Halo goodbye, Suu – the Rohingya crisis

Rolling post started May 2016 | Contents
Last updated November 2017

In which I detail Aung San Suu Kyi’s disgraceful complicity in Myanmar’s ethnic cleasing of the Rohingya Muslims

Photo: Adam Dean / New York Times

‘You do not belong here – go to Bangladesh. If you do not leave, we will torch your houses and kill you.’
Megaphone announcement by the Myanmar military to Rohingya villagers. (UN report)

🔺 Top

Contents

Introduction
History
Suu Kyi’s attitude

Updates
1. UN: ‘crimes against humanity’
2. Kofi Annan’s commission
3. New ethnic cleansing

Footnotes


🔺 Contents

Introduction

Remember Aung San Suu Kyi, darling of western liberals, heroine of democracy and human rights, under house arrest in Burma for her beliefs for 15 years before being triumphantly elected as her country’s leader? Well, treasure the golden memory – the reality is disappointingly tarnished.

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Photo: Soe Zeya Tun / Reuters

Suu Kyi’s saintly image suffered badly at an internationally covered election campaign press conference in November 2015. Questioned about the the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar (the new name for Burma), she shocked her worldwide fans by saying only that that it was important not to exaggerate.

As the informed watching world knew, it would have been hard to exaggerate the problems faced by the Rohingya people. They’ve been violently persecuted for many years by state-backed Buddhists in Myanmar’s western state of Rakhine. They’re one of the most persecuted minorities in the world. (The UN is supposed to have said that. Apparently they didn’t, but in any case it’s evidently true.)

Since then, Suu Kyi’s image has gone from bad to worse. She won the election as expected. She’s now Myanmar’s State Counselloreffectively its prime minister – and (despite her government being dominated by unelected junta leftovers) is in a postion to help the Rohingya by at least speaking out about their plight.

Instead, as the violence continues, so does Suu Kyi’s shameful indifference. The Nobel peace prize winner is not making peace. Known as The Lady, she’s not being very ladylike – she’s callously doing nothing about it, apart from criticising the critics and telling them to give her government ‘space‘.

Myanmar’s Nelson Mandela, she ain’t.

(However…see Update 2 – Kofi Annan’s commission, below, about an advisory commission Suu Kyi has set up, chaired by Kofi Annan.)

(But…see Update 3 – New ethnic cleansing, below, about the vicious resumption of ethnic cleansing.)

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Rohingyas – denied human rights by Suu Kyi’s government | Photo: Dr Nora Rowley (1)


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History

There’s widespread hostility towards the one-million-plus Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, including among some within Suu Kyi’s own party. Myanmar doesn’t recognise the Rohingya as an ethnic group. It denies them citizenship and basic rights. The previous military junta called them ‘Bengalis’, implying that they were illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, though the Rohingya have had a well established presence in the country since at least the twelfth century.

The history of the Rohingya is the subject of academic disagreement in the region. Some academics support the Myanmar government’s line, claiming that the name ‘Rohingya’ is a political invention by Bangladeshi immigrants who have no particular ethnic identity. Others with more integrity argue that the name dates back to at least the 1700s, and that despite historical migrations to and from what is now Bangladesh, the Rohingya have a long history in Rakhine and a distinct ethnic identity.

Suu Kyi’s government has continued with the policy of claiming that the Rohingya are illegal immigrants. Min Aung Hlaing, smiling head of Myanmar’s powerful military, said at a 2016 press conference, ‘As we have said before, there are no Rohingya.’

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Photo: Irrawaddy

Neighbouring Muslim-majority Bangladesh also doesn’t allow Rohingyas citizenship. In the late 1970s some 200,000 Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh, claiming that the Burmese army had forcibly evicted them, and alleging widespread army brutality, rape and murder. Bangladesh negotiated their return and encouraged it by restricting food supplies.

Then in the early 1990s more than 250,000 Rohingya refugees fled to Bangladesh from forced labour, rape and religious persecution at the hands of the Burmese army. They were brutally repatriated to Burma, a process shamefully overseen by the UN. Respected non-governmental organisation Human Rights Watch gives the background and history of these events.

There’s a complex history (2) of conflict over land and resources. In 2012 this led to waves of mob violence against the Rohingya led by hardline Buddhist priests and politicians, and covertly backed by the state. Hundreds of Rohingya were murdered. No one has been prosecuted for the killings.

Buddhist compassion | Photo: Preedeep Ponchevin

More than 100,000 Rohingya were forced to flee their homes and live in decrepit internment camps where they are denied medical services and adequate food. Thousands have tried to escape to Malaysia, Indonesia or Thailand on rickety boats. Many Rohingyas, having reached Malaysia and Thailand, are being held in detention centres there.

In July 2017 it was reported that a Thai judge, after a two-year trial, had found dozens of people guilty, including a senior army general and a wealthy businessman and former government official, in the country’s largest ever human trafficking trial following the discovery two years ago of mass graves in a squalid jungle camp where hundreds of migrants had been brutally exploited.

Many Rohingya and Bangladeshis paid people smugglers to reach Malaysia or Thailand. When they arrived, the court heard, they were detained in bamboo pens and had to beg their families to pay a ransom for their release.

The case led to a crackdown on smuggling networks that brought people from Myanmar and Bangladesh to Thailand. Smugglers, fearing arrest, then abandoned boatloads of migrants. The UN refugee agency estimated that hundreds died at sea, mainly as a result of starvation, dehydration and beatings by boat crews.

Aid agencies estimate that over one million Rohingya have fled Myanmar in the last 40 years as a result of persecution. (3)

The International State Crime Initiative (4) argues that the violence and forced removal amounts to ethnic cleansing, and has reached stage four of six (5) in the process of genocide. Genocide Watch (6) says that the Myanmar regime’s gross human rights abuses and its persecution of the Rohingya persist alongside a pervasive culture of impunity; and that the situation may have reached stages nine and ten of their ten-stage model of genocide (7).


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Suu Kyi’s attitude

In May 2016, Suu Kyi’s ministry of foreign affairs asked the US ambassador to stop using the term ‘Royingya’, which they said was ‘controversial‘. To the USA’s credit, the ambassador said he’d continue to use the term, because that’s what the group calls itself. The European Union, by comparison, has cravenly caved in to Suu Kyi’s demand (see below).

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Photo: BBC

Most disappointing of all, Suu Kyi herself seems to be anti-Muslim. She made an off-key off-air comment after being interviewed by Mishal Husain, Muslim presenter of Today, BBC Radio’s flagship UK news and current affairs programme. Suu Kyi lost her temper during the interview when Husain repeatedly asked her to condemn the anti-Muslim violence in Myanmar. Suu Kyi answered angrily and evasively, and after the interview was heard to say, ‘No one told me I was going to be interviewed by a Muslim.’

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Photo: Nyein Chan Naing

When US secretary of state John Kerr delicately raised concerns about the issue during a visit, Suu Kyi responded: ‘All that we are asking is that people should be aware of the difficulties we are facing and to give us enough space to solve all our problems.’

Weasel words, Suu. Your halo’s slipping – off. What will Dave Lee Travis think? What will the world – previously your oyster, thanks to your massive international support – think?

Sadly, the world will think you’ve gone from saintly reformer to either hypocritical racist or, at best, paralysed pragmatist. The world will think that your main concern is either to hang on to power or, at best, to preserve Myanmar’s nascent democracy.

You’ve squandered the world’s good will, Suu. The world will think that, whatever you’ve become and whatever your motives, you’re willingly fronting one of the worst governments in the world, with self-indulgent brutal hatred bordering on racism, at its rotten heart.

(I think we’re all racist, and it doesn’t take much to provoke it; but that if we understand the deep roots of our racism, we can choose not to indulge it. See my post about racism, Colour me racist, blame my genes.)


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Update 1
UN: ‘crimes against humanity’

June 2016

Following its shameful part in the 1990s Bangladesh deportation (see above), the UN partly redeemed itself by issuing a report that urged Suu Kyi’s government to take concrete steps to end the ongoing systemic discrimination and human rights violations against the Rohingya – violations that the UN said could amount to crimes against humanity.

