Thursday, June 28, 2012

Video Coverage on the Sufferings of the Rohingyas of Burma

Here is a video coverage documenting the persecution and suffering of the Rohingyas of Burma.

It is also very sad to see how the Government of Bangladesh has refused entry to these victims of horrendous persecution and ethnic cleansing by the Rakhine Buddhist extremists and the Burmese government. It is simply disgraceful and shameful. I am simply shocked.

Have we lost decency and compassion?

Eye Witness Report on pogroms against the Rohingyas of Arakan state of Burma

An eye-witness report on the current pogrom against the Rohingyas of Burma by the Buddhist extremists in Burma can be read by clicking here.

My Interview on the Rohingya Crisis with Journalist S. Azizur Rahman


Recently I was interviewed by veteran journalist Shaikh Azizur Rahman who is affiliated with Radio Australia, Deutsche Welle Radio and Voice of America TV. We discussed the current Rohingya crisis. Here below are my responses to his questions.


Q. Do the Rohingya have right to live in Myanmar
A: Of course, the Rohingyas of Burma have absolute right to live as citizens within Burma similar to 135 other groups that have been recognized as citizens of Burma.

2. Q. Could you tell me in 4-5 sentences why Myanmar is doing wrong by keeping them stateless there? 
A: The heart of the problem goes back to 1982 Citizenship Law which says that Rohingyas are not citizens in Burma. They are outsiders. They have to prove their citizenship. And this law is absurd given the fact that the forefathers of Rohingyas had entered into Arakan thousands of years ago.  As historians would tell you the Rakhine or the Buddhist people did not enter Arakan until possibly as late as the tenth century. Earlier dynasties were said to be Indians that ruled over people similar to Bengal.
Arakan, in history, used to be known as the land of the ‘Kala Mukh’ - the Land of the ‘Black Faces’ - and these were dark brown-colored people that lived in Bangladesh, lower Chittagong and Arakan.

3. Q. How could this refugee issue be resolved as long as Myanmar does not recognise them and the Rohingyas keep fleeing Myanmar
A. The Rohingya refugee issue can be resolved very easily if, for example, the Burmese government revoke the 1982 Citizenship Law and allow the Rohingya people to be treated as equal citizens. Then I am sure this refugee problem won’t happen. This Citizenship Law violates several fundamental principles of international law. It offends the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and leaves Rohingya people exposed to no legal protection (of their rights) not within their country and not outside. Such persecution and discrimination are contrary to the very purpose of the United Nations. The discriminatory practices against the Rohingyas make the Burmese (or Myanmar) government guilty of non-compliance of each of the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And Burma, mind that, is a member state of the UN. So by violating those principles it is basically going against the interest or the purposes for which United Nations stand. The Myanmar government also has to introspect - internally look - at what does this minority crisis – the persecution of a religious minority – do to the image of Burma. Is it good or is it going to be bad on a long run? 

4. Q. Should other countries come forward to host the Rohingyas? 
A: Yes, the global community has an obligation to ensure that the human rights of the Rohingya are not sold for doing petty business with the regime. They should not deny asylum seekers that come to the shores, nor refuse entry of this persecuted people. 

5. Q. Aung san Suu Kyi said, she did not know whether the Rohingya's are citizens of Myanmar. Could I get a reaction from you on this comment by Ms Suu Kyi? Is she afraid to lose Burmese Buddhist voters? 
A. I am disappointed with Suu Kyi's comments. It was none other than her own father General Aung San who assured full rights and privileges to Rohingya people. He said, and let me quote: “I give (offer) you a blank cheque. We will live together and die together. Demand what you want. I will do my best to fulfill them. If native people are divided, it will be difficult to achieve independence for Burma." The former first President of Burma Sao Shwe Theik stated (and let me quote), “Muslims of Arakan certainly belong to one of the indigenous races of Burma. If they do not belong to the indigenous races, we also cannot be taken as indigenous races.” 

Suu Kyi ought to know leadership is about standing for what is right even though such stands may not be popular with people. There is not a single country in the world today that's as much divided on the issue of racism, bigotry and xenophobia as Burma is. The racism of Burmans against other races, and Buddhist people against non-Buddhist people have no parallel in our world today. It is tearing Burma apart into pieces, and will continue to do so unless the leaders there understand that it exists, and therefore, they must address the issue; they must stop it. That would require taking bold steps, not popular steps. Suu Kyi is afraid of rocking the boat of popularity. But popularity is not what Burma needs today. It needs solution to its age-old problem of racism, bigotry, xenophobia. She must demand equal rights for the Rohingyas and other persecuted minorities so that they're treated as equal citizens within Burma.

6. Q. Could you also say something on how the total environment is becoming anti-Rohingya in Myanmar?  
A: As I hinted earlier, there is no country in our world that epitomizes racism and bigotry as Burma does today. There is tremendous influence of Burmanization and Buddhism inside Burma. They want Burma absolutely for their Burmese people, preferably the majority Burmans, and if not, then one has to be Buddhist. There is no place for Christians, no place for Hindus, no place for Muslims. The Rohingyas on the other hand are Muslims. They are the original inhabitants of Arakan and they have been denied their citizenship. For years the Burmese government and the Rakhine extremists – the Buddhist elements – have made a case to make sure that these Rohingyas can be totally erased from the face of Burma. There have been tens of pogroms, starting from the 1940s that still continue. This is absolutely unacceptable.
They say that it is a Rohingya that has committed a crime. Well, when did the crime of some outcast (criminal) within a society become the justification for lynching the entire race, the entire people, [the] entire community? If that were the case, then we would not be seeing a single community on earth today for the crimes of the few that the entire group has been killed.
Today in Arakan state there is hardly a Muslim home that is intact, [and] there is hardly a business that is intact. People are afraid. People are trying to get out of Burma to come to the shores of Bangladesh. And this is absolutely unacceptable.
The world community can help resolve this issue by demanding that the Rohingyas are recognized as full citizens within Burma; nothing short of it. Otherwise, unfortunately, they will not only become the forgotten people of our time, they would become an extinct community much like what happened to the Tasmanians and so many other peoples before their time. It is a sad, sad thing!

Q: Do you have any final comments for our listeners?
A: Anyone serious about understanding the Rohingya crisis should read books written by unbiased and objective researchers. If they do, they will find that the indigenous people of Arakan before the influx of the Mongoloid race (that dominates Burma today) were dark-brown colored Indians – like the people found in nearby Bangladesh. The rulers that had ruled over Arakan, in centuries before the Sino-Tibetan influx or invasion of the late 10th century, were also of Indian descent, as were the people (the so-called Kalas – the ‘black people’) who lived there. They had much in common with Banga, or lower Bengal - today’s Bangladesh. Over the centuries, beginning in the 8th century, gradually a sizable population converted to Islam, much like what had happened in nearby Bangladesh.

