Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Where Will Your Next Cup of Tea Come From?


In a casual conversation with some friends in a popular cafĂ© in the capital city Dhaka, I was told that Bangladeshi’s worst enemies are their own guys. They, of course, meant people in authority that matter. Upon inquiry, they mentioned the sad saga of the tea industry. Last year, Bangladesh imported more tea than it had exported. For someone like me, who is only a casual drinker of tea, and that too, only when I have a sore throat, I had no clue what had happened to this once-prosperous industry, which used to earn a major chunk of the foreign exchange for Bangladesh. Not anymore!

The government, in spite of serious objections coming from the tea growers and exporters, had decided to move the tea auction house from Chittagong to Sreemangal, which is located at the heart of tea plantation areas of Bangladesh. It is worth noting here that an overwhelming majority of the tea gardens is in the Greater Sylhet area (Sylhet, Moulvibazar and Habiganj), the remainders are in Chittagong and Tetulia (south-eastern and north-western corners, respectively, of Bangladesh). So, the choice of Sreemangal in the Moulvibazar would appear logical to most outsiders. After all, almost 93% of the tea is grown in that north-east corner of Bangladesh, adjacent to the Assam state of India. But I am told that the reason for moving to Sreemangal had more to do with caving in and catering to the interest of the tea producers association in India, or more specifically the Tea Board of India. The Anti-Corruption Commission may like to investigate if some kickbacks happened behind the scene. 

For decades, Cachar Tea had faced communication bottleneck simply because it is grown in the state of Assam of India, which is a land-locked territory. Tea is grown in 36 thousand hectares in the three districts of Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi in the Barak Valley. The gardens there produce about 50 million kg of tea, commonly known as Cachar Tea. With the auction house now moved to next-door Sreemangal inside Bangladesh the tea exporters in Assam don’t have to pay the hefty carrying cost for export via warehouses and ports in Kolkata, and instead can dump their produce inside Bangladesh via this newly opened channel. For years, because of such constraints, Kachar Tea was less competitive and as such, non-threatening for tea growers inside Bangladesh.

But now all that is sure to change making Bangladeshi grown tea less competitive in the world market. Unless corrective measures are taken, I am afraid that tea will embrace the same fate as had visited jute decades earlier. That would be undesirable for Bangladesh’s economy.

As I have hinted above, there was a time when tea was a major exportable item from Bangladesh. In the 1970s, tea export was next only to jute. It exported 80% of its 40 million-kg production, consuming only 8 million kg inside. The consumption of tea has steadily increased ever since, far surpassing the local productivity level. For instance, Bangladesh produced approximately 60 million kg last year (2013), but ended up importing 10 million kg from outside costing Bangladesh Tk. 125 crore (Tk. 1.25 billion). Of this imported amount, 75% came from India. The figures for the previous few years are not great either. In the years 2010-2012, Bangladesh imported 2.9, 5.6 and 2.3 million kg of tea, respectively.

It is difficult to believe today that Bangladesh used to earn tens of millions of USD from her tea export, and now it is an importer of tea in order to meet the growing demand inside from its tea drinkers whose numbers are increasing at an annual growth rate of 3.5 to 5 percent.

Several factors are responsible for the sad saga of the tea industry in Bangladesh. Of the 114,000 hectare area that is granted for tea plantation, less than half of it is now under tea plantation as a result of the devastation suffered during the 1971 Liberation War. Of this planted area, only 30,000 hectare area can deliver higher yield tea @ 1,400 kg per hectare, and the reminder 22,000-25,000 hectare area @ 700 kg per hectare. Thanks to Mosharraf Hossain, an innovative tea grower and executive who has shown how tea could be produced in plain land with proper irrigation and how ordinary poor farmers rather than being tea workers can actually own their small tea gardens in a cooperative farming, the yield in Tetulia tea gardens is 3,000 kg per hectare, which is way above the national average of 1176 kg/ha. However, Tetulia tea gardens comprise only a very small fraction of the total plantation area and cannot affect the overall production capacity to meet the ever growing consumer demand inside Bangladesh.