Suu Kyi’s brilliant response was to tell a visiting UN human rights investigator that the Myanmar government will not use the ‘controversial‘ term ‘Rohingya’.

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Rohingya woman with her malnourished twin babies | Photo: Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

Sickeningly, European Union ambassador to Myanmar Roland Kobia said in June 2016 that the EU will stop using the term ‘Rohingya’. He pathetically echoed Suu Kyi’s weasel words by adding that Myanmar needs ‘space’ to deal with human rights abuses.

Thank goodness the UK’s leaving the spineless, weaselly EU.

The Royingya – forced to live in concentration camps | Photo: CNN

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Update 2
Kofi Annan’s commission

August 2016

Suu Kyi responded to international pressure by appointing an Advisory Commission on Rakhine State. She somehow persuaded fellow Nobel peace prize winner and former UN head Kofi Annan to chair it. There are two hardline hate-mongering Rakhine Buddhists on board. There are, of course, no Rohingya representatives – after all, they don’t exist.

The commission was strongly opposed by Myanmar nationalists, so perhaps Suu Kyi finally did something right. It started in September 2016 and was due to report a year later – assuming, presumably, that there might still be some Rohingya left alive by then.
 

March 2017

The Annan commission’s interim report has called for the closure of Myanmar’s squalid internment camps, where 120,000 Rohingya have lived since the hardline Buddhist violence in 2012.

Annan told Reuters:

‘They [should] close the camps and allow the people in the camps, particularly those who have gone through the [citizenship] verification process, access to freedom of movement and all rights of citizenship‘.

Well said, Kofi. You listening, Suu?

But Suu Kyi has stamped her absurd ban on the name ‘Rohingya’ onto the commission. In a section headed ‘Nomenclature‘, the interim report says:

‘In line with the request of the State Counsellor [Suu Kyi], the Commission uses neither the term “Bengali” nor “Rohingya”, who are referred to as “Muslims” or “the Muslim community in Rakhine”. This does not include the Kaman Muslims, who will simply be referred to as “Kaman”.’

So the Kaman Muslims (a smaller ethnic group of Rakhine Muslims recognised as Myanmar citizens) can be called ‘Kaman’, but the Rohingya Muslims can’t be called ‘Rohingya’ – because they don’t exist, of course. The quote above contains the only use of the name ‘Rohingya’ in the report.

Disappointingly craven, Kofi. Still, at least Suu Kyi also asked the commission not to use the name ‘Bengali‘ – the name used by the previous military junta to falsely suggest that the Rohingya were actually illegal Bengali immigrants. Perhaps there’s a tiny spark of conscience still in there somewhere.
 

August 2017

The Annan commission published its final report. It points out that ‘Muslims in Rakhine’ (ie, the Rohingya – see March 2017, above) constitute the single biggest stateless community in the world.

The commission’s report was overshadowed by a new outbreak of violence. Annan said he was ‘gravely concerned’ by the latest outbreak of fighting.

The report urged the government to:

  • speed up the citizenship verification process
  • ensure freedom of movement for all
  • close the internment camps as soon as possible
  • improve camp conditions immediately
  • allow humanitarian and media access
  • give access to health and education services
  • end hate speech by Buddhists.

The report recommended that the government appoint a minister with special responsibility for Rakhine State.

The Myanmar president, a Suu Kyi ally, thanked the commission for its ‘visionary and constructive approach’ and said that it agreed with the recommendations. A press release said:

‘The large majority of the recommendations will be implemented promptly with a view to maximum effectiveness. The implementation of a few will be contingent upon the situation on the ground but we believe there will be speedy progress.’

So, Suu Kyi deflected some international criticism by seeking and apparently accepting Annan’s advice. But will she – can she – implement it?


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Update 3
New ethnic cleansing

Contents

October 2016
‘Insurgency’ and retaliation
November 2016
War crimes and denial
December 2016
Malaysia / Amnesty: ‘crimes against humanity’ / ASEAN meeting / Annan / Nobel peace laureates
January 2017
More denial / Lords / Bangladeshi island
February 2017
Human rights violations / The island / UN numbers / ‘Peace’
March 2017
EU blocked UN investigation / Bangladesh blocked aid / Annan spoke out / UN fact-finding mission
April 2017
Suu Kyi on TV / Indian deportation / ‘Model’ villages / Guardian editorial
June 2017
UN denied entry
July 2017
UN: children ‘wasting’
August 2017
Myanmar whitewash / Annan report / Violence resumed
September 2017
Mass exodus / Turkey / Security council / Suu Kyi petition / ‘Fake’ news / Homes burning / Suu Kyi recommends harmony / Landmines / UN: ‘ethnic cleansing’ / The island / Myanmar to implement Annan / UN SecGen spoke / Security council: end violence / Female Nobel laureates wrote to SK / Amnesty: ‘scorched earth’ / UK stopped military aid / SK speech / US: ‘stop weapons’
October 2017
Myanmar: ‘refugees can return’ / New Cox’s Bazar camp / The island / UN in Myanmar ‘disfunctional’ / Myanmar civilian-led agency / Charity appeal didn’t use the name ‘Rohingya’ / UN: Myanmar planned ethnic cleansing / War criminal Hlaing / Estimated number of refugees: 603,000
November 2017
She was a day tripper / Israeli arms sales: ‘war crimes on both sides’ / Security Council statement / ASEAN meeting ignores the Rohingya


🔺 New ethnic cleansing – contents

October 2016
‘Insurgency’ and retaliation

It didn’t take long for the Myanmar government to resume its brutal ethnic cleansing. Claiming that nine police officers and five soldiers were killed by ‘insurgents’ at border posts, Government forces responded by looting and burning villages and carrying out helicopter gunship attacks. At least 100 Rohingya were killed. The government claimed that their forces were attacked by men with guns, spears, machetes and wooden clubs, and that they responded with a ‘clearing’ operaton. Quite.

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14 October 2016: Debris of burned houses in Wa Peik, a Rohingya village in Maungdaw Township, northern Rakhine state | Photo: Ye Aung Thu / AFP / Getty Images

Images and videos on social media showed women and children among those killed. The army was accused of raping Rohingya women. Unbelievably (in both senses) the the government said that the ‘insurgents’ had burned their own homes to discredit the army.


🔺 New ethnic cleansing – contents

November 2016
War crimes and denial

During the conflict, Slippery Suu avoided journalists and press conferences. However, on a Japanese jaunt to get an honorary doctorate she was reportedly challenged by the Japanese foreign minister. Suu Kyi replied that the military in Rakhine were operating according to the ‘rule of law‘. Nice one, Doc.


Satellite images released by Human Rights Watch (an NGO known for its impartial reporting) showed that more than 1,200 homes were razed in Rohingya villages during the military operation. The United Nations estimated that 30,000 Rohingya were forced to flee their homes into Bangladesh. Bangladesh turned many refugees back from the border, and complained to the Myanmar government.

Rohingya refugees from the military crackdown have joined the many thousands who have fled Myanmar to Bangladesh over the last 40 years. Estimates of the number of Rohingya refugees living in Bangladesh before the current displacement vary wildly from 35,000 to 500,000. The unreliability of the estimates is a sad indication of the world’s neglect. Most of the refugees in Bangladesh, as with most Rohingya refugees elsewhere, live in squalid camps, lacking adequate food and medical care.

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Rohingya children near a Bangladesh refugee camp in November 2016. Journalists and photographers aren’t allowed in the conflict area in Suu Kyi’s Myanmar | Photo: Mohammad Ponir Hossain / Reuters

The UN called for an investigation into alleged human rights abuses. A senior UN official said that Myanmar was seeking the ethnic cleansing of the Muslim Rohingya minority from its territory. Suu Kyi announced a government-led investigation. Big deal.


🔺 New ethnic cleansing – contents

December 2016
Malaysia
Amnesty: ‘crimes against humanity’
ASEAN meeting
Annan
Nobel peace laureates


🔺 December 2016 – contents

December 2016
Malaysia

Muslim-majority Malaysia spoke up, also describing the violence against the Rohingya as ‘ethnic cleansing‘. At a solidarity rally in Kuala Lumpur, prime minister Najib Razak asked the angry crowd, ‘What’s the use of Aung San Suu Kyi having a Nobel prize?’ Good question.


