speaking out against Aung San Suu Kyi covering up Rohingya genocide, The Guildhall protest against "Freedom of the City Award", London, 8 May 2017

At the London School of Economic "Rule of Law Roundtable", 16 June 2012

Speaking on the Slow Burning Genocide of Rohingyas in Burma, with Professor Amartya Sen, Harvard University, Nov 2014

N. Ireland peace activist Mairead Maguire presenting Zarni with the Cultivation of Harmony Award on behalf of the Parliament of the World's Religions, Salt Lake City, USA 18 Oct 2015

Drafting the Oslo Communique calling for the end to Myanmar's Rohingya Genocide, Voksanaasen, Oslo, 27 May 2015

Giving the Annual Owen M. Kupferschmid Lecture at the Holocaust and Human Rights Project, Boston College Law School, 13 Apr 2015

Myanmar's Persecution of Rohingyas as a group is BOTH ethnic cleansing and a genocide. Here is why, and how


What we have been witnessing in Myanmar's nearly 40-years of mistreatment - an understatement - parallels more with the Bosnian case (Srebrenica is only the most infamous incident of direct killing of about 5000 Muslim men), which was both ethnic cleansing and a genocide.

(As a matter of fact, Turkey's Armenian genocide may be the first in the modern recorded history of genocide. The Turks used forced eviction and forced marches of Christian Armenians scapegoated for the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and seen as the local proxies for the Christian imperial West - like Rohingyas as "proxy terrorists" for foreign Islamicist movements funded by Saudi and others. 

When the Armenian death rates - from marching across the Kurdish desert - were deemed disappointing or did not meet the anticipated result, that is, too many Armenians were not dropping dead fast enough for the Turkish perpetrators, the Young Turks switched to machine-gunning them down in the desert. 

Here is the Burmese parallel: 

If the Burmese borders are closed off or out-migratory routes are tightly controlled for the Rohingya as a group to escape the deliberately created miserable conditions - and if the perpetrating Myanmar government does NOT make a plan to ship the Rohingyas out then the only predictable outcome is slow death of Rohingyas - 80,5000 children included - as the direct result of this food deprivation.

In that case of "trapped population of Rohingya" dying, the gov's INTENT can be established as GENOCIDAL.

Read a proper LEGAL reasoning here by someone who is legally fully qualified on this:

Some of us have maintained, based on the mounting evidence, historical and contemporary - consistently that the genocidal intent has been present from the get-go, that is, from the moment the Burmese military leaders decided that the Rohingya population - not just a few individuals with militant views - pose a threat to Burma's national security as early as Feb 1978 - of the infamous Nagamin (King Dragon) Operation, centrally planned from Rangoon, with 200 interagency-operatives executing the plan to drive out the targeted Rohingya GROUP as such (from Religious Affairs, Customs, Immigration, General Administration Department, police intelligence, justice department, military intelligence and infantry and naval units of the Ministry of Defence). 

Like KKK in the American South who were part of Southern States' admin, justice and law enforcement agencies, local Rakhines overwhelmingly make up local security and admin units in Rakhine state. This is THE INTERFACE between communal aspect AND state centrality in attempts to drive out Rohingyas - AND destroy those who cannot run. 



"Many are concerned that the food shortages are purposeful in an attempt to weaken the Rohingya populace by cutting food supplies to the divisive area. Roberts added that the foundation of the issue stemmed from a desire to rid the location of ethnic Rohingya.

"At the core of this whole situation is the reality that the Burma government and military want the Rohingya to go somewhere else, and they are prepared to make their lives as miserable as possible to accomplish that,” he (Phil Robertson of HRW-Asia) said, alluding to the need for humanitarian aid in the region." 

Starvation hits Burma’s Rakhine state as food supplies dwindle

By Caleb Quinley
July 9, 2017

A girl wears thanakha powder on her face in a Rohingya refugee camp outside Kyaukpyu in Rakhine state, Burma, May 17, 2017. Source: Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun

SEVERE food shortages are intensifying an already insecure and vulnerable part of Burma (Myanmar), leading to a worsening humanitarian plight for its predominantly Rohingya population.

According to a new report by World Food Program (WFP), starvation, malnutrition, and a desperate lack of access to food is plaguing the restive Rakhine State. The current food vacuum has left over 225,000 in search for a diminishing amount of food that is left.

The heavy food shortage is taking place in Rakhine State’s northern Maungdaw and Buthiduang, locations known for bursts of violence, driven by a tumultuous ethnic tension that has proven unstable. The zone is heavily controlled by the presence of an authoritarian security force, Tatmadaw, known for restricting and persecuting the 90 percent majority populace of ethnic Rohingya.

Famine is an exasperating new element in the region, a component that will undoubtedly affect the social crisis that already afflicts the area.

While many complex variables affect the location in terms of poverty, it is clear what has led up to the current hunger crisis.

Without the freedom to move throughout the area, thousands of Rohingya are left unable to find sustainable means of work to provide for themselves and their families.

A boy sleeps in a hammock inside a Rohingya refugee camp outside Kyaukpyu in Rakhine state, Burma, May 17, 2017. Source: Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun

Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia Director at Human Rights Watch added insight into the developing issue, telling Asian Correspondent:

“The biggest issue is that the Rohingya are locked down by severe restrictions on their right to movement.

“If they cannot leave their village without permission, and face numerous security roadblocks where police abuse their rights and extort them, they have little opportunity to earn a livelihood, farm fish, collect firewood, or undertake other activities that would enable them to have some degree of food sufficiency.”

WFP has found that Maungdaw is ranked as one of the worst locations in terms of food security in Burma. The study found that close to two-thirds of households in the township are not able to acquire an adequate amount of food to sustain a proper diet.

More so, limited access to essential services such as healthcare, and an inability to access potable water and sanitation, have also exacerbated the state of the hunger crisis.

Around a month before the survey was conducted across Maungdaw, locals admitted they faced even worse food depletion that caused severe hunger, with most survey respondents going over a day and night without food during the time period.