As such, the Rohingya history to Arakan is not any different than those of Muslims of Bangladesh, esp. of southern Chittagong. The Rakhine Buddhist history is much younger, dating only back to 957 C.E. From 1430 onward when the Sultan of Bengal restored the throne of the fleeing Arakanese king Narameikhla several of his descendants ruled the country under Muslim titles and struck coins with Arabic inscription of the Muslim article of faith (the kalima – which means - there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is His messenger).

To now call these indigenous people of Arakan -- who identify themselves as the Rohingyas in Burma “unwanted guests” or ‘invaders or outsiders’ from Bangladesh -- is like calling the Native Americans ‘unwanted refugees’ who had settled in America after the Europeans. As much as no massacre of yesteryears and ghettoization of the Native Americans today in designated American Indian Reservation camps can obliterate their genuine right, place, history and identity, no propaganda and government or non-government sponsored pogroms can erase the rightful identity of the Rohingya people of Burma. They are the children of the soil of Arakan. They belong there with full rights of citizenship.

Can you tell a group of people that they are not the citizen of this country in spite of the fact that they are there for more than a thousand years? No.

What is happening to the Rohingya people is sheer injustice! This is absolutely wrong, inhuman and unacceptable. Thank you.
===============
Suggested readings:
The Forgotten Rohingya: Their Struggle for Human Rights in Burma
Muslim Identity and Demography in the Arakan State of Burma (Myanmar)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

My Comments on a CNN piece about Dr. Morsi

I was somewhat disturbed reading Frida Ghitis's piece in the CNN - Can We Trust Egypt's New President?  It is a flawed piece, which miserably fails to inform readers with background knowledge necessary to answer the polemical question. She alleges that the Brotherhood and Dr. Morsi had broken certain promises they had made after the fall of Hosni Mubarak. According to Frida, these include not trying to control Egyptian politics, promising to contest only a minority of seats in the legislature, and that it will not have a presidential candidate.

This is twisting of facts. What the Brotherhood actually said soon after the fall of Mubarak was that it would be willing to co-operate with secular parties. A free election was held in September in which people overwhelmingly preferred Brotherhood over all other parties.  Is that the fault of the Brotherhood that people chose its candidates and not the secularists, who had more in common with the fallen regime? With thousands of its cadre killed, imprisoned and tortured, others hunted down like dogs by the security forces, and being barred from playing an active role in Egyptian politics for nearly 70 years, the Brotherhood had no way to guess how popular they were until this free election. The parliamentary election proved that they are the most trusted of the bunch that competed in the election.

From the very beginning, SCAF and its beneficiaries wanted to ensure that while Mubarak was gone -- something that they earnestly tried to resist until when their own soldiers refused to shoot down fellow Egyptians that have joined the protest marches in the Tahrir Square -- their perks are neither denied by a new parliament nor a new president. They would have loved to see Brotherhood candidates denied the chance to participate in the elections.  And this they tried by all means possible. But the people of Egypt have waked up and won’t stand for such schemes any more. They had sacrificed 900 of their best souls and were willing to sacrifice even more. Thus, the candidates of Brotherhood ran on popular demand. They had no choice.

Would Frida like to see that Brotherhood had not run in the parliamentary election? As the results showed, vast majority of the people chose them over others. If they had not run, the ghosts from the Mubarak era would have captured the lower house and reversed the gains of the revolution. Even with those gains in the Parliament, as we saw, the SCAF succeeded in dissolving it. Such might be delighting news for anti-revolutionary forces still dormant inside Egypt, but to the vast majority it is not acceptable. Thus, they are again back to the Tahrir Square sitting-in demanding the restoration of the Parliament.

As a democratic party, Brotherhood’s political wing, Freedom and Justice Party, has its constituencies to listen to, and honor the pledges it made. Otherwise, the same group that had sent them to the legislature would dump them next time. That is what democracy is all about. Even with such massive supports it enjoyed, the Brotherhood did not do anything to further polarize the country. On many issues of national interest, it cooperated with progressive secularists, whose values were in sync with those of the common masses both inside and outside the parliament. So, Frida’s remarks are more like sour grapes of a loser who had supported the fallen regime.

As I mentioned elsewhere although the revolutionaries had succeeded in toppling Mubarak, the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), comprising of 19 Mubaraks, has been running the country for the past 16 months, and is responsible for many of the obstacles it put against the aspirations of the freedom loving people, the protesters in the Tahrir Square that brought down Mubarak. The fight for democracy is still not over. The revolutionaries ought to safeguard what they achieved thus far, and must be on the look out for conspirators and behind-the-scene players who want to reverse the tide of the revolution.

As to the allegation on presidency, the Brotherhood wanted to support the candidacy of a neutral personality like Dr. ElBaradei as president. However, the latter withdrew his name after sensing that with SCAF pulling the strings from behind, as an individual without a strong political party to back him, he could do very little to curb the influence of SCAF and run the country effectively. So what option did Brotherhood have other than field its own candidate? If Dr Morsi didn’t run, General Shafiq would have become the president-elect, much to the delight of the old-guards. Was that outcome desirable for Egyptians who wanted a change from the Mubarak-era?

Mind that Dr. Morsi was not even the first choice of Brotherhood. Its preferred candidate was not allowed to run on a technical ground. Thus Dr. Morsi ran when all other options dried out. 

To, thus, suggest that Brotherhood had broken promises or has a history of breaking pledges is to be oblivious of the political undercurrents inside Egypt. Frida Ghitis sounded more like a Mubarak-sympathizer than an objective journalist. It is simply deplorable.

The coming days would be tough days for Egypt's democracy as it finds out whether it can restore the parliament and curb the influence of the SCAF. 

America’s Moral Failings under Obama


Obama ran, promised, won and betrayed. Like so many others that came before him, he has been one of the greatest disappointments of our time. Under his watch, the USA continues to abandon its role as the global champion of human rights.

As former president Jimmy Carter has noted recently in a scathing critique of the Obama administration, top officials are targeting people to be assassinated abroad, including American citizens. Recent laws have canceled the restraints in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to allow unprecedented violations of people’s rights to privacy through warrantless wiretapping and government mining of electronic communications. Popular state laws permit detaining individuals because of their appearance, where they worship or with whom they associate. (New York Times, June 24, 2012)

This tragic development began after 9/11 and has been sanctioned and escalated by bipartisan executive and legislative actions, without, regrettably, dissent from the general public. “As a result, our country can no longer speak with moral authority on these critical issues,” Carter commented.