🔺 December 2016 – contents

December 2016
Amnesty: ‘crimes against humanity’

Suu Kyi’s government investigation found – surprise, surprise! – that the security forces had followed the law. So that’s alright, then. However, a report by Amnesty International accused the Myanmar military of ‘crimes against humanity’. The Amnesty report called on the Myanmar government and Suu Kyi to order a stop to the violence, publically condemn rights violations, allow unimpeded access to Rakhine and launch an impartial investigation with the UN. Yeah, right – dream on.


🔺 December 2016 – contents

December 2016
ASEAN meeting

ASEAN regional leaders met in Yangon (Myanmar’s largest city, formerly its capital, also known as Rangoon) for emergency talks on the violence. Pressurised by the intervention of neighbouring Muslim-majority states Indonesia and Malaysia, Suu Kyi reluctantly addressed the meeting – only to repeat her ridiculous assertion that the army action was legitimate.


🔺 December 2016 – contents

December 2016
Annan

The Myanmar government invited Kofi Annan’s advisory committee (see update 2, above) to look into the situation. Disappointingly, Annan reportedly said that observers should be ‘very, very careful‘ in using the word genocide, and that Suu Kyi’s government should be given ‘a bit of time, space and patience’. Oh dear – there’s that weasel word again.

Annan is probably right to say that ‘genocide’ is an exaggeration, but perhaps the great man should himself be ‘very, very careful’ – not to blow his credibility. He’s sounding worryingly like Suu Kyi, with her ‘Don’t exaggerate’, and her ‘Give us space’. At this rate, next thing, Annan will refuse to use the name ‘Rohingya’. (And guess what – he’s done just that, at Suu Kyi’s request. See Update 2 / March 2017, above.)

Annan’s views on the conflict are given in the introduction to his commission’s interim report. (See March 2017, below.)


🔺 December 2016 – contents

December 2016
Nobel peace laureates

It was widely reported that – for what it was worth (not much) – 23 of the great and good had written an open letter to the (useless) UN security council about it, describing the action as ethnic cleansing, and demanding that the council put it on their to-do list. More than a dozen of Suu Kyi’s fellow Nobel laureates signed, including Desmond Tutu and Malala Yousafzai.

The letter was wordy but well meant and heartfelt. Perhaps they hoped to stir the dozy security council into action, or at least add to the embarrassment factor for Suu Kyi. (However, our former human rights heroine seems unembarrassable.)


🔺 New ethnic cleansing – contents

January 2017
More denial
Lords
Bangladeshi island


🔺 January 2017 – contents

January 2017
More denial

Suu Kyi’s commission of investigation said that there was no evidence of genocide against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state. In its interim report, the commission, led by hardline former regional military ruler and current co-vice president Myint Swe, also said there wasn’t enough evidence to support widespread rape allegations. It didn’t mention claims that security forces had been killing people.

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Enquiry head Myint Swe | Photo: EPA

🔺 January 2017 – contents

January 2017
Lords

The UK’s secondary parliamentiary body, the House of Lords, held a debate on a question tabled by activist and Labour peer Baroness Glenys Kinnock about the Rohingya, and the UK government’s response to their current plight. Four baronesses, three lords and one bishop made knowledgeable and compassionate speeches.

UK government minister Baroness Annabel Goldie replied in the same vein, saying that UK ministers have raised this issue in parliament and in direct discussions with the Myanmar government. She said that the UK government is deeply concerned about the recent military action and the lack of humanitarian access.

Goldie said that the government didn’t find Myint Swe’s commission of investigation (see above) credible, and has expressed its concerns to the UN security council. She ended by saying that the UK government is wary of doing anything which might impede Myanmar’s legitimate democratic development.

That’s not good enough. As elsewhere, the UK bears considerable historical colonial responsibility for the mess left behind. It should be clear by now that the diplomatic approach has failed. The junta-heavy Myanmar government is no democracy. The UK government is defending a dictatorship that’s wearing Suu Kyi like window dressing. They should should be defending the Rohingya.


🔺 January 2017 – contents

January 2017
Bangladeshi island

The Bangladeshi goverment showed great compassion for its opressed Muslim neighbours by planning to forcibly relocate the recently arrived Rohingya refugees to an even more squalid site. A push to attract tourists was the reason for the move, which had the backing of controversial prime minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed.

The squalid refugee colony, home to the newly exiled Rohingya, is near the world’s longest unbroken beach – and Bangladesh’s largest resort. Officials feared the refugees might put off would-be holidaymakers, and ordered the forced relocation of the Rohingya to a vulnerable island before being repatriated to Myanmar.

The island, flooded by several feet of water at high tide, has no roads or flood defences. It was formed about a decade ago by sediment from a river. Nice. Thanks, Hasina, for your generous hospitality.

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Photo: Getty Images

🔺 New ethnic cleansing – contents

February 2017
Human rights violations
The island
UN numbers
‘Peace’


🔺 February 2017 – contents

February 2017
Human rights violations

Mass gang-rape, killings (including of babies and young children), brutal beatings, disappearances and other serious human rights violations by Myanmar’s security forces were detailed in a UN report based on interviews with victims in Bangladesh.


🔺 February 2017 – contents

February 2017
The island

Bangladesh asked the UN and the international community to support its plan to relocate Rohingyas to an uninhabitable island, Thengar Char (see January, above).

The briefing was attended by some 60 ambassadors, high commissioners, heads of missions, representatives of various diplomatic missions as well as representatives from the office of UN resident coordinator Robert D. Watkins, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), UNHCR and other UN agencies.


🔺 February 2017 – contents

February 2017
UN numbers

UN officials estimated that the death toll from the government ‘clearance’ operation was closer to 1,000. The number who had fled to neighbouring Bangladesh was now thought to be 70,000.


🔺 February 2017 – contents

February 2017
‘Peace’

The Myanmar government said that its ‘clearance operation’ had ‘ceased. Suu Kyi’s office issued this statement:

‘The situation in northern Rakhine has now stabilised. The clearance operations undertaken by the military have ceased, the curfew has been eased and there remains only a police presence to maintain the peace.’

Thats nice, Suu – to describe as ‘peace‘ the aftermath of the army’s 1,000 killings (including the killing of women, children and babies), gang rape, the looting and burning of homes, and the displacement of 70,000 people.


🔺 New ethnic cleansing – contents

March 2017
EU blocked UN investigation
Bangladesh blocked aid
Annan spoke out
UN fact-finding mission


🔺 March 2017 – contents

March 2017
EU blocked UN investigation

The spineless, weaselly European Union (see Update 1, above, on the EU’s decision not to use the name ‘Rohingya’) blocked a full UN investigation.

The EU historically takes the lead on issues relating to Myanmar on the UN human rights council, which held its annual session in Switzerland. The UN commissioner for human rights wanted a top-level commission of investigation, but the useless EU wanted to give Myanmar’s discredited internal investigation more time. Bless.

The UK wasn’t much better, I’m sorry to say. Our man at the council said that the international community needed to ‘engage (Myanmar) without damaging the delicate civilian-military balance‘.


🔺 March 2017 – contents

March 2017
Bangladesh blocked aid

It was reported that the Bangladeshi government strongly discouraged the distribution of aid to Rohingya refugees. Bangladesh banned three NGOs from distributing aid, saying that it would encourage more refugees to cross the border. The Bangladeshi interior and foreign ministries apparently declined to comment.

Bangladesh has form for this. In the 1970s they encouraged the return of 200,000 Rohingya refugees by restricting food supplies (see above).