Tragically, children are at the most risk of life threatening outcomes from a dangerously inadequate diet. For obvious health and growth reasons, food insecurities are much more harmful for children—who in the area are now at threat of severe malnutrition.

The study found that every single child surveyed experienced an inadequate diet, raising the number of malnourished children to approximately 80,500.

Many are concerned that the food shortages are purposeful in an attempt to weaken the Rohingya populace by cutting food supplies to the divisive area. Robertson added that the foundation of the issue stemmed from a desire to rid the location of ethnic Rohingya.

“At the core of this whole situation is the reality that the Burma government and military want the Rohingya to go somewhere else, and they are prepared to make their lives as miserable as possible to accomplish that,” he said, alluding to the need for humanitarian aid in the region.

“This is why there needs to be an impartial, independent investigation of abuses, like that authorised by the UN Human Rights Council in the form of the fact-finding commission, which Aung Sang Suu Kyi and her government are now blocking from entering Burma.”

Since the violent crackdown last October, the Burmese army has made life even more difficult for the close to one million Rohingya living in Rakhine.

Immediately following the clampdown, thousands of Rohingya fled to neighbouring Bangladesh in hopes of escaping the violent realities that were occurring to their neighbours, friends, and families in Rakhine state.

Since then, newly-appointed Burma leader Suu Kyi has for the most part remained quiet or impartial regarding the gradual, yet steady abuse of rights to the Rohingya populace in the Maungdaw area.

In interviews, she has dodged acknowledging the many rights abuses that have, and are still taking place inside Maungdaw.

For years, the Rohingya have become subject to varying degrees of suffering, from being denied citizenship, to freedom of movement, to rape and murder on a scale that many claim is genocidal in scope.

As the situation continues to devolve, with 225,000 that are in an imperative need for humanitarian assistance, the pinnacle of concern falls on children under five.

As according to the report, this young age group is at the most danger of severe malnutrition and hunger leading to dire consequence.

Robertson underlined this fact precisely, highlighting the life saving need for international aid.

“International humanitarian agencies need to be provided with unfettered access to all areas of northern Rakhine state to do what they do – provide food and services to keep people alive. The Burmese military and government need to step aside and let the professionals do what they do, and save lives.”

Newly-minted world champ Aung La N Sang hopes to unite Myanmar through martial arts

Aung La N Sang after his championship victory in Yangon on June 30. Photo: ONE Championship

By Maung Zarni
July 5, 2017

Burmese dissident Maung Zarni tells the inspirational story of his fellow countryman, who is fighting to unite the nation

It is instinctive for people to look for someone to idolize, look up to, and imitate. Someone from whom they draw strength and inspiration from, to go on with their lives toward where they want to go and who they want to be.

Aung La N Sang might be an ordinary mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter in the eyes of many people in the world, but he is absolutely adored by over 51 million Burmese people as a hero in his motherland.

The whole country stands still each time Aung La steps inside the ONE Championship cage.

Aung La’s superstar status has been covered in every mainstream newspaper in Myanmar. He has been a regular staple on each household’s television screen.

On the day of his fight, all walks of life unite in support of Aung La, which he often rewards with a sweet victory.

During his battles inside the cage, Aung La says his countrymen are a source of strength and inspiration to win every match.

“I feel very honored to be able to represent my people. They love the sport. I am very surprised at how much support I get from the people. They are my inspiration every time I compete,” Aung La said.

“Myanmar is my mother. It’s the country that made me who I am today. I will try my best to be a positive role model to everyone. There is no greater feeling than performing for all of my people. I am truly honored for this opportunity,” he added.

Since he became the first Burmese MMA athlete to win a world title, Aung La’s name will never be forgotten.

With a full training camp behind him and the roar of a raucous hometown crowd cheering on his every move, “the Burmese Python” finally accomplished what he set out to do, defeating Russian rival Vitaly Bigdash to become the new ONE Middleweight World Champion.

Aung La edged Bigdash by way of unanimous decision in their rematch at ONE: LIGHT OF A NATION, which took place at the sold-out Thuwunna Indoor Stadium in Yangon, Myanmar, last Friday, June 30.

Aung La N Sang fights Vitaly Bigdash in Yangon on June 30. Photo: ONE Championship

The 32-year-old Myanmar national hero lost to Bigdash in January, but he managed to exact his revenge by blemishing his opponent’s undefeated streak, leaving Bigdash with a 9-1.

With tears streaming from his eyes, Aung La stood at the center of the ONE Championship cage, basking in the adulation poured upon him by a loving Yangon crowd chanting his name.

While the coveted belt is draped over his shoulder, the newly-minted ONE Middleweight World Champion shared his victory with his countrymen and women: “Myanmar, how does it sound to have a world champion?”

“I cannot do this without God. I cannot do this without my teammates. I cannot do this without you, Myanmar. I’m not talented. I’m not fast. But with you, I have courage, I have strength, and now I’ve won the world title,” Aung La said. “The fans helped me reach this victory. I wanted to give them and to give this country a world champion.”

As his popularity and commercial clout have grown in tandem with his rise in the MMA ranks, Aung La has stressed that he wants his fame and his success in the cage to help unify and inspire the people of Myanmar.

“I hope to be an inspiration to the people of Myanmar. This is for them. It feels like I am very blessed, and hopefully, I can bring blessings to other people as well,” he said.

The victory makes him the first Myanmar national to win a major MMA world title, and more broadly, the most successful individual Myanmar athlete on the international stage.

More than three quarters of a million people witnessed the action-packed encounter live online, with many more watching on television or gathering at local beer stations, plus casual MMA fans tuning in from 118 countries around the world.

Aung La N Sang visits his hometown. Photo: Facebook / Aung La N Sang

In Myitkyina, the Kachin State capital where Aung La was born, hundreds of refugees at the Mai Na IDP camp clustered around a projector screen to see him fight.

After he was declared the winner, the entire camp erupted into jubilation as Aung La got the job done against Bigdash.