Carter condemned the drone attacks. He is not alone. In a report issued to the United Nations Human Rights Council, Christof Heyns, UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, called on the Obama administration to explain under what legal framework its drone war is justified and suggested that “war crimes” may have already been committed. Citing reports that the US has conducted follow-up drone strikes aimed at people coming to the strike scene to rescue the injured, Heyns said, if it is true, “those further attacks are a war crime.” Citing figures from the Pakistan Human Rights Commission, Heyns said US drone strikes killed at least 957 people in Pakistan in 2010 alone and that thousands total have been killed in over 300 drone strikes there since 2004. 

Carter noted that of the 800 men and boys held since 2002 at the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, 169 remain. Of those prisoners, 87 have had their release approved by military review boards established during the Bush administration, and later by the Guantanamo Review Task Force established by President Obama in 2009. Yet they continue to languish in the prison camp. They have little prospect of ever obtaining their freedom. American authorities have revealed that, in order to obtain confessions, some of the few being tried (only in military courts) have been tortured by water-boarding more than 100 times or intimidated with semiautomatic weapons, power drills or threats to sexually assault their mothers. “Astoundingly, these facts cannot be used as a defense by the accused, because the government claims they occurred under the cover of ‘national security’. Most of the other prisoners have no prospect of ever being charged or tried either,” commented Carter.

And what is worse: on June 11, the Supreme Court denied certiorari in seven different cases dealing with the Guantanamo Bay prisoners. The apex court's refusal to hear the cases preserves the decisions of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, including the case of Latif v. Obama in which the court ruled that the government's evidence should be given a presumption of accuracy unless the defendant can establish otherwise. It is worth noting here that Latif, a Yemeni man, has been imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay since January 2002, after being detained while traveling to seek medical treatment.

It should also be noted that four years ago, the Supreme Court rejected the Bush administration’s argument that the detainees at Guantanamo had no right to contest the legality of their confinement in US courts. In Boumediene v. Bush, the Court upheld the habeas corpus rights of the detainees, saying they must be given “a meaningful opportunity” to challenge their detention.

Latif petitioned a federal district court for a writ of habeas corpus. The Obama administration opposed the petition, relying on information from an interrogation report. In the US District Court for the District of Columbia, Judge Henry Kennedy granted Latif’s habeas petition. The government appealed the district court ruling to the conservative US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which reversed the grant of habeas corpus. 

The seven detainees, including Latif, took their cases to the Supreme Court, hoping that the high court would do justice. After all, during the Bush administration, the Court had struck down illegal and unjust executive policies. These included the denial of habeas corpus rights to Guantanamo detainees, the refusal to afford due process to US citizens caught in the “war on terror” and the holding of military commissions because they violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Geneva Conventions.

The Supreme Court’s refusal to review the appellate court decisions in these cases has rendered Boumediene a dead letter. Since 2008, two-thirds of detainees who have filed habeas corpus petitions have won at the district court level, yet not one of them has been released by judicial order.

Also on June 11 the court declined to hear the appeal of US citizen Jose Padilla challenging the dismissal of his lawsuit against US officials for illegally detaining him at a military jail in South Carolina. In Lebron v. Rumsfeld, Padilla argued that the Defense Department's methods of detaining him as an "enemy combatant" were unconstitutional. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which pursued Padilla's case, expressed disappointment with the court's denial of certiorari, saying: "The Supreme Court's refusal to consider Jose Padilla's case leaves in place a blank check for government officials to commit any abuse in the name of national security, even the brutal torture of an American citizen in an American prison."

Andy Worthington, author ofThe Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison”, recently noted, “June 11, 2012 will go down in history as the day that the Supreme Court hurled the remaining Guantánamo prisoners back into the legal black hole from which they had first been given the hope of rescue in the habeas rulings in June 2004 and June 2008. It turns out, however, that those rulings were made by a Court that remembered that arbitrary and indefinite detention is a crime against decency, and against the ideals on which the United States was founded.”

There is little doubt that the USA is failing miserably in moral leadership. Four years ago Obama campaigned on closing the facility in Cuba and now, four years later, as he seeks his second term, the end of Guantánamo is nowhere in sight. He could have done more to persuade Congress and fellow Americans that this is the right thing to do. And what is simply incredible is that this former Chicago University law lecturer had no moral problem in having his administration contest the granting of habeas corpus. Obama’s strategy has been to assassinate "suspected militants" or people present in "suspicious areas" with drones, obviating the necessity of incarcerating them and dealing with their detention in court. He did not qualify for the Nobel Peace Prize that was bestowed on him, and it is high time that the Nobel Committee make an exception by asking him to return it. After all, it is absolutely unfair and illogical to put Count Dracula in charge of the blood-bank. Nor should a mass-murderer be rewarded for his indiscriminate killings.

As the Guardian poll suggests, some 88% of people concur with ex-President Carter that the US has lost its right to speak with moral authority on human rights. And this is deplorable given the fact that when in 1948 the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted as “the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,” the USA played a vital role in its adoption.

According to Carter, at a time when popular revolutions are sweeping the globe, the US should be strengthening, not weakening "basic rules of law and principles of justice". He called on Washington to "reverse course and regain moral leadership". And we agree with his clarion call.

Tough Days Ahead for Dr. Morsi and his People



Well, after a week of doubt, delays and fears of a military coup, last Sunday to the cheers and jubilation of a massive crowd in Cairo's Tahrir Square, Dr. Mohammed Morsi was declared winner in the presidential election. According to the Election Commission, nearly 52% of the votes were cast in his favor; his opponent General Ahmed Shafiq - an old guard from the Hosni Mubarak era - received nearly 48% of the votes.

So, for the first time in modern Egypt, her people had chosen one of their own in a free election. I am glad to note that Dr. Morsi is a fellow alumnus from my school – the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, where he earned his PhD in engineering.

With the official announcement, one would suppose that everything is going in the right direction and there is nothing to feel concerned about the emerging democracy in Egypt – the land which had seen more Pharaohs than democratically elected rulers. However, serious challenges remain, as the ruling military council has effectively stripped the incoming president of most of his powers. Morsi's recognition as president, thus, does little to resolve the larger standoff between the generals and the Brotherhood over the institutions of government and the future constitution.

The real power in Egypt is still with the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), which has been running the country for the past 16 months after the revolution forced Hosni Mubarak to step down! It is a military junta comprising of “19 Mubaraks” - who were all hand-picked by the last dictator to protect his regime. Thus, while Mubarak is gone and enjoying the comfort of military hospital instead of jail, his partners-in-crime and beneficiaries have still been holding their power behind that all-powerful clique. There is widespread perception that this unelected few are determined to retain as much power necessary to dominate Egyptian politics and preserve their perks.

