Monday, July 30, 2012

It’s Neo-Nazi Racism, Stupid!

In his book - Worse Than War - Daniel Jonah Goldhagen says that during mass murders, the murderers themselves, their supporters and those who wish to stand idly by practice linguistic camouflage. And this has been the case with the apartheid regime in Myanmar when it comes to its national project towards exterminating or purging out the Rohingyas.

When asked by an independent reporter Barb Weir (from deLiberation) to comment on Rohingya citizenship crisis, an Interior Ministry official working for the Myanmar government said:  “After trying for many years to connect them to neighboring countries, we finally have decided that they are most likely the descendants of Swiss nationals that came to Myanmar many centuries ago and lost their passports.  Unfortunately, their birth records were lost in an avalanche in Switzerland and so we cannot prove their origin.  However, we are negotiating with Switzerland to repatriate them.”

When asked by the reporter about the origin of these “illegal immigrants”, the govt. official said, “I told you.  They’re Swiss.  And besides, they’re Muslim.  The Rohingya Muslims are a demographic bomb for Myanmar.  We want to remain Buddhist and democratic, and Muslim Rohingyas are a threat to our existence.  Muslim self-determination has been expressed in dozens of countries. Why don’t the Muslim countries take them?  They don’t belong here.

When asked if he was worried about being accused of practicing apartheid policy, the official said, “We’re not worried.”

That tells us all we need to know about the mindset of the Myanmar government vis-à-vis the Rohingya people, not that we did not know what to expect from a representative of that apartheid regime. If you were looking for hearing from the horse’s mouth, we have it in President Thein Sein’s statement, released in early July. His office said that it would not recognize the Rohingya and would hand over responsibility for them to the U.N.’s refugee agency in Arakan State, adding that it was also “willing to send the Rohingyas to any third country that will accept them.” 

But frankly speaking, I was rather shocked at the level of haughtiness demonstrated by the interviewee from the Interior Ministry. The interview truly epitomizes denial and arrogance.

Myanmar government wants to portray the Rohingyas as outsiders who had intruded into the country illegally. This small minority, according to official estimate of only 800,000 living in a country of some 56 million, is even depicted as a demographic bomb, threatening Buddhist lifestyle. I did not know Buddhism is that frail. Funny that the Thein Sein regime is even touted as a reform-minded government!  If this be the attitude towards a persecuted minority one wonders how appalling it must have been during previous military regimes.

The Rohingyas, of course, are neither Swiss nor from Switzerland, and Switzerland is not Bangladesh either.  No matter how the apartheid regime in Myanmar feels untroubled or gleeful about their own savagery and horrendous treatment of this persecuted people, the Rohingyas are from Myanmar or what used to be officially known as Burma. No denial of their existence can obscure this historical fact. It is also ludicrous to imagine that such a small tiny minority could be a threat to Buddhism.

For decades what used to be whispered (and/or unheard by others) in government circles before the latest pogrom was unleashed against the Rohingyas of Burma (Myanmar) has now become somewhat audible for all to hear. Thanks to the new-found guarded openness of the regime. We may not like what we hear though; after all, these are spiteful words – lies - coming from some of the worst racists of our time. But they are brutally candid about disclosing their inner hideous thoughts.

Their recent statements clearly show that for the past half a century, the Burmese government ultimately has been the author of its own actions – their genocidal campaigns, their repeated pogroms, and their apartheid character to eliminate the Rohingya people one way or another. It is this policy which has led to forced exodus of more than a million of Rohingyas, let alone the inhuman condition that their people are subjected to day in and day out inside Myanmar.

As we have witnessed in the past with the Jews of Germany, Bosnian Muslims of former Yugoslavia, Kosovars of Kosovo of  former Greater Serbia (and former Yugoslavia), and victims of Rwanda and Burundi, any time such mass extermination or eliminationist projects are launched, it is always about societies and their cultures that contribute to the circumstances that produce extermination plausible as a group or national project -- a project that is led by the state, supported by a good percentage of the nation or its dominant group or groups, and which employs large institutional and material resources.

With the current ethnic cleansing in Arakan against the Rohingyas, we are once again reminded of this ugly truth that it is a national project in Myanmar led that is by a criminal neo-Nazi regime where a good percentage of Rakhine and Burman majority -- brainwashed by their own brand of Julius Streicher in the likes of (late) Aye Kyaw, Aye Chan, Khin Maung Saw and others – are willing participants. The extremist Rakhine politicians and Buddhist monks play their respective roles providing the justification and necessary institutional and material resources for such extermination projects.

As noted by Goldhagen, the targeted groups come to be seen as deleterious to the well-being of the executioner (often a majority) group. In some instances people deem the group’s perniciousness so great that they want to eliminate it. “In some of the cases such beliefs become socially powerful and coalesce into an explicit public and political conversation about elimination.”

And that is what has happened with the targeted Rohingya people. As part of a very calculated, sinister plan, the unfortunate murder of a Rakhine woman was used as the backdrop to simmer hatred and start the latest extermination campaign against the Rohingya people. It is not difficult to understand why the alleged criminal conveniently died in the prison so that no one would ever know the truth and whether or not he was used as a pawn in what was to follow. Thus, instead of a much anticipated inquiry report on grisly murder of ten Burmese (not Rohingya) Muslims in early June, we heard President Thein Sein’s statement that the Rohingyas cannot live inside Myanmar.

As I have noted earlier, crimes at individual levels happen in all societies. But only in eliminationist projects are such crimes used to justify elimination of a targeted group. To do this, the Myanmar regime has employed all five principal forms of elimination - transformation, repression, expulsion, prevention of reproduction, or extermination of the Rohingya people. In spite of world condemnation, the regime, once again backed by its monks and mobs, refuses to allow outside inquiries and refuses to provide necessary food and shelter to the suffering Rohingya victims in this hot summer month of fasting.

So overwhelming is this criminal national project and its scope that when asked to comment about Nobel Laureate Suu Kyi’s ignoble comments about the Rohingya, the ministry official said, “She has to equivocate on Rohingyan rights.  However, we are confident that just like Nobel laureates Shimon Peres and Barack Obama, she will do the right thing and overlook injustice toward undesirable populations.” Ah, we should have known not to build false hopes with people that have mastered the art of double-talks, who talk about ‘sympathy’ and not ‘rights’!

So, what comes next?

President General Thein Sein has publicly stated that the Rohingya people should be expelled and the UN should take their charge. This is racial discrimination, plain and simple. It is an apartheid policy that has no place in the 21st century. The military regimes that preceded Thein Sein have been practicing this Burmanization and Buddhization policy of the country for the last few decades. When General Ne Win assumed power in 1962, he quickly nationalized all businesses and Muslims were the biggest losers. He also purged the armed forces and the civil bureaucracy of Muslims. Many fled (including those with Burmese or Karen spouses) to neighboring East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), Thailand, West Pakistan (now Pakistan), UAE and Saudi Arabia. Anti-Muslim riots took place in Mandlay in 1997 and again in 2001. Some two dozen campaigns have also been directed against the Rohingya people to exterminate or evict them from their ancestral homeland in Arakan.