“This is where my heart lives and has stayed. I will always be home in Myanmar. They have embraced me just as I have embraced my roots. Myanmar will always be home to me. The time I spent growing up here is what makes me the man I am today, and for that, I’ll always be grateful,” Aung La said.

Victor Cui, ONE Championship’s CEO, stressed that Aung La’s achievement represents a foothold for MMA in Myanmar, as it is the company’s strategy to build local, homegrown Asian martial arts heroes from the grassroots level.

“Aung La N Sang commands a superstar presence in Yangon. The people just adore him. Whenever Aung La shows up anywhere in Myanmar, expect a massive throng of passionate fans. It’s actually incredible to witness. When he performs in Yangon, the cheers blow the roof off the stadium. In Yangon, Aung La is a bona fide superhero,” Cui said.

Aung La N Sang after a previous victory. Photo: Facebook / Aung La N Sang

“Since we have decided to focus on developing Myanmar, there is no doubt a sharp increase in MMA’s popularity in the country. Not just that, but traditional Let Wei practitioners as well. A lot of Myanmar’s top Let Wei competitors are now training in MMA, and it is such a wonderful feeling to have had an influence in that,” the CEO added.

Cui believes that the people of Myanmar have found a deeper meaning in Aung La’s illustrious prizefighting career.

“Aung La N Sang has single-handedly made MMA one of the most popular sports today in Myanmar. His presence just oozes with superstar quality, and the fans just love him. He represents what it means to be a true Burmese warrior. His backstory is compelling and completely relatable to fans in Myanmar,” he said.

Now a celebrated world champion in the constantly-evolving sport of MMA, Aung La stressed that the work to bring Myanmar into well-deserved prominence around the globe is not yet over.

The fighter said: “If I can inspire at least one person, one child, to know that anything is possible in this world, then I have done my job as a martial artist. Martial arts isn’t just about fighting. It’s about giving back to the world that has given you life. I’m doing this for my people, and when I fight for my people, nothing is ever difficult.”

Maung Zarni is an exiled Burmese human rights activist , educator and activist with nearly 30-years of deep involvement in Burma’s affairs. He blogs at www.maungzarni.net He can be reached at fanon2005@gmail.com.

Myanmar leaders must nurture the country’s many potential ‘Aung La Nsangs’

Aung La Nsang after his championship victory Friday night. Photo: ONE Championship

By Maung Zarni
July 3, 2017

In our long-running civil wars and waves of racial and religious violence, how many Aung La Nsangs have we killed, maimed or otherwise destroyed?

On Friday, in Yangon, something extraordinary happened to lift the spirit of all Myanmar’s peoples—the generals, the cronies, the National League for Democracy (NLD) supporters, the political exiles, the journalists, and the multi-ethnic population at large.

Mixed martial arts fighter Aung La Nsang made history by becoming the first-ever world champion from Myanmar in any sport. Three judges unanimously declared him the winner in the nationally televised match against the defending ONE middleweight champion Vitaly Bigdash from Russia.

Following Nsang’s victory at Thuwunna Stadium, something else extraordinary happened. Myanmar army commander-in-chief Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing issued an official statement of congratulations, claiming the ethnic Kachin fighter embodies the indomitable spirit of Myanmar, the pride of the nation.

Nsang was invited to the Ministry of Defense and presented with a cash award as a token of appreciation and recognition by representatives of all three branches of the Myanmar armed forces—the army, navy, and the air force.

As an ethnic Burmese on the other end of the political spectrum from the Tatmadaw’s leaders, I uncharacteristically welcomed the military’s gesture towards Nsang as symbolically and psychologically significant. I celebrated what I saw as a son of Myanmar making the entire nation proud, one that has been so fractured along ethnic and religious lines, and for so long.

While the country’s Aung San Suu Kyi-led, military-backed peace process is running aground, and the United Nations Human Rights Council bangs on the country’s door to allow a fact-finding mission to visit conflict zones in Myanmar, the emergence of a world champion is an extremely rare moment of jubilation.

But as a son of Myanmar myself, I can’t help but ask a painful question: in our long-running civil wars and waves of racial and religious violence, how many Aung La Nsangs have we killed, maimed or otherwise destroyed?

The new MMA world champion Nsang is no ordinary fighter. In earlier wins outside of Myanmar, Nsang wrapped himself in the flag of the Kachin Independence Organization and publicly expressed his desire for peace in his war-torn birthplace of Kachin State.

On Saturday, the South China Morning Post quoted the new champion as saying: “I hope to be an inspiration to the people of Myanmar. This is for them…. It feels like I am very blessed, and hopefully I can bring blessings to other people as well.”

Hearing this, I am inspired to suspend my skepticism, which is born out of nearly 30 years of political involvement in Burmese affairs as a grassroots activist, hoping that such a nationwide moment of pride may awaken our own better selves, along with a realization that we are bound as those who “drink the same water and live on the same land.” This bond may have been damaged by decades of war and political strife, but it certainly is not dead.

War, danger, and strife

Almost 250 years after the founding—on ethnic Mon land, no less—of Myanmar’s former capital of Yangon, whose name means “end of war, danger and strife,” the country’s conflicts have multiplied, expanded, and deepened. This is largely thanks to misguided political decisions that compound the violence and suffering we have inherited.

The result is the ongoing displacement of communities, so much so that Myanmar is now ranked eighth in the world in its outflow of refugees. The number of forced migrants, according to the recently released United Nations Global Trends report, topped 490,000 at the end of 2016.

This increase is largely due to large numbers of Muslim Rohingya refugees fleeing the western region of Rakhine, or Arakan, to Bangladesh. Here, a 50-year-old strategy aimed at controlling and managing cross-border migration among Rohingya Muslims in Northern Rakhine has degenerated into one of widespread concern for sustained atrocities.

In the Shan and Kachin highlands, the breakdown of a 17-year ceasefire agreement between the KIO and Myanmar’s former government led by President Thein Sein has had a devastating impact on the country’s commercial and political transformation, as well as on the many different ethnic communities that live in the strategic Sino-Burmese borderlands.