Thus, we are not too surprised to learn that the Supreme Council has over the past week given itself the role of legislator, the right to arrest civilians, control over drafting a new constitution and stripped the next president of many significant powers. It has dissolved the popularly elected Parliament, dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, and has passed decrees to shield the military from civilian oversight so that none can contest its overwhelming power, and not even the newly elected president. Such moves have been called the silent coup.

The military has already been blamed by critics for mismanaging the 16-month transition since Mubarak's overthrow and a host of gross rights abuses, including the killing of protesters, torturing detainees and hauling more than 12,000 civilians for trial before military tribunals since it took power.

These moves have been condemned by the Human Rights Watch which said last Thursday that recent moves by Egypt's ruling generals suggested that there would not be a "meaningful" handover of power to civilian rule by July 1 as promised. In a statement, the New York-based group said the generals created conditions that are "ripe" for further abuses. "The generals' relentless expansion of their authority to detain and try civilians now goes far beyond their powers under Hosni Mubarak," the statement quoted the group's Middle East director, Joe Stork, as saying.

The true intention of the SCAF remains unclear. As recently as Sunday morning, Cairo was tense with fears that the panel of Mubarak-appointed judges overseeing the vote would declare Shafiq president. Banks, schools and government offices closed early for fear of violence in the streets. Tens of thousands of Brotherhood supporters and allies against military rule had gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square for the sixth day of a sit-in demanding the military roll back its power grab. Then came the moment when it was announced that Dr. Morsi had won the run-off election.

Even with that announcement the Egyptian crisis is still far from over. Will SCAF grant Dr. Morsi the power necessary to govern effectively or set him up to fail so that it could torpedo the revolution? Will Dr. Morsi be able to curb the power of the military junta? Will he be able to influence the drafting of a new constitution that respects civil rights and represents the aspirations of his people? Will he be a unifying leader?

In his first nationally televised speech on Sunday, Dr. Morsi vowed to represent all Egyptians and urged his countrymen to put aside their differences and come together for the common good. He said, "This national unity is the only way to get Egypt out of this difficult crisis." He also paid special tribute to those 900 "martyrs" who helped spearhead the revolution that led to the ouster of Egypt's longtime President Hosni Mubarak and, more than a year later, to his own election win.

Dr. Morsi is a pragmatist. Fulfilling a campaign pledge to represents all Egyptians, he has resigned from the Brotherhood, and its political arm – the Freedom and Justice Party. But for Dr. Morsi to succeed, he will need a legislative ally. He had that ally in the now-dissolved parliament. Although the SCAF has said elections will be held for a new legislature, the revolutionaries mistrust such promises, and see its dirty-hand in dissolving the parliament.  They say they will continue their sit-ins at Tahrir Square and fight in the courts until the disbanded parliament is restored. 

Recently, an Egyptian court has suspended a government decision allowing military police and intelligence to arrest civilians. This is a small but important victory for the people of Egypt who are not afraid any more to demand what is fair. They are fighting back through the legal channels and peaceful protests to contest military decrees that are unfair. Neither bayonet nor bullet is going to take away their hard-earned victory.

Egypt is the Arab world’s most populous country. With millions of educated but unemployed young people, a corrupt oligarchy that controls private industry, and a massive underclass, the Egyptian people care more about economy and employment than anything else. And at the end, that is how Dr. Morsi will be judged by his people.

So, the serious questions remain as to with all the major powers stripped, and the parliament dissolved, how effective would Dr. Morsi be to bring food to the table of those hungry millions? Will he be able to nudge the army to restore presidential powers it curtailed this month through negotiation and pressure so that he could fulfill the dreams of the revolutionaries and those martyrs? Only the coming months would show if revolution has been issued a death certificate or a healthy bill of life. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Dr Morsi - Declared Egypt's Next President

At 10:30 a.m. today (Philadelphia time) the Election Commission announced that Dr. Mohammed Morsi has won the presidential election with nearly 52% of the votes cast in his favor. His opponent Ahmed Shafiq - an old guard of the Mubarak era - received nearly 48% of the votes.

So, for the first time in modern Egypt, her people had chosen one of their own in a free election. It is Dr. Morsi, who is a fellow alumnus from my university - University of Southern California, Los Angeles, where he earned his PhD in engineering.

Congratulations to Dr. Morsi.

The Doggy Mess - Part 1



Seemingly our world is going to the dogs. That is how I have been feeling lately. Hardly anything good is happening anywhere. Here below are some samples from this past week.

Norway:
Remember the mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik? He killed 77 people and injured 242 on July 22 of last year. He bombed government buildings in Oslo before shooting those young Labour Party supporters at an island camp. During his testimony at the court, Breivik insisted that he was sane, and sought to justify his attacks by saying that they were necessary to stop the "Islamisation" of Norway.

In many parts of the world, such self-incriminating confessions of one’s horrendous crimes would be good enough to find the criminal guilty and send him to rot in the maximum security prison for life or even face death penalty. Instead, the prosecutors in Norway have called for self-confessed mass killer Anders Behring Breivik to be considered insane in their closing argument at his trial. A string of forensic and prison psychiatrists have, however, told this court that they thought Breivik was not psychotic and, therefore, accountable. Only two people - the authors of the first psychiatric assessment - have argued in court that he was psychotic at the time of his crimes. Yet the prosecution argued that there were “reasonable” doubts as to the sanity of Breivik, which should "benefit" the defendant. Obviously, to these naïve prosecutors no Norwegian in the right mind could have done such a horrific act of violence; so to them Breivik had to be insane while he committed the mass murder!

With such prosecutors, who needs a defense lawyer? Judges in the trial in Oslo are due to deliver their verdict in the trial in July or August.

Let’s hope that in their verdict judges are mindful of the rights of those innocent victims, and justice would be served to Breivik - this evil, calculating mass-murderer.

Egypt:
Remember the huge protests in the Tahrir Square in Cairo last year which succeeded in bringing down the dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak in February 11, 2011? Or, so it felt with his fall. Within months, there was even a parliamentary election where people for the first time in recent history could elect their own representatives, which they did very enthusiastically. Mubarak was put on trial for his role in the massacre of protesters and found guilty in a recent court verdict. There was even a presidential election.