With perceived health benefits coming from tea drinks, there is no doubt that the consumer market is bound to grow not only inside Bangladesh but everywhere. Not only is the number of consumers increasing, but also the per capita consumption is on the rise. A study done in 2000-2001 also showed that world tea production had grown by an annual increment of 3 % while in Bangladesh the production had increased by only 1.84 % annually. Sadly, the picture is worse for the subsequent years. Between 2001 and 2010 tea production in Bangladesh only increased from 56.82 to 59.58 million kg annually, a dismal growth rate, while the export shrunk from 12.92 to 0.91 million kg annually! Currently, only 30 countries produce tea to meet the growing global demand which runs in excess of 2.5 million metric tons yearly. Some of the newer producers with use of modern techniques have been able to capture their piece of the pie while Bangladesh’s share has been ever shrinking.

The government of Bangladesh and its Tea Board must come up with a serious plan – both short and long term - to salvage this industry. The use of modern machinery, equipment, tools, improved irrigation and fertilizer, rehabilitation of soils, pest surveillance and replanting by uprooting old tea plants, planting high yield varieties of tea clones, and making use of unused land of the tea gardens while improving the quality of tea overall (satisfying, e.g., the prescribed criterion of the European countries in terms of the Maximum Residue Level value of pesticides), and less bureaucracy would go a long way to saving this vulnerable industry from collapse. Lest we forget, some one million Bangladeshis (mostly women, and from the minority races) are directly tied up with tea plantation and trade, let alone the fact that most of these hilly territories are unsuitable to grow any other agricultural crop. If Bangladeshi tea cannot compete pricewise with Indian or other imported tea, a huge majority of all these people would join the poverty line, which is undesirable. It is their survival which is at risk.

Remedial measures must look into how to increase the yield from current average of only 1176 kg per hectare, which is far below the yield amongst the best in the class. Kenya, which has the highest yield, and accounts for roughly 16% of world tea export and 8% worldwide production, is estimated to produce more than 1900 kg per hectare.  India, which produces 29% of world production, accounting for approximately 15% world tea export, has an average yield of more than 1700 kg per hectare. Sri Lanka, another major player in tea export accounting for 12% of world market, has a yield of more than 1400 kg per hectare. Bangladesh may like to identify the causes behind the yield gaps against those more productive countries and implement prudent solutions. 

Bangladesh must also review its ill-conceived decision to move the tea auction house away from the port city of Chittagong to Sreemangal. This move does no good to Bangladeshi tea growers and farmers, let alone the exporters, but instead rewards India who would flood the market with her cheaper tea, undercutting the cost of production and selling price inside Bangladesh for the indigenous industry to remain profitable and thereby survive. The government should also reevaluate its VAT and customs duty policy so that the indigenous industry is not threatened by outside competition. The national interest should and must take precedence over any other local interest.

 Bangladesh Tea Industry 1975 – 2012 (Actual) and 2015 – 2020 (projected) in million Kg.

 
1975
1980
1985
1990
1995
2000
2005
2010
2011
2012
2015
2020
Production
29.1
40
43.3
45.8
47.7
52.6
60.1
59.16
58.59
60.3
62.76
65.96
Consumption
5
9.1
13
18.9
22.3
34.5
51.1
61.06
63.98
62.6
64.89
73.5
Export
24.1
30.9
30.3
26.9
25.4
18.1
9
-1.9
-5.4
-2.3
-6.0
-7.54
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


 

Dilip Barua - the no-good robbing communist!


Mr. Dilip Barua was the Industries Minister in Bangladesh in the last cabinet of Sheikh Hasina. He is from the Communist Party and a Buddhist by faith.

He was a technocrat minister who did not (and surely could not) win any seat in the parliament. In his own constituency - in Haitkandi village, near Nizampur Government College, in the Mirsaria thana - north of Sitakund - he is almost unknown except that his neighboring villagers knew that he came from the nearby Magh Para whose vast majority of the dwellers had been fishermen supplying fish into the local market.

So, when one of their very own, a Buddhist and communist, with a university degree in Physics from Dhaka University, was chosen as a powerful minister in the past cabinet there was lot of expectations within the locals that he would do something good for their region. One such major wish included repair of the road that goes in front of Dilip Barua's village from the nearby bazar. He did not do anything about it, and hardly visited the region. When inquired, he flatly said that since he was not an elected representative from the area he had no obligation for the area.

Barua was totally inept and incompetent for the ministerial job in the industries sector. His selection as a minister in the previous cabinet surprised many who could not find any rational ground as to why the prime minister had chosen him. His communist party had no support within the country either to mobilize public opinion in favor of the government led by Sheikh Hasina. Even if all such shortcomings are ignored, what is inexcusable is corruption of which he has been seriously accused in the media.

