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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2556

Time for the UN to show its Teeth

By Kanbawza Win

It is not surprising that the United Nations Rapporteur on Human Rights in Burma called the creation of a Commission of Inquiry (COI), the UN’s highest-level probe, to investigate abuses in the country.

The 47-member body must establish a COI “to investigate the systematic, structural, and institutional discrimination in policy, law and practice, as well long-standing persecution, against the Rohingya and other non-Myanmar ethnic nationalities” reports both from inside Burma and from the Bangladesh undoubtedly proves the authenticity that the Tadmadaw, which has been committing gross human rights violations for more than seventy years on the non-Myanmar ethnic nationalities, is a crime against humanity. Now it is time that these SA (Self Appointed) Generals should be tried at The Hague. How come, a country with hundreds different kinds ethnic nationalities miserably suffering ethnic cleansing for more than half a century was not responded by the international community? The answer is simple, because Ka Lar Rohingya is not an ethnic. In this respect a Burmese proverb coming true, literal translation means that “you hear only when the Ka Lar (any one whose complexion is black and is not a degrading word as many foreign scholars use to describe,) shouts and believe only when he cries” is proven true in this Rohingya case.

Now it has reached at the civilized world forum that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, either has to accept the shame on behalf of the entire Myanmar race or bent to the Tatmadaw’smotto of, “Lying the very concept of truth” in the international forum and be branded forever that that Myanmar race itself are liars and cannot be trusted placing her between ‘devil or the deep sea.’ It is high time that the UN Security Council should recommend the UN Human Rights Office of the High Commission (UNHRC) to enquire Burma’s latest crime against humanity. In fact the UNHRC has a good record of doing excellent work in Eritrea, Darfur, Burundi, and Gaza and currently in Syria. The Burmese Generals knew that in March 2013 its bosom friend and nuclear partner North Korea was investigated by the UNHRC for the systematic widespread and grave violations and now it is her turn to be investigated.

No doubt these Ka Lar has been in the country for thousands of years and had produced heroes since the first Burmese kingdom 1044, (the fable Ka Lar brothers Byawi Byatta where they were now worship as a Nat, a, sort of a spirit, to U Pein bridge, Sayagyi U Razak, U Rachid, U Ba Shin, Ohn Kyaw Myint to Ko Ni etc) and all of them were Burmese citizens. The British after annexing the country (1824 Treaty of Yandabo) tried to discover as how many local tribes in the new empire to report to the queen and put the list in their archives in London, but the name of Rohingya was not there, as Ambassador Derek Tonkin, who made a thorough research often reported. Burma was part of greater Indian empire and the British encouraged the hard working East Bengalese to work in the fertile land of Western Burma. Even though they came as seasonal laborers, later stay on permanently carrying on their traditions and language, and had never tried to identify with the locals or with the land they depend. But when India became independent and broke into two, these Bengali immigrant naturally opted for East Pakistan and try to incorporate the motherland of Mayu Frontier labeling themselves as Mujahids. Failing to do this they christened themselves as Rohingyas and refused to identify with the local ethnics, did not join the local Muslim army created in 2004 to fight the Junta and is the only race that urged the Nobel Committee to take back the Peace prize back from Daw Suu proving their foreign origin. But still they are the citizens of Burma having resided there since 1830s, but an ethnic is out of question.

Tatmadaw construe, that these Rohingya being not an organized ethnic group will make short work of it and but this time it was caught red handed. Now, is to be seen whether the NLD government will accept the “Truth” and do something to curb the marauding Tatmadaw, who is still calling the shots, if not, what will be the response of Bangladesh, the international community not to mention the OIC (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation), and the United Nations? In fact she has received her share of criticism from foreign governments, rights groups, and the international community and even from her most avid supporters. But in spite of these unsurmountable difficulties she was able to grant citizenship as verified under the 1982 citizenship law with classified identity, nomenclature and full citizens, such as associate citizen and naturalized citizens and in the long run these Ka Lars like any other Ka Lar (Hindu Muslims or whatever) will be granted their respective status.

The crux of the problem like any other problems is of course the Tatmadaw. Before 1962 during the early democratic days these Bengali Ka Lars were recognized as citizens, and vote where in fact a ten minute program was broadcast in their local language (Rohingya speaks a type of Bengali) by the state run Burma Broadcasting Services and had live there peacefully with the local Arakanese. The problem started only when the Tatmadaw stage a coup and things turn out to be the worst. The Generals at that time led by Ne Win thought that they would get the support of the people by targeting the Bengali Kalars and several military operations where mounted resulting these Bengali Kalars to run away to Bangladesh en masse. This situation became worst under Than Shwe whose Na Sa Ka (an odd combination of police and immigration) confiscated all the citizens cards and sold it to the newly arrived rich Rohingyas at exorbitant prices and allowing them to reside as respected Burmese Muslims in any part of the country, and even one young Rohingya damsel was able to meet President Obama.