So, one would think that everything is going in the right direction and there is nothing to feel concerned about the emerging democracy in Egypt – the land which had seen more Pharaohs than democratically elected rulers. Last Thursday was supposed to be the day the results of the Egyptian presidential election were released, but the military junta has delayed them until at least Sunday. So, you wonder who on earth are these shadowy, behind-the-scene, players that have been running the country for the past 16 months after the revolution forced Mubarak to step down! It is a military junta comprising of 19 Mubaraks - who run the Supreme Council of Armed Forces. They were all hand-picked by Hosni Mubarak himself to protect his dictatorship. Thus, while Mubarak is gone and enjoying the comfort of military hospital instead of jail, his partners in crime have still been holding their power behind that all-powerful clique. They are determined to stop the Egyptian revolution and retain as much control as possible.

Thus, we are not too surprised to learn that the Supreme Council has over the past week given itself the role of legislator, the right to arrest civilians, control over drafting a new constitution and stripped the next president of many significant powers. It has delegitimized the newly elected Parliament, and has passed decrees to shield the military from civilian oversight so that none can contest its overwhelming power, and not even the newly elected or crowned president. There are also rumors that it wants one of its own – Ahmed Shafiq – to take Mubarak’s place as the president and not Mohammed Morsi, the presumptive winner from the Muslim Brotherhood in the recent election.

These moves have been condemned by the Human Rights Watch which said on Thursday that recent moves by Egypt's ruling generals suggested that there would not be a "meaningful" handover of power to civilian rule by July 1 as promised. In a statement, the New York-based group said the generals created conditions that are "ripe" for further abuses. "The generals' relentless expansion of their authority to detain and try civilians now goes far beyond their powers under Hosni Mubarak," the statement quoted the group's Middle East director, Joe Stork, as saying.

The Egyptian people are furious with all these Pharaonic decrees and conspiracy against the revolution. They have again come to the Tahrir Square to complete their unfinished revolution. As warned by one of its best citizens, the prominent Egyptian law scholar and diplomat Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, Egypt is again “on the verge of explosion”. He warned Thursday on Twitter: “The national interest is above narrow interests. We need a mediation committee immediately to find a political and legal way out of the crisis.”

The military had already been blamed by critics for mismanaging the 16-month transition since Mubarak's overthrow and a host of gross rights abuses, including the killing of protesters, torturing detainees and hauling more than 12,000 civilians for trial before military tribunals since it took power.

Thus, the Egyptian people are back to square one, or that is what it seems now.

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To  be continued>>>>

Monday, June 18, 2012

An Open Letter to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma



(This is a revised version of my original letter on the crisis in Burma)

For more than a decade, as a concerned human rights activist, I have worked towards release of political prisoners like you and democratization of Burma (Myanmar). It was good to see that the new regime had the far-sightedness to release you with so many others that were put behind the bars for no fault of theirs except that they demanded what’s morally right and good for Burma. I am also glad that you along with 42 others of the NLD were able to participate in the April by-election and win. It was a great win for the people. A hearty congratulation to you and your party!



People's expectations are high with such positive developments inside Burma. They like to believe that with your voice heard inside the lower house of the parliament their decades-old grievances would now be aired and you would do your utmost to bring about equality, fairness and justice so that no one would be treated unfairly in new Burma on the ground of his or her ethnic or religious backgrounds. For years, the military government had exploited intolerance of the 'other' people to further divide and rule the country. As you may, therefore, expect, no country in the world is as much poisoned by the evils of racism and bigotry as Burma is. And that has to change.



The latest pogrom against the Rohingyas of Burma once again underscores the fault line that exists along race, ethnicity and religion. I am simply shocked to observe how the murder of a Rakhine woman by an outcast could trigger race- and religious riots in which ten innocent pious Muslims (from Rangoon and not Arakan) were mercilessly lynched by a mob of 300 hateful Rakhine extremists in Taungup, situated as the main gateway for travel to central Burma from the Arakan State. If such lone acts of violence by criminal elements within a society were to lay the very foundation and justification for lynching of an entire community, there won't be any human being left alive on earth. And yet, that simple wisdom seemed to have missed the Rakhine leadership who stoked hatred of the Rohingya.



One would have expected that with you leading the opposition camp inside the Parliament, and the new Thein Sein government promising change, Burma is serious about joining the civilized world, and has said sayonara (good-bye) to her hideous past – her centuries of intolerance, xenophobia, racism and bigotry of the ‘other’ people. But our expectations were too premature. We were wrong.



The local Rakhine leadership, the security forces - Hlun Htein and NASAKA jointly collaborated to trigger the latest extermination campaign against the Rohingyas of Burma. When they could have stopped the horrendous crime of the Rakhine mob on June 3, they chose not to intervene, and worse still, as part of a more sinister plan, they attacked and started shooting unarmed Rohingyas on their way to prayer services on Friday, June 8.



As the later evidences, e.g., capture of large caches of lethal weapons from Buddhist temples and sworn affidavits of Rakhine extremists on June 14, show the Rakhine fascist leadership had tried to exploit the event as its ‘Reichstag Fire’ moment to not only terrorize the Rohingya minorities so that they would have no choice but a forced exodus out of the Rakhine state to nearby Bangladesh or elsewhere but also to breakaway the Rakhine state from the rest of Burma. In the meantime, hundreds of Rohingya villages have been set on fire, affecting the precious lives and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of the Rohingya -- already recognized as the most persecuted community in our globe. Probably hundreds have also perished in this latest genocidal campaign.



I am simply appalled and horrified by the monstrosity of such naked aggression against a persecuted minority that has been robbed of their basic rights to citizenship. As rightly noted by Eric Schwartz, a deputy to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, last year during his visit of the refugee camps in Bangladesh, Rohingyas are the victims who are “guilty of nothing other than a desire to flee repression and create a better life for themselves.”



Dear leader, the world looks up to you as a moral voice of conscience, and not as a chauvinist who is obsessed with the supremacy of the Bamar over other races that form the complex mosaic of Burma. I pray and hope that their perception is not ill-placed. It is good to hear last Saturday in your Nobel lecture, albeit 21 years late, that “the oppressed and the isolated in Burma were also a part of the world.” Who is more oppressed in our world today than the Rohingyas of Burma? Why then your equivocation about the Rohingya issue? Just a day earlier when you were asked if Rohingyas should be granted Myanmar citizenship, you regrettably said, “We have to be very clear about what the laws of citizenship are and who are entitled to them.” I pray not that you are okay with the highly discriminatory 1982 citizenship law that have wrongfully robbed the Rohingyas of that basic human rights.



It was your father, General Aung San, who assured full rights and privileges to Rohingya Muslims of Arakan by saying “I give (offer) you a blank cheque. We will live together and die together. Demand what you want. I will do my best to fulfill them. If native people are divided, it will be difficult to achieve independence for Burma." So, during your Nobel speech when you said that “My only concern is that I prove worthy of him,” I would like to believe that you did not speak with a forked-tongue. You can prove yourself worthy of your father by demanding restitution of citizenship right of the Rohingyas and other racial/ethnic/religious groups.



