would be on Democracy Now too. It’s not. Nobody’s located the thousands of wounded survivors either, that must have been the result of shooting into crowds killing hundreds of people, and none of this has stopped Democracy Now from carrying the story just like Fox News or CNN or MSNBC…Something is really wrong with this picture. We have to wonder whether, at least as far as the war in Libya goes, whether Democracy Now is simply feeding us the line of corporate media, the Pentagon and the State Department rather than fulfilling the role of unembedded, independent journalists.

As Dixon points out, Democracy Now exhibited at the very least poor journalistic practice, and at worst, served as the left flank of the imperial propaganda machine. By faithfully reporting the “facts”, which have now been utterly discredited, Kamat and Democracy Now primed the pump of left progressive support for “humanitarian” war.

The Bruce Dixon article Draitser cites, “Are “Democracy Now” Correspondents in Libya Feeding Us the State Department and Pentagon Line?,“ further notes:

“There have been many persistent reports from too many sources have pointed to widespread persecutions of black Libyans and migrants from sub-Saharan Africa. There are reports of all-black towns in Libya which have been wiped off the map by the Libyan rebels and their allies. Our own Cynthia McKinney has visited the families of some who were lynched — hanged by jeering mobs who used their cell phones to record the ghastly spectacle. Some of the videos of these lynchings were still on YouTube as late as last week.

Make no mistake, Democracy Now is one of the few places that have reported the persecution of migrants and black Libyans. But a careful search of Democracy Now stories from the past six or seven months reveals that of this handful of mentions of ethnic cleansing in Libya, all except one on March 7, 2011, [7] in which Anjali Kamat interviewed migrants from several countries awaiting transport out of Libya originated from Democracy Now studios stateside.

DN’s correspondents in Libya apparently have more important things to do than interview the black Libyan and migrant victims of what Kamat called “populist rage,” a curious and revealing term for lynch law in Libya.

… Anjali Kamat is one of those lazy and irresponsible reporters. She has carried tales of African mercenaries fighting for Muammar Khadaffi many times over the last few months, with no more proof than the rest….

… Democracy Now reporters used to question authority and empire, not serve it. Goodman in the 1990s and Jamail in 2004 told stories that made US officials furious, all of us uncomfortable, and that sometimes put their own safety at risk. That’s not what we see from Democracy Now’s coverage in Libya today, which can hardly be distinguished from that of Al-Jazzeera or CNN.”

Finian Cunningham’s ““Democracy Now” and the “Progressive” Alternative Media: Valued Cheerleaders For Imperialism and War” notes (excerpts):

“With the suppression of mounting facts that Western governments are waging a covert war of aggression in Syria, the Western public is right to treat the conventional media sources with skepticism and outright contempt. Such media are seen as “politicized” and “unreliable”, serving a naked imperialist agenda for Western regime change. In a word, they are damaged goods.

This is where a segment of the so-called alternative media can play a valuable propaganda function for Western powers. Because such media are supposed to be independent, critical, non-corporate, the public tends to consider their reports as objective and unbiased.  One such “alternative” news service is “Democracy Now” hosted by Amy Goodman. Goodman is seen as something of a campaigning critical journalist shedding the light of truth on the depredations of the US government, corporations and the Pentagon. But a closer look at what Goodman’s “Democracy Now” is reporting on Syria shows that the purported critical broadcaster has become a purveyor of Western government propaganda. While the mainstream media’s propaganda function is obvious to the informed public, Goodman’s “Democracy Now” plays a more subtle role. Camouflaged with the trappings of critical, independent journalism, “Democracy Now” serves to sow powerful seeds of misinformation in a way that the “compromised” mainstream media cannot.

This misinformation from “Democracy Now” is valuable to the ruling elite because to many of its readers it is not seen as misinformation.

Rather, the “news” on “Democracy Now” is viewed as reliable and representing the views of the anti-war, anti-imperialist constituency. In this way, Goodman is a valuable asset to Washington and Wall Street because her broadcasts can serve to disorient and undermine a constituency that is normally opposed to Western warmongering and imperialism. Many of the subscribers to “Democracy Now” may see through the misinformation. Many, though, may not, and therefore will become embedded with the imperialist agenda. The fact that Democracy Now ratings appear to be holding up would indicate that a lot of its followers are oblivious to the insidious effect of such misinformation. As such, Democracy Now is more valuable to the powers-that-be than, say, the New York Times or the Financial Times. “Democracy Now” ensures that the agenda of the powerful becomes infiltrated in a constituency that would otherwise be opposed to that agenda.

