Letter from America: Genocide of the Rohingyas of Myanmar – Part 2 All Over Arakan It’s Bosnia Again!
In a meeting (in which I was invited to speak on the Rohingya problem) held in Luton (located 30 miles north of London), UK, on October 13, a British MP mentioned close parallel between what is happening today against the Rohingya Muslims in Arakan and what happened in Bosnia in the early 1990s against the Bosnian Muslims. He is right.
The Arakan state, which per estimates made by Dr. Shwe Lu Maung alias Shahnewaz Khan, in his book – The Price of Silence: Muslim-Buddhist War of Bangladesh and Myanmar – a Social Darwinist’s Analysis – had probably as many Rohingya Muslims as there were Rakhine Buddhists living in its four districts before the latest extermination campaign that began on June 3 of this year, is now almost devoid of any Muslim village that is unharmed or intact by Buddhist Rakhine terrorism.
The UN and other international human rights groups have called the Rohingya Muslims, and rightly so, the worst persecuted people in our planet. Because of their race and religion, they are victims of genocide in the Buddhist-majority Myanmar.
Truly, no other word in the English language but genocide can describe what the Rohingya people are facing. The use of this term should not come as a surprise since the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines genocide as "the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political or cultural group.” As noted by experts, the term can be applied to such destructions in whole or in part of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group. By any definition, the Rohingya people of Arakan are ethnically, racially, religiously different than the Rakhine Buddhists and majority Burmans in Myanmar.
In his book – Worse than War – Dr. Daniel Jonah Goldhagen cites five principal forms of elimination: transformation, repression, expulsion, prevention of reproduction, and extermination. Transformation involves the destruction of a targeted group’s essential and defining political, social, or cultural identities. As I have mentioned earlier, in spite of their ties to the soil of Arakan since time immemorial, the Rohingyas are falsely alleged by the dominant ethnic groups as new settlers from nearby Bangladesh.
Repression entails keeping the hated, deprecated, or feared people within territorial reach and reducing, with violent domination, their ability to inflict real or imagined harm upon others. Such repression has been a regular feature of Rohingya life inside Myanmar.
Expulsion, often called deportation, is a third eliminationist option. It removes unwanted people more thoroughly, by driving them beyond a country’s borders, or from one region of a country to another, or compelling them en masse into camps. The Myanmar government since the days of Ne Win has been guilty of this crime.
Prevention of reproduction is the fourth eliminationist act, which the Myanmar government has been employing in conjunction with others. Not only are the Rohingya families restricted from marrying, the women are often forcibly sterilized, forced to abort and very often raped. In recent months, during attacks on Muslim homes, villages and towns the kidnapping of the Rohingya girls and women have become a recurring event.
Extermination is the fifth eliminationist act in which the targeted groups are killed, often with the excuse that their very existence poses a mortal threat. It promises not an interim, not a piecemeal, not only a probable, but a “final solution” to the putative problem. It is not difficult to see why in recent weeks, poisoned oil and food were sold to the Rohingya people by Rakhine businessmen to kill them. The latest activities by the Rakhine terrorists, aided by racist monks and others within the larger Myanmar society, including murderous politicians and government authorities, thus, clearly show that Rohingyas are victims of an extermination act.
A comparison with the previously cited list of crimes of the Myanmar government clearly shows that Rohingyas are facing all the five forms of elimination. It is a complete package of annihilation of the Rohingya people!
Genocide requires preparation and planning. It begins in the minds of men and needs mass mobilization to commit the horror against the targeted group. The perpetrators or the executioners must not only feel secure but also must be self-motivated and zealous to commit their horrendous crimes. Often times, the task of preparing the mind is left to ideologues and chauvinist intellectuals who sell the poison tablet of intolerance against the targeted group. Without political leadership the overwhelming majority of the perpetrators would not lift a finger in harm. However, once set in motion, typically with a few encouraging and enabling words, they, both the eliminationist regimes’ shock troops and their societies’ ordinary members give themselves, body and soul, to death. They do so easily, effortlessly. And this is what we are witnessing today in Myanmar, esp. the Arakan state.
Taking a cue from other places where genocides have taken place, the leaders of this greatest crime of our time - the Myanmar government, the local Rakhine politicians and intelligentsia, and their racist Buddhist monks within the general population -- have been feeding many myths for public consumption that not only distort the history of the Rohingyas and other non-Buddhists but also exaggerate the potential benefits that could come from ‘purifying’ the soils of Myanmar and Arakan by eliminating the ‘other’ people, esp. the Rohingya Muslims. Thanks to the poisonous writings of Rakhine chauvinists like Aye Chan, (late) Aye Kyaw, Khin Maung Saw and others, the Muslim population is deemed an ‘influx virus,’ a threat to the Buddhist identity of Myanmar, esp. of Arakan. Thus, a pervasive slogan that is often heard and discussed in the media is that the Rakhine people can’t live any more with the Rohingya ‘terrorists.’ Forgotten in such biased reporting is the mere fact that all the victims of the carnage have been Rohingya people. It is they who are terrorized by Buddhist terrorism, and not the other way around!
