Skip to Content

Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2963

Obama’s Foreign Policy Failure or Paying Back in Their Own Coins? Myanmar or Rohingya

By Kanbawza Win

On the day that President left Rangoon for Australia came the announcement that Burma signs $ 7.8 billion deal with China on energy, agriculture, telecommunications and infrastructure maybe including the controversial 3.6 billion Myitsone dam project of with 90% going to China. A clear indication that the Burmese Generals still loves their step father. Uncle Sam has been consume by the fiery Dragon.

“Obama’s second Burma visit falls flat,” writes Kyaw Zwa Moe of the Irrawaddy. US President reading of Burma’s current political situation is markedly different from what many Burmese people have perceived over the last two years. The people of Burma did not expect to hear such a rosy view. Many of them found it disappointing as his endorsement of the reform process was out of touch with reality. “What Obama said is wrong. Burma today is not even in transition yet. It was a totalitarian state. Today, it is a constitutional totalitarian state,” said Bo Kyi, secretary of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners of Burma. He received a similar message directly from the people he met in Rangoon met a group of young Burmese at Rangoon University’s Diamond Jubilee Hall, (see picture). On the whole the Burmese don’t expect miracles from the reform process that started in 2011, what they expect is a gradual progress towards a democratic and prosperous nation and the people haven’t seen any genuine progress toward this end in recent years. Now it is simply backsliding.

Many serious issues remain unaddressed—from ethnic conflict and the continued imprisonment of political activists to gross human rights violations against ethnic nationalities and restrictions on freedom of the press. There is little or no possibility that the current undemocratic 2008 Nargis Constitution will be amended, though pro-democracy groups led by Suu Kyi’s NLD and the prominent 88 Generation Peace and Open Society have managed to obtain 5 million signatures on a petition calling for constitutional change. The peace process isn’t progressing smoothly because some ethnic armed groups simply don’t trust the government or the military, which have failed to promise a measure of autonomy to ethnic groups that have fought for decades. But most importantly Thein Sein’s government has not the genuine political will nor the means to institute real reform. It is not the elected Burmese government but the government of the army, for the army by the army.

Burma to Myanmar and Bengali to Rohingya

The world has acquiesce changing the name of the country from Burma to Myanmar by cruel dictators without the consensus of the people even though the word Myanmar is both phonetically and politically wrong. Myanmar should be spelled Myanma without the word r at the end because it derives from the South Indian word of Mrama where ma is pronounced softly as Mother in English. Hence it is phonetically wrong. Union of Burma is composed of several ethnic nationalities in 1947 at Panglong Conference that have decided to live together in weal and woe and not to be dominated by the majority Myamar ethnic race only. So it is politically wrong. It is ridiculous to call the people and the country by the same name. The country should be called Myanmar Naing Ngan. Naing Ngan is a country in Burmese. Besides in the English language we called the country by English names and not by their native name e.g. we call Germany as Germany and not Deutschland; Spain as Spain not Espanola and China as China and not Chung Kuo??. Even though the majority in the world did not believes that dictators cannot change the name of the country by decree without the consent of the people, their respective governments has to acquiesce, for business always overrules the conscience now that the country has open up for the exploitation of its human and natural resources.

Burma became an ‘‘ethnocratic state,’’ Which acted as an “agency of the dominant ethnic community’’ requiring the other ethnic groups to become assimilated into the dominant ethnic culture.’’ The changing of the name from Burma to Myanmar and of the flag were the clear signs of the central government promoting the dominant Myanmar culture. The thrust of the assimilation argument is that members of non-Myanmar ethnic groups are forced (either through direct coercion or through incentives) to adopt various aspects of Myanmar culture, speeding their assimilation into the Myanmar ‘‘cultural nation,’’ while at the same time ridding them of those cultural elements that are deemed dangerous to national stability or contrary to the spirit of national unity.

There are similarities in the ways in which whites in America and Europe perceived Native Americans (aboriginals) and Blacks with the ways of the Burmese government carries out cultural assimilation through religious missions that seek to spread Buddhism to other ethnic groups. In this way, they not only reinforce the dominant Myanmar culture but also imposed their Mahar Myanmar (superior Myanmar) idea. The deal is done, business world has no regrets.

Similarly the word Rohingya invnented only in 1950s by the Rakhine Muslims expatriates intelligentsia was now forced on Burma by the US and the UN and it seems that the Thein Sein administration has been given by its own coin as the word Myanmar was on the people of Burma and the world. Not only the US and the UN but also the international community has recognized the word Rohingya galling not only the Arakanese but also the people and the government of Burma. If this is the only aspect which President Obama count, then his foreign policy on Burma can be categorise as a success. Just click on the latest video.