… The Houla massacre on 24 May is a case in point. The BBC and other mainstream media outlets have been shown to be outrageously wrong in their initial rush to blame the atrocity on Syrian government forces when the evidence has slowly emerged that it was most likely the grisly work of Western-backed mercenaries.

It is all the more disquieting when a supposedly informed, alternative news service, Democracy Now, peddles such blatant misinformation – more than six weeks after the massacre occurred and after evidence has been reported that points convincingly to Western-backed perpetrators. On 9 July, Goodman broadcast an interview with Rafif Jouejati, a spokesperson for a Syrian opposition group called the Syrian Local Coordination Committees, based in Washington DC. Despite the mounting evidence of Western, Turkish and Saudi/Qatari covert operations, Goodman gave her guest a free rein to regurgitate the litany of mainstream media calumnies on Syria. Without a hint of scepticism from Goodman, her guest said:

“The bottom line is that the majority of the country is engaged in a popular revolution for freedom, for democracy, for dignity… We have mountains of evidence indicating that [Assad’s] armed forces have been engaged in systematic torture, rampant detentions, massacres across the country.”

Really? The majority of the country engaged in a popular revolution for freedom, democracy and dignity? That sounds more like the fanciful imagination of someone safely based in Washington DC. By contrast, sources in Syria have confirmed that people are terrified by Western-armed gangs running amok in their communities, kidnapping, murdering, evicting families from their homes and burning down business premises.

… Goodman also indulged in the overblown casualty figures from dubious Syrian opposition sources as if they were verifiable accurate data. She even sounded like Hillary Clinton in talking up the “defection” of the hapless former Syrian Brigadier General Manaf Tlass as “significant” when informed sources discount that news as a minor irrelevance.

In the interview between Goodman and her guest (whom sources describe as belonging to a family formerly aligned with the Syrian government), Bashar Al Assad was portrayed as an unhinged leader who is in denial over massacres – massacres, as we have noted, that have most likely been carried out by Western-backed death squads as confirmed by numerous reports.

Preposterously, Assad was described as guilty of much worse crimes than former Egyptian and Libyan rulers Hosni Mubarak and Muammar Gaddafi. Then the “alternative” Democracy Now broadcast this statement from the supposed opposition spokesperson as if it were normal discourse:

“I would like to think that we will proceed with full prosecution in the International Criminal Court. I think the longer this issue goes on and the more violence he [Assad] commits, the more likely he will wish to have a fate such as Gaddafi’s.”

Recall that the Libyan leader was lynched on a roadside by a NATO-directed mob, and sodomised with a knife before being shot dead. It may also be recalled that “Democracy Now” gave prominent broadcasts supporting NATO’s intervention in Libya and justifying the criminal subversion of that country. Going by the latest coverage on Syria, Democracy Now is acting once again under a “progressive” cloak as a propaganda tool for US-led imperialist intervention. Given the misplaced respect among many of the public seeking independent, alternative, accurate news and analysis, this insidious role of Democracy Now is reprehensible. May it be suggested, in the name of media transparency, that the programme be aptly renamed “Imperialism Now”.

****

Finally, excerpts from the article that sprung today’s renewed look at the lies of DN:

“… The group that is in fact driving the Rohingya from their homes in Myanmar and into the sea – and why this is not reported as the center of the current crisis – are the followers and supporters of the West’s own “patron saint of democracy,” Aung San Suu Kyi.

Suu Kyi herself, and many of the NGOs that support her and her political network are directly and substantially underwritten by the US and British governments.

These NGOs and faux-news agencies include the Irrawaddy, Era Journal, and the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), all admitted by the Burma Campaign UK (page 15) to be funded by the US National Endowment for Democracy (NED) along with “Mizzima” also fully funded by NED and convicted financial criminal George Soros’ Open Society.

There is also the “Burma Partnership” which upon its “About Us” page is listed a myriad of associations and organizations directly linked to Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party, including the Students and Youth Congress of Burma, the Forum for Democracy in Burma, and the Nationalities Youth Forum, which is directly funded by the Euro-Burma Office (in turn funded by the EU, and US National Endowment for Democracy), and Open Society.