In Bangladesh, communists are traditionally perceived to be caring, socially conscious and honest. But facts are quite different. Here a personal story may help my readers to understand my point.

During the War of Liberation while my father, an Awami League leader from Chittagong city, was in hiding helping the freedom fighters, as a teenager and eldest son of the family, I was staying behind in our home - Prantik - which was near the Lion's Eye Clinic on Zakir Hossain Road. I had been an avid reader all my life and had befriended many folks from all walks of life, including some communists who were close to my parents' age. One such communist was a contractor named Abdul Quddus. He was a supporter of the Hoq-Toha Communist Party, a radical pro-Peking Marxist group, which was opposed to freedom of Bangladesh, and had been accused of ambushing freedom fighters. [It is worth noting here that many of these communist parties in the then East Pakistan had splintered off the Bhashani NAP, which was pro-Peking, and as such, opposed division of Pakistan. Siraj Sikdar was another such communist leader, later founder of the Sarbahara Party, who had allegedly killed many freedom fighters - during and after the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971. Amongst these pro-Peking groups, only Rashed Khan Menon's (now a minister in the latest cabinet of Sk. Hasina) group had pro-liberation stance. The pro-Moscow NAP and communist parties (e.g., the party led by Moni Singh) participated in the war of liberation.]

But Abdul Quddus, now deceased, was a saint of sort person, and hated violence. He was, instead, more interested in living a peaceful life by earning halal living through hard work. He would supply me with scores of books on communism, which I would read voraciously and return to him upon completion. An older cousin of mine, Sheikh Fariduddin was a leftist student leader at Dhaka University, Iqbal Hall, during the 1969 Student Movement that brought down Pakistani President Ayyub Khan. His parents' house in Mughaltooly used to be frequented by his communist-minded friends - particularly Ajoy-da, a sports journalist these days. He had collections of hard-core communism, including those from Rahul Sanskrittayan. In my spare time, I read all those books during the liberation war, some probably without even understanding fully the delicate philosophy. It would be no exaggeration to say that there was hardly a book (including those of the Naxalite Charu Majumdar) on socialism and communism outside Des Kapital that was written or translated into Bangla and available in print form inside the country that I had not read then. I became communist at heart, or so it felt!

Soon after the liberation war, I visited Dhaka and accompanied by a cadet college friend Mostaqul Hoq, grandson of legendary A.K.M. Fazlul Hoq, stopped by the Purana Paltan Head Office of Moni Singh's Communist Party with the intent of joining the party. As soon as we entered the front office, we saw that it was air-conditioned, a huge luxury in those days in a newly independent war-ravaged country. To the attending front-desk clerks and attendants, I almost screamed asking: what kind of communist party was that one which lived in luxury when millions go unfed? The party members were caught unprepared and perplexed, and before they could answer I stormed out of the office. That was my short honey-moon of sort with communism! Over the years, I found that there were not too many of Charu Majumdar's ideal cadre, and many were extremely greedy, if not outright extortionists.

From the recently published news reports, Dilip Barua obviously fits in that notorious category. Rumors about his corruption had surfaced for some years since he was a minister. He and his inner circle, which included his front-man for amassing wealth - Saimum Haque Abdar, had been accused of massive corruption. It is rumored that he had funneled away huge sums of money to his children who live overseas. From the reports of my classmates who held important positions within the chemical industry and the BCIC, I gather that Barua had misused government transportation and abused his authority, sometimes demanding that X number of best cars be sent at his disposal right away wherever he visited so that he and his entourage could make use of those for their personal and business interest. His inner circle men were accused of demanding a commission for any tender, licenses, permits, etc. which required his approval. Now the newspaper accounts show that he and his men continue to harass various industries demanding monthly allowances to keep up with the lifestyle he had maintained.

The Anti-corruption Commission surely need to investigate these charges against Barua, and take stern actions, if found genuine.

The readers can read the report in the Manab Zamin by clicking here.

 

Buddhadev on Mamata Banerjee

Mamata Banerjee, the chief minister of the state of West Bengal, has been a very polarizing figure in India, let alone in Bangladesh. Her irresponsible actions speak volumes and appear as if she has formed an alliance with communal and divisive forces within India to resist all attempts to normalizing good relationship with Bangladesh. Her predecessor, Buddhadev Bhattacharjee has criticized her innane stupidity. The CPI (M) politburo member appeared furious over Mamata Banerjee's opposition to the Teesta river water sharing that forced Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to back off from signing the agreement during his last visit to Dhaka in 2011.