The real power in Myanmar still lies with the generals. President is their front man. They would continue to make sure that they control government and that the head of the state is a Burman from the majority race. To maintain their tight grip of power, they have created a toxic cocktail of ultra-nationalism (which is pure racism) and religious intolerance (which is bigotry) where the government patronized bare-feet monks are the flag-bearers of this new Myanmar. It is no accident that Nazi insignia - signs and symbols - are hot sales amongst the Rakhines and many Burmans today. They see themselves as the Fascist Germans of the Hitler-era ready to weed out their ‘Jewish peril’ – the Rohingyas totally. Even the so-called democracy movement icons and leaders have proven to be closet racists and bigots. Indeed, with the advent of a semblance of democracy, majority Buddhists feel they now have a license to kill and persecute minorities. This is tyranny of the majority at its worst.

It is high time that the UN and the international media take notice of this grave historic injustice to the Rohingyas of Myanmar. The Thein Sein regime must be obliged to accept the Rohingyas as equal citizens failing which the entire region would be forced to settle for decades of instability, something nobody wants. It is for the good of Myanmar that it fulfills its international obligations for reaffirming fundamental human rights, securing the life and dignity of the minorities within its territory, as are very clearly enshrined in the preamble of the Charter of the UN. The sooner the better!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Targeted Massacre of Minorities in Assam

South Asia is really going to the dogs or so it appears these days. When we thought that we had seen enough of a pogrom directed by the Rakhine extremists and Burmese authorities against the Rohingyas of the Arakan state of Burma (Myanmar), we are forced to witness yet another massacre of minority civilians in the state of Assam.

Assam, located next to Bangladesh on the north-east corner of India, has a long history of recurring violence targeting minority Bengali-speakers. In 1983 Nellie massacre when Indira Gandhi ruled India, the pogrom, carried out with crude weapons in a matter of a few hours, left some 5,000 people dead. The killers didn’t even spare young babies. 

At the heart of Assam's troubles is a debate over the "infiltration" by outsiders, which has led to ethnic tension between the state's so-called indigenous population and Bengali-speaking people who have settled there for generations. Overlooked in this debate is the fact that all these territories were once part of British India with people – both Assamese and Bengali – living on either side of today’s border that separates Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan/ East Bengal) from the state of Assam in India. The Assamese were mostly illiterate people and so many Indians (mostly from the province of Bengal) were brought in to work as engineers, doctors, administrators, clerks, railway workers and other government related jobs.  Many of the Bengali-speaking famers were also brought in to boost rice production in the area, especially around the ‘chars’ (river islands). Having lived there for generations, these so-called migrants are as Indian (in today’s parlance) as the ethnic Assamese or the tribes-people in the state.
Unfortunately, the ensuing change in demography, rivalry for land, dwindling natural resources and livelihood, and intensified competition for political power between the ruling party and the separatists has added a deadly force to the issue of who has a right to Assam. It is all about xenophobia. Shamelessly, successive governments have used Assamese or Bengali Muslims as little more than a vote bank without recognizing their rights.
After the Nellie massacre and 1983 elections, India's federal government tried to soothe local sentiments by signing an accord with the All Assam Students Union (AASU) in 1985 which was leading the pogrom against the Bengali-speaking minorities there. The hard-line Assamese, however, later described the 1985 accord as a "betrayal" and decided to wage an armed campaign against India to secede from India.
Twenty nine years after the Nellie massacre, a group of the separatist United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) is now negotiating with Delhi, asking for more concrete protection for indigenous populations against what they falsely describe as "relentless illegal migration from across the border".
The Bengali-speaking people in Assam have also become more assertive these days with the formation of the Assam United Democratic Front under a charismatic leader which seeks to protect the rights of minorities and their periodic ousting from settlements through violence. In 2011, it emerged as the main opposition to Assam's ruling Congress party, winning three times the number of seats won by regional Assamese parties and the Hindu nationalist BJP, which promotes Hindutva.

It is this emerging political prowess of the Bengali people in Assam which is being exploited as a boogeyman by the ruling Congress party and the Hindu extremists to promote or be indifferent to periodic rioting that engulfs the region. Four years ago, the Indian Army had to be called in to stop blood-letting. More than 100 Bengali Muslims were killed in one such raid at Bansbari, a makeshift camp for displaced Muslims in 1993.

The latest pogrom has affected four districts of western Assam, where the Bengalis (mostly Muslims) are pitted against tribes-people such as the Bodos, Rabhas and Garos. In Kokrajhar, the Bodo heartland, which is also called the "chicken neck" -- the strategically vital corridor that connects the north-east of India to the rest of the country -- Muslims are regularly attacked by Bodo separatist rebels and this periodically erupts into full-scale riots. This latest conflict has left about 40 dead (all Bengali-speaking Muslims) and displaced tens of thousands. 

As noted by Indian political commentator Aijaz Zaka Syed, “As usual, Muslims were caught in the deadly games of the Congress and assorted separatist groups. Our Hindutva benefactors added fuel to the fire by raising the specter of invasion by Bangladeshi Muslims. The same drama is being re-enacted today with consequences that could be even deadlier. Yet unlike in the past, this conflict isn’t communal or religious in nature. It’s an economic struggle for the land and dwindling natural resources.”

In this latest pogrom, entire villages have been burnt down while the state administration remains curiously clueless and indifferent. Delhi insists Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi is “monitoring the situation” and doing everything possible to restore peace. “This is little comfort to the community, though, which increasingly lives in fear, worrying the worst may be yet to come. Gogoi is yet to visit the affected areas. Not even a flying, whirlwind tour for the cloistered satrap,” writes Syed.

If the local Assamese administration and the federal Indian government are serious about the well-being of Assamese/Bengali Muslims as well as other communities living in Assam, they should take steps to cool down this simmering volcano that erupts from time to time. Lasting peace in Assam cannot happen when xenophobia is promoted. Period!

Persecution of minorities in Assam, India

There is unrest in Assam, neighboring Indian state to Bangladesh. It is burning. Once again the extremist Assamese are killing Bengali speaking people that have lived there for centuries. Entire villages have been burnt down while the state administration remains curiously clueless and indifferent. Delhi insists Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi is “monitoring the situation” and doing everything possible to restore peace. This is little comfort to the community, though, which increasingly lives in fear, worrying the worst may be yet to come. Gogoi is yet to visit the affected areas. Not even a flying, whirlwind tour for the cloistered satrap.