The causes of mass murder can often be found in the ideology that the state espouses. Social and ethnic compositions are usually the fault lines along which such elimination projects emanate. As I have noted elsewhere, the Myanmar government espouses a new Myanmarism in which racism and bigotry are the defining ideologies to purify its soil of all the non-Buddhists and non-Mongoloid races. Its mosaic of identities - ethnic, racial, religious, linguistic and cultural, and the resulting diversity, which could have been its greatest strength is seen in this toxic ideology as its greatest weakness.
In 1935, years before the Jewish Holocaust happened in Germany, anti-Jewish racist and bigotry-ridden laws were promulgated in the German city of Nuremberg stopping social and economic contacts with the Jews. The Jews also lost the right to vote and hold office. Within the next eight years, 13 implementation ordinances were issued dealing with the enforcement of the Reich Citizenship Law that progressively marginalized the Jewish community in Germany.
Anyone violating these laws was punished by hard labor, imprisonment and/or fines. Such laws were exploited by hard-core Nazis to destroy properties of a people that the authorities would not generally protect. Truly, it is hard to imagine the Jewish Holocaust in Europe without those Nuremberg Laws. The recently issued religious edicts from Buddhist monks banning social and economic ties with the Rohingya people, in particular, and the Muslims, in general, is a sufficient reminder and a dire warning about the ugly head of genocide that is emerging now in Myanmar, esp. in its western state of Arakan.
As I have noted in my keynote speech at the Bangkok Conference on “Contemplating Burma’s Rohingya People’s Future in Reconciliation and (Democratic) Reform,” the new Myanmarism, espoused by the Buddhist political leadership inside Myanmar, is totalitarian and is akin to neo-Nazi Fascism. Its leaders and followers erase distinction between politics and religion, wanting to merge their racist and fascist politics with and subordinate to radical Theravada Buddhism that is extremist, fundamentalist, racist, violent and intolerant of all religions except its own. This toxic ideology is a sure recipe for disaster in a country like Myanmar with some 140 ethnic groups and minority Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and Hindus comprising 15 to 20 percent of the total population. It breeds intolerance and promotes violence that is officially sanctioned by people in authority and supported by vast majority of its people as a national project. This hybrid cocktail of Burmese racist supremacy and intolerant Buddhism is a threat not only to its minority races and religions, but also to the entire region.
Sadly, however, because of the western appetite for Myanmar’s natural resources, the crimes of the Myanmar and Rakhine government are overlooked. And instead, the root causes behind the targeted violence against the Rohingya Muslims are falsely attributed to poverty and lack of economic opportunities – points recently made by Victoria Nuland of the U.S. State Department.
There is, however, no doubt that in spite of Myanmar’s enormous natural resources, the country remains the poorest of the ASEAN countries, and South-east Asia. But to say that poverty is at the heart of the genocidal campaign is a linguistic camouflage to justice U.S. State Department’s silence on the grievous nature of the crimes committed by the murderous Myanmar government. We have heard similar excuses during the Bosnian and Rwandan genocidal campaigns. There are many countries with worse poverty but the powerful majority there doesn’t commit acts of genocide against the minority. For genocide to happen, it is always a national project in which people of all walks of life participate, and that is what is happening with the Rohingya problem inside Myanmar.
For years, China, India and other Asia Pacific countries have been doing business with the brutal military regime in Myanmar. Human rights were never a priority. Many of the European and North American countries were left out from a share at that Myanmar pie.
For them to join in, they needed a face change with Myanmar. And that devious process started first with the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Suu Kyi – who did not merit it, and then with the change of the uniform of the old guards who not long ago had donned the military dress to claim that they are reform-minded. It was a Glasnost moment for Burma, which was renamed Myanmar. That claim was followed with a controversial election held in 2010 (followed by a by-election in which Suu Kyi’s NLD enthusiastically participated) to show that Myanmar was moving from a fascist military oligarchy into a democracy, and then the trip of Suu Kyi as Thein Sein’s unofficial ambassador to the western world pleading for opening up trade and commerce relationship with the government. And in this warming up session, the last play was played during Thein Sein’s trip to the UN where he met with Ban Ki-Moon and other western leaders.
Soon thereafter one after another of the western governments, too keen to eat their share of the pie, lifted all previous bans against the murderous regime. They promised huge investments. Emboldened by such moves, the Thein Sein government does not feel that it is obligated to honor any previous pledge made to the world community. Soon after his return from the UN session, the racist Buddhist monks conducted stage managed demonstrations asking the government to force out or relocate Muslims. In government managed newspapers, they announced dire consequences against anyone doing any business with Muslims including selling food and buying or renting out homes to and from them. As hinted above, it is a copy of the Nazi era policy. It is a total package of ethnically cleansing Myanmar of the Muslim population, in general, and the Rohingyas, in particular. So insidious is Myanmar’s Buddhist fascism, the Rakhine Buddhists living inside and outside Arakan and their patrons in the Buddhist-majority Myanmar do not want any Muslim, esp. the Rohingya, living inside Myanmar, esp. in the Rakhine state.