"We all want good relations with Bangladesh. We don’t want communal forces and anti-India forces to thrive there. We want a secular Bangladesh friendly to India but how do we ensure that if its bonafide demands are not met," said Bhattacharjee.




“Was it really necessary to create an impasse on water sharing and enclaves? The matter could have been solved rationally,” Bhattacharjee said.

You can read the news by clicking here.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

THE ROHINGYA PEOPLE: THE MOST SUFFERING PEOPLE ON EARTH


The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was adopted by the United Nations 65 years ago in December of 1948. The U.S. didn’t ratify the Genocide Convention for another 40 years. The late Sen. William Proxmire, a Democrat from Wisconsin, took up the task in the 1960s of getting the convention ratified. He assumed it would be easy. But it was not. He ended up giving 3,211 speeches on the floor of the Senate, a different speech every day for 19 years, until it was ratified.

It took two more years before President Ronald Reagan finally signed the measure into law on Nov. 5, 1988 — in a hangar at O’Hare Airport in Chicago.

After the Jewish Holocaust in Europe, the world said “never again,” but the list of genocides since then is long and sorrowful: Cambodia in the 1970s, nearly 2 million dead; Rwanda in 1994, 800,000 dead; Bosnia in the 1990s, 250,000 dead; Chechnya between the years 1994 and 2000, nearly 250,000 dead, 200,000 missing and 500,000 – nearly half the population internally displaced; Democratic Republic of the Congo an estimated 6 million people have perished in the past 20 years. In George W. Bush’s wars, 20,000 civilians were killed in Afghanistan in 2001 alone, and another 655,000 to one million in Iraq between 2003 and 2006, which can only be described as war crimes.

And how about Myanmar, also known as Burma? And how about its Rohingya people, who are recognized by the UN as one the most persecuted people on earth?

The Rohingya people of Myanmar, who mostly live in the western part - the Rakhine (formerly Arakan) state, bordering the Muslim-majority Bangladesh, are undoubtedly the most suffering people in our time. As it has become almost a norm in the Thein Sein era, earlier this month at least 48 Muslims were massacred when Rakhine Buddhist mobs attacked Du Chee Yar Tan, a village in the Rakhine state. This violence, part of the on-going genocidal activities against the Rohingya people appears to be the deadliest in a year.

Navi Pillay, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said she had received credible information that eight Rohingya Muslim men were attacked and killed in Du Chee Yar Tan village by local Rakhine Buddhists on January 9. This was followed by a clash on January 13 in the same village, following the reported kidnapping and killing of a police sergeant by Rohingya residents. Police did nothing to stop a Buddhist mob that entered later that night with knives, sticks and swords, witnesses and rights groups said.

The village has been emptied and sealed off since the massacre. The humanitarian aid group, Medicins san Frontiers, or Doctors Without Borders, which has several clinics in the area, said it has treated at least 22 patients, including several wounded, who are believed to be victims of the violence.

The United Nations has called on the government to carry out a swift, impartial investigation and to hold those responsible accountable. Pillay said, "By responding to these incidents quickly and decisively, the government has an opportunity to show transparency and accountability, which will strengthen democracy and the rule of law in Myanmar."

While the government agencies inside Myanmar have mastered the Goebbels-style propaganda in undercounting the casualty figures, let alone denying such extermination campaigns, the undeniable fact is more than a quarter million Rohingyas have fled their homes since May of 2012. It is probably this exodus of the Rohingya people which is both emboldening and encouraging the rogue regime and its savage, murderous Buddhist mob to get rid of the Muslim population one way or another.  

Denied citizenship in this Buddhist majority country, the Rohingyas have simply become the most unwanted people in our planet. The nearby Bangladesh does not want the persecuted Rohingyas to settle there either. In desperate attempts to save their lives, many Rohingyas have become now the ‘boat people’ of our time!

Yet Myanmar has gone through a change in recent years. The former military general Thein Sein is the poster-boy of reform inside the country. With him as the head of the state, a quasi-civil-military government runs the fractured country. Myanmar had its election, too – an imperfect one – in which some opposition politicians had managed to get elected in the limited seats available to them within the parliament. The new regime has also released many political prisoners (mostly Buddhists) who were once rotting in many of Myanmar’s notorious dungeons. [Many released ones have since been re-imprisoned.] In reaction to such ‘positive image-building’ initiatives, which I call calculated gimmicks, the western world has reciprocated by lifting its political and economic sanctions against the once hated military dictatorship that has ruled the country for almost its entire life since earning independence from Britain in January 4 of 1948.