Within the society at large, Islamophobia dating back to the colonial era, and violent anti-Rohingya racism, have poisoned the minds of a generally acquiescing and decent public.

In addition to this, the military’s arrest of Burmese journalists from The Irrawaddy and the Democratic Voice of Burma, and the NLD government’s dismissal of the outrage over media freedom as “low priority” marks a re-emergence of hostilities between the country’s ruling institutions and the press—a crucial pillar of civil society.

While blame and responsibility may be apportioned, Myanmar now needs to take a deep, collective breath as a multi-ethnic nation so that we may regain our common moral sense of what is in the nation’s long-term best interests.

A cathartic moment

While our shared sentiments of jubilation over last weekend’s supreme victory are still fresh, every one of us who cares about the well-being and future of our shared birthplace must honestly and critically reflect on the futility of continuing conflicts over claims and counter-claims of our contributions, histories, territories, revenues, resources, and entitlements.

Myanmar is blessed with trillions of dollars’ worth of natural resources, both above and below ground, tapped and untapped. But more importantly, Myanmar’s peoples are our greatest assets, our most potent creative energies. Our strength in unity as an incredibly diverse ethnic community has been damaged, and even destroyed, with each passing year of unresolved conflict.

Having worked intimately and transparently with Burmese military leaders, I do know that there are members of the Tatmadaw who are keen to push for a more representative government in our country. Despite our differences of opinion in how to go about instituting such a government, we share a common desire for a peaceful, prosperous and democratic Union of Myanmar.

A youngish colonel I knew, who is now a four-star general in the Commander-in-Chief’s office, asked me ten years ago: “Do you think Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is the only person among us who can bring about democratization in our country?” He didn’t mean it rhetorically, and was keen to know my honest answer.

My response then was: “No.” It remains unequivocally so.

But neither the military nor the NLD leaders can expect to succeed in their one-year-old joint efforts at facilitating a democratic transition without the inspired participation of the public. Nor can these powerful military figures and popular political parties accomplish their stated objectives of defending and developing a multi-ethnic Myanmar until and unless there is a fundamental shift in their mindsets.

Sometimes a national tragedy or a moment of collective jubilation can serve as a cathartic moment from which springs a nation’s revival, renewal, and reconciliation. Again as a Burmese whose family has, over three generations, had organic ties with the military, I am hoping that Aung La Nsang’s world championship may turn out to be one such moment for our country.

Nurture, rather than destroy

Leaders from both the NLD and the military must see in every person who calls Myanmar their birthplace a potential Aung La Nsang, an embodiment of pride for our multi-ethnic nation, an asset to our national defense, and a building block for our development.

We are, in fact, blessed with many Aung La Nsangs in the various fields of journalism, civil society development, human rights promotion, minority rights protection, as well as in the creative domains of art and literature, and in science and technology, medicine and engineering, agriculture and forestry, interfaith harmony and peace-building, environmental protection, and scholarship.

Internationally, many of Myanmar’s distinguished sons and daughters have—as refugees, expatriates, and exiles—worked in “world class” institutions or independently.

Myanmar does not need to wait for a new generation of citizens to emerge. The country’s leaders just need to realize and appreciate the potentially invaluable contributions that the as yet unrecognized Aung La Nsangs could make towards peace, security, development and harmony.

Militaries, political parties, religious organizations, and virtually all communities have made mistakes, some grave and consequential. No nation or national institution is complete, finished, or beyond redemption. Therefore, it is not too late for us as a Myanmar community to turn the land we love into one that nurtures, rather than destroys, future Aung La Nsangs, irrespective of our differences in migratory histories, faiths, or opinions.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our fellow citizens could be brought together into a national program in which they were encouraged to share their opinions and expertise, publicly and privately, toward the shared goal of building a true democratic Union of Myanmar?

​As evidenced in Brexit Britain and Donald Trump’s America, racism and prejudice divide and weaken nations. Let us overcome the weight of our past and embrace a reality where every one of us—soldier and civilian, majority and minority, Buddhist and Christian and Muslim—sees our individual achievements celebrated as those of one nation.

Maung Zarni is an exiled Burmese human rights activist , educator and activist with nearly 30-years of deep involvement in Burma’s affairs. He blogs at www.maungzarni.net He can be reached at fanon2005@gmail.com.

Myanmar to Humanitarian Groups: THOU SHALL NOT FEED THE MUSLIMS - without Gov knowledge & monitor

THOU SHALL NOT FEED THE MUSLIMS - without approval from NLD-Gov (and police). 

All food supplies to Muslims in Meikhtila and Ramadan month food donations must be distributed - ONLY UNDER THE MONITORING MECHANISMS AND WITH THE PRIOR KNOWLEDGE of local authorities

Mandalay Division - run by the ex-political prisoner Dr Zaw Myint Maung - issued an order which was in turn passed on by Meikhtila Township Administration.

Here is the local relay directive released by Meikhtila Township Office, dated 24 June 2017. quoting 22 June-directive issued by the Mandalay Division Chief Minister's Office, issued to all townships.

(Meikhtila is the infamous site of Muslim Massacres in March 2013 - during which estimated 500 Muslims of all ages and sexes were killed in broad day light, under the eyes of Myanmar police, and other security units. The estimation was done by local activists who witnessed the pre-mediated slaughter and took stock of the deaths).