The heavily US-British-backed Noble Peace Prize laureate’s followers have prosecuted a campaign of ultra-racist genocide aimed at eradicating Myanmar entirely of the Rohingya people, often with orgies of machete-wielding brutality and neighborhood-wide arson leaving scores of people dead, and hundreds, sometimes thousands homeless, destitute, and above all, desperate.

Leading the violence are Suu Kyi’s “saffron monks.” The so-called “Saffron Revolution” of 2007 seeking to oust the Myanmar government and put into power Aung San Suu Kyi and her “National League for Democracy” was named so after the saffron-colored robes of these supporters.

Underneath the “pro-democracy” narrative, however, is an ugly truth that if known more widely amongst the global public, would spell the end of both Suu Kyi and her foreign backers’ agenda in Myanmar.

While the Western media attempts to shift the blame on the Myanmar government itself for the current Rohingya crisis, it was the government that attempted to grant the Rohingya citizenship through incremental programs that included allowing them to vote in upcoming elections. The plan was, however, disrupted by violence spearheaded by Suu Kyi’s followers, as reported by Australia’s ABC News article, “Myanmar scraps temporary ID cards amid protests targeting ethnic minorities without citizenship.”

The irony of Suu Kyi’s supporters, supposedly representing a shining example of democracy worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize, attempting to deny hundreds of thousands of people their right to vote in elections is immeasurable.

Suu Kyi, for her part, has remained utterly silent regarding the brutality and inhumanity of her most loyal and active supporters. While she is portrayed as a woman of courage and conviction, in reality these “virtues” were bought and paid for through millions of dollars of support for both her and her political network over the decades by the US and British governments. While her silence is shrugged off by the Western media as “pragmatic” and “calculated,” it is in reality merely her refusal to condemn the very supporters who have carved out a niche for her amid Myanmar’s political landscape.

… Among Suu Kyi’s saffron butchers, there stands out one leader in particular, Wirathu. Wirathu has been involved in stirring up politically-motivated violence for over a decade. In particular, his group has carried out a bloody campaign against the Rohingya, even landing him in prison in 2003.

The International Business Times published an article titled, “Burmese Bin Laden: Is Buddhist Monk Wirathu Behind Violence in Myanmar?” explaining in further detail:

The shadow of controversial monk Wirathu, who has led numerous vocal campaigns against Muslims in Burma, looms large over the sectarian violence in Meikhtila.

Wirathu played an active role in stirring tensions in a Rangoon suburb in February, by spreading unfounded rumours that a local school was being developed into a mosque, according to the Democratic voice of Burma. An angry mob of about 300 Buddhists assaulted the school and other local businesses in Rangoon.

The monk, who describes himself as ‘the Burmese Bin Laden’ said that his militancy “is vital to counter aggressive expansion by Muslims”.

He was arrested in 2003 for distributing anti-Muslim leaflets and has often stirred controversy over his Islamophobic activities, which include a call for the Rhohingya and “kalar”, a pejorative term for Muslims of South Asian descent, to be expelled from Myanmar.

He has also been implicated in religious clashes in Mandalay, where a dozen people died, in several local reports.

By all accounts, Wirathu is a violent criminal leading mobs which have cost thousands of people their lives and has created a humanitarian crisis that is slowly engulfing all of Southeast Asia. Yet Wirathu is still counted among Suu Kyi’s most vocal supporters and frequently weighs in on high level decisions made by Suu Kyi’s political party. Furthermore, the West has failed to condemn him, place any sanctions upon him, and through their various media outlets, still grant him interviews, lending him continued credibility and influence.

… This systematic genocidal brutality is what has driven the Rohingya to the seas from their rightful homes in Myanmar, scattering them abroad and creating a humanitarian crisis for other nations to bear. In particular, Myanmar’s neighbor Thailand has been criticized vocally by the West as this crisis continues on, and more so now than ever since Thailand has ousted Washington and Wall Street’s political order of choice there in a military coup in 2014.

But it is clear that the source of the problem is in Myanmar, and in particular the violence being used to drive the Rohingya from their homes. Myanmar’s neighbors are but scapegoats for perpetrators not politically convenient for the Western media and the West’s many so-called “international” institutions and rights organizations to name and shame. If anything, the perpetrators have created a political and humanitarian crisis regionally, giving the West an opportunity to meddle even further.