There was much expectation – probably too unrealistic and too premature – that the Thein Sein government was serious about ‘real’ reform and that the Rohingyas will be integrated as citizens at par with other ethnic/national groups inside Myanmar. What we have witnessed instead is worsening of their situations. They are now victims of a highly organized genocidal campaign in which even Buddhists like Aung Saan Suu Kyi – touted one-time as the democracy icon – are sadly, either silent or willing partners in this gross violation of human rights. Since May of 2012 an estimated 250,000 Rohingyas have fled their homes. Tens of thousands of Muslims living in other parts of Myanmar have also been victims of organized mob violence, lynching, and wholesale destruction of their homes, schools, mosques and businesses. Many of the Muslim Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) now live in squalid camps with no provisions and are counting their days hopelessly to be relocated to their burned homes. And yet, such a provision seems unlikely. In recent days, Rakhine Buddhists have organized demonstrations protesting any resettlement of the Rohingya and other Muslims. Bottom line – they want the Rohingya and other Muslims out of Myanmar, if not total annihilated.

What is worse, the international NGOs, esp. from the Muslim countries, continue to be barred from helping out the Muslim victims. In the face of reported protests from the Rakhine Buddhist community, the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) could not even open an office to carry out its much needed humanitarian relief work in the troubled region.

Many international observers and some experts, including human rights activists, were surprised by such outbreaks of ethnic cleansing drives last year against the Muslims, in general, and the Rohingya people, in particular, let alone the level of Buddhist intolerance against non-Buddhists everywhere inside Myanmar. However, such sad episodes were no surprise to many keen observers and researchers of the Myanmar’s problematic history.

In 2007 when I was invited as the chief guest and keynote speaker in an international conference on the Rohingyas of Burma, held in Tokyo, Japan, its theme was the prevalent xenophobia in Myanmar and how to address the issue so that people of all ethnic and religious backgrounds could live harmoniously. One after another the speakers spoke at length about the danger that they foresaw. We all knew that simply a transition to so-called democracy would not and could not solve the Rohingya problem. Instead of a much-needed dialogue for reconciliation and confidence-building between ethnic/national and religious groups, what we recognized and faced from the so-called ‘democracy’ leaders within the Burmese and Rakhine Diaspora was appalling Buddhist chauvinism. They would not talk with or listen to the Rohingya people; as if, their so-called struggle for democracy against the hated military regime was a purely Buddhist one, the Rohingya Muslims were unwelcome in those dialogues between ethnic/national groups.

The level of Buddhist intolerance, hatred and xenophobia had simply no parallel in our time! Those chauvinist Buddhists were in denial of the very existence of the Rohingya people, in spite of the fact that the latter group comprised more than a third of the population of the Rakhine State and that the ancestors of the Rohingya were the first settlers in the crescent of Arakan before others moved in. While the vast majority of the late comers to the contested territory were Buddhists, the Rohingyas, much like the people living next door – on the other side of the Naaf River – in today’s Bangladesh had embraced Islam voluntarily. Their conversion had also much to do with the history of the entire region, esp. in the post-13th century when the Sultans and the great Mughal Emperors ruled vast territories of the South Asia from the foothills of the Himalayas to the shores of the Indian Ocean.

As a matter of fact, the history of Arakan, sandwiched then between Muslim-dominated India and Buddhist-dominated Burma, would have been much different had it not been for the crucial decision made by the Muslim Sultan of Bengal who reinstalled the fleeing Buddhist king Narameikhtla to the throne of Arakan in 1430 with a massive Muslim force of nearly 60,000 soldiers – sent in two campaigns. Interestingly, the Muslim General Wali Khan – leading a force of 25,000 soldiers, who was instructed to put the fleeing monarch to the throne of Arakan – had claimed it for himself. He was subsequently uprooted in a new campaign - again at the directive of the Sultan of Muslim Bengal - by General Sandi Khan who led a force of 35,000 soldiers. What would be Arakan’s history today if the Muslim Sultan of Bengal had let General Wali Khan to rule the country as his client?

