Sorry for posting this piece below almost 2 days late: HS
2016 ends in 24 hrs, or less. My country's collective crimes against the Rohingyas which Aung San Suu Kyi now oversees and Kofi Annan helps whitewash while the army pulls the trigger have no end in sight.
A silver lining is the letter sent to the Security Council by over a dozen Nobel laureates, with iconic business leaders, urging the paralyzed body to get up and run. Excruciatingly painful to know the world's august body runs in accord with the law of the strong, not on any appreciable concerns for human well-being or life. That is, despite whatever discourses of principles, rules, etc. spewed out on any number of global issues that concern all of us, humans.
This letter is significant, still, if only symbolically, and as a trigger to wake the conscience of 'small people'.
It matters in other strategic ways as well.
The International Crisis Group has triggered a new trend of framing Rohingya issue - from "communal or sectarian violence" to "potential international terrorism", the one based on the violent interpretation of Islam as a political ideology.
The letter will have impact in setting the Rohingyas' record straight: they ought to be viewed as the target group, the Jews of Burma or Myanmar, as opposed to potential recruits for the so-called "Islamic" terrorism.
I doubt that that the Security Council will heed the call to action simply because ending genocides has never been a lucrative business for any power. Power doesn't respond to human cries, but only to strategic calculations of its own interests.
A case in point: USA and UK - and their early inaction, wittingly, on the Nazi genocide. There are plenty of other cases where genocides were allowed to run their course.
Both the Americans and the British leaders and officials were fully guilty of culpability in the post-WWII genocides - or mass atrocities, in Cambodia and Rwanda. As a matter of fact, history repeated in the case of Khmer Rouge.
In the case of the Nazi genocide, British gov was more interested in securing the cooperation of Hitler's military intelligence over its paranoia about the anti-capitalist Soviet spy ring in UK than stopping Hitler from either snatching territories or de-Germanization of the German Jewry.
The first concentration camp was built on the outskirt of Munich soon after Hitler came to power in 1933. The British foreign intelligence KNEW what was up the Nazis' sleeves.
But Britain's priorities were driven by elite paranoia: British officials and leaders thought would overthrow the semi-feudal, semi-capitalist British Social Order and institute an "evil" Communist system of gov.
Disgustingly, the Buckingham Palace found it alright to seat Hitler's representatives in London at the head table with the freshly minted Hanoverian Queen and her openly bigoted husband Prince Phillip (no wonder Prince Harry found it appropriate to show up in Nazi uniform in a dress up party, decades after 5 million Jews were exterminated).
The truth is it was the English royal family that gleefully played host to Hitler's men in London.
The rich and the influential who typically backseat-drove US gov. were wining and dining with the American-educated Nazis. (Check Harvard's alumni list of Nazis, including Hitler's favorite architect). Henry Ford and JP Morgan were only two of many who were in bed with Hitlerites: lending money to and trading with the Nazis was their top concern, not the lives of the un-wanted millions - especially the Jews, the Romas, the Communists, the Disabled, and "the impure races". JP Morgan even got an honorary doctorate from the prestigious Oxford University, FYI).
After the war the Americans publicly led the Nuremberg trials where less than 100 top Nazis were tried and promoted the USA as "the liberator", using the images of thousands of corpses, or the dying, whom the SS didn't have enough time or energy, to kill, before they were forced to accept total surrender.
But what was less known was over 2,000 ex-Nazis were put on American payroll to help fight the emerging Cold War: no one in the world had better intelligence over the USSR than the Nazis.
Like Hitler's genocide, my own country's Burmese genocide of the Rohingyas didn't start out as a genocide. The only written plan, the smoking gun, if you will is The Final Solution by the ex-chicken farmer Himler, only in the maturing years of the Nazis.
The debate around the intentionality of the Burmese genocide will rage on, and the politics of naming the crime obfuscates and diverts attention away from the fact that the Burmese hybrid state is the latest barbaric Frankenstein, with the beautiful facade of the Asiatic female beauty, whose policies towards the Rohingyas are every bit as ugly, rotten and genocidal as her military-backseat drivers.
While the disingenuous Western discourses about 'the Burmese Spring' have lost their steam in the face of the atrocities realities on the ground - civil war in the East, the genocide on the Western borders, massive land grab and resultant displacement of rural communities and resource loot on a planetary scale, to name only a few - the dishonesty of Western powers is locked in: refusing to confront the international crime which their "human rights" Darling, whose false image they themselves helped manufactured over a quarter century.
Against this background, the letter by 23 distinguished names and icons matters.
Richard Branson, the patron-benefactor of the group known as The Elders, is among the signers of this letter which forcefully characterizes Myanmar's persecution of Rohingyas as "crimes against humanity" and "ethnic cleansing". And another signer, namely the retired Archbishop of Cape Town Desmond Tutu, is an Elder.
One can't help wonder how Branson's action, as well as Tutu's, are received by Kofi Anna, who chairs the Elders.
The chair of the Elders, Kofi Annan, is engaged in the whitewashing of Myanmar's state crime, having been hired by Aung San Suu Kyi. (Her foundation reportedly has a total endowment of close to US$300 million, donated by the rich and the powerful around the world for her "humanitarianism" and "human rights promotion". Go figure!)
As head of UN Peacekeeping sitting in his UN Office in NYC, Annan sat on his hand, concealing one of the most important messages from the ground in the history of UN Peacekeeping, really a criminal behavior, in light of the fact that his dishonest hiding of the SOS from the UN Peacekeeping Force in Rwanda helped facilitate the death of over 800,000 Tutsi.