🔺 March 2017 – contents

March 2017
Annan spoke out

Kofi Annan’s advisory commission on Rakhine state (see update 2, above) published its interim report on 16 March. In the introduction, Annan, whose commission was asked in December 2016 to look into the current crisis (see above), said:

‘The nature of the crisis facing Rakhine state has changed due to the attacks of 9 October [2016] and the subsequent security operations … There are steps that can be taken immediately…[including] unimpeded access for humanitarian actors and journalists to the affected areas in Northern Rakhine and for independent and impartial investigation of the allegations of crimes committed on and since 9 October 2016. We strongly believe that perpetrators of these crimes must be held to account.’

Well said, Kofi – that’s better than your useless comment in December 2016 (see above). Now try to get the UN to pull its finger out.


🔺 March 2017 – contents

March 2017
UN fact-finding mission

The EU submitted its weaselly, watered-down resolution to the UN human rights council, presumably with the support of the UK (see above). The resolution (click on ‘E‘ to download it) on the Rohingya, which did at least use their name, was adopted by the council. The resolution specified a weedy ‘fact-finding mission‘, not the high-powered commission of inquiry needed. Pathetic.

Predictably, Suu Kyi rejected the UN decision. In a televised speech, she said that her government would refuse to accept the fact-finding mission. Myanmar’s military head Min Aung Hlaing said in a speech that the mission was a threat to national security.

Without Myanmar’s cooperation, the UN’s fact-finding mission – already toothless – becomes a paper tiger.

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Photo: source unknown

🔺 New ethnic cleansing – contents

April 2017
Suu Kyi on TV
Indian deportation
‘Model’ villages
Guardian editorial


🔺 April 2017 – contents

April 2017
Suu Kyi on TV

Suu Kyi’s first interview this year (with BBC TV) sadly confirmed her shameful indifference to the terrible plight of the Rohingya. Speaking like a cut-price Thatcher, she said that there was no ethnic cleansing, and spoke instead about attacks by Muslims on fellow-Muslims who’d collaborated with the authorities. In a strangely worded comment on the widely alleged troop atrocities, she said that troops had not been ‘free’ to commit crimes. ‘They are not free to rape, pillage and torture,’ she said. ‘They are free to go in and fight.’ Right, thanks, Suu.

Suu Kyi had a sickly, medicated look. I hope she’s OK. Maybe she should consider her legacy, or at least her priorities. Her ambitious programme – to sort out Myanmar’s basket-case economy, make peace amongst the warring factions and bring the military under democratic control – looks unrealistic, but with a change of heart she could speak out in support of Myanmar’s opressed Rohingya Muslims; she could grant them citizenship. At a stroke, she’d regain the world’s support – which would give her leverage to clear out the junta.


🔺 April 2017 – contents

April 2017
Indian deportation

India’s right-wing BJP government is adding to Rohingya misery by backing local moves to deport 8,000 Rohingya refugees from the city of Jammu back to Myanmar. 40,000 refugees fled to India from Myanmar army brutality in 2012


🔺 April 2017 – contents

April 2017
‘Model’ villages

Suu Kyi’s government planned to resettle refugees returning from Bangladesh in ‘model villages‘. The returnees weren’t allowed to permanently rebuild their homes – burnt by security forces – in their villages where they farm and fish.


🔺 April 2017 – contents

April 2017
Guardian editorial

A UK Guardian editorial about Suu Kyi said: ‘[Her] moral credibility has been vastly diminished if not demolished by her failure to even acknowledge the brutal persecution of the Rohingya minority in Rakhine state’. (That’s what I said – a year ago.)


🔺 New ethnic cleansing – contents

June 2017

UN denied entry

The Myanmar government refused entry visas to the three members of the UN’s fact-finding mission. It insisted that the domestic investigation headed by former lieutenant general and vice-president Myint Swe (see January 2017, above) was sufficient to look into the allegations of crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.

Junta spokesperson Kyaw Zeya (permanent secretary at the ministry of foreign affairs, headed by Suu Kyi) said ‘Why do they try to use unwarranted pressure when the domestic mechanisms have not been exhausted? It will not contribute to our efforts to solve the issues in a holistic manner.’ (Sic – and sick.)


🔺 New ethnic cleansing – contents

July 2017

UN: children ‘wasting’

Photo: AP

The UN’s World Food Programme warned that more than 80,000 Rohingya children under the age of five in western Myanmar are ‘wasting’ and will need treatment for acute malnutrition over the next year.

The report from the UN agency was based on an assessment of villages in western Rakhine state, where some 75,000 stateless Muslim Rohingya people have fled the army crackdown.

The UN – to its shame – later withdrew the report at the request of the Myanmar government. (See October 2017, below)


🔺 New ethnic cleansing – contents

August 2017
Myanmar whitewash
Annan report
Violence resumed


🔺 August 2017 – contents

August 2017
Myanmar whitewash

The final report of the Myanmar government’s rubbish commission of enquiry (see November and December 2016, and January 2017, above) concluded – to no one’s surprise – that no crimes were committed during the recent military action.

Deceptively gormless-looking vice president and junta thug Myint Swe – a notorious former general blacklisted by the United States – headed the enquiry. He said there was no evidence of the crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing alleged by the UN. Myint Swe also denied that there had been gang rapes by the military – as reported to the UN by victims in Bangladesh.


🔺 August 2017 – contents

August 2017
Annan report

The advisory commission on Rakhine State headed by Kofi Annan also published its final report. Amongst his many recommendations, Annan asked the government to allow humanitarian and media access to the affected areas. (See Update 2, above.)


🔺 August 2017 – contents

August 2017
Violence resumed

The Myanmar president gave Annan’s report a warm welcome, but the love-in didn’t last long. State violence resumed as the military and Buddhist mobs launched a typically disproportionate retaliatory crackdown after attacks on police-posts left twelve members of the security forces dead. There were reports of soldiers burning villages and attacking residents.

Some 400 Rohingya were reported to have been killed. The military claimed that the vast majority of those killed were ‘terrorists’. But refugees said that villagers were indiscriminately beaten, shot or hacked to death; that others were killed after failing to pay the soldiers a ransom; and that many women were raped and killed.

Suu Kyi was quick to smear the Rohingya insurgents as Islamist terrorists. Given the decades of oppression, and the 500,000 Rohingya refugees in Islamist hotbeds Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, insurgency movements with elements of Islamism were inevitable. No doubt there’s been some ‘radicalisation‘.

The solution is not a massively disproportionate military crackdown backed by Buddhist mobs – it’s to integrate the Myanmar Rohingya into Myanmar. The Islamist mission thrives on despair and anger.

(Wierdly, Suu Kyi accused aid workers of supporting terrorism – by supplying biscuits. It was like a mad old lady shouting, ‘You gave them the biscuits! I saw you!’)

Myanmar claimed that they’d responded to the insurgent attack, but it seems that the military had been busy destabilising the area by arming and training local Buddhists in the weeks before Annan’s final report was due. The insurgents claimed that their action was a response to that provocation.

It’s clear that the military had no intention of allowing Annan’s recommendations to be implemented. Through intelligence, or the use of planted provacateurs, they must have expected the insurgency that gave them the pretext for the massive ethnic cleansing operation that followed.

(A UN report in October confirmed this.)


🔺 New ethnic cleansing – contents

September 2017
(A busy month)
Mass exodus
Turkey
Security council
Suu Kyi petition
‘Fake’ news
Homes burning
Suu Kyi recommends harmony
Landmines
UN: ‘ethnic cleansing’
The island
Myanmar to implement Annan
UN SecGen spoke
Security council: end violence
Female Nobel laureates wrote to SK
Amnesty: ‘scorched earth’
UK stopped military aid
SK speech
US: ‘stop weapons’


🔺 September 2017 – contents

September 2017
Mass exodus

In a clear resumption of ethnic cleansing, an estimated 40,000 Rohingya Muslims were forced to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh after the violence erupted a week ago. (Within a month, the number increased to over 580,000.) Many Rohingya drowned trying to cross a river to reach Bangladesh.

Suu Kyi said in a statement, ‘I would like to commend the members of the police and security forces who have acted with great courage in the face of many challenges’. Wow.

UN high commissioner for human rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said that ‘decades of persistent and systematic human rights violations, including the very violent security responses to the attacks since October 2016‘ had contributed to the insurgency that sparked the latest vicious crackdown.