As I have noted elsewhere, ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya people has now become a national project in Myanmar in which most Buddhists of Myanmar including the so-called democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi are willing participants one way or another. Even when they are not personally participating in this heinous crime, through their sinister silence and/or endorsement of the regime’s anti-Rohingya policy and the genocidal campaign that is carried out by criminal Rakhine Buddhists, they have essentially become partners in this crime. The Rakhine Buddhists now have their own version of Kristallnacht. They are mimicking the Nazi Party's series of pogroms in 1938, whereby one Jewish township after another was attacked. At this rate of destruction, there won’t be any Muslim locality left inside Arakan, their ancestral home.
None of these attacks since June 3 are isolated, unplanned, or spontaneous offenses. Already made stateless by the highly discriminatory 1982 Citizenship Law that is at variance with scores of international laws, the Rohingyas are falsely blamed by fascist Rakhine politicians for crimes that they did not commit so that the Buddhist populace could be incited to accept and assist the progressively savage operations of "race purification." Lynching attacks are organized by Aye Maung’s fascist party - RNDP and other equally racist Rakhine politicians and greedy businessmen to loot Rohingya properties and burn their homes, businesses and mosques.
Rohingya property is confiscated. In this task the Rakhine-dominated security forces and police are willing partners. As a result, the Rohingyas are now caged in concentration-like camps and ghettos or pushed into exile. The genocidal program is progressing in fury and irresponsibility to the "final solution" to make them an extinct people.
We can still stop this extinction if our powerful western governments act. They can pressure the Thein Sein government through the UN Security Council not only to stop this ethnic cleansing and restore Rohingya citizenship, but also ensure that the Rohingyas are compensated for their loss of lives and properties and live with safety and security under UN-monitored safe havens created to the west of the Kaladan River. If the regime resists such tangible changes, the UNSC members can take the criminal leaders of Myanmar and the Rakhine state to a Nuremberg-type trial for committing heinous crimes against humanity, let alone ban all economic transactions with the rogue regime.
Unfortunately, the attitude of the powerful nations towards the Rohingya problem is a reminiscent of the Nazi era; they refuse to see and hear the obvious truth. It is simply immoral and inexcusable. They are buying and parroting the Myanmar regime's argument, that the conflict is basically two-sided with two large racial groups attacking each other. This is a false equivalence. When all the townships that are burning, and refugees, are from one side – the Rohingya, and when renowned activists, Buddhist monks, and local Rakhine politicians and students are using language reminiscent of the Nazi propaganda, something truly catastrophic is underway seeking "final solution" of the Rohingya problem. Nothing can hide this ugly truth!
The Rakhine (Arakan) state now looks like a prison-like ghetto for the Rohingya people. Now, the Rohingya homes are ring-fenced by burnt-out buildings and military checkpoints. Outside the capital city of Sittwe (Akyab), up to 100,000 more Rohingyas are living in a series of sweltering refugee camps where malnourishment and disease are rife and where security forces and local Rakhine activists impede aid workers from operating freely. As a result of years of persecution and a slow but steady genocidal campaign, half the Rohingya population has already been pushed out. Others living inside are counting their days to get out of this living hell. Can our generation allow such an obliteration of an entire community?
How many Rohingya deaths and destruction of their homes would qualify for these powerful nations to act and stop this most far-flung and terrible racial persecution of our time? How can we ignore or tolerate such a calculated, malignant and devastating crime, which epitomizes racial hatreds, religious bigotry, terrorism and violence, and the arrogance and cruelty of power?
It is sad to see that we have not learned anything from genocides of the past – neither from Hitler’s Germany nor from the more recent ones in Bosnia, Kosovo and Rwanda. Linguistic camouflages are still used to minimize the nature of the crime faced by the Rohingya people. Many reporters relaying the events are using prefixes like “alleged” only to obfuscate what is really happening. Many local reporters are absolutely biased and are guilty of disseminating government propaganda.
In his closing remarks before the International Military Tribunal at the Nuremberg Trials in 1946, Robert Jackson, the U.S. Chief Prosecutor, issued the following warning: “The reality is that in the long perspective of history the present century will not hold an admirable position, unless its second half is to redeem its first. These two-score years in the twentieth century will be recorded in the book of years as one of the most bloody in all annals. Two World Wars have left a legacy of dead which number more than all the armies engaged in any way that made ancient or medieval history. No half-century ever witnessed slaughter on such a scale, such cruelties and inhumanities, such wholesale deportations of peoples into slavery, such annihilations of minorities. The terror of Torquemada pales before the Nazi Inquisition. These deeds are the overshadowing historical facts by which generations to come will remember this decade. If we cannot eliminate the causes and prevent the repetition of these barbaric events, it is not an irresponsible prophecy to say that this twentieth century may yet succeed in bringing the doom of civilization.”
Witnessing the latest genocidal campaign against the Rohingyas of Myanmar, it is obvious that we have failed on both counts - to eliminate "the causes" and to prevent "the repetition of these barbaric events."
- Asian Tribune -