Regardless of what Myanmar’s neighbors do to assist Rohingya being driven from their homes, if the violence driving them abroad to begin with is not stopped, the humanitarian crisis will only continue to grow. Such violence, however, cannot be stopped so long as the self-proclaimed arbiters of international order and human rights not only refuse to condemn those guilty of precipitating this crisis, but in fact actively defend and support them.

For Southeast Asia, and in particular, Myanmar, Thailand, and Malaysia – all nations targeted by the US and British with perpetual political meddling – exposing the true perpetrators of this crisis, and in particular the political order under which these perpetrators are operating, can expose Aung San Suu Kyi and her party and disrupt other foreign backed political proxies across the region like her. By doing so, perhaps an end can be brought to this current crisis today, and the next one prevented from unfolding tomorrow.

The Ronhingya are not “stateless.” They are not “boat people.” They are not “without a home.” Their home is Myanmar. Ultra-racist genocidal criminals, apparently with the support and blessing of the West, have driven them from that home.”

May 31, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Mainstream Media | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Rohingya Population Control: The Onslaught in Burma Continues

By Ramzy Baroud | Palestine Chronicle | June 6 2013  

On April 21, the BBC obtained disturbing video footage shot in Burma. It confirmed extreme reports of what has been taking place in that country, even as it is being touted by the US and European governments as a success story pertaining to political reforms and democracy.

The BBC footage was difficult to watch even when faces of Muslim Rohingya victims were blurred. To say the least, the level of violence exhibited by their Arakan Buddhist attackers was frightening. “The Burmese police (stood) by as shops, homes and mosques are looted and burnt, and failing to intervene as Buddhist mobs, including monks, kill fleeing Muslims,” the BBC reported. A Rohingya man was set ablaze while still alive. The police watched.

To some extent, international media is finally noticing the plight of the Rohingyas who are experiencing what can only be described as genocide. And there are reasons for this. On one hand, the atrocities being carried out by the Burmese state, local police and mobs belonging to nationalist Buddhist groups in the northwestern Arakan State, are unambiguous attempts at removing all Rohingyas from Burma. The Rohingya numbers currently hover between 800,000 and one million. On the other hand, Burma (also known as Myanmar) has, as of late, been placed in the limelight for the wrong reasons – thanks in part to western governments breaking the political and economic siege of the country’s decades-long military dictatorship.

While the ‘new Burma’ is being rebranded in a new positive discourse in order to open Rangoon up for foreign investments and steer it way from growing Chinese influence, western governments are deliberately ignoring the fact that a human rights crisis of unprecedented proportions is taking place. This all being done with the active involvement and encouragement of the government.

In the eyes of many in Burma, the Rohingyas are considered subhumans, and are treated as such. Most Rohingya Muslims are native to the state of “Rohang” – also known as Rakhine or Arakan. The majority of them live in very poor townships – mainly Buthidaung and Maungdaw – in the northwestern part of Arakan, or live in refugee camps. Their population subsists between the nightmare of having no legal status (as they are still denied citizenship), little or no rights and the ethnic purges carried out by their neighbors. The worst of such violence in recent years took place between June and October 2012. However, the onslaught targeting Rohingyas is resurfacing and spreading. This time around the intensity and the parameters of violence grew to include other Muslim minority groups in the country.

The BBC footage is not only revealing in the sense that it confirmed the authorities’ complicity in the violence, but it also reflected the government’s general attitude towards this minority group, described by the UN as the ‘world’s most persecuted people’. Responding to the outcry against his country’s brutal treatment of its minorities, Burmese President Then Sein made an ‘offer’ to the UN last year where he was willing to send the Rohingyas “to any other country willing to accept them.”

This peculiar behavior by the Burmese government is problematic in more than one way. Rangoon doesn’t seem even slightly mindful of international humanitarian laws or simply wishes to ignore it altogether. Its legal frame of reference is hardly a reflection of a repented dictatorship. But what is even more dangerous is that Rangoon has been sending unmistakable messages to nationalist groups who are leading the ethnic purges, that their extremely violent behavior is in fact consistent with the central policies of their governments.

Groups like Human Rights Watch (HRW) have become markedly more outspoken regarding the violence against the Rohingya. To quell growing criticism, perhaps fearing a backlash in terms of lucrative business contracts, the Burmese government decided to investigate the ‘sectarian violence’ through a supposed independent commission. Its recommendations were as equally disturbing as the violence itself.