Regime change, anybody?


🔺 September 2017 – contents

September 2017
Turkey

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stuck his oar in, accusing Myanmar of genocide. Erdoğan’s own record on human rights isn’t great. For instance, he’s been accused of orchestrating the genocide of Turkey’s Kurdish minority. Erdoğan’s intervention at least helped to keep the story in the news.


🔺 September 2017 – contents

September 2017
Security council

The UN security council met behind closed doors to discuss the violence but there was no formal statement. UN secretary-general António Guterres later said in a statement that he was ‘deeply concerned by the reports of excesses during the security operations conducted by Myanmar’s security forces in Rakhine State’.

So far so good, but Guterres’s conclusion was: ‘The current situation underlines the urgency of seeking holistic approaches to addressing the complex root causes of violence.’ Oh-oh, António. That was weak – and weaselly. The situation actually underlined the urgency of helping the Rohingya by stopping the state violence.

The statement’s conclusion may have been a respectful reference to the complex and nuanced recommendations of Annan’s commission (see August 2017, above), but coming from the UN head in that desperate context, it sounded disappointingly like a queasy combination of the weaselly Myanmar government spokesperson speaking of ‘efforts to solve the issues in a holistic manner’ (see June 2017, above) and slippery US president Donald Trump saying that the vehicle-attack murder of a protester by a White Supremacy supporter indicated ‘blame on many sides‘.

The UN is unable to intervene on its own account, true, but come on Mr Secretary-General – show some leadership.
 

The UN increased its estimate of those forced to flee to Bangladesh from 40,000 to 58,000. Then it was 70,000. Then, 87,000. Then over 120,000. Then 160,000. Tens of thousands were said to be stranded near the border.


🔺 September 2017 – contents

September 2017
Suu Kyi petition

A petition was launched, demanding the withdrawal of Suu Kyi’s Nobel Peace Prize. (I signed it, dear reader – how about you?)


🔺 September 2017 – contents

September 2017
‘Fake’ news

Suu Kyi’s office said that in a phone call with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (who’d accused Myanmar of genocide – see above) she claimed that ‘fake news‘ was helping the ‘terrorists’.

(Erdoğan may have sympathised with Suu Kyi’s media problems. He’s had difficulties with the Turkish media. His solution is to jail journalists.)

Apparently, some tweeted photos were from other conflicts. But Myanmar continues to ban the media. They are responsible for the news vacuum – and, therefore, for any fake news which fills it.


🔺 September 2017 – contents

September 2017
Homes burning

The military blamed Muslims for the burning of thousands of homes. But Human Rights Watch, which analysed satellite imagery and accounts from Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh, said the Myanmar security forces deliberately set the fires.

Myanmar allowed some journalists an accompanied visit to an affected area. They inadvertently saw new fires in an abandoned village. An ethnic Rakhine villager said that police and Rakhine Buddhists set the fires. About ten Rakhine men with machetes were seen there.


🔺 September 2017 – contents

September 2017
Suu Kyi recommends harmony

Perhaps feeling the pressure, Suu Kyi spoke to the world – and sounded a bit less like a robot. She told Delhi news agency Asian News International:

‘We are implementing recommendations given by former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan as quickly as possible to create harmony and peace in the Rakhine state. Our recommendation is harmony and we shall be addressing it quickly.’

Needless to say, she spoiled it by continuing to characterise the current vicious ethnic cleansing as a legitimate anti-terrorist clearing operation.

In her remarks to the news agency, Suu Kyi didn’t mention the Rohingya forced to flee their homes.

The UN increased its estimate of the number of Rohingyas who had fled to Bangladesh in the previous two weeks to over 270,000.


🔺 September 2017 – contents

September 2017
Landmines

Respected human rights NGO Amnesty International said it had evidence that Myanmar’s security forces planted internationally banned antipersonnel landmines along its border with Bangladesh.

The landmines seriously injured at least three civilians, including two children, and reportedly killed one man in the past week.


🔺 September 2017 – contents

September 2017
UN: ‘ethnic cleansing’

UN high commissioner for human rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said that Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingya appeared to be a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.

He denounced the ‘brutal security operation’ against the Rohingya, which he said was ‘clearly disproportionate’ to insurgent attacks carried out last month.

The UN estimate of the number of Rohingyas who had fled to Bangladesh in the previous two weeks increased to 313,000. Then, 370,000. Then 389,000. Then over 400,000.


🔺 September 2017 – contents

September 2017
The island

Bangladesh still planned to move the refugees to a barren flood-prone island. (See above, January 2017.)

Bangladesh subsequently announced plans to build a massive refugee detention camp near the border with Myanmar. This was apparently planned to be developed concurrently with the island camp.

Rohingya refugees come ashore to Bangladesh | Photo: Danish Siddiqui / Reuters

🔺 September 2017 – contents

September 2017
Myanmar to implement Annan

Myanmar president and Suu Kyi ally Htin Kyaw has appointed a committee to implement Annan’s recommendedations and to ‘take prompt measures’ in granting citizenship to those eligible.


🔺 September 2017 – contents

September 2017
UN SecGen spoke

The UN secretary-general beefed up his comments. At a press conference he called on Myanmar’s authorities to:

“suspend military action, end the violence, uphold the rule of law, and recognise the right of return of all those who had to leave the country.’


🔺 September 2017 – contents

September 2017
Security council: end violence

The UN security council, which includes Myanmar supporters Russia and China, was reported to have:

‘expressed concern about reports of excessive violence during the security operations and called for immediate steps to end the violence in Rakhine, de-escalate the situation, re-establish law and order, ensure the protection of civilians, restore normal socio-economic conditions, and resolve the refugee problem.’

(International news agency Reuters reported this as a security council statement. UK ambassador to the UN Michael Rycroft was reported as saying that it was the first time in nine years that the council had agreed a statement on Myanmar. However, I couldn’t find the statement on the security council website. I asked them about it. They said that it wasn’t a formal statement but was in remarks by the UK ambassador after a closed meeting. I asked Rycroft and Reuters about this. They haven’t replied.)


🔺 September 2017 – contents

September 2017
Female Nobel laureates wrote to SK

Five female Nobel peace prize winners wrote an open letter urging ‘sister’ Suu to defend Rohingya Muslims. They asked her:

‘How many Rohingya have to die; how many Rohingya women will be raped; how many communities will be razed before you raise your voice in defence of those who have no voice?’


🔺 September 2017 – contents

September 2017
Amnesty: ‘scorched earth’

Amnesty International revealed new evidence of a scorched-earth campaign, with Myanmar security forces and vigilante mobs burning down entire Rohingya villages and shooting people at random as they tried to flee.


🔺 September 2017 – contents

September 2017
UK stopped military aid

Following intensive pressure from campaign groups, including the excellent (and presumably ironically named) Burma Campaign UK, UK premier Theresa May announced that the UK will suspend the training of Burmese military.

Speaking at the UN general assembly in New York, May said the UK would end all engagement with the Burmese military until military action against civilians in Rakhine state had stopped.


🔺 September 2017 – contents

September 2017
SK speech

Suu Kyi made a speech about the crisis. It was denounced as a ‘mix of untruths and victim-blaming’ by Amnesty International. The UK Guardian published an illuminating fact-check on the speech.

Aid agencies estimated that 480,000 Rohingya refugees had fled to Bangladesh. The UN then estimated the number to be over 500,000.


🔺 September 2017 – contents

September 2017
US: ‘stop weapons’

The US ambassador to the UN called on countries to suspend weapons supplies to Myanmar until the military puts accountability measures in place.

The ambassador said that Myanmar’s ‘brutal, sustained campaign to cleanse the country of an ethnic minority’ meant that ‘those who have been accused of committing abuses should be removed from command responsibilities immediately and prosecuted for wrongdoing.’

The US – apparently keen to counter China’s influence in resource-rich Myanmar – stopped short of threatening to resume the sanctions dropped under the Obama regime.