Assam has a long history of recurring violence targeting Bengali-speaking minorities. In 1983 Nellie massacre when Indira Gandhi ruled from Delhi with her famous iron fist, the pogrom, carried out with crude weapons in a matter of a few hours, left 1,819 people dead. Independent sources suggest the toll was as high as 5,000. The killers didn’t even spare young babies.

For an excellent review, click here.

A good analysis to understand migration issues of our time by Sue Ballyn

Dr. Sue Ballyn of Barcelona University has done an excellent job in her article - The Why and the “Therefore” of Human Migration. A Brief Overview (Lives in Migration: Rupture and Continuity) - providing an overview of the migration issues of our time. In what follows I capture some salient features of her article.

She writes that human beings have been on the move since the beginning of time. What is of interest to us is that our recent history has proved to be a period when more people have migrated than at any time before in human history.

She writes, "How do we define migration? What classifications of migration exist? What are the factors that contribute to migration? What kinds of migration are we dealing with today? What are the consequences of migration? These are some of the questions I want to try and answer here.

Migration can be defined in a variety of ways, amongst which:
1. An individual who lives permanently or temporarily in a country they were not born in.
2. A “working migrant” has been defined by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Migrants as a “person who is to be engaged, is engaged or has been engaged in a remunerated activity in a State of which he or she is not a national.”

Similarly the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights has established the following categories for migrant/refugees and stateless people:
1. Persons who are outside the territory of the State of which they are nationals or citizens, are not subject to its legal protection and are in the territory of another State.
2. Persons who do not enjoy the general legal recognition of rights which is inherent in the granting by the host State of the status of refugee, naturalised person or other similar status.
3. Persons who do not enjoy either general legal protection of their fundamental rights by virtue of diplomatic agreements, visas or other agreements.

These definitions reveal how difficult it is to define what constitutes a migrant and/or refugee and thus how nation legislations differ in accordance with their own understanding of the terms. It is precisely this difficulty which has led United Nations to create a permanent commission regarding the question of Human Rights and the status of migrants and refugees. It is a fact that, while the United Nations and the European Union might legislate and categorise who is or is not a migrant/refugee, each country will legislate internally and in the case of totalitarian states Human Rights may well be breached with regards to those who are “foreign”."

She continues, "Another factor that needs to be taken into consideration is that migration can take place within the individual’s own country. Historically, in Europe, this type of migration goes back hundreds of years as people began to move from rural to industrialised urban centres. State persecution can and does lead to alarming cases of internal migration even today. Nomadic peoples across the planet have engaged in seasonal internal migration for thousands of years. Thus we can establish two main simplified categories of migration: external and internal.

The factors that lead to migration are frequently referred to as “push / pull” factors and are, to a large degree, self-explanatory: “push” that which forces one from one’s homeland and “pull” that which attracts migrants offering, for example, opportunities not available in one’s homeland. The “push” factors have not really changed that much since the human race began to spread across the planet. People have been driven to seek new “homelands” as a result of: famine, drastic climate change, poverty, civil war, wars between nation states, territorial annexation, imperial expansion, religious, racial, ethnic, political and gender persecution. The list is longer and any of those mentioned, together with others one might add, can be considered “forced migration”, which lies at the heart of the verb “push”. Individuals and collectives are impelled by circumstance to move away from their homeland in order to survive and many could and are classified as refugees, especially those seeking refuge from war torn areas, genocidal policies, and states where Human Rights are held in abeyance. However, forced migration can also connote the violent expulsion, taking violent in its whole range of meaning, of both an individual or community from their homeland."

She then cites the examples of forced relocation of the Chagos Islanders to Mauritius by the British. The islands, numbering around sixty, were/are part of the British Indian Ocean Territory. The reason for this was to allow the construction of the Diego Garcia Airbase by the USA. She also cites the example of the people of Ocean Island, also known by its Kiribati name Banaba, one of the Kiribati Islands in Pacific Micronesia. They were victims of overriding neocolonialistic economic factors. To quote her, "The Banaba had something the rest of the world wanted and was going to get at whatever the cost to the people: phosphate. This devastating story of international greed at whatever price has its beginnings round about 1900 when the Pacific Islands Company Limited got the Banaban people to sign away the total right to phosphate mining to the British Company, later to become British Phosphate Commissioners under the joint ownership of the British, Australian and New Zealand Governments. The results of intensive mining, which includes the use of dynamite, have reduced the island’s subsoil structure to something like a honeycomb, or gruyere cheese. The surface cannot sustain buildings with foundations and the island’s ecosystem has been endangered. The removal of many of the Banaban people began in 1945 when the British Government relocated the majority to Rabi Island, thousands of miles away in Fiji. As the island became increasingly unstable further waves of migration followed to Rabi only a few returning once mining finished in 1979. It is now estimated that only some 200 people have returned to live on the island and the debate remains as to the weight of population the island could actually sustain. It has become, to all intents and purposes, inhabitable after thousands of years of human habitation."

She writes, "If we move back through history we will find multiple examples of violent expulsion of peoples from their homelands often going hand in hand with persecution and genocide. Another form of violent forced migration frequently accompanies agendas of imperial expansion. While the two examples given above are of forced removal from one’s homeland to a new offshore geographical location, imperial expansion and settlement of invaded territories give innumerable examples of internal forced expulsion from and dispossession of one’s homelands." She cites the example of how through British colonization of Australia in 1788, not only the indigenous people were slaughtered and forced to relocate from their ancestral homes, the former British convicts were forced to settle in the new colony. She also cites the examples of Newfoundland, where the last native was shot in 1823, and of South Africa

She says, "South Africa before and during the apartheid era caused a massive removal of African peoples to black townships, while many leading opposition figures and freedom fighters were exiled within or deported from South Africa, tortured, executed or murdered. There is no end to the systematic dispossession and internal exile of Aboriginal peoples across the world from the time of the Greek empire to the neo-colonialism of the twenty first century."

She concludes that migration is always “forced” either as a result of violence or the drive to survive. She also provides examples of two other categories. The first involved her own moving to Spain from UK to live with her partner and raise family. Being of her European race, she was not considered a migrant but the Moroccans who moved to Spain on similar grounds were, thus, clearly underlining "the racial equations that work within the definition of migrant in host communities."