The government Inquiry Commission on the Sectarian Violence in Rakhine State, assembled last August, was composed of 27-members, all Arkanese Buddhists, none of them from the Rohingya minority. The long-awaited report on the violence finally emerged on April 29, 2013. Its major findings included concerns over “rapid population growth” among Rohingya and Kaman Muslims. Its recommendations compelled a swift response from local authorities that moved in to limit the birth rate of Muslim Rohingya in two large townships.

On May 26, Arakan State spokesperson Win Myaing told journalists that the findings of the commission were consistent with the 2005 law that limits birth rate among Roghingya Muslims to two children per family. That discriminatory law goes back to 1994 where severe marriage restrictions were imposed on the Rohingya community, requiring long and complicated procedures. The BBC said, “it is not clear how (the ‘two-child policy’) will be enforced.”

Regardless of what sort of mechanisms Burmese authorities plan to put in place to implement the ‘law’, limiting population growth of the Rohingya people, is an abhorrent principle in and of itself. It even compelled celebrated ‘democracy icon’ Aung San Suu Kyi to break her silence regarding the violence against Rohingyas, however, she carefully selected her language.

“It is not good to have such discrimination. And it is not in line with human rights either,” Suu Kyi told reporters, although “she could not confirm whether the policy was being implemented,” reported the BBC online on May 27.

Considering the level of violence directed at Rohingyas and the fact that more than 125,000 Rohingya have already been pushed into internally displaced camps, (tens of thousands more have already been forced to flee the country and are scattered in refugee camps throughout Southeast Asia) one can only imagine the kind of sinister plans which are being put into action, amid the deafening international silence.

In fact, ‘silence’ is an understatement, for following the early wave of devastating violence, European officials welcomed the country’s ‘measured response’ and spokesperson for the EU’s high representative on foreign affairs, Catherine Ashton, said on June 11: “We believe that the security forces are handling this difficult inter-communal violence in an appropriate way.”

Meanwhile, western countries led by the United States, are clamoring to divide the large Burmese economic cake amongst themselves. As Rohingya boats were floating (or sinking) in various waters, Burma’s President Sein met with Norway’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg in a ‘landmark’ visit in Oslo on February 26. Regarding the conflict in Arakan, Jens Stoltenberg unambiguously declared it to be an internal Burmese affair, reducing it to the most belittling statements. In regards to ‘disagreements’ over citizenship, he said, “we have encouraged dialogue, but we will not demand that Burma’s government give citizenship to the Rohingyas.” Moreover, to reward Sein for his supposedly bold democratic reforms, Norway took the lead by waving off nearly half of its debt and other countries followed suit, including Japan which dropped $3 billion last year.

Meanwhile, the Rohingyas are left to ponder their punishment for flouting one discriminatory law or another. “Fear of punishment under the two-child rule compel far too many Rohingya women to risk their lives and turn to desperate and dangerous measures to self-induce abortions,” Asia director at HRW, Brad Adams said in a report published May 28.

No words can suffice to describe the plight of the Rohingyas who are trying to survive an unprecedentedly violent ethnic purge, with support and complicity of the Burmese government and silence of the very western governments that never cease to preach democracy and human rights.

Matthew Smith is a researcher for HRW and author of the organization’s report, “All You Can Do is Pray”: Crimes Against Humanity and Ethnic Cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in Burma’s Arakan State.’ Concluding a commentary in CNN online, Smith wrote: “The world should not be blinded by the excitement of Myanmar’s political opening. Rohingya are paying for that approach with their lives.” Since then, more Rohingyas were killed, many more homes, mosques, shops and orphanages were burned to the ground and there has been no international uproar as of yet.

~

Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of Palestine Chronicle His latest book is: My Father was A Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press).

June 6, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , | Comments Off on Rohingya Population Control: The Onslaught in Burma Continues

Iran to set up camp for displaced Rohingyas in Myanmar

A Muslim Rohingya man sits at his burnt home at a village in Minpyar in Rakhine state, Myanmar, on October 28, 2012.  (file photo)
A Rohingya man sits at his burnt home at a village in Minpyar in Rakhine state, Myanmar, on October 28, 2012.
Press TV – January 19, 2013

An Iranian MP says the Islamic Republic plans to set up a camp in Myanmar to help the efforts to provide relief to the country’s Rohingya Muslims.
On Saturday, Majlis (parliament) National Security and Foreign Policy Committee Deputy Chairman Mansour Haqiqatpour said agreements have been reached with senior Myanmar officials to set up a camp in Rakhine state that can accommodate thousands of Rohingya refugees and where food can be provided for them.