🔺 New ethnic cleansing – contents

October 2017
Another busy month for ethnic cleansing
Myanmar: ‘refugees can return’
New Cox’s Bazar camp
The island
UN in Myanmar ‘disfunctional’
Myanmar civilian-led agency
Charity appeal didn’t use the name ‘Rohingya’
UN: Myanmar planned ethnic cleansing
War criminal Hlaing
Estimated number of refugees: 603,000


🔺 October 2017 – contents

October 2017
Myanmar: ‘refugees can return’

Myanmar told the United Nations refugee agency that its – Myanmar’s – top priority was to bring back Rohingyas who have fled to Bangladesh. A Myanmar government minister said:

‘The repatriation process can start any time for those who wish to return to Myanmar. The verification of refugees will be based on the agreement between the Myanmar and Bangladesh governments in 1993.’

This is presumably a reference to the 250,000 Rohingya refugees who, in the early 1990s, fled to Bangladesh from forced labour, rape and religious persecution at the hands of the Burmese army. They were brutally repatriated to Burma, a process shamefully overseen by the UN.

This time, many refugees fled with nothing, but even if they had verification documents, many were wary about returning without an assurance of full citizenship, without which they’d face the same persecution and curbs they’ve endured for years. A Rohingya refugee said:

‘If we go there, we’ll just have to come back here. If they give us our rights, we will go, but people did this before and they had to return.’

There’s also, of course, the little problem of Bangladesh refusing to give official refugee status to the Rohingya refugees.


🔺 October 2017 – contents

October 2017
New Cox’s Bazar camp

Bangladesh announced that it would build one of the world’s biggest refugee camps to house all the 800,000-plus Rohingya Muslims who have sought asylum from violence in Myanmar. (This would include the estimated 300,000 Rohingya refugees who fled to Bangladesh during earlier violence.)

Bangladeshi authorities planned to expand a refugee camp at Kutupalong near the border town of Cox’s Bazar to accommodate the Rohingya. 400 hectares (1,000 acres) had been set aside for the new camp next to the existing camp.


🔺 October 2017 – contents

October 2017
The island

On her return from a UN meeting in New York, Bangladeshi premier Sheikh Hasina Wazed promised to help the Rohingya, offering – somewhat unconvincingly – to eat only one meal a day if necessary.

However, she ruined this saintly image of pity, generosity and self-sacrifice by blithely adding (in confirmation of the announcement made a month ago) that Bangladesh was planning to build temporary shelters for the Rohingya on an island, with the help of international aid agencies. She praised the aid agencies for their support.

The island is Thengar Char (recently renamed Bhasan Char, also known as Char piya). Wazed first planned to forcibly move the Rohingya refugees to this island in January. (See above).

Thengar/Bhasan Char | Photo: Mohammad Ponir Hossain / Reuters

Bhasan Char has no roads or flood defences and was formed about a decade ago by sediment from a river. It’s used sporadically by fishermen and by farmers seeking to graze their animals. It regularly floods during the June-September monsoons and, when seas are calm, pirates kidnap fishermen for ransom.

Really, Hasina?

The Bangladeshi government said a month ago that they’d establish a 2,000-acre camp near Cox’s Bazar to house 250,000 Rohingya. So the 1,000-acre camp now planned will presumably house 125,000 people – not the 800,000 claimed in the recent announcement.

The government is speeding up work at Bhasan Char with a view to building a 10,000-acre facility that can house hundreds of thousands of Rohingya.

As the originally planned 2,000-acre camp near Kutupalong was meant to house 250,000 people, presumably the 10,000-acre camp planned for the island will hold up to 1,250,000 people.

Clearly Bangladesh is planning to move all the Rohingya refugees to the remote and barren island detention camp until such a time as they can be returned to Myanmar (which, the way things are going, looks like never).

Once the troublesome refugees have been moved, Cox’s Bazar, with its world’s longest unbroken beach, can be developed for tourism. Kerching!

An excellent February 2017 article shed light on this murky plan.

When the island first appeared eleven years ago, it was considered as a possible solution to Bangladesh’s land scarcity. But because most of the island is submerged during the monsoon season; and because trafficking routes converge around the island, and criminals roam its waters, talk of populating it died out.

Then in January 2017, the government issued an order directing officials to relocate Rohingya refugees to the island.

A district administrator estimated that the island, about 116 square miles, might support as many as 50,000 Rohingya.

Some officials expressed misgivings. A forestry department official involved in planting mangroves on the island said:

‘The ground is too soft to support sturdy structures, and the weather changes erratically. In my opinion, it is not habitable.’

According to the February 2017 report , Human Rights Watch deputy Asia director Phil Robertson said of the planned relocation:

‘This is a human rights and humanitarian disaster in the making, and the Bangladesh government should be ashamed for even considering it, much less asking for a budget for it from every international donor they come across. What Bangladesh is really proposing is to put the Rohingya out of sight and out of mind on an island, and hope they are forgotten by the international community.’

The February 2017 report also said that UN refugee agency UNHCR recommended that any relocation plan be carried out through a consultative and voluntary process, after its feasibility is assessed.

UNHCR Bangladesh representative Shinji Kubo said that a better plan would be to simply register and document the Rohingya in Bangladesh no matter where they were. Kubo said:

‘This helps the government to know who is on its soil, and helps humanitarian agencies to deliver assistance to those who need it.’

If Bangladesh’s fascistic plan is to be stopped by aid agency opposition, the support of UNHCR will be needed.

UNHCR representative Kubo seems to be a proactive hustler for human rights, so perhaps he’ll do the right thing, and oppose this plan.


🔺 October 2017 – contents

October 2017
UN in Myanmar ‘disfunctional’

The UN was recently accused of taking a long-term political view in Myanmar and downplaying the urgent Rohigya issue. A leaked memo (there’s always a leaked memo) suggested a central policy creep heading in that direction, making normal UN activity ‘disfunctional’.

The UN’s shortcomings in responding to the Rohingya crisis are a product of long-standing internal squabbles over turf and policy, compounded by a 1977 decision to allow the UN Development Program to appoint the UN’s top local officials, the resident coordinators.

As an agency that relies on governments’ cooperation to do its work, UNDP has historically avoided confronting governments that commit abuses. That led to a culture of silence, and to allegations that the UN’s been complicit in atrocities, from Myanmar to Sri Lanka.

A UN report, entitled The Role of the United Nations in Rakhine state, was commissioned by (UNDP-appointed) resident coordinator Renata Lok-Dessallien – and was then supressed by her when she didn’t like its conclusions.

Lok-Dessallien was accused of preventing discussion of the Rohingya crisis at UN meetings. The UN closed ranks and responded angrily and defensively to the criticism. However, Lok-Dessallien was conveniently ‘rotated’ out of the way. Or rather she was supposed to be. Several months later Lok-Dessallien was still there, the Myanmar government having rejected her proposed successor.

The UN eventually got Norwegian Knut Ostby accepted as interim resident coordinator. The appointment of a temporary placeholder was expected after Myanmar blocked an upgrade of the UN Myanmar chief from resident coordinator to assistant secretary-general.

Suu Kyi had told diplomats that she was frustrated with the UN’s human rights arm. Bless. Still, she’ll be OK with another UNDP placeperson in charge.

Another sign of the UN being too cooperative with Myanmar was the news that the report by the UN food agency that Rohingya children were ‘wasting’ (see July 2017, above) had been shelved at Myanmar’s request.

The July assessment by the World Food Programme warned that more than 80,000 children under the age of five living in majority-Muslim areas were ‘wasting’ — a potentially fatal condition of rapid weight loss.

Anyone wondering why the UN sometimes seems too compliant with the Myanmar government should remember: the USA is the UN’s chief paymaster – and the USA is competing with China to tap into Myanmar’s rich but undeveloped natural resources.


🔺 October 2017 – contents

October 2017
Myanmar civilian-led agency

Suu Kyi, sounding almost human, announced plans to set up a new Myanmar civilian-led agency which with foreign assistance, she said, would deliver relief and would help to resettle Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state, as well as implement projects in the region. Hmmm.


🔺 October 2017 – contents

October 2017
Charity appeal didn’t use the name ‘Rohingya’

The UK Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), an umbrella charity for other charities, recently launched an appeal ‘for people fleeing Myanmar’.