ZARNI's REMARK: Dr Zaw Myint Maung is a highly respected former political prisoner who spent close to 20 years in prison under previous military governments, An MP elect from 1990 election. He was reelected in 2015 elections which propelled NLD into a gov with Suu Kyi as the de facto head of state. He is from a very well-educated liberal family in our city of Mandalay. Parents were professors at the medical school there. He is married to the oldest daughter of my grade school friend, a cardiologist who settled in London. The good people are compelled to adopt or conform with irrational, racist policies of Burma which have become the building blocks of social control - a divide and rule.


my VERBATIM (word for word) translation: 

DATE: 24 June 2017 


- All Ward-level Chief Administrators 
- Hta Mun Kan (Lake) Village Tract/Group Chief Administrator 
- Meikhtila Township 

Subject: The matter on which this order needs to be implemented 

REFERENCE: Official Letter Number 1 / 2 – 1 / 2 Oo 6 (1784), dated 22 June 2017, Issued by Mandalay Division Central Administration, Mandalay 

1. Regarding the matter that involves the planned donations, during the month of Ramadan, of of rice, cooking oil, beans, red onions, etc. to those Muslims who reside in Chan Aye Tha Ya Ward, Nan Daw Gun Quarter, Meikhtia, by the two French nationals named Mr. Walkoaik Jeam Noel Philippe and Mrs. Faconi Anne Valerie, the staffers with the London/UK-based Humanitarian organization in its branch office located at Dagon, Yangon Prome Road, No. 73/ A 1 Ma, Mandalay Division Central Administration, Mandalay has issued the following order: “that every donation must be reported to the township authorities and that the act of distributions must be carried out only under the supervision of the township authorities.” 

2. Therefore, all (sub-township level) local administrations are hereby ordered to report to and seek prior permit from the township level authorities - in every case involving distribution of donations in kind such as consumer goods as well as other items. Further, it is ordered that the local authorities make themselves well-informed about and comply with the Para 1 (Mandalay Divisional Order) and acknowledge the receipt of this order. 

U Thet Naing 
Head of Meikhtila Township Administration (Deputy Director) 

CC: District Chief Administrator, Meikhitla 
Head of Township Level Police Force, Meikhtila 
Outgoing/Incoming Files 
Office Files

'I Am Deeply Troubled by Aung San Suu Kyi And Her Denial of the Rohingya Genocide': Maung Zarni

Adil Zaman
Thursday, June 22,2017

Dr. Maung Zarni, an exiled dissident from Myanmar, is a scholar and activist based in the United Kingdom. He is co-author (with Alice Cowley) of The Slow Burning Genocide of Myanmar’s Rohingya and a grassroots activist who coordinated the international consumer boycott of Myanmar in support of the National League for Democracy from 1995-2004, was the founder of the Free Burma Coalition and has been with the London School of Economics as well as Harvard University. Zarni, himself a Buddhist, has been a vocal voice on human rights globally and was interviewed by ADIL ZAMAN for The Citizen. Excerpts:

Q.What is your response to Aung San Suu Kyi government’s denial of a UN probe into the widespread allegations of killings, rapes and torture by security forces against Rohingya Muslims?

As a Burmese activist, who had supported Aung San Suu Kyi as the hope of Burma for 15 years, I am deeply troubled by her government – and the Nobel laureate herself – dismissing and denying all the credible allegations of ethnic cleansing and even a genocide.

My own 3-year-study (Pacific Rim Law and Policy Journal, 2014) conducted with my wife and colleague Alice, was the first comprehensive academic publication on the persecution of the Rohingya. We were persuaded by our findings that my country has long triggered the process of a slow genocide, with periodic waves of large scale violence against this peaceful, vulnerable Muslim community, with a historical claim over their own region of Northern Rakhine. Other studies and reports from Yale Law Clinic, Queen Mary U. of London Law School, etc. have arrived at the same conclusion, further reinforcing our findings.

So, I find it unconscionable that Aung San Suu Kyi herself and virtually all her advisers, officials and spokespersons have been dismissing these numerous reports and studies as “fake rape” “exaggeration” “Muslim-on-Muslim violence” or primarily “centuries-old sectarian conflict” “poverty-induced conflict” between Buddhist Rakhine and Muslim Rohingya communities in the region, an unfortunate by-product or side effect of multi-ethnic country opening up. The evidence – that the persecution is state-orchestrated and predates Burma’s opening by nearly 30 years – since 1978) – is irrefutable.

Q. More than 75,000 Myanmar Rohingyas have fled to the Bangladesh Border since October, 2016, who is responsible , who will help them ?

Unlike the 2012 waves of violence in June and October where local Rakhines led the mass killings and mass destruction of Rohingyas – with a blanket impunity, the October 2016 violence, displacement, and destruction was carried out by the Burmese security forces including the Burmese police forces.

Although the security forces are not under Suu Kyi-government’s control, the police are under NLD-government, as Aung San Suu Kyi herself admitted in her Channel News Asia interview in early December last year. The Burmese military leadership ordered these ‘security clearance’ operation as a response to the killing of 9 Burmese police men manning two border posts.

Based on my own research -including interviews with Rohingyas, the Burmese military invented its own pretext to launch a large scale “security clearance operations” by setting this up “honey-trap” where the young, angry, militant Rohingyas men were lured into attacking the border posts, in a region that is dotted with Burmese military and police intelligence units and check-points.

The military leaders are directly responsible for the exodus of 75,000 Rohingyas and Aung San Suu Kyi government whitewashes, covers up, denies and dismisses the military’s international human rights crimes against Rohingyas. You know denial is always a part of a genocidal process, from the Nazi genocide to Rwanda – and now to Myanmar genocide of Rohingyas. When a sovereign government, whatever its form or nature, fails to discharge its responsibility to look after humans inhabiting on its soul then it is the responsibility of the international community to intervene, in any possible and conceivable way, to protect and help the victim community. The region’s giant neighbours such as India and China, as well as the regional bloc such as South Asian and South East Asia regional blocs are primarily responsible for taking care of the region.

Q. Has the international community proved ineffective in dealing with Rohingya Crisis?

Yes, absolutely ineffectual. UN High Commission on Refugees based in Geneva has been involved in addressing the needs of period waves of Rohingya refugees since spring of 1978 – (the first wave saw 278,000 Rohingyas fleeing Burma’s terror campaign disguised as “immigration checks”, that was followed by 1991/92 wave with similar number of refugees. Rohingya issue hit the world’s headlines only after the country opened up in 2011.