Let me also remind you that the former first President of Burma Sao Shwe Theik stated, “Muslims of Arakan certainly belong to one of the indigenous races of Burma. If they do not belong to the indigenous races, we also cannot be taken as indigenous races.”



Lest you forget the parliamentary government before General Ne Win’s time listed 144 ethnic groups in Burma. It was Ne Win who put only 135 groups on a short list, which was then approved by his BSPP regime’s constitution of 1974. The three Muslim groups - Rohingya (Muslim Arakanese), Panthay (Chinese Muslims), Bashu (Malay Muslims) - and six other ethnic groups were deleted from the short list.



The 1982 citizenship law violates several fundamental principles of international law. It offends the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and leaves Rohingyas exposed to no legal protection of their rights. The law has perpetuated the Rohingya citizenship crisis making them object of persecution and of discrimination which render them a very difficult life as stateless people in their native country, where they have absolute rights to be on an equal footing with all other citizens. Such persecution and discrimination are contrary to the purposes of the United Nations. The discriminatory practices against the Rohingyas make the Myanmar government guilty of non-compliance of each of the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Burma, as an UN member state has an obligation to follow the UN resolutions.



Dear Daw Suu Kyi, leadership is about taking difficult decision even when it is unpopular. You cannot allow the voices of intolerance within your party and the country to define you and the future course of your country.



As I have noted time and again, there is nothing worse than racism, which, sadly, has permeated Burmese society since its very beginning; not only the racial supremacy complex which many Burmans (Bamars) are brought up with, but the racism of the Karen against the Burmans, the Burmans against the Shan, the Shan against the Wa, the Wa against the Shan, the Mon against the Burmans, the Rakhine against the Rohingyas, the Burmans against the Chinese, the Christians against the Buddhists, and everyone against the Muslims. The list goes on and on. In new Burma this vicious politics with racism must end once and for all time.



For decades, the ruling military junta had encouraged a blind racist nationalism, full of references to ‘protecting the race’, meaning that if Burmans do not oppress other nationalities then they will themselves be oppressed. It encouraged ‘national reconsolidation’, meaning assimilation, and promoted preventing ‘disintegration of the Union’, meaning that if the Army falls then some kind of ethnic chaos would ensue.



Thus, under the new regime while some windows of freedom have opened up, the doors to racism and violence are still wide open. There is little or no change in the ethnic nationality areas, especially in Rakhine, Shan, Karen and Kachin areas. Severe fighting is ongoing between the Burmese army and ethnic armed groups. This year alone, there have been at least 750 incidents of human rights abuses committed by the Burmese troops against ethnic minority civilians. There are also many prisoners of conscience behind the bar.



As you currently go through a transition, you ought to know that democracy alone will not be enough to prevent the people tearing each other apart, particularly if it is a unitary, non-federal democracy. The first and biggest step in bringing about an end to the problem of racism is to admit that it exists and to recognize its scale. The latest extinction campaign against the Rohingya has once again shown the depth of Rakhine racism.



Dear leader, yours have to be a strong voice that condemns intolerance unequivocally. If you and other political leaders fail to do so, Burma will remain a country that is at war with itself, whether or not today’s hybrid regime is replaced in 2015 by another government - civil or military.



The 1982 citizenship law is illegal, morally unconscionable and grossly discriminatory. It is opposed to everything that we stand for. Please, tear down that wall of hatred and discrimination. The Rohingya-demand for equality in citizenship rights is a bona fide demand and you must do everything possible to make such a reality. That should create an atmosphere for inclusion. The new Burma must embrace pluralism under a federal framework and cannot live in the past of rotten hatred, racism, xenophobia and bigotry. The sooner the better!



Regards,

Dr Habib Siddiqui

(A well wisher from the USA)





Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Rational Voice from an ex-Mossad Chief

Mier Dagan, an ex-Mossad chief, who made headlines in recent months for calling a military strike on Iran “the stupidest thing ever,” even though it has been hinted at and advocated by current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is again saying that bombing the country unprovoked would be counterproductive. The report can be seen here.


Will the warmongers in Israel listen to him or commit their own political harakiri? 

An Open Letter to Daw Aung Saan Suu Kyi of Burma

Dear Ms. Suu Kyi


For more than a decade, as a concerned human rights activist, I have worked towards release of political prisoners like you and democratization of Burma (Myanmar). It was good to see that the new regime had the wisdom to eventually release you with so many others that were put behind the bars for no fault of theirs except that they demanded what is morally right and good for Burma. I am also glad that you along with 43 others of the NLD were able to participate in the April by-election and win. It was a great win for the people. A hearty congratulations to you and your party.

People's expectations are high with such positive developments inside Burma. They like to believe that with your voice heard inside the lower house of the parliament their decades-old grievances would now be aired and you would do your utmost to bring about equality, fairness and justice so that no one irrespective of his/her ethnic or religious backgrounds would be treated unfairly in new Burma. For years, the military government had exploited intolerance of the 'other' people to further divide and rule the country. As you may, therefore, expect, no country in the world is as much poisoned by the evils of racism and bigotry as Burma is. 

The latest pogrom against the Rohingyas of Burma once again underscore the fault line along race, ethnicity and religion. I am simply shocked to observe how an act of murder of a Rakhine woman by a criminal could trigger race- and religious riots in which ten innocent Muslims (from Rangoon proper and not Rakhine State) were mercilessly lynched by a mob of 300 hateful Rakhine extremists. If in our world such lone acts of violence by criminal elements within a society were to lay the very foundation and justification for lynching of an entire community, there won't be any human being left alive on earth. And yet, that simple wisdom seemed to have missed the Rakhine leadership who stoked hatred of the Rohingya. 

One would have expected that in new Burma with you leading the opposition camp in the Parliament, and the new government promising change, Burma would have said sayonara (good-bye) to such ugly displays of intolerance. As you well know, not only did not the local Rakhine leadership and security forces and police come to the aid of those innocent victims when they could have stopped the carnage, they simply rekindled the fire by attacking and firing upon unarmed peaceful Rohingya demonstrators in the Rakhine state. As the later evidences suggest that the Rakhine fascist leadership had tried to exploit the event as its Reichstag Fire moment to not only terrorize the Rohingya minorities so that they would have no choice but exodus out of the Rakhine state to nearby Bangladesh or elsewhere but also to secede from the rest of Burma. In the meantime, hundreds of Rohingya villages have been set on fire, affecting the precious lives and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of the Rohingya, already recognized throughout the world as the most persecuted community in our globe. Probably hundreds have also died in this latest pogrom. I am simply appalled and horrified by the monstrosity of such naked aggression against the Rohingyas and Muslims of Burma. 