As to the second category that does not respond to push factors, she writes, "are those people who are stateless and exiled from all social and legal benefits in their own country. Those who seek refuge outside their own frontier, where possible, obviously are pushed out by a laws or situations which have deprived them of their nationality. There is a community in question worth looking at in this regard and about whom not much is being done on an international level. The Rohingya people in Burma (Mynamar) have been fleeing to Bangladesh and Malaysia in countless Racially, religiously and linguistically the Rohingya people are distinct to mainstream Burmese society. Under the 1982 Citizenship Law brought in by the military junta, the Rohingya people were not recognised as citizens along with the descendents of Chinese and Indians living in the country. While individuals of Chinese and Indian descent could claim their own national citizenship once outside Burma, the Rohingya people could not. Refugees International has highlighted the plight of the Rohingya people:

Official Burmese government policy on the Rohingya is repressive. The Rohingya need authorization to leave their villages and are not allowed to travel beyond Northern Rakhine State. They need official permission to marry and must pay exorbitant taxes on births and deaths. Religious freedom is restricted, and the Rohingya have been prohibited from maintaining or repairing crumbling religious buildingsvii. Though accurate statistics are impossible to come by inside Burma, experts agree that conditions in Northern Rakhine State are among the worst in the country. Rohingya refugees commonly cite land seizures, forced labor, arbitrary arrests, and extortion as the principal reasons for flight. Once a Rohingya leaves his or her village without permission, he or she is removed from official residency lists, and can be subject to arrest if found.

A stateless people, the Rohingya have nowhere to go and are marginalised even in Burmese refugee communities. The Rohingya are not the only stateless refugee people in the world. What has forced them out of Burma and is attempting to undermine their very existence within their homeland is the deliberate construction of them as stateless."

She rightly doubted that even a step towards democracy may not be sufficient to stop marginalization of the Rohingya. She says, "Should Burma recover democracy, would the historic reticence regarding the Rohingya in their own country relieve their inner exclusion and marginalisation? One would like to think so, but their present marginalisation among Burmese refugees suggests that maybe not. Stateless people are a particularly vulnerable group; of no homeland, they technically have no document which will allow them to claim a nationality and thus a homeland to which to return should they so desire. Refugees International estimates that there are some twelve million stateless people and comments on some of the consequences that arise from this “non-status”:

Stateless status often keeps children from attending school and condemns families to poverty. Because statelessness often originates in past conflicts and disputes over what constitutes national identity, granting citizenship, which can only be done by national authorities, is inherently difficult.

(…) Nationality is a fundamental human right and a foundation of identity, dignity, justice, peace, and security. But statelessness, or the lack of effective nationality, affects millions of men, women, and children worldwide. Being stateless means having no legal protection or right to participate in political processes, inadequate access to health care and education, poor employment prospects and poverty, little opportunity to own property, travel restrictions, social exclusion, vulnerability to trafficking, harassment, and violence.

Statelessness has a disproportionate impact on women and children."

She then discusses the "pull" factors. She says, "“Pull factors” have not changed over centuries, nor will they for the foreseeable future. While war, famine, persecution and a long list of etceteras exist so will the “pull forces” that drive migration outwards: a better standard of living, security, hope for future generations, among others. Unless we can provide a world in the near future in which resources can be equally shared across national frontiers then migration will persist. The thousands of migrants that move legally/illegally in the twenty-first century do so because capitalism has created a massive rift between those who have and those who have not, even within a nation’s own frontiers." Thus, she says that unless the so-called first world nations are genuinely interested in “filling in the rift”, providing infrastructures and support on all levels for developing nations to become self sufficient is, migration will continue because of the pull phenomena. 

In her lengthy and very thorough analysis, she also cites climate change as a factor of migration. Based on statistics, some 150 million people will be on the move because of climatic factor in the next 40 years (by 2050).

She concludes her article with a question: "How long are we going to wait, prevaricate before we legislate with foresight, squaring up to our responsibilities to others and to the planet?"

Have we that answer? Surely not. While not all problems, e.g., like those of climate refugees can immediately be solved, but there is no excuse for stopping the push phenomena which causes forced migration. I would like to believe that identifying state or non-state forces that are responsible for forced migration can be dealt very effectively by prosecuting them in regional or world courts for their crimes against humanity, showing that such aberrations will not be tolerated. No government should reward these parties for their crimes against humanity. Unfortunately, as we have seen greed is tarnishing human morality, and thus, shamelessly, many of the governments do business with those culprits. This rewarding phenomenon thus makes a mockery of the whole issue around forced migration, and the bleeding and suffering never ends.

Here is the link to her article.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Sugar coating a pogrom won't solve problem for Burma

I just came across an article posted in the Dawn which was full of twisting facts and denial of any responsibility for the Rakhine mobs who started the current pogrom against the Rohingyas of Burma, in total collusion with government support at the federal and local levels. I sent out the comment below for posting, although I am not sure if my message would be posted by the Dawn. Here below are my comments for those who care to read:

"Ms Khine's views here are not silent views of a reluctant observer but of a highly biased Rakhine Magh who has not grown up to understand that ethnic cleansing of anyone is unacceptable in our world, esp. in the 21st century. She does not tell about the lynching death of 10 Burmese Muslims who were not from the Rohingya race or ethnicity when they were returning from their trip to Arakan. Why were they killed, if not for sure: bigotry and racism? 

Point here is: Burma has been a racist and bigotry-ridden country for ages. The majority people in every territory is hostile to its minorities. They want them purged out one way or another. And that is a recipe for disaster for the country. If the people like Ms. Khine and others in Burma care about integrity of the country, they have to evolve into a more pluralistic society respecting each other and getting along without prejudice. That would require education and not propaganda from trashy history of denial and racism, which Burma is full of. The sooner the Burmese learn this and grow up, the better it is for them and the rest of the world. 

They ought to know that there is consequence for every evil deed. No one eventually gets away. There are world courts and other avenues to make the culprits pay for the crimes against any minority, including the Rohingyas of Burma who trace their origin to at least a thousand years. Read the history books of Moshe Yeager and others to find out the Muslim factor in Burma."

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Mr. Win’s Win-Win formula is a recipe for Fascism

Last week, I came across Kanbawza Win's long article – “Killing two birds with a stone or a Win, Win Situation” (Eurasia Review, July 19, 2012) – discussing his thesis for solving the Rohingya crisis in western Burma. As a global citizen who has worked for decades to make our world a more inclusive one away from the brunt of racism and bigotry, I could not resist the temptation to read Mr. Win’s piece. After all, Mr. Win is part of the so-called pro-democracy movement for Burma. He has been critical of the military regime that has been ruling Burma. He is also considered by many to be the voice of reason within the Burmese exiles.

Unfortunately, Mr. Win has not been able to shed his deplorable prejudice and racism when it comes to the ‘other’ people. And he is not alone in this serious mental disorder. As I have noted many times, when push comes to shove, most of these pro-democracy leaders have proven to be closet fascists and bigots. It is they who have often led the campaign for expulsion of the Rohingya population or to engage in genocide or to institute an apartheid system against the Rohingya. Ironical as it may seem many of these charlatans are seeking asylum in the USA, UK, Germany and Canada while they feel comfortable engaging in ethno-nationalism that might have made genocidal mass murderer Slobodan Milosevic proud.