The casual viewer of the appeal’s full-page newspaper adverts might have wondered if that was something to do with the 500,000 Rohingya refugees extensively reported in the news.

Myanmar refuses to use the name ‘Rohingya’ – and Bangladesh refuses to give official refugee status to the Rohingya refugees. I asked DEC if that was why the advert didn’t use the words ‘Rohingya’ or ‘refugees’.

DEC said that as they’re an umbrella charity, decisions on appeal names have to be made collectively by all the charities involved – 13 in this case.

DEC said that some member charities, particularly the few allowed to continue operating in Rakhine state, were concerned that naming the Rohingya would cause difficulties.

DEC also said that some member charities had concerns about the word ‘refugee’ – because Bangladesh hadn’t granted many of the displaced people refugee status.

This is design by committee gone mad. DEC told me that decisions are made by consenus. But DEC, whilst posing as a neutral coordinator, is actually more powerful than that. Its umbrella appeals boost money and profile for its member charities.

DEC should have had the balls, the common sense and the integrity to insist on the use of the words ‘Rohingya‘ and ‘refugee‘.

The vast majority of the ‘people fleeing Myanmar’ are Rohingya; and whatever Bangladesh says, they’re clearly all refugees.

Not calling them Rohingya looks like collusion with Myanmar’s pre-genocidal attempt to deny their existence. Not calling them refugees looks like collusion with Bangladesh’s heartless reluctance to grant refugee status.

Also, less well informed potential donors who’d heard about Rohingya refugees in the news might have glanced at the advert, not realised what the appeal was for – and might not have donated.

Nevertheless, dear (UK) reader, please donate. Every little helps.


🔺 October 2017 – contents

October 2017
UN: Myanmar planned ethnic cleansing

A UN report says that the Myanmar military started deliberately destabilising the area before the ‘terrorist insurrection’. (See August 2017, above.) The report highlights a strategy to instil deep and widespread fear and trauma – physical, emotional and psychological – among the Rohingya population.

Brutal attacks against Rohingya in northern Rakhine State were well-organised, coordinated and systematic, with the intent of not only driving the population out of Myanmar but preventing them from returning to their homes.

Efforts were taken to effectively erase signs of memorable landmarks in the geography of the Rohingya landscape and memory in such a way that a return to their lands would yield nothing but a desolate and unrecognizable terrain.

Myanmar security forces targeted teachers, cultural and religious leaders, and other people of influence in the Rohingya community in an effort to diminish Rohingya history, culture and knowledge.

Security forces scorched dwellings and entire villages, were responsible for extrajudicial and summary executions, rape and other forms of sexual violence, torture and attacks on places of worship.

Megaphones were used to announce:

‘You do not belong here – go to Bangladesh. If you do not leave, we will torch your houses and kill you.’


🔺 October 2017 – contents

October 2017
War criminal Hlaing

Myanmar military head Senior General Min Aung Hlaing should clearly be prosecuted for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) – based in the city of The Hague in the Netherlands (also known as Holland) in north-west Europe – only has autonomous jurisdiction in countries that have signed the Rome statute that established the ICC in 1998 – and Myanmar isn’t a signatory.

However, the ICC can also have jurisdiction anywhere – if it’s authorized by the UN security council.

In the 1990s, during the preparatory work by the UN to establish the ICC, the security council established two ad hoc international criminal tribunals.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia was established in 1993 following massive violations of humanitarian law during fighting in that region. It was the first war-crimes court created by the UN and the first international war-crimes tribunal since the Nuremberg and Tokyo tribunals at the end of the Second World War.

The security council also established the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in 1994 to prosecute those responsible for genocide and other serious violations of international humanitarian law.

US secretary of state (top foreign policy official) Rex Tillerson said that the USA held Myanmar’s military leadership responsible for its harsh crackdown on the Rohingya. He said:

‘The world can’t just stand idly by and be witness to the atrocities that are being reported in the area, We really hold the military leadership accountable for what’s happening.’

Fine words, Mr Secretary. But standing idly by is apparently exactly what the USA is going to do. Tillerson stopped short of saying that the USA would take action against Myanmar’s military leaders. The USA has established close ties with Myanmar in the face of competition from strategic rival China.

The USA has form for cosying up to murderous regimes for strategic reasons. Remember US-backed mass-murderer, embezzler and Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet?

In any case, Myanmar allies Russia and China would probably block any move to establish a tribunal for Myanmar, so – for now – war criminal Hlaing goes free.


🔺 October 2017 – contents

October 2017
Estimated number of refugees: 603,000

The UN said said that an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 Rohingya had recently fled, raising the estimate of the number of refugees who’d left Myanmar since 25 August to 582,000 .

The new arrivals were stranded in border wetlands with no shelter or food, waiting for permission from Bangladesh to move on to the camps.

From the Myanmar side, smoke from burning villages continued to be seen, and the sound of gunfire continued to be heard.

The stranded refugees were eventually allowed through. The estimated number of refugees was raised to 603,000. Tens of thousands more were said to be trying to cross to Bangladesh.

The International Rescue Committee estimated that 300,000 more Rohingya were expected to flee to Bangladesh in the coming weeks.


🔺 Top
🔺 New ethnic cleansing – contents

November 2017
She was a day tripper
Israeli arms sales: ‘war crimes on both sides’
Security Council statement
ASEAN meeting ignores the Rohingya


🔺 November 2017 – contents

November 2017
She was a day tripper

A Myanmar government spokesman said that Suu Kyi had gone to Rakhine state capital Sittwe and would go to Maungdaw and Buthiduang. ‘It will be a day trip,’ he added.

Suu Kyi in Sittwe | AFP / Getty Images

This was Suu Kyi’s first visit to Rakhine since taking office. It’s not clear why she went. No press were allowed to accompany her.

There was no progress in starting the process of repatriating Rohingya refugees.


🔺 November 2017 – contents

November 2017
Israeli arms sales: ‘war crimes on both sides’

Justifying Israeli arms sales to Myanmar, an Israeli New York diplomat ridiculously told Jewish human rights group T’ruah, who’d protested against Israel’s arms sales to a regime carrying out brutal ethnic cleansing against a minority population, that ‘the two sides in the conflict are conducting war crimes’.

Thats alright, then.


🔺 November 2017 – contents

November 2017
Security Council statement

The UN security council finally managed to make a statement about the Rohingya crisis. The statement began:

‘The Security Council strongly condemns the widespread violence that has taken place in Rakhine State, Myanmar, since 25 August, which has led to the mass displacement of more than 607,000 individuals, the vast majority belonging to the Rohingya community.

‘The Security Council further expresses grave concern over reports of human rights violations and abuses in Rakhine State, including by the Myanmar security forces, in particular against persons belonging to the Rohingya community, including those involving the systematic use of force and intimidation, killing of men, women, and children, sexual violence, and including the destruction and burning of homes and property.’

The statement called on the government ‘to ensure no further excessive use of military force in Rakhine state, to restore civilian administration and apply the rule of law.’

The statement was watered down by Myanmar ally China. They weakened the language on citizenship rights and rejected a demand that Myanmar allow a UN human rights mission into the country. But at least they agreed to the highly critical statement – as did Myanmar’s other security council ally, Russia.

Russia was being pressed by its Muslim-majority republic of Chechnya to abandon its military and diplomatic support for the Myanmar regime.

Myannar’s response was to criticise the UN statement, saying that it ‘could potentially and seriously harm the bilateral negotiations between the two countries which have been proceeding smoothly and expeditiously’.

Perhaps any lack of negotiating smoothness is actually due to Myanmar insisting that those returning must be verified, and Bangladesh refusing to register the refugees.

Slippery UN paymaster the USA not only agreed the security council statement, but beefed up its own response.

US secretary of state Rex Tillerson was due to visit Myanmar this month. Tillerson planned to meet Suu Kyi as well as army chief and war criminal General Min Aung Hlaing.

The US said it was seeking a diplomatic solution to the crisis but hadn’t ruled out sanctions.