But, Bangladesh had received them temporarily only on humanitarian grounds, knowing full well the treachery of these people had sided with Pakistan during their war of liberation and would not accept them in the long run. The most notable was Naga-Min (King Dragon) Operation in Feb. 1978-79 resulting in exodus of some 300,000 Rohingyas to Bangladesh. Early Oct. last year 90,000 people have been displaced, of which more than 66,000 have crossed into Bangladesh and this does not include 120,000 internally displaced by the well-orchestrated violence by the Tatmadaw in collusion with USDP in 2012, not to mention those ran away in rickety boats run by human traffickers,

UN Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee after meeting with the new Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh (Balukhali, Leda, Nayapara, and Kutupalong camps) reported that “the magnitude of violence that these families have witnessed and experienced is far more extensive than I had originally speculated, horrific events like slitting of throats, indiscriminate shootings, setting alight houses with people tied up inside and throwing very young children into the fire, as well as gang rapes and other sexual violence,” In short what the Tatmadaw has been trying to hide these hideous crime for seven decades and was revealed only now. New York Times (27-1-2017 Shameful Denial) wrote, “Despite the strength of this evidence, the response of the Burmese authorities, including of Aung San Suu Kyi, has been woefully inadequate. Disgracefully, the authorities have talked of ‘fake rape’, and suggested that the Rohingya burned down their own homes.” One can recollect that President Obama had lifted sanctions against Burma, citing “substantial progress in improving human rights” following the historic election victory of the Nobel laureate Daw Suu’s National League for Democracy party in Nov. last year, that praise is proving premature and another impunity will only embolden hardliners in the Tatmadaw. It was clearly a pre meditated act as the Burmese government under pressure from Tatmadaw had to prevent independent journalists from the region. Real journalism is, of course, not the enemy of the people- nor is it even the enemy of any particular party or individual. It is the enemy of injustice, corruption, oppression and deceit now represented by the Tatmadaw. The egregious abuses carried out by the Tatmadaw coupled with grave violations in Kachin and Shan States, and increased harassment and prosecution of peaceful critics throughout the country, compelled the UNHRC to act. Hkanhpa Sadan, of the Kachin National Organization said, “Our Kachin people have been crying out for justice and accountability since Burmese government unilaterally ended the 17-year ceasefire with the KIO nearly 6 years ago. While talking up democratic transition in the media, Myanmar government has been bombing – even using fighter jets and gunship helicopters, displacing thousands of our people, including women, elderly, children and infants from their own homes.” He pointed out that the Burmese government as usual is blocking humanitarian assistance and supplies to Kachin war refugees while refusing to permit the UN Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee access to the internally displaced people (IDP) camps, where thousands of families are freezing in make-shift camps in the high altitude mountainous, with little food or medical supplies.

I have witnessed in when I was working at the Thailand-Burma border area as of October 2005, when the Junta has made a fake peace with the Kachin it turned its wrath on the Karen, Shan, Karenni and Mon and at least 540,000 people were internally displaced in eastern Burma, either living in temporary sites in ceasefire areas, hiding close to their villages, or in relocation sites. Surges of attacks by the Tatmadaw since 2005 have compelled thousands to flee, especially in the Karen state where 11,000 people have been reported displaced during the months of March and April 2006 alone. Elsewhere in Burma, human rights violations led to the displacement of large numbers of civilian every year as the Junta launched full military operations. Displacement due to large-scale development projects was also increased, one example being the forced relocation of dozens of villages along the Salween River. In addition, hundreds of thousands more have been displaced in schemes to resettle the urban poor.

While an increasing number of people in the country face a deteriorating humanitarian situation the Thailand Burma Border Consortium (TBBC) has carried out the most reliable survey of internal displacement in eastern Burma. According to this study, which covers 37 townships the total number of people who have been forced or obliged to flee their homes is estimated to be at least 540,000. Between 700,000 and one million people are also believed to have fled Burma to Thailand, India, Bangladesh, Malaysia and other countries to escape the type of human rights violations which Yanghee Lee reported.

Gross human rights violations are the single most important reason for displacement in eastern Burma. In most parts of the country, the primary agent of displacement is the Tatmadaw. Which implemented a so-called “Four Cuts Policy” which aims to consolidate control in ethnic dominated areas by eliminating the access of armed opposition groups to new recruits, information, supplies and financial support. In implementing this strategy, the Myanmar Tatmadaw has been accused of widespread human rights abuses.
Escapees have given accounts of “ethnic babies being tossed up in the air while the Tatmadaw soldiers compete each other as whose bayonet is the first to pierce the baby with the stab to death, young children and old people were burned alive with widespread gang rape ordered by the commanding officers.”

Forced relocation, expropriation of land and livestock, extortion, forced labour, threats and intimidations, sexual abuse and other forms of violence, more than 2,800 villages were destroyed and about two million people forcibly relocated to government-controlled areas. In ethnic nationalities areas, land confiscation and forced relocation due to state-sponsored development projects have also contributed to displacement. Religious persecution in areas with ethnic and political conflicts especially the Muslim population in particular has faced periods of religious intolerance, leading to displacement. A sudden move of key government ministries from Rangoon to Naypyidaw reportedly led to the forced relocation of surrounding villages and forced labor. The TBBC documented the extreme vulnerability of the displaced populations, particularly in terms of mortality and malnutrition rates which are significantly higher than for the rest of the population.

Now that COI must be done through a resolution approved by council members in the near future even American ambassador Keith Harper, to the Geneva based council has strongly urge the formation of COI, it is high time that the UN should act to strengthen the Pyidoungsu Myanmar together with the ethnic nationalities led by Daw Suu over the Mahar Myanmar led by Tatmadaw for the hybrid-nature political system whereby the civilian government has to be aware of the Tatmadaw who is the real power behind the facade of the so called Disciplined Democracy.

- Asian Tribune -

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