Their narrative about the Rohingyas of Arakan starts with the British colonization of the territory in 1826 after the first Anglo-Burma War of 1824-26, as if they had no past connection to the soil of Arakan. To them, the East India Company, which had already been administering next-door Bangladesh (Bengal in British India) since 1757, lured those “Bengali inhabitants” (mostly from the district of Chittagong) to come and work as seasonable laborers. Mr. Win writes, “The arable land expanded to four and a half times between 1830 and 1852 and Akyab, became one of the major rice exporting cities in the world. Indeed, during a century of colonial rule, the Chittagonian immigrants became the numerically dominant ethnic group in the Mayu Frontier. That is the origin of the Mujahid or the Bengali Immigrants.”

I doubt if Mr. Win understands the meaning of the Arabic word Mujahid (literal meaning: a person who strives). Surely, not; otherwise, he should have avoided using such an adjective to describe the Rohingyas. They are not Bengali immigrants either that settled since the British era. Yes, some of them may look like people of Bangladesh, separated from Arakan by the Naaf River. Living in a frontier territory sandwiched between the Hindu and Muslim dominated India/Bangladesh to the west and the Buddhist dominated Burma to the east, it would be silly to say that the Rohingyas, as the original inhabitants of the land of Arakan, should have looked different. As any student of Buddhism knows, Buddha himself was an Indian (a Kala) from the state of Bihar (Magadha), neighboring Indian state to Bengal. He was not of the Mongoloid race that resembles the Rakhine and Buddhist races today. (One has to just make a trip to Bihar in India to find if the Biharis look closer to the Bangalis or the Rakhines of Arakan.)

Like many of his group of chauvinists in the so-called pro-democracy movement in Burma, suffering from selective amnesia, Mr. Win forgets to tell his readers that before the British came to Arakan there were already one Arakanese Muslims for every two Arakanese Buddhists. And this, in spite of the marauding campaign to colonize Arakan by the Buddhist zealot - Burman (Burmese) king Bodawpaya - in 1784 which witnessed slaughter of tens of thousands of Arakanese people – Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists alike. Some 20,000 inhabitants (including Muslim Arakanese) were taken as prisoners to the Burmese capital city of Ava. Afraid of their lives, many Arakanese (of all faiths) – numbering probably in excess of 200,000 -- fled to Chittagong and other southern coastal territories of Bangladesh, where their descendants continue to live as citizens of Bangladesh today.

As noted by Professor Abid Bahar, who has done much field studies on the Rohingyas of Burma, when the British took control of Arakan, some of the descendants of those refugees in Bangladesh returned to their ancestral homes. But contrary to Rakhine myth or popular belief, the proportion of the returning refugees or their descendants was comparatively larger from the Rakhine (Buddhist) community than that of the Rohingya (Muslim) community in the British era.

Sadly though, simply because of their Buddhist faith, the Rakhine descendants of those returning refugees are not subjected to the same litmus test for proving their ties to the region anterior to 1823. Additionally, any Bangladeshi Rakhine can today move into Arakan and become a citizen of Burma simply because of his looks and faith while the Rohingyas are denied citizenship simply because of their race and religion. If this is not pure racism and bigotry, what is?

Mr. Win forgets to tell that since at least 1430 C.E., when the Muslim Sultan of Bengal helped to restore the fleeing Arakanese king – Narameikhla (Maung Saw Mwan) to the throne a very sizable Muslim population had thrived in Arakan, who later held important government positions. He does not tell his readers that the golden age of Bengali literature thrived in the courts of Arakan during that Mrauk-U dynasty when its kings even used Muslim names. He also does not tell that for nearly a hundred years during the Mrauk-U dynasty, taking advantage of the unrest in Mughal India, Chittagong was annexed and administered by the Arakanese kings (until 1666). He also does not tell that for hundreds of years the Arakanese Buddhists, in collaboration with Portuguese pirates, were involved in piracy, abducting tens of thousands of Muslims and Hindus from the territories of Bengal who were either sold or forced to work as slaves in Arakan. Their number accounted for 15% of the population of Arakan before Bodawpaya’s campaign.

As a Buddhist fanatic, while Bodawpaya destroyed most mosques and Islamic shrines, he could not exterminate all Muslims of Arakan (the ancestors of today’s Rohingyas of Burma). Many survived, as did the (Buddhist) Rakhines. Thus, some 30,000 Muslims survived when the British first took control of the territory. They were not planted by the British in 1826. It is not difficult to understand why over the last two centuries their number has grown to more than a million. To claim that the Rohingyas of Burma are outsiders or intruders or mujahids is not an analysis, but a paralysis of one’s wits that cannot decipher the truth from falsehood. And hatred will keep one close minded, unwilling to objectively analyze matters. That is the sad reality with most Rakhine politicians and charlatan scholars like Mr. Win who have no problem borrowing pages from the fascist Nazi era to ethnically cleanse the Rohingyas of Burma.

Mr. Win may like to read my work on “Muslim Identity and the Demography in the Arakan State of Burma (Myanmar),” available from the to see the utter falsity of his accusations against the Rohingyas of Burma. As children of the early settlers of Arakan, their claim to the land of Arakan precedes those of the Tibeto-Burman stock of people whom we now call the Rakhines of Arakan. To call these indigenous people of Arakan -- who identify themselves as the Rohingyas in Burma -- “unwanted guests” is like calling the Native Americans unwanted refugees who had settled in America after the influx of the Europeans. As much as no massacre of yesteryears and ghettoization of the Native Americans today in designated American Indian Reservation camps has been able to obliterate their genuine right, place, history and identity to America, no Myanmar government and local Rakhine sponsored pogroms can erase the rightful identity of the Rohingya people of Burma. History and justice is one their side.

As hinted above, reading Mr. Win's win-win formula is like reading a borrowed page from Hitler’s Mein Kampf. One simply has to change the words ‘Jewish’ to ‘Muslim’ (or as Mr. Win puts it ‘Mujahid’) and ‘Communists’ to ‘Chinese’ to see the similarity with his fascistic ideas.  Mr. Win feels threatened by these ‘4 million Chinese immigrants’ who are more numerous than the Rohingyas and who apparently have made Mandalay their ‘second capital after Beijing’. His solution: he wants them deported to Muslim-populated Arakan state. As to the Rohingyas – the other ‘peril’ – he wants them forcibly deported to the eastern part of Burma. He wants a special ID card issued to these two ‘alien’ groups and ‘compel them to respect the local Burmese laws and customs’. He says, “If anyone refused to go along with this order then he must be persecuted according to law and finally deported to the country of its origin. In this way it will stop the illegal immigrants entering the country by fair or foul means. Just by looking at the features of the person one can pin point that he is an illegal immigrant from China if found in the Mujahid area or Bangali in Chinese dominated area. We will have to take drastic action once caught. This will solve the problem at least for half a century until their children got married to each other or the local population.” Towards assimilation, of course, “all these aliens must become Burmese.” 