Also, draft US legislation would reduce military cooperation with Myanmar and impose visa bans on senior Myanmar military officers considered responsible for human rights violations.


🔺 November 2017 – contents

November 2017
ASEAN meeting ignores the Rohingya

A statement issued after the recent ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) summit in Manila attended by Suu Kyi mentioned the importance of humanitarian relief provided for victims of natural disasters in Vietnam and a recent urban battle with Islamist militants in the Philippines, as well as ‘affected communities’ in northern Rakhine state, but made no mention of the exodus of Rohingya Muslims.

However, Suu Kyi did apparently give an assurance about the return of refugees, after two unnamed ASEAN leaders raised the issue during a plenary session. According to a Philippines presidential spokesperson, Suu Kyi said:

‘The process of repatriation of IDPs (internally displaced persons) will conclude within three weeks after a signing of a memorandum of agreement for understanding with Bangladesh.’

Suu Kyi has benefited from ASEAN’s policy of non-interference – but when she led the fight for democracy in Myanmar two decades ago, she opposed that policy

In a 1999 editorial in Thailand’s The Nation newspaper Suu Kyi said that ASEAN’s policy of non-interference was ‘just an excuse for not helping’. ‘In this day and age,’ she wrote, ‘you cannot avoid interference in the matters of other countries.

How times change, eh, Suu?

🔺 New ethnic cleansing – contents
🔺 Top


🔺 Contents

Footnotes – contents

Serious stuff
1. Dr Nora Rowley
2. The Rohingyas – The most persecuted people on Earth?
3. Aljazeera map of fleeing Rohingya
4. International State Crime Initiative
5. Feierstein/ISCI’s six steps to genocide
6. Genocide Watch
7. Genocide Watch’s ten steps to genocide
8. The Bone Sparrow
9. A Nobel Peace Prize winner is standing idly by as her country moves closer to genocide

Trivia
10. Dave Lee Travis
11. Title recall
12. Suu me


🔺 Footnotes – contents

Footnote 1
Dr Nora Rowley

Dr Rowley, besides being an accomplished photographer, is a human rights activist and advocate for the Rohingya. I contacted her about this post. She replied, saying that Suu Kyi is powerless to change anything because the military still control the government, and they continue to oppress the Rohingya and other minority groups.

Fair point, Doc, but even so, Suu Kyi’s attitude stinks. She has the world’s ear and, as the Dalai Lama has told her, could at least speak out on behalf of the Rohingya. Instead, she tells the UN that she won’t use their name.

🔺 Back to link


🔺 Footnotes – contents

Footnote 2
The Rohingyas – The most persecuted people on Earth?

This Economist article explains the complex history of the conflict in exhaustive detail, with the aid of a map and some charts.

🔺 Back to link


🔺 Footnotes – contents

Footnote 3
Aljazeera map of fleeing Rohingya

March 2017

image
Al Jazeera

🔺 Back to link


🔺 Footnotes – contents

Footnote 4
International State Crime Initiative

This UK research centre aims to further the understanding of state crime, nicely defined as organisational deviance violating human rights. Penny Green, professor of law and globalisation at Queen Mary University, London, and a director of ISCI, said in the Economist article referenced above that the situation had reached stage four of ISCI’s six stages of genocide.

🔺 Back to link


🔺 Footnotes – contents

Footnote 5
Feierstein/ISCI’s six steps to genocide

1. Stigmatisation and dehumanisation ✔
2. Harassment, violence and terror ✔
3. Isolation and segregation ✔
4. Systematic weakening of the group ✔
5. Mass annihilation
6. Erasure from the country’s history

Formulated by Daniel Feierstein in his book, Genocide as Social Practice, and adapted by ISCI (above). Feierstein is director of the Centre of Genocide Studies at the National University of Tres de Febrero, Buenos Aires. He gave his views on the legal difficulties of holding modern genocide perpetrators to account in this Logos article.

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🔺 Footnotes – contents

Footnote 6
Genocide Watch

This US NGO co-ordinates the International Alliance to End Genocide, a coalition of 40 campaign groups. A Genocide Watch statement on the Rohingya said that Myanmar may have reached stages nine and ten of their ten stages of genocide.

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🔺 Footnotes – contents

Footnote 7
Genocide Watch’s ten steps to genocide

1. Classification ✔
2. Symbolisation ✔
3. Discrimination ✔
4. Dehumanisation ✔
5. Organisation ✔
6. Polarisation ✔
7. Preparation ✔
4. Persecution ✔
5. Extermination ❔
6. Denial ❔

Formulated by Gregory Stanton, founder and president of Genocide Watch (above), and research professor in genocide studies and prevention at George Mason University, Virginia, USA.

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🔺 Footnotes – contents

Footnote 8
The Bone Sparrow

I came across this beautiful and moving childrens’ book by Australian author Zana Fraillon about a Rohingya boy in a detention camp.

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🔺 Footnotes – contents

Footnote 9
A Nobel Peace Prize winner is standing idly by as her country moves closer to genocide

This article on liberal news website Vox is one of the best I’ve come across.


🔺 Footnotes – contents

Footnote 10
Dave Lee Travis

Known as DLT, Travis was a very successful UK BBC radio DJ and regular Top of the Pops TV presenter in the 70s and 80s. On his popular weekend breakfast show he called himself The Hairy Cornflake.

In the 80s and 90s Travis presented a BBC World Service music request show supposedly much enjoyed by Suu Kyi while she was under house arrest.

After her release in 2010, Suu Kyi spoke publicly of her regard for Travis. This charmingly incongruous pairing caught the UK public’s attention. Suu Kyi met Travis at the BBC in London. The reputation of both has suffered since that meeting.

The Lady and the Cornflake – happier times for both | Photo: Jeff Overs / BBC / PA

DLT’s well known downfall:
the little-known facts

After a high-profile arrest in 2012 by London Metropolitan Police’s Operation Yewtree, which was investigating historical allegations of sexual abuse by DJ Jimmy Savile and others, Travis was charged in 2013 with 14 offences. In 2014 he was found not guilty on twelve counts, and the jury failed to reach a verdict on the remaining two counts. At a second trial he was found guilty of one count of indecent assault on a 22-year-old woman in 1995.

Travis was sentenced to three months imprisonment, suspended for two years. The judge said that the offences of other Yewtree convictees were of a different order of magnitude. Travis lost an appeal in 2015. To cover his three-year legal costs, he sold his mansion and moved to a bungalow. He lost his commercial radio work when he was arrested. He says that as a result of the long, drawn-out legal process his wife’s health has suffered. (Send him a card, Suu. He’s paid his debt – and more.)
 

Or was it Bob?

Can I have a ‘P’ please, Bob? | Photo: Challenge TV / ITV / Rex Features

Some say that Suu Kyi got her World Service presenters mixed up, and she was actually thinking of a similar show presented by Bob Holness, much-loved presenter of 80s UK TV teenage quiz show Blockbuster. In any case, at the time of Suu Kyi’s UK visit in 2010, Holness was very ill, and probably wouldn’t have been able to meet her. Sadly, he died in 2012, aged 83.


🔺 Footnotes – contents

Footnote 11
Title recall

Sad Paul after Brian Epstein’s death in 1967 | Photo: Jean-Marie Périer

Hello Goodbye by The Beatles

This 1967 McCartney song was a massive hit single worldwide and a track on side two of the US Magical Mystery Tour album. Featuring Paul’s experimental minimalist lyrics, it’s beautiful but underrated (especially by John, who thought his ‘I Am The Walrus‘, the single’s B side, should have been the A side).

Copyright Northern Songs, 1967. Title borrowed and mangled without permission. (Halo goodbye – geddit? Please yourself.)


🔺 Footnotes – contents

Footnote 12
Suu me

image
Photo: Peter Muhly / AFP / Getty Images

Call me Suu

Apparently, Aung San Suu Kyi’s friends call her ‘Suu’. We western liberals spent so long supporting her during her house arrest that we feel she’s a friend – one we’re a bit worried about.


That’s enough footnotes – Ed

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14 thoughts on “Halo goodbye, Suu – the Rohingya crisis

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