Since the two bouts of violence in 2012 and now the latest one in 2016, another quarter million Rohingyas have fled the country, according to the UN reports). One reason the international community has been ineffective in addressing the Rohingya Crisis is because it fails to confront the root cause of massive human sufferings of Rohingya as a collective ethnic community, naming the state-led genocidal process.

You know ending genocide may be a moral imperative for communities and circles of ordinary humans like you and me, but it does not advance strategic interests of external, powerful players in international politics. The ugly truth is this: the world revolves around national and corporate interests and nasty struggles over these interests. Rohingya crisis is yet another inconvenient case of international crimes against the faceless, vulnerable, commercially useless human community. The failure of the international community, so-called, to end Rohingya genocide, and other atrocities in places like Sudan or Burundi, is an affront to all the decent humans around the world.

Q. Former UN secretary General Kofi Anan few months ago said “ He would not describe Violence being committed against Myanmar's Rohingya minority as "genocide". Your Comments?

It is utterly pathetic and arrogant that Kofi Annan would weigh in on the Rohingya issue, without having studied the persecution in any appreciable ways, against the backdrop of studies that call Burma’s persecution of Rohingya by its legal name.

Professionally speaking, Annan spent less than a total of 7 days in his whirlwind trips to Rakhine region, speaks no local language, has never been involved in Myanmar political issues, in any appreciable ways. How could someone with zero expertise on local or national issues.

Look. When it comes to dealing with cases involving genocide and ethnic cleansing, Kofi Annan is the last person whose words I would take at face value. As the head of UN Peacekeeping Force based in New York headquarters, this careerist bureaucrat sat on his hands when the head of the Peacekeepers in Rwanda was sending unequivocal messages of an imminent genocidal killings in 1994, simply because the most powerful post-Cold War Masters of the UN – the Americans – didn’t want to hear the “G” word. Annan simply let 800,000 Rwandan Tutsi be slaughtered in a span of a few months. When he was made head of UN, he did nothing, as Sec-Gen., significant to protest the illegal and immoral invasion against Saddam’s Iraq, the legacy of which the Middle East – and the world – are still reeling from.

Q. What is the 969 group ? What makes them neo-Nazis and why are they targeting Muslims?

969 is just a name, a reference to a mixed group of Bama nationalists, both laymen (and -women) and nuns and monks. The group’s name has changed from 969 to Ma Ba Tha and others. But the core players – funders, lay supporters, protectors within the military, propagandists in the Burmese language media, etc. – remain the same.

What makes them Nazi-sh is their core belief that Muslims – all Muslims – and Islam – are a major threat to the world in general and to Burma as the predominantly Buddhist country.

It’s like Hitler and Nazi ideology that scapegoated the Jewish peoples as the source of all evils – the Russian Revolution, the international banking system, etc. It is this extreme-racist ideology that compels the Burmese anti-Muslim racists organized themselves as 969, Ma Ba Tha, Patriotic Monks Association, Wunthanu Philanthropy - that’s the latest banner of 969, after its name is declared “illegal” by the national governing body of monks a month ago – to target all Muslim communities.

The crucial point I want to emphasise here is the role of the military-controlled government and governmental institutions in propping up these racist groups. The most powerful generals including the Commander in Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, and still influentially networked ex-Chief of Intelligence and ex-General Khin Nyunt are known patrons of individual leaders of these neo-Nazi groups such as Sitagu monk and Wirathu monk.

Q.What are the threats to ethnic minorities in this region or according to you in the Buddhist Triangle( Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand) – How did it originate ?

Of the three Theravada Buddhist countries, Sri Lanka and Myanmar are former British colonies. The threat they have posed to ethnic and religious minorities – in the case of Sri Lanka, the autonomy-seeking Eelam Tamils and Muslims and Christians – stems from the fact that the countries’ post-colonial governments, their respective ideologies, and constitutive institutions have enshrined “Buddhist racism” – an oxymoron – towards non-believers.

Over the last 50 years at least, these two states have crystalized unitary state structures that rest on this majoritarian Buddhist racism. In a warped way, although the Buddhists in these two countries are the majorities, they seem themselves in global terms – Buddhists are minorities in the sea of 1.7 billion Muslims in 57 Muslim countries. They look at the history of the spread Islam in places like the Malay World, India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Central Asia, etc. - through the Sword, in the historical understanding or misunderstanding in these predominantly Buddhist societies. They look at the violence that has engulfed the Middle East and terrorist attacks in USA and Europe and conclude that Islam is “a virus of violence” and Muslims are “carriers”.

The popular Burmese discourses in the social media – and in face to face conversations – are informed by this fear and perception of Muslims as an existential threat to Buddhists and other non-Muslims. In the case of Thailand, the Thai kingdom has never been colonized by a Christian European power. So, the Thai state has been the patron of Buddhism and Buddhist clergy.

Q. Your forthcoming book on Burma is going to be published this year. Any details you could share?

My book is a commissioned work by Yale University Press. It is a history and analysis of my own society, where I deviate from the typical court- or state-centred narrative. In other words, I am writing a mini-version of a “people’s history” of Burma, marginalizing the century-old elite voices. I am in fact struggling with it in terms of time. I am an activist through and through. I can’t sit down and simply focus on writing this long form of analysis and story-telling. I feel I need to respond to the deeply disturbing developments “at home” – like the rise of violence, the lies of Aung San Suu Kyi and the generals, the popularization of Islamophobia.

Myanmar's Influential Sitagu Openly Propagates Fear of Islam while Stroking Religious Nationalism Amongst Buddhists At Home

Photo by Pyae Sone Aung/EPA

Sitagu is far more senior, far more credible and far more influential than Wirathu. He founded the Sitagu Buddhist Peace University. But do not feel fooled by his discourse of peace in English sermons.

Like Wirathu, Sitagu has powerful patrons - the Commander in Chief Min Aung Hlaing and the senior military commanders. Like the Thai Armed Forces, the Burmese Armed Forces now consider "protection of Buddhism and Buddhist Bama/Burmese Race" as their additional duty, besides safeguarding the territorial integrity, sovereignty, etc. 