As to the funding for this cross-country forced ‘mass exodus’ (relocation) project, he opines, the Burmese government won’t have to ‘spend a single Burmese pyar’ (cent or penny) since the 31 INGOs (international NGOs) will ‘gladly fund.’

Mr. Win seems genuinely concerned about Burma’s image abroad as a racist country. He says that his solution would “paint the picture that Burma accepted all these aliens both Bengalis and Chinese, mercifully and magnanimously in as much the Burmese refugees are accepted in the West in all these 50 years. It will earn credit in taking her rightful place in the family of nations.” 

I don’t know whether to take him seriously; after all, his win-win solution relies on forced eviction and encampment similar to the fate that awaited the Jews and gypsies in the Nazi-era. I smell fascism there. He refuses to open his mind to the fact that the Rohingyas are not aliens to the soil of Arakan, but they are the locals who had settled before his own Rakhine/Burmese race. Simply because of their darker color (more like Buddha’s) and different religion, they cannot be called aliens. Nor can they be denied citizenship simply because the English colonial government did not record them under the name Rohingya but as Muslims (or Mohamedans). They don’t need to be forcibly encamped away from their ancestral homes (and surely not murdered) but need to be integrated within the broader society by restoring their full citizenship right, as is currently enjoyed by Mr. Win’s own Rakhine Buddhist community who has no greater claim to the soil of Arakan.

He is also concerned about the image of his faith as a result of on-going pogroms directed against the Rohingyas of Burma. He says: “But most importantly of all, is that it has a very bad and negative impression on Buddhism especially the Theravada Buddhism, when Buddhism is considered to be the most compassionate religions of the world. How are the followers of Lord Buddha, Burmese Buddhist in general, and Rakhine Buddhist in particular, practice their compassion to the other human being not similar to them, when in face. Lord Buddha has showed several ways to curb their own passion and desires.”

I wish, on this note, his community – the Rakhine and Burmese Buddhists – had agreed and taken positive measures to change their bad image. With such persecution of the Rohingyas, the Rakhine Theravada Buddhists and their partners-in-crime the Burman Buddhists, have repeatedly shown that they are no better than the criminal co-religionist perpetrators of some of the worst crimes in human history in places like Cambodia and Sri Lanka.

It is, however, never too late to reform. I hope Mr. Win and his people have the inner wisdom to evaluate their past actions and reform, making our world more inclusive and tolerant of other people and their faiths and customs. And they can start that process by campaigning for renouncing the 1982 Burma Citizenship Law – which for decades has epitomized racism and bigotry in our time. Truly, if Burma is to succeed and meet its true potential, it must learn to get along with others. There is no shortcut about it. The sooner they learn this and amend their ways the sooner will be the dawning of a better future. 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Jack Healey's piece on the plight of the Rohingyas of Burma

For years, I have written about fascistic tendencies of the leaders of the so-called pro-democracy movement in Burma. Through their venomous and hateful writings and personal abuses, I saw firsthand how racist and fascist they were. They behaved like Nazis of the Hitler era. I knew that they were an insincere group who are no better than the military regime that has ruled Burma for nearly half a century. I felt that if put into power, they would carry out massacre of 'others' that are racially and religiously different than they. 

The current pogrom in western Burma (Arakan state) in which thousands of Rohingyas have been lynched to death by the Buddhist Rakhines, aided by government forces, once again proved my thesis that the Rakhine leaders and their scholars are war criminals. They continue to live in their feudal savage past of intolerance. 

Click here to read a must read piece for all those who are interested about learning about the current crisis in Burma against the Rohingyas of Burma - rightly noted as the most persecuted people on earth.

The Blessed Month of Ramadan Has Arrived

The lunar month of Ramadan has come. It is the blessed month in which the Qur’an – the Muslim Holy Scripture -- was revealed:
“The month of Ramadan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur'an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey - then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful.” (Qur’an 2:185)

As can be seen from the above Qur’anic verse, all able-bodied Muslims who are either not sick or on a journey are required to fast in this holy month.

The word "Ramadan" comes from the Arabic root word for "parched thirst" and "sun-baked ground." This year, for many Muslims living either in the territories that are located around the equator or north of the equator, Ramadan has fallen in the summer, thus allowing them to experience hunger and thirst like so many others that have so little to feed and drink on a daily basis. Such a firsthand experience is bound to teach him/her to become more humble and charitable. Through increased charity, Muslims develop feelings of generosity and good-will toward others. He/she also learns to be thankful for the bounties of God that he/she has been able to enjoy all these years.

The Qur’an makes it also very clear that the main purpose of fasting is to make the person pious or righteous: ‘O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you so that you may become al-Muttaqun (or attain Taqwa).(Qur’an 2:183)

The Arabic word Taqwa has multiple meanings – e.g., piety, righteousness, guarding against evil, warding off evil, and self-restraint. As to the characteristics of a pious person (Muttaqi) the Qur’an says that beside believing in Oneness of God (Allah) and performing prayer, the person must fulfill his/her social obligations by spending money and honoring his/her trust. (Qur’an 2: 2-3)

The word Taqwa is also used synonymously with the word al-Birr, meaning righteousness. Consider, for instance, the Qur’anic verse: ‘It is not righteousness (al-birr) that ye turn your faces towards east or west; but it is righteousness - to believe in God and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers; to spend of your substance, out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer, and practice regular charity; to fulfill the contracts which ye have made; and to be firm and patient, in pain (or suffering) and adversity, and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the muttaqun (the pious).’ (2:177)

Righteousness leads to God-consciousness which endows the person (the Muttaqi) to become aware of the presence of Allah (God) in every moment of his/her life.

In his famous book Kimiya-e Sa’dat, Imam al-Ghazzali (r) tells the story of a certain Shaykh [Junayd al-Baghdadi (r)] who favored one of his disciples over others because of the latter’s God-consciousness. Other disciples obviously were jealous about the Shaykh’s favoritism. One day to prove the point, the Shaykh gave each disciple a fowl to kill it in a place where no one could see him. All the disciples returned after killing their fowls, except the favored disciple. The Shaykh inquired why he had returned with the live fowl. The disciple replied, “I could not find a place where Allah would not see me.” His God-consciousness (Taqwa) did not allow him to be heedless of Allah’s presence. The Shaykh then told his other disciples: “Now you know this youth’s real rank; he has attained to the constant remembrance of Allah.”