We need not change the course of history. But is it wrong to expect human rights for all that are enshrined in the UN? Sadly, not a single of the 30 clauses of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is honored by the apartheid Myanmar regime when it comes to its treatment of this unfortunate people. What is more shocking is the emerging fact that the so-called democracy leaders within the Buddhist opposition in Burma have very little, if any, in common with the core values and ideals of democracy. Instead, their behavior has repeatedly shown that they are closet fascists and are no democrats. Thus, all the efforts of the Rohingya and other non-Buddhist minority groups to reach out to the exiled Buddhist-dominated opposition leadership in the pre-Thein Sein era simply failed. It was an ominous warning for the coming days!

So in 2012 when the region witnessed a series of highly orchestrated ethnic cleansing drives against the Rohingya and other Muslim groups not just within the Rakhine state but all across Myanmar, like some keen observers of the political developments there I was not too surprised. Nor was I amazed with the divisive role played by leaders of the so-called democracy movement. They showed their real fascist color. But the level of ferocity, savagery and inhumanity simply stunned me! I could not believe what I was witnessing. It showed that the Theravada Buddhists of Myanmar, like their co-religionists in Sri Lanka and Cambodia, have become the worst racists and bigots of our time. With the evolving incendiary and poisonous role of Buddhist monks like Wirathu - the abbot of historically influential Mandalay Ma-soe-yein monastery and his 969 Fascist Movement, which sanctifies eliminationist policies against the Muslims, surely, the teachings of Gautama Buddha have miserably failed to enlighten them and/or put a lid on their all too obvious savagery and monstrosity.

On June 20, 2013 twelve Nobel Peace Laureates called upon the Myanmar government for ending violence against Muslims in Burma. They also called for an international independent investigation of the anti-Muslim violence. Yet, the Myanmar regime continues to ignore international plea for integration of the Rohingya and other minorities.

So the plight of the Rohingya and other Muslim minorities continues unabated inside apartheid Myanmar. In ethnic cleansing drives in this country, the victims are usually the Rohingyas and yet they end up in the prisons (and not the Buddhist marauders) overwhelmingly. A peaceful demonstration may cost them their lives in this Mogher Mulluk. The same security forces which did nothing to stop lynching of Muslim victims have no moral qualms in killing them unprovoked for staging a peaceful demonstration. Genocide of the Rohingyas is a national project in Myanmar. It is, therefore, no surprise that ignoble Aung Saan Suu Kyi is an endorser to this horrendous crime through her wilful silence to condemning it.

A reading of history shows that genocide succeeds when state sovereignty blocks international responsibility to protect its persecuted group. It continues due to lack of authoritative international institutions to predict it and call it as such. It happens due to lack of ready rapid response forces to stop it and lack of political will to peacefully prevent it and to forcefully intervene to stop it.

Since founding of the UN, at least 45 genocides and politicides have taken place in our world resulting in deaths of some 70 million people. It is a shameful record that needs to be improved.

Let’s not allow the UN to add another genocide to its shameful record of failures that either overlooked it or tried to intervene when it was too late! It must stop the war criminals in Myanmar from their genocidal crimes against the Rohingyas.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Death toll in Syria surpassed 130,000 last month

We seem never to run short of mass murderers. Bashar al-Assad of Syria is one such monster who has been killing the Sunni majority in his country and won't step down letting the Syrians to choose their leaders freely in a democratic election.

As of last month, the death toll in Syria surpassed 130,000. You can read the report by clicking here.

Rohingyas killed again!

You can read about the latest news about recent massacre of Rohingya Muslims by Rakhine Buddhists by clicking here.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Rohingyas of Myanmar - Does Anyone Care about their plight?


At the Milwaukee International Conference last year it was noted with great concern that what was going on in the Arakan State was nothing short of genocide. The current events in Myanmar again confirm our fear.

In a recently published article, journalist Dr. Ismail Salami of Press TV demonstrated how the 8-stages of genocide, first coined by Dr. Greg Stanton, are in play when it comes to the Rohingya people. He writes [extra phrases or sentences within the parentheses are mine]:

1) Classification: People are classified into “us” and “other”, the first stage towards sociocide and colonization. In Myanmar, Muslims are seen as the ‘other’ and therefore inferior.