He stated that Tehran will soon put forward its own plan for the cessation of violence against Rohingya Muslims and the restoration of the social rights of the Muslim community.

Earlier this month, an Iranian parliamentary delegation visited Myanmar to examine the situation of the Rohingya Muslims and find ways to help them.

Officials of the Iranian Foreign Ministry, the country’s Red Crescent Society (IRCS), and the Imam Khomeini Relief Committee accompanied the Iranian lawmakers during their visit to Myanmar.

Some 800,000 Rohingyas are deprived of citizenship rights due to the policy of discrimination that has denied them the right of citizenship and made them vulnerable to acts of violence and persecution, expulsion, and displacement.

The Myanmar government has so far refused to extricate the stateless Rohingyas in the western state of Rakhine from their citizenship limbo, despite international pressure to give them a legal status.

Rohingya Muslims have faced torture, neglect, and repression in Myanmar since it achieved independence in 1948.

Hundreds of Rohingyas are believed to have been killed and thousands displaced in recent attacks by extremists who call themselves Buddhists.

The extremists frequently attack Rohingyas and have set fire to their homes in several villages in Rakhine. Myanmar Army forces allegedly provided the fanatics containers of petrol for torching the houses of Muslim villagers, who are then forced to flee.

Myanmar’s government has been accused of failing to protect the Muslim minority.

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has also come under fire for her stance on the violence. The Nobel Peace laureate has refused to censure the Myanmarese military for its persecution of the Rohingyas.

Rohingyas are said to be Muslim descendants of Persian, Turkish, Bengali, and Pathan origin, who migrated to Myanmar as early as the 8th century.

January 19, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , | Comments Off on Iran to set up camp for displaced Rohingyas in Myanmar

Stateless Rohingya… Running on Empty

By January 12, 2012

Rohingyas, the ethnic Muslim minority in Burma, are treated as aliens and discriminated in their own country despite their continued existence there for centuries. They face systematic oppression of forced labor, arbitrary arrest, and land confiscation. Only Rohingyas must apply for travel passes even to go to the next village less than a mile away. So, they cannot go to mosques for prayer or to marry or even study or work. Only Rohingyas, but not Buddhist Arakanese, face exorbitant and outrageous taxation for land, property, and activities such as repairing houses, marrying someone, and giving birth. Thus, they are without human and civil rights. They live in fear and without freedom.

July 21, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, Video | , , , | Comments Off on Stateless Rohingya… Running on Empty

Democracy and slaughter in Myanmar: Gold Rush overrides Human Rights

By Ramzy Baroud | Press TV | July 16, 2012

The widespread killings of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar – have received only passing and dispassionate coverage in most media. What they actually warrant is widespread outrage and decisive efforts to bring further human rights abuses to an immediate halt.

“Burmese helicopter set fire to three boats carrying nearly 50 Muslim Rohingyas fleeing sectarian violence in western Burma in an attack that is believed to have killed everyone on board,” reported Radio Free Europe on July 12.

Why would anyone take such fatal risks? Refugees are attempting to escape imminent death, torture or arrest at the hands of the Ethnic Buddhist Rakhine majority, which has the full support of the Myanmar government.

The relatively little media interest in Myanmar’s ‘ethnic clashes’ is by no means an indication of the significance of the story. The recent flaring of violence followed the raping and killing of a Rhakine woman on May 28, allegedly by three Rohingya men. The incident ushered a rare movement of unity between many sectors of Myanmar society, including the government, security forces and so-called pro-democracy activists and groups. The first order of business was the beating to death of ten innocent Muslims. The victims, who were dragged out of a bus and attacked by a mob of 300 strong Buddhist Rhakine, were not even Rohingyas, according to the Bangkok Post (June 22). Not all Muslims in Myanmar are from the Rohingya ethnic group. Some are descendants of Indian immigrants, some have Chinese ancestry, and some even have early Arab and Persian origins. Myanmar is a country with a population of an estimated 60 million, only 4 percent of whom are Muslim.

Regardless of numbers, the abuses are widespread and rioters are facing little or no repercussions for their actions. “The Rohingyas…face some of the worst discrimination in the world,” reported Reuters on July 4, citing rights groups. UK-based Equal Rights Trust indicated that the recent violence is not merely due to ethnic clashes, but actually involves active government participation. “From June 16 onwards, the military became more actively involved in committing acts of violence and other human rights abuses against the Rohingya including killings and mass-scale arrests of Rohingya men and boys in North Rakhine State.”