Fasting increases devotion, and brings a Muslim closer to the Creator. It creates the recognition that everything we have in this life is a blessing from Him. It teaches self-control or -restraint, and thereby, good manners, good speech, and good habits.

Great merits and rewards – both physical and spiritual – can be drawn from fasting.  As noted by Dr. Shahid Athar, M.D., “The physiological effect of fasting includes lowering of blood sugar, lowering of cholesterol and lowering of the systolic blood pressure. In fact, Ramadan fasting would be an ideal recommendation for the treatment of mild to moderate, stable, non-insulin diabetes, obesity, and essential hypertension.”

As stated in the Qur’an (33:35), Allah promises forgiveness and vast reward for a fasting person. In a well-known hadith, Muhammad (S), the Messenger of Allah, said, “Allah, the Almighty and Master of Honor, says: ‘All actions of a person are for himself, except the case of his fasting which is exclusively for Me and I shall pay (recompense) for him for the same.’  The fast is a shield (against vice and the fire of Hell).  Therefore when anyone of you is fasting he should abstain from loose talk and avoid verbosity and noisy exchange of words.” [Bukhari and Muslim: Abu Hurayrah]

And when one combines such meritorious deeds like prayer, fasting and charity (three of the five pillars of Islam) during the month of Ramadan, Allah promises immense rewards. Muhammad (S) said: "Whoever establishes prayers during the nights of Ramadan faithfully out of sincere faith and hoping to attain Allah's rewards (not for showing off), all his past sins will be forgiven." [Bukhari: Abu Hurayrah]

To a Muslim, it is this state of God-consciousness, attainable through fasting -- for surely, the evils of the nafs (ego, evil-self, etc.) cannot be tamed without fasting, which is learned in the blessed month of Ramadan.  It is at this stage that a person truly becomes Allah’s servant (‘abd) for whom He says in the Qur’an: ‘When My servants ask thee (Muhammad) concerning Me, I am indeed close (to them): I listen to the prayer of every suppliant when he calleth on Me: Let them also, with a will, Listen to My call, and believe in Me: That they may walk in the right way.’ (2: 186)

May this Ramadan lay the foundation stone for all of us to attain righteousness!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Is the Theme of ‘World Refugee Day’ becoming a farce?

June 20 marked the World Refugee Day. It was supposed to raise awareness of the plight of the estimated 42 million displaced people worldwide. A United Nations report released that week showed that 800,000 people were forced to flee across borders last year -- more than any time since 2000. In a message to mark the day, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said, “We must not turn away from those in need. Refugees leave because they have no choice. We must choose to help.”

The emerging refugee crisis inside Burma (Myanmar) makes a mockery of Ban Ki-moon’s statement. His office has failed not only to stop refugee crises in our world from emerging but also in ensuring that the refugees are not turned away.

According to several human rights groups thousands of unarmed Muslims may already have been killed in the apartheid state of Myanmar. Many Rohingya young men, picked up by the government forces, have simply disappeared, and are now feared death. Many victims – old and young, afraid of being ambushed and tortured to death by the Rakhine extremists and their partners-in-crime -- the government forces, have ventured out to seek asylum as refugees in Bangladesh, where they have been denied entry.

Despite the theme for this year’s World Refugee Day being: 'Refugees have no choice. You do,' the international response to the Rohingya crisis has been rather too slow and too safely guarded.

The Government in Bangladesh has pushed back fleeing Rohingya refugees seeking asylum. “Bangladesh never signed any kind of international act, convention or law for allowing and giving shelter to refugees,” said the foreign minister Dipu Moni recently. “That’s why we are not bound to provide shelter to the Rohingyas.” But how can Bangladesh ignore its obligations – not just islamically, but also under international obligations? Has she forgotten that Bangladesh itself was born in 1971 amid a massive refugee crisis? And now to deny such humanitarian help to suffering Rohingyas is simply inexcusable!

As noted by investigative journalist Dan Morrison, Bangladeshi officials might have served their case better by condemning the violence while pointing out that Bangladesh is among the world’s poorest and most densely populated countries, that in 1978 and 1991 it sheltered Rohingyas fleeing ethnic cleansing in Myanmar and that as it struggles to meet the aspirations of its 160 million citizens, it cannot consider another “temporary” influx of refugees. Instead Dr. Dipu Moni’s statements came across as callous at a time when images of suffering Rohingyas are being flashed across the world.

No action has been taken by the world community to either prevent a repeat of genocidal campaigns against the persecuted Rohingya people or punish repeat offenders - those responsible within the Union (of Myanmar), state and local government, and the civilian provocateurs of hatred. Interestingly, while the ultra-racist provocateurs within the Burmese and Rakhine Buddhist community continue to justify the denial of citizenship rights to the Rohingyas of Burma, and preach and provide material aid for extermination campaigns against them, many of these hypocritical monsters have no moral bites to living as naturalized citizens in countries like the UK and the USA. Nothing has been done to stop these neo-Nazi spiritual children of Julius Streicher amongst the Buddhist community of Burma.

But if the world community is serious to stop the refugee crisis, it is not too late. It can still stop the bleeding process by ensuring that violence against targeted minorities is a crime. It can stop such war crimes by bringing the advocates and perpetrators of crime to justice either through the local government agencies or the World Court in the Hague. And above all, it can pressure its governments to not reward the criminal state.

Sadly, however, morality is long gone in our world, and is replaced by hypocrisy. And this fact is well known amongst the perpetrators of such war crimes, and thus, there is no end of such crimes in a foreseeable future. Consider, e.g., the governments in the USA and the UK (and there are plenty of such examples). The Obama administration has lately announced that it would waive longstanding sanctions on investment and financial services in Burma. The new policy does not restrict U.S. companies from partnering with Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE), Burma’s state-owned oil company and the main source of revenue for the previous military government. The decision was timed to coincide with a trip by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Cambodia.

Similar is the case with the UK. Recently, Britain’s trade and investment department has opened an office in Rangoon as the latest move by the UK government to increase its presence in Burma. According to a report by The Telegraph, the opening of the new trade office came during a three-day visit last week by a trade delegation that included executives of some of the UK’s most influential companies, e.g., Anglo American, BP, British Gas, Ernst & Young, Rolls Royce and Shell.

The European Union, Australia and other countries have also eased sanctions against Myanmar. By lifting the investment ban, the West has lost the leverage necessary to bring about reform, while people inside are still suffering from human rights abuses and mass atrocities. When we reward a criminal for its crime, how can we expect it to reform?

Remember the June 30 dateline set by the Thein Sein government for an inquiry report on current violence in the Arakan (Rakhine) state, triggered by the lynching of ten tablighi Muslims (visiting from Rangoon) on June 3? It came and went. No one has heard anything about that report.