While acknowledging the shades of grey - alas, that cliche of "complexity", inherent in the ethnically motivated atrocities against the most vulnerable and the most persecuted ethnic community - whatever its name, official or self-chosen - I can't help see Rohingya issues as 100% Black and White, or the Good versus the Evil.
Call me naive, intellectually crude, or morally simplistic. I know from my heart of hearts, as a nation, a country, a people we the Burmese are committing a genocide, nothing less.
I have no power to end this inhuman and inhumane deed by my country-men - and -women, including the Burmese journalists who run western governments' mouth pieces, namely the Voice of America Burmese Service and the BBC Burmese Programme.
But, it's certainly not in name. Again what does it matter to the genocided Rohingyas that I raise my small voice?
Again the big voices have taken a stand with the Wretched of Burma. I take my hat off to these signatories of the letter whose use their fame in a truly noble way.
May their voice be the beginning of the end of Rohingya genocide.
OPEN LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE SECURITY COUNCIL AND MEMBER COUNTRIES OF THE COUNCIL TO END THE HUMAN CRISIS OF ROHINGYAS IN MYANMAR
Dear President and Members of the Security Council,
As you are aware, a human tragedy amounting to ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity is unfolding in Myanmar.
Over the past two months, a military offensive by the Myanmar Army in Rakhine State has led to the killing of hundreds of Rohingya people. Over 30,000 people have been displaced. Houses have been burned, women raped, many civilians arbitrarily arrested, and children killed. Crucially, access for humanitarian aid organisations has been almost completely denied, creating an appalling humanitarian crisis in an area already extremely poor. Thousands have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh, only to be sent back. Some international experts have warned of the potential for genocide. It has all the hallmarks of recent past tragedies - Rwanda, Darfur, Bosnia, Kosovo.
The head of the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on the Bangladesh side of the border, John McKissick, has accused Myanmar’s government of ethnic cleansing. The UN’s Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar Yanghee Lee has condemned the restricted access to Rakhine State as “unacceptable.”
The Rohingyas are among the world’s most persecuted minorities, who for decades have been subjected to a campaign of marginalisation and dehumanisation. In 1982, their rights to citizenship were removed, and they were rendered stateless, despite living in the country for generations. They have endured severe restrictions on movement, marriage, education and religious freedom. Yet despite the claims by government and military, and many in society, that they are in fact illegal Bengali immigrants who have crossed the border, Bangladesh does not recognise them either.
Their plight intensified dramatically in 2012 when two severe outbreaks of violence resulted in the displacement of hundreds of thousands and a new apartheid between Rohingya Muslims and their Rakhine Buddhist neighbours. Since then they have existed in ever more dire conditions.
This latest crisis was sparked by an attack on Myanmar border police posts on 9 October, in which nine Myanmar police officers were killed. The truth about who carried out the attack, how and why, is yet to be established, but the Myanmar military accuse a group of Rohingyas. Even if that is true, the military’s response has been grossly disproportionate. It would be one thing to round up suspects, interrogate them and put them on trial. It is quite another to unleash helicopter gunships on thousands of ordinary civilians and to rape women and throw babies into a fire.
According to one Rohingya interviewed by Amnesty International, “they shot at people who were fleeing. They surrounded the village and started going from house to house. They were verbally abusing the people. They were threatening to rape the women.”
Another witness described how her two sons were arbitrarily arrested: “It was early in the morning, the military surrounded our house, while some came in and forced me and my children to go outside. They tied my two sons up. They tied their hands behind their backs, and they were beaten badly. The military kicked them in the chest. I saw it myself. I was crying so loudly. When I cried, they [the military] pointed a gun at me. My children were begging the military not to hit them. They were beaten for around 30 minutes before being taken away”. She has not seen them since. Despite repeated appeals to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi we are frustrated that she has not taken any initiative to ensure full and equal citizenship rights of the Rohingyas. Daw Suu Kyi is the leader and is the one with the primary responsibility to lead, and lead with courage, humanity and compassion.
We urge the United Nations to do everything possible to encourage the Government of Myanmar to lift all restrictions on humanitarian aid, so that people receive emergency assistance. Access for journalists and human rights monitors should also be permitted, and an independent, international inquiry to establish the truth about the current situation should be established.
Furthermore, we urge the members of UN Security Council to put this crisis on Security Council’s agenda as a matter of urgency, and to call upon the Secretary-General to visit Myanmar in the coming weeks as a priority. If the current Secretary-General is able to do so, we would urge him to go; if not, we encourage the new Secretary-General to make it one of his first tasks after he takes office in January.
It is time for the international community as a whole to speak out much more strongly. After Rwanda, world leaders said “never again”. If we fail to take action, people may starve to death if they are not killed with bullets, and we may end up being the passive observers of crimes against humanity which will lead us once again to wring our hands belatedly and say “never again” all over again.
Professor Muhammad Yunus
2006 Nobel Peace Laureate
1996 Nobel Peace Laureate
1976 Nobel Peace Laureate
1976 Nobel Peace Laureate
Archbishop Desmond Tutu
1984 Nobel Peace Laureate
1987 Nobel Peace Laureate
1997 Nobel Peace Laureate
2003 Nobel Peace Laureate
2011 Nobel Peace Laureate
2011 Nobel Peace Laureate
2014 Nobel Peace Laureate
Sir Richard J. Roberts
1993 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine
2009 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine
Former Italian Foreign minister
Founder and Editor, The Huffington Post
Sir Richard Branson
Business Leader and Philanthropist
Entrepreneur and Philanthropist
SDG Advocate, Film Director
SDG Advocate, Voice of Libyan Women
Business Leader and Philanthropist
Human Rights Activist
Former Italian Prime Minister