Dear leader, the world looks up to you as a moral voice of conscience, and not as a Bamar supremacist. You cannot allow the voices of intolerance within your party and the country to define you. Sadly, the activities of some of the leaders of the NLD had been anything but desirable. In his interviews, individuals like Nyo Myint sounded more like an intolerant racist and bigot than a wise spokesman who cares about fairness, equality, truth and justice. Such an intolerant image portrayed by members of your inner circle is unfortunate and would lower goodwill the world community now has for you, your party and your country. 

The Rohingya-demand for equality in citizenship rights is a fair one and you must do everything possible to make such a reality. That should create the atmosphere for inclusion away from days of exclusion, which Burma needs desperately. Otherwise, divisive forces would put the nail in the coffin of federal Burma. It must embrace pluralism and cannot live in the past of hatred, racism, xenophobia and bigotry. The sooner the better.

Regards,
Dr Habib Siddiqui
(a well wisher).

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Latest Extinction Campaign Against the Rohingyas of Burma


It has been little more than two months that Aung San Suu Kyi was elected into the lower house of Burmese Parliament. The by-elections (only the country's third in half a century) in which her party NLD won 44 of the 45 available seats were a crucial test of reforms that convinced the West to soften its pariah image. The United States and European Union hinted that some sanctions - imposed over the past two decades in response to gross human rights abuses (e.g., against the minority Rohingya Muslims and Kachin and Karen Christians) - might be lifted, unleashing a wave of investment, which this impoverished but resource-rich country, bordering Bangladesh, Thailand, India and China, badly needs.

Last year the U.S. Secretary of State Clinton met with Burma’s leaders and opposition leader Suu Kyi. Soon after the election in April Japan has already promised to forgive $3.7 billion of Burma’s debt and resume aid as a way to support the country’s democratic and economic reforms. Last month during his visit to Myanmar, the first by an Indian Prime Minister in 25 years, Manmohan Singh held extensive talks with Myanmar President Thein Sein and extended a $ 500 million line of credit to Myanmar as it signed 15 agreements on fields like trade, energy and connectivity. On June 9, the Australian Foreign Minister pledged $100m aid to boost its education sector, where less than half of Burma's 18 million children complete five years of primary school and only about half of all teachers are qualified.

In spite of such positive developments in the international sector, the religious minorities remain disillusioned. "We have been forsaken by the world," a Rohingya human rights activist complained. Similar are the messages I receive about human rights abuses in Kachin, Shan and Karen states. My comrades at the U.S. Campaign for Burma remind me that this year alone there have been at least 750 incidents of human rights abuses committed by the Burmese troops against ethnic minority civilians, and that there are still hundreds of political prisoners behind the bar, and that more and more of the ethnic non-Buddhist minorities are forced out of their ancestral land to either replant such territories with Buddhist majority or make way for foreign investment. 

The ongoing diplomacy and the so-called "cease-fires" in ethnic areas are seen for what they are—an alibi for the abdication of morality in the altar of profit-making and greed, and a lifeline for the regime.

Optimistic as I have always been, I try to comfort them that they are neither forgotten nor forsaken, and better days are ahead of them when they would be accepted as equal citizens in Myanmar.

As an outsider, living comfortably on the other side of the planet, little did I know that these unfortunate minorities of Burma would again be made a target of hideous intolerance. As I write, Maung Daw – located in northern Arakan (Rakhine state of Burma) is burning, as if mimicking the pogroms against the Rohingya and Muslim minorities of Burma that started in the 1930s [see, e.g., an excellent review – Rohingya Tangled in Burmese Citizenship Politics by Nurul Islam, UK].

Reliable sources within the territory tell me that on June 3, a mob of nearly hundred Rakhine Buddhist extremists attacked a bus that was carrying some ten Tablighi Muslims who were returning to Rangoon after their religious gathering. They were dragged from their bus by these brutes in Taungup, situated as the main gateway for travel to central Burma from the Arakan State. They were lynched to death and their bus was set on fire. Only the driver was able to flee the scene. It should be noted here that all this gruesome murder happened based on a false rumor that those Muslims had something to do with a recent murder of a Rakhine female teacher whose body was found in Sittwe (Akyab), the state capital with a mixed Rakhine-Rohingya population. While the subsequent inquiries had cleared Muslims of any complicity in the murder of the teacher, to many Rakhines who are prone to imagine the worst of the ‘other’ people that have as much contesting claim to the land, if not more, the culprit had to be a Muslim. So they savagely murdered those innocent Muslims that had visited the region. These innocent victims were at wrong time at a wrong place!

U Khin Hla, Secretary of the National League for Democracy in Taungup, told the VOA Burmese program, “I think such an incident happened due to the lack of law and order because it happened in broad daylight just around 4:30 pm, and it was also not just an incident in which a man hacked and killed another and ran away. On the contrary, I think the officials who are working for the rule of law and order in the country are responsible for such an incident.”

After the news of the inhuman act of gruesome murder reached the Muslim community, Muslims in Rangoon held a peaceful demonstration and asked the government officials to find and try the guilty ones responsible for this heinous crime. The government promptly formed a 16-member committee to investigate the matter by June 30 and take legal actions against the perpetrators. Interestingly, the announcement for investigation came a day after the government was forced to print a retraction for referring to the victims as “kalar” – a racial slur for Muslims or persons of Indian appearance – in their official appeal for calm after the violence.

When approached at her NLD office, the Nobel Laureate Suu Kyi expressed concern at the handling of the situation by local Rakhine authorities, esp. their failure to dampen anti-Muslim sentiment after the woman was attacked. “If the very first problem was handled effectively and quickly, this flicker wouldn't have become a flame,” she said. Urging understanding between Rakhine's religious communities she advised, “don't base your actions on anger.”

Apprehensive of potential troubles to brew in Maung Daw, a Muslim majority district, close to Bangladesh border, the district administrator and police chief met with Muslim community leaders and sought cooperation against any retaliation. Muslim leaders assured them of their cooperation. A decision was taken by Muslim religious leaders to apprise the community on Friday, June 8, during the Jumu’aa prayer service, of the assurance that they had received from government and the absolute importance of peace and avoidance of trouble.

After Friday congregation prayer, when a group of Muslims were trying to join a payer at Kayandan  Tabligh Centre in Maung Daw for those 10 Muslims who were murdered by the Rakhine extremists at Taunggup, the security forces, however, tried to stop them and then started firing at the crowd killing at least two people and injuring many others. Some extremist Rakhines, hiding behind the police, threw wine bottles against the Muslims, further fueling the already tense situation.