(Photo: BBC)


He has a different script - in Burmese language - for the home audience.

Date and venue of the sermon, I am still trying to find out. It was posted on Facebook by a critic of his yesterday. 

Here is the gist of Sitagu's sermon in this nearly 3 minutes clip:

1) Present-day Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kashmir, Bangladesh were Buddhist nations for about 1000 years. Look what they are today.

That's because of the FAILURES to protect the Buddhist countries against the onslaught of Islam - on the part of the Buddhist kings, Buddhist public and Buddhist monks. 

2) Turkey used to be Christian. Now it is a Muslim nation. 

3) In 1958, there was a Multi-ethnic Forum (Hni Naw Pha Lae Pwe) held at Rangoon City Hall. The Rakhine leader ICS U Kyaw Min spoke there as well. I went to listen to the presentations. There Muslim leaders from Pyaw Bwe and Ya Mae Thin (near Naypyiday today) demuanded their towns the status of a separate Muslim region because they say Muslims were majority of the residents. 

4) Look at the situation today in Buthidaung and Maung Daw. 

5) Look at Southern Thailand. 

6) Look at USA. They are so afraid of peoples with long beards and long robes. Even us, Saffron Buddhist monks, we are seen as potential suicide bombers. (At airports) they would do body searches with us, the only place they would not search is the place between our thighs! 

7) I am not singling out and stigmatizing one single religion (Islam). 

I am just reminding you of our individual responsibility to protect our faith." 


Sitagu ignores all other cases which will undermine or contradict his argument that Islam is the biggest threat to non-Muslim countries. 

For instance, India today is under the influence of Hindu Fundamentalisms. Sri Lanka is pursuing a violent "Buddhist" nationalism toways Hindu Tamils, Muslims and Christians. 

Israel is a Zionist Jewish nation which colonized the predominantly Muslim Palestinians since 1948. 

And the greatest threat to the United States' peace and stability are its imperialist Foreign Policy and non-stop invasions and wars, as well as White Christian neo-Fascist networks. 

Cambodia was a Hindu kingdom - Ankor Wat was Hindu monastery where sexual organs were symbols of workship as "the source of life" - that was turned into Buddhist, when the rulers decided to convert to Buddhism. 

Aung San Suu Kyi herself has succumbed to this view: she said this publicly on her Oct 2013 Radio Four Interview on BBC. She couched it as "perception of the rise of Muslim power worldwide" and she repeated a similarly racist view in her BBC interview with Fergal Kean a few months ago: "Muslims killing Muslims" in Rakhine state and how Buddhist Rakhine are afraid of Muslims.

Myanmar Cardinal Bo calls human rights campaigners, researchers and scholars on Rohingyas "extreme" and joins Aung San Suu Kyi's genocide denial

Cardinal Charles Maung Bo and Aung San Suu Kyi (Photo: Myanmar Church Review)
ZARNI'S RESPONSE to Myanmar Cardinal Charles Maung Bo's Statement of his public denial of Rohingya ethnic cleansing. 

First, Bo's statement:

From: Charles Bo
Date: 26 June 2017 at 1:22:27 pm GMT+7

Statement by Charles Cardinal Bo
Dear Friends, 26 June 2017


I am a pastor. I am not a professional in politics or international law. The terms and laws discussed by the international community are beyond my mandate. I am moved by human suffering. Moved by my faith vision of justice with compassion, I have been raising voice against all kinds of oppression in this country. 

This nation has a great potential to provide a great future to her sons and daughters. But millions are now in poverty, millions in unsafe migration, forced into modern forms of slavery. Conflicts and displacements. I have never compromised on the rights of any people to their dignity. My faith has inspired me to raise my voice at a great personal risk. Even when many voices were muted, I have raised my voices against religious extremism, the plight of IDPs, treatment of minorities. I have opposed all the anti minority laws.

The sad and the pestering suffering of the people in Rakhine state has been one of my great concerns. This concern is shared by Pope Francis who has raised his voice on behalf of the Muslims known as ‘Rohingyas’ . 

We continue to raise our voice on behalf of them. When as boat people they were perishing in the seas, I have pointed out the inhuman root causes of this tragedy. At the UN in March 2016 and again in the British Parliament in May 2016 I described the horrific persecution of ‘Rohingyas’ as : an appalling scar on the conscience of my country. Recently when the report of the UN on the treatment of ‘Rohingyas’ we have appealed to the government to ‘ Let the devastating report serve as a wake up call for all” 

Again, it is for legal scholars, and human rights experts, to determine how to categories egregious human rights violations in Rakhine State, Kachin State and northern Shan State, and indeed throughout Myanmar. Even experts like Mr. Kofi Annan, the former UN Secretary general advised all groups to be careful in use of terms. Allegations of ‘ethnic cleansing’, war crimes and crimes against humanity should be fully and independently investigated. The warnings of potential genocide need to be heeded. Therefore, I called "on the government of Myanmar to work with the international community to investigate the crimes reported by the United Nations, in a truly independent way that results in justice and accountability."

Myanmar as a nation faces many challenges. We are anxious that all parties pursue the path of peace. Democracy is not perfect but we are eager that extreme positions and words do not force a relapse into days when no one had any rights. Myanmar cannot live through another such spell.

The world is increasingly judging the government on how the IDPs and the minorities are treated in Rakhine. Myanmar government must move away from positions that are not conducive to peace and its good name in the international community. Those who support ‘Rohingyas’ are right in condemning all human rights violations but they too need to move forward maximizing peace based on justice at every opportunity. Intransigent positions and words may not further the cause of the victims for whom all of us continue to raise our voice. Continued pressure coupled with an openness to engage all parties is the way forward. 

Myanmar is moving, not fast as the international community and human rights groups wish but changes are happening. Peace Conferences are held where all stakeholders sit for dialogue. Inter religious peace gatherings are gaining strength, sidelining the extremist elements. These steps are not perfect but encouraging signs. Let not words and categories stall the rebuilding process. 