 

2) Symbolizations: People are given names or symbols in order that others may tell them apart. This stage is not, per se, dangerous unless it turns into dehumanization. [The Rohingya people are called ‘Kala’ people, or Chittagonians or Bengalis - to symbolize that they are outsiders in the Buddhist majority country of Burma.]

 

3) Dehumanization: In this stage, one group refuses to acknowledge the humanity of the other group. In other words, one group reduces another group to a subhuman. This is exactly what is happening to the Rohinyga Muslims in Myanmar. [After being classified as state-less in their ancestral land, the Rohingya people face daily dehumanization in the hands of every Buddhist - civilian or government officials. It, thus, sets the stage for crimes against them which are ignored by the government, and considered as legitimate violence to weed them out.]

 

4) Organization: Genocide is backed up by the government or government-related bodies. A genocidal act is carried out through an intermediary such as terrorist groups or punks in order that the government can exonerate itself from any blame whatsoever. In Myanmar, the government has frequently repeated that the carnage is conducted by mobs. [As has been documented repeatedly, the mobs not only enjoyed the clear support from the Thein Sein Government and the local municipal or township authorities in such pogroms against Muslims they were seen actively participating in such crimes against humanity.]

 

5) Polarization: Hate groups forbid some of the very fundamental rights of the browbeaten group. For instance, in Myanmar, Rohinyga couples should secure permission to marry. If they marry unofficially, they may be arrested and incarcerated. Muslim men ought to shave their beard so that they may be given permission for marriage. They are not allowed to build new mosques or seminaries nor are they allowed to renovate the old mosques.

 

6) Preparation: In this stage, the victim groups are identified and made to wear badges which distinguish them from others. Further to that, they are selected for the death row or marked for death. The selection may be random or systematic. For instance, in March 2013, over 40 houses and a mosque were burned and at least 32 people were killed in Myanmar. [The Buddhist terrorist monk Wirathu and his band of hard core racist and bigot monks and supporters have been known to visit a targeted Muslim site days before the planned day of attack. Then they set up meetings with local Buddhists and community leaders where the mob is fed disinformation and hateful messages saying that if the Rohingya and other Muslims are not eliminated the Buddhists would disappear. Thus, the mobs are given the reasons for which they must attack first. The criminal program is meticulously planned and followed with full cooperation of local leaders and government officials.]

 

7) Extermination: In this stage, the extermination of the downtrodden group starts at the hand of the hate group. The term signifies that the hate group who functions like a killing machine refuses to believe that the people they are killing are indeed human beings with human feelings and worthy of living in this world. [The Rohingya people have been victims of repeated extermination campaigns since at least the 1940s when the Japanese Army moved into the vacated British-occupied territories, let alone the great massacre of 1784 in which many Rohingyas were slaughtered, and others taken as slaves by Buddhist fanatic king Bodawpaya of Burma.]

 

8) Denial: It is the last stage and a routine with any genocide. In the recent attack and mutilation of women and children, the government denied that a Buddhist mob rampaged through a town and mutilated Muslim women and children while witnesses and a rights group said more than a dozen people may have been killed, and that hundreds have fled their homes.

“We have had no information about killings,” Deputy Information Minister Ye Htut told reporters on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Nations Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Myanmar’s ancient city of Bagan. [End quote.]


The Burma Task, UK, has lately noted that "
Pipe bomb [was] found outside Muslim orphanage in Shan State". It noted: "A pipe bomb was found outside a Muslim orphanage in Taunggyi, Shan State, on 25 December, according to Mizzima News. The pipe bomb was discovered inside a plastic bag and military officials carried out a controlled detonation. Three other pipe bombs were discovered in a gutter in Taunggyi earlier in December."

This once again shows that the genocidal campaign in Myanmar is an all-encompassing one with the objective of eliminating the entire Muslim population in this Buddhist majority country.

And yet, the powerful western nations refuse to call a spade a spade and do the needful to stop this genocide of the Rohingya people. Their attitude reminds me of the statement made by various speakers in the Milwaukee conference that the West has been hypocritical in such contentious issues; its self-interest has always taken precedence over its morality. Burma is looked upon as a far distant place that is well into the zone of influence of China, and probably India, too, and the west has nothing at stake, even if they were to ignore the problem.

With all the powers the western powers have in the UN, it has, therefore, become a difficult task for the rest of us who care to find noble and fair solutions to such humanitarian crises of our time. How long should the Rohingya and other vulnerable people wait? Will they have to wait until it is too late – they are all exterminated in a calculated way?