While curfew has been imposed in Maung Daw from dusk to dawn, several Muslim villages have already been gutted down. Almost all the Muslim shops and business centers have also been attacked and ransacked by the Rakhine mob. On Saturday armed security forces with Rakhine extremist equipped with lethal arms were seen roaming Maung Daw town and surrounding villages. That morning four Rohingyas were carried away from Fayazi village of Maung Daw. Their whereabouts still remain unknown.

Eye witness accounts have shown that the Rakhine extremists and the security forces Hlun Htein and NASAKA had jointly collaborated in causing such crimes. On Friday, Rakhines were seen piling up weapons in the Maung Daw main Buddhist temple (Phongyi Chaung) and planning attacks at nightfall. Since Friday, Buddhist monks and Rakhine extremists have been seen being escorted by security forces while they were announcing ‘War on Kalas’, (war on blacks, foreigners – meaning the Rohingyas) along the streets of Maung Daw. This dangerous message spread like a wild fire all over Maung Daw and Buthidaung townships. Many of the security forces, dressed in civilian clothes, were seen firing on the Rohingya Muslims. As a result, at least a hundred Rohingya Muslims have reportedly died. Several mosques have also been set on fire.

The Myanmar government has dispatched military troops and naval vessels to calm the violence. In a statement in official newspapers on Saturday, the All Myanmar Islam Association condemned "the terrorizing and destruction of lives and properties of innocent people" and called on Muslims across the country to live in peace.

How could this be happening when we thought that we had said sayonara to the old days of Burmese and Rakhine pogroms directed against the persecuted Muslims of Burma? In the Rakhine state where tensions between Muslims and Buddhists run high, and has been witnesses to such riots many times since at least the 1930s, a mere mention of the term ‘Rohingya’ is enough to ignite passion amongst the Rakhines who view them at best as unwanted immigrants from Bangladesh and at worst “invaders.”

The truth of the matter is Burma, in spite all the newer developments – mostly cosmetic or superficial – still remains our planet’s worst den of hatred by any name - bigotry, racism, xenophobia, etc. For many people in Burma, a Burmese is a Buddhist by definition; Buddhism forms an essential part of their identity; there is no place for people of other religious persuasions.

The decades-old military government in Burma has been replaced by a hybrid group of civil and ex-military personnel that promises change. However, the life of an ethnic minority, esp. if it is a non-Buddhist, has not improved an iota there. They are persecuted and are easy targets for ethnic cleansing. They are treated as if they don’t exist. As noted by Mr. Nurul Islam of ARNO, “U Thein Sein’s government has not changed their attitude towards our people. It is still holding onto to past policies which excluded, discriminated and persecuted the Rohingya population. We need to remind the government Rohingyas are an integral part of the Burma’s society regardless of the fact that their appearance, ethnicity and religion is different than the majority of the population.” He added, “Daw Aung San Suu Kyi so far has been surprisingly silent regarding the persecution of our people.  As a democratic icon, advocating for human rights for all, we urge her to use her influence to speak out on behalf the Rohingya, who have no voice in Burma.”

There are clear evidences that the authorities in Arakan state have been guilty of collaborating with Rakhine leadership to sow anti-Muslim sentiment among the Buddhist people so that they can be terrorized, to help prevent Muslim migration and settlement into central Burma from the region. 

As eye witness accounts and social media outlets show when the Rakhine mob attacked the Tablighi Muslims on June 3, the army and police personnel did not do anything to stop the carnage. One eye witness said, “The police and the army were there when the mob was beating the victims, but they did not do anything to control the mob or protect the victims. The attack happened right in front of their eyes.” He added, “If the army or police had controlled the mob, they would have been able to save the victims. They knew the situation well, but they did not do anything to control the mob or protect the victims.”

The level of deep-rooted Rakhine racism against the Rohingya can be understood from the hateful statement of Khaing Kaung San, a local Rakhine activist in Sittwe, who said, "They [Rohingyas] are fighting to own the land, occupy the entire state." "They don't need weapons; just by their numbers they can cover the entire land."

Obviously, such false assertions epitomizing intolerance, racism and hatred are not new and cannot disappear overnight when it is so deeply entrenched touching every walk of life in Burma, esp. in places like the Rakhine state. The politically dominant Rakhine community doesn’t want to share the state with others. This, in spite of the fact that serious works of research have proven convincingly that the Rohingyas are the descendants of the indigenous people (bhumi-putras) of this coastal region whose ties to the land precede those of the Rakhines by few centuries. [See, e.g., this author’s work - Muslim Identity and Demography in the Arakan State of Burma, Amazon.com; and Dr. Abid Bahar’s – Burma’s Missing Dots – the emerging face of genocide.] 

The recent riots in the Rakhine state once again highlight the vulnerable status of the Rohingyas of Burma. Declared stateless, they are unwanted inside Myanmar and unwelcome as fleeing refugees in neighboring countries like Bangladesh and Thailand. This is the greatest tragedy of our time. They are caught between crocodiles in the sea and tigers on the ground. Where would they go? Should they become an extinct community much like what had happened to so many others before in the annals of history? Or, must they wander in the wilderness for two millennia and suffer repeated persecution, humiliation and genocide to qualify as equals in our world?

For my part, I have petitioned my Congressman to cosponsor the Resolution H. J. Res. 109 to renew the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act, which is the only leverage the U.S. has left to push the Burmese regime to move forward with positive changes and hold them accountable for widespread human rights abuses and mass atrocities they commit against the people of Burma.

It is not enough, but better than doing nothing and being a silent spectator to violence!

Lines in the margin:
General Aung San assured full rights and privileges to Muslim Rohingya Arakanese saying “I give (offer) you a blank cheque. We will live together and die together. Demand what you want. I will do my best to fulfill them. If native people are divided, it will be difficult to achieve independence for Burma."

"The former first President of Burma Sao Shwe Theik stated, “Muslims of Arakan certainly belong to one of the indigenous races of Burma. If they do not belong to the indigenous races, we also cannot be taken as indigenous races.” 

"The previous parliamentary government listed 144 ethnic groups in Burma. But Ne Win put only 135 groups on a short list, and then was approved by his BSPP regime’s constitution of 1974. The three Muslim groups of Rohingya (Muslim Arakanese), Panthay (Chinese Muslims), Bashu (Malay Muslims) and six other ethnic groups were deleted. "

Color-coding of individuals - Hitler's Nazi regime was into color-coding and other forms of classification of peoples and individuals. "In 1989, colour-coded Citizens Scrutiny Cards (CRCs) were introduced: pink cards for the full citizens, blue for associate citizens and green for naturalized citizens. Rohingya were not issued with any identity cards which are very essentials in all their activities."