The ‘pro-democracy’ Myanmar’s groups and individuals celebrated by Western governments for objecting to the country’s military junta are also taking part in the war against minorities. Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald on July 8, Hanna Hindstrom reported that one pro-democracy group stated on Twitter that “[t]he so-called Rohingya are liars,” while another social media user said, “We must kill all the kalar.” Kalar is a racist slur applied to dark-skinned people from the Indian subcontinent

Politically, Myanmar has a poor reputation. A protracted civil war has ravaged the country shortly after its independence from Britain in 1948. The colonial era was exceptionally destructive as the country was used as a battleground for great powers. Many Myanmar people were slaughtered in a situation that was not of their making. As foreign powers divided the country according to their own purposes, an ensuing civil war was almost predictable. It supposedly ended when a military junta took over from 1962 to 2011, but many of the underlying problems remained unresolved.

Per western media coverage, Myanmar is defined by a few ‘iconic’ individuals’ quest for democracy, notwithstanding opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Since an election last year brought a civilian government to power, we have been led to believe that a happy ending is now in the making. “Burma opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi made her historic parliamentary debut on Monday (July 9), marking a new phase in her near quarter century struggle to bring democracy to her army-dominated homeland,” reported the British Telegraph.

But aside from mere ‘concerns’ over the ethnic violence, Aung San Suu Kyi is staying on the fence – as if the slaughter of the country’s ‘dark-skinned Indians’ is not as urgent as having a parliamentary representation for her party, the National League for Democracy in Myanmar. Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu called on ‘The Lady’ to do something, anything. “As a Nobel Peace Laureate, we are confident that the first step of your journey towards ensuring peace in the world would start from your own doorstep and that you would play a positive role in bringing an end to the violence that has afflicted Arakan State,” he wrote. However, “Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy continues to carefully sidestep the hot-button issue,” according to Foreign Policy.

The violent targeting of Burmese minorities arrived at an interesting time for the US and Britain. Their pro-democracy campaign was largely called off when the junta agreed to provide semi-democratic reforms. Eager to offset the near exclusive Chinese influence over the Myanmar economy, Western companies jumped into Myanmar as if one of the most oppressive regimes in the world was suddenly resurrected into an oasis for democracy.

“The gold rush for Burma has begun,” wrote Alex Spillius in the British Guardian. It was ushered in by US President Barak Obama’s recent lifting of the ban on American investment in the country. Britain immediately followed suit, as a UK trade office was hurriedly opened in Rangoon on July 11. “Its aim is to forge links with one of the last unexploited markets in Asia, a country blessed by ample resources of hydro-carbons, minerals, gems and timber, not to mention a cheap labour force, which thanks to years of isolation and sanctions is near virgin territory for foreign investors.” Since US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made her ‘historic’ visit to Myanmar in December 2011, a recurring media theme has been ‘Myanmar riches’ and the ‘race for Myanmar’. Little else is being discussed, and certainly not minority rights.

Recently, Clinton held a meeting with Myanmar’s President Thein Sein, who is now being branded as another success story for US diplomacy. On the agenda are US concerns regarding the “lack of transparency in Myanmar’s investment environment and the military’s role in the economy” (CNN, July 12). Thein Sein, however, is guilty of much greater sins, for he is providing a dangerous political discourse that could possibly lead to more killings, or even genocide. The ‘reformist’ president told the UN that “refugee camps or deportation is the solution for nearly a million Rohingya Muslims,” according to ABC Australia. He offered to send the Rohingyas away “if any third country would accept them.”

The Rohingyas are currently undergoing one of the most violent episodes of their history, and their suffering is one of the most pressing issues anywhere in the world. Yet their plight is suspiciously absent from regional and international priorities, or is undercut by giddiness over the country’s “ample resources of hydro-carbons, minerals, gems and timber.”

Meanwhile, the stateless and defenseless Rohingyas continue to suffer and die. Those lucky to make it to Bangladesh are being turned back. Aside from few courageous journalists – indifferent to the country’s promise for ‘democracy’ and other fables – most are simply looking the other way. This tragic attitude must immediately change if human rights matter in the least.

July 16, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | 2 Comments