The fact that the military rulers of Burma have effectively preyed on this ethno-religious conservatism of the public at large, most specifically in times of political and legitimating crises cannot be denied. As it stands now it is evident that on the Rohingya side there is

(1) History, (still debateable)

(2) Morality and

(3) International Sympathy, full stop.

On the Arakanese side

(1) The entire Myanmar ethnic Buddhist Community

(2)The government of the Union of Burma

(3) The entire ethnic nationalities and most importantly

(4) Realpolitik.

But the‘Rohingya Problem’ is not a basic conflict between the Buddhists majorities and the Muslim minorities as the way President Obama sees it. In northern Arakan they are the majorities. Even though successive military administrations of Burma since 1962 have embarked on an ethnic cleansing policy because of its engrained Myanmarnization policy of the Myanmar dominated army, the Rohingya issue cannot be compared with the Karen, the Kachin, the Shan and the other ethnic problems in Burma basically because "Rohingyas" do not fall under the same category of the other ethnic nationalities of Burma. Most of them are illegal immigrants from over-populated Bangladesh. During the Independence War of East Pakistan, These Rohingya had sided with Pakistan and hence Bangladesh don’t want them. The poor pathetic Arakanese, have bear the brunt of the Myanmar atrocities since the Myanmar monarch King BodawPayar is now being rob of their ancestral native land by the US and UN.


In the second visit of President Obama visit to Burma we could glimpse a dramatic illustration of the tension between morality and amoral realism in the execution of US foreign policy. He has assured the people of Burma“the process of reform is in no way complete or irreversible.’’ As tactful way of saying America has not been duped by the Burmese generals and their cronies who have disguised the perpetuation of their power under a patina of democratic pretenses. Obama was hinting to the many victims of Burma’s brass that Washington could still halt its pursuit of diplomatic, economic, and military engagement with the resource-rich nation along China’s southern border. But no sooner had the US president issued his carefully calibrated message than a caucus of military members of Burma’s parliament voted to retain the 2008 Nargis Constitution that guarantees the Tatmadaw (a Burmese word for army) a blocking quarter of the seats in that body and prohibits Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi from running for president in 2015. In essence, it can be interpreted that the Tatmadaw MPs were calling Obama’s bluff.

They know that America’s foreign policy elites are eager to horn in on China’s backyard that US corporations hanker to extract Burma’s bounteous natural resources and peddle their fried chicken and gluten-free lattes to the consumers of Burma. Accordingly, Obama made no mention of a study by Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic describing war crimes attributed to the many serving generals. Nor did he invoke a call from the US Holocaust Memorial Museum to stop an unfolding genocide in Burma against Rohingya Muslims.

But Obama’s forthright allusion to the crimes against humanity committed in the campaign against Rohingya amounts to words substituting for action. Obama is certainly not alone among American political leaders suddenly going soft on Burma’s Tamadaw bosses. Senate majority leader Republican Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and the outgoing Democratic Chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Diane Feinstein, both long-time supporters of sanctions on the generals, have fallen silent, in apparent fealty to US companies eager to do business in Burma. Nevertheless, the continuing crimes against humanity committed by the Tatmadaw in its wars against the Karen, Shan, Kachin, and other ethnic nationalities such as Ta’ang, Lahu and so on cry out not only for condemnation but also for sanctions and diplomatic pressure. In the case of Burma today, a policy grounded in the protection of human rights also promises to suit the long-term, international interests of the US and its citizens.

Taking into consideration that the world has to acquiesce that the Burmese General fancies of changing name of the country without the consensus of the people and that internationally community business always overrules their conscience couple with the fact that generations of Burmese Generals will still continue to rule with the current 2008 Nargis Constitution in place who can say in another decade or two the name of the country Burma/Myanmar may change to a newly coined word Banglamar recognized both by the US and UN.

- End Notes

China, Myanmar sign $7.8 bln of deals China Daily Newspaper 14-11-2014

Win; Kanbawza ???????????

Moe:Kyaw Zwa Obama’s second Burma visit falls flat, The Irrawaddy 14-11-2014

Moe:Kyaw Zwa Obama’s second Burma visit falls flat, The Irrawaddy 14-11-2014

Walton; Matthew J ‘‘Wages of Burman-ness:’’ Ethnicity and Burman Privilege in Contemporary
Department of Political Science, George Washington University, Washington DC, USA

Democratic Voice of Burma - 24 November 2014

See Indian Foreign Policy Research Centre

Saw, Khin Maung Geopolitics of the Powers and the Bengali Problems in BurmaIt was officially known as 'Bangladesh Liberation War from 26th March to 16th Dec, 1971

Saw, Khin Maung Geopolitics of the Powers and the Bengali Problems in Burma

Berger; Alan Obama is going soft on Myanmar’s military bosses the Boston Globe 21-11-2014

- Asian Tribune -

Obama’s Foreign Policy Failure or Paying Back in Their Own Coins? Myanmar or Rohingya
diconary view
Share this