Instead, what the world community heard lately is simply bizarre! Myanmar presidential office released a statement last week citing that it would not recognize the Rohingya and would hand over responsibility for them to the UN’s refugee agency in Arakan State, adding that it was also “willing to send the Rohingyas to any third country that will accept them.” How wonderful! So, just like that a minority Muslim community that has known no other home outside the Buddhist-majority country is now treated as if they are outsiders, thus, ducking responsibility of the Myanmar government, which not only has failed to prevent the crisis but also has been a partner-in-crime in what appears to be a well-orchestrated pogrom against the Rohingya Muslims of Arakan. It has neither allowed foreign journalists to get to the troubled area, nor has it allowed foreign NGOs to come to the aid of the internally displaced minorities. What a travesty! This behavior is typical of a lawless ‘Mogher Mulluk’ with no accountability, no justice and no fair play. It is simply disgusting!

The Rohingyas are being targeted for this horrendous crime simply because of their race and religion. Looking darker and closer to the South Asian race (found in Bangladesh and India) as opposed to the more oriental (Mongoloid) looking majority – the Rakhines in the Arakan state and the majority Bamar inside Myanmar, and being Muslims as opposed to Buddhist, the Rohingya have been targets of state sponsored ethnic cleansing.

Of course, the denial of citizenship rights of the indigenous Rohingyas of Arakan is nothing new, and did not start with Thein Sein’s statement last week; it started full-blown from the Ne Win era. A series of ethnic cleansing drives has since been launched by the military regime, in full cooperation of the racist Buddhist elements within the Arakan state and Burma. Thus, before the 1982 Citizenship Law was enacted, there were Shwe Kyi Operation (1959), Kyi Gan Operation (1966), Ngazinka Operation (1967-69), Myat Mon Operation (1969-71), Major Aung Than Operation (1973), Sabe Operation (1974-78), Naga Min (King Dragon) Operation (1978-79) – which alone saw the forced exodus of some 300,000 Rohingyas to Bangladesh, Shwe Hintha Operation (1978-80), and Galone Operation (1979). Lest we forget, after 1982, there was the infamous Pyi Thaya Operation of 1991-92, which again saw the forced exodus of some 268,000 Rohingyas out of Burma. The aim of all these genocidal campaigns has been crystal clear: deny all the rights to the Rohingyas; falsely claim that they are outsiders from Bangladesh, or more specifically from Chittagong; continue periodic extermination campaigns with support from the local Rakhine Buddhist community; drive them out of the apartheid state of Burma by making their lives simply unbearable and  miserable.
While this slow but steady genocidal campaign has been going on inside apartheid Burma for more than half a century, with little notice from the outside world (after all, the country still remains closed to most foreign journalists and international monitoring agencies), draconian measures violating each one of the 30 Articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were taken to ensure that the remaining Rohingyas opt out. And surely the evil strategy has been working: majority of the Rohingyas are now refugees outside Burma. Those daring to stay within remain the most persecuted people on earth. They have no freedom of any kind, in much contrast to most of us living outside who take such privileges for granted.

With the so-called reforms initiated by the new regime of Thein Sein (a former military general) since last year, our hopes have been rather high imagining that his is a departure from the feudal past, and that he understands what it would take for his most impoverished country of Southeast Asia to survive and prosper in the 21st century. No, we are wrong. Nothing truly has changed inside Myanmar. It remains locked in its savage, feudal/imperial past. Racism and bigotry remain the apartheid character of this Buddhist majority country to drive out others, making the country exclusively for the majority race and religion.

It is not difficult to understand why Suu Kyi, the so-called democracy icon, remained noticeably silent on the subject of anti-Rohingya prejudice. Through her silence to condemn gross violations of human rights of a persecuted community, she has proven to be another immoral politician that cannot be trusted as a leader. Many of her supporters within the Rakhine and Burmese Buddhist communities are part of the country’s ‘pro-democracy’ movement. They are outright hostile to non-Buddhists and Rohingyas of Burma.

Thus, there is no camouflaging any more. The so-called democracy movement has been a farce; its leaders have proven that they are nothing more than neo-fascists of our time. Their brand of democracy is for their particular race and religion only. It is not of inclusion but only of exclusion. There is no place for a Shan, a Kachin, a Karen, and of course, a Rohingya, and countless nameless ethnic and minority groups in that equation. There is no place for a non-Buddhist in Myanmar. Period! Thus, the state remains at war everywhere inside.

More than 70,000 people have been displaced in the north by the on-going conflict between the Kachin Independence Army and the Burmese Army. On 6 July, nearly 1,500 residents in Panghsai township, near the border with China, attempted to cross into China after being ordered to evacuate their villages by the Burmese army. The refugees were then driven back into Burma by Chinese border guards. The displaced communities are now living in makeshift tents on the Burmese side, near the Chinese border and in Myitkyina, while others continue to hide in the jungle. In spite of a recent peace agreement with the Karens, some 60,000 officially recognized refugees still live in camps along the Thailand-Burma border. According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) the total number of refugees (including the Rohingyas) living in nine camps along the Thai-Burma border is 150,000. There are some 50,000 refugees (of various ethnic groups) that live in Northeast India and another 12,000 living in temporary settlements inside Malaysia. And as to the Rohingyas, more than a million are now living as refugees in Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia, Japan and elsewhere. The UNHCR estimates that some 91,000 people (mostly Rohingyas) have been affected by the latest extermination campaign against the Rohingyas of Arakan.

On July 11, Antonio Guterres, the UNHCR chief, met Thein Sein in Naypyidaw. He told reporters at a press conference in Rangoon the following day that the Rohingyas are an internally displaced people. He said, “The resettlement programs organized by UNHCR are for refugees who are fleeing a country to another, in very specific circumstances. Obviously, it’s not related to this situation.”

The latest salvo from Thein Sein once again shows that the Rohingya community is in a perilous situation. In recent weeks, villages belonging to the Rohingya have been burnt to the ground, whilst refugees fleeing to other countries have been refused entry and left to fend for themselves onboard rickety boats on rough seas. The Myanmar Government refuses to accept the Rohingya people as citizens, who as such have no rights in a country they call their motherland. This treatment of its inhabitants is in contravention of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights articles 3, 6, 13, 15, and 16. Reports covered by the Guardian of UK have suggested mass burning, looting and murder of Rohingya men, women and children. Anti-Muslim prejudice is endemic in Burmese society.

It’s a shame to think that many Burmese, who suffered for so long under military dictatorship, harbor such racism and bigotry.

As noted by human rights group, this issue is much larger than a Myanmar-only problem; it is fast becoming one of the worst cases of ethnic cleansing alongside the likes of Rwanda and Bosnia.  Can the world community afford to witness another such crisis in our time? If not, what should it do to stop the massacre of the Rohingyas of Burma?