We need to bring all parties together in unity, not divide at this moment.

Let our actions and words help to strengthen the consensus building processes without sacrificing our commitment to the refugees, IDPs and persecuted people like known as ‘Rohingyas’.

Peace is possible – Peace is the only way //end Cardinal's statement//



I am not speaking as an average Joe from Burma.

I have deep ties with the issue of Rohingyas in the last 50 years.

My late close relative was #2 military commander in charge of the predominantly Rohingya administration before the military radically shifted its policy towards Rohingyas, from one of acceptance to systematic persecution, with waves after waves of violence while imposing conditions that can only be understood or interpreted as community-destruction. He was also one of the commanders who supported Ne Win's coup of 1962. 

I gave up my academic career as my employer - the Sultanate of Brunei - pressured me, without success, into silence - as the 2012 waves of violence broke out. Ninety-percent reliant on natural gas for its income, the Sultanate was more keen on investing in Burma's emerging gas and oil sector than protecting the persecuted fellow Muslims in Burma. 

All the crucial officials and advisers who have been involved in the persecution and denial of persecution were either my very, very close friends, former teachers or military contacts - including the Vice President ex-LtGeneral Myint Swe who heads the Maung Daw Violence Inquiry Committee which found "no wrong doings" by the Burmese troops, the late Dr Myo Myint who headed President Thein Sein's Rakhine Inquiry Commission, Dr Kyaw Yin Hlaing who served as Thein Sein's main adviser on Rohingyas and General Mya Tun Oo who is the main spokesperson for the military on the Rohingyas, to name a few. 

Although it is not spelled out in the Genocide Convention sociologists of genocide and other mass atrocities consider DENIAL as a part of any genocidal process and practise - across the word.

The Cardinal has crossed the line. 

​Here is my substantive response:​

This is a poorly written PUBLIC RELATIONS RESPONSE to his​ ​ un-thoughtful and un-justified DENIAL of an international crime committed by Myanmar. 

And this does not explain or justify it. In fact, it makes it worse. I find it as an act of utter DISHONESTY and BACKPEDALING. 

Coming from a moral and spiritual leader it is an outrageous statement. It is in my view the Cardinal's politically motivated realignment with Aung San Suu Kyi's position. 

For the greater good of the majority, this issue must be approached from the perspective of "reconciliation" - when the NLD gov which is run by the ex-military - has stepped up its efforts to frame Rohingyas as hellbent on destabilizing the region and running military and terrorist training. 

Here are concrete and substantial issues that need to be understood: :

1) if the pastor doesn't feel qualified - as he admits - to comment on the legality of the persecution then he should NOT comment on it - except say he is deeply troubled by the great sufferings of Rohingyas.

2) he or whoever wrote that statement for him - frames - disingenuously - ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity as "extreme positions". WRONG: it is NOT POSITIONS. It is an an informed, professional attempt to apply the existing international criminal law. 

Those make that application of the international law - which governs, in theory at least, the conducts of all UN member states - and non-state actors - include Yale Law School, Queen Mary University Law School (top among UK's law departments), Yugoslavia tribunal legal experts, University of Washington Law School - which published my very first full-length academic study on the Rohingya genocide, UN Human Rights Council, Special Rapporteurs with​ their own​ teams of legal scholars​ and practitioners whom they can access​, HRW, Amnesty International - virtually all credible UN and non-UN scholarly and research communities​ specialising in human rights law​. 

It is because the weight of evidence is TOO GREAT NOT TO resort to international human rights law.

3) Kofi Annan commission clearly understood and said officially in the press conference in Rangoon releasing their interim report that the SCOPE of their work does NOT include human rights crimes. They met with the most crucial organizations in Geneva - involved in monitoring the situation in NRS - Red Cross, UNHCR, UN Human Rights Council, among others - and understood DIFFERENT and NECESSARY respective works by ​the latter. 

​In her responses to various country representatives from EU, Australia, etc. ​SR Professor​ Yanghee Lee was VERY CLEAR in March that her mission and that of the Human R​ights​ Council are DIFFERENT from Annan Commission work.

Crimes committed against Rohingyas are not something that can be shoved under the rug of "communal reconciliation" for 2 reasons: first, it is on-going (by the mere fact that the genocidal character of the mistreatment of the Rohingyas which fils the legal bill of Article 6 of the Rome Stature 2.c (impose the conditions designed to destroy the community - not simply resort to direct killings its members) and second, the military-controlled State, the main perpetrator, is NOT showing any signs of seeking or facilitating reconciliation. 

A bit like NLD gov - run by ex-military, with ​S​uu ​K​yi as figurehead - is talking peace and Panglong while the military in service is launching airstrikes and ground assaults on KIA and Northern Alliance save the UWSA. 

Even in its most pragmatic approach the Cardinal's Utilitarian logic - does not hold water.

4) why is the Cardinal qualifying the usage of ethnic identity "Rohingyas"? (As a matter of fact, only a few years ago, he called publicly Rohingyas "illegal Bengali).

​5) no one would fault the Cardinal Charles Bo for NOT commenting on the nature of the perspective as it pertains to international law. For the world does not expect spiritual leaders to come up with any legal commentaries or comments on the deeds of the states and non-state actors or cite jurisprudence. ​

By the same token no one would expect these spiritual leaders to DENY or DISMISS the findings and assessments that are framed in legal discourses. 

In my judgement - knowing the contextual background of the Cardinal rise in the Church's hierarchy, who nominated him, who endorsed him (Aung San Suu Kyi who dismisses and denies UN human rights team's finding - forget all of the rest of the studies on Rohingya persecution) - the Cardinal is playing politics here. 

This damning backpedalling - damning to his own reputation and to the Rohingyas - isn't simply about Rohingya-Rakhine reconciliation or the restoring of rights to us, the non-Rohingya majority. It is in fact a PAYBACK. 

It is like the late US Supreme Court justice the late Antonia Scalia casting a vote in favour of George W. Bush (against Al Gore) in the case that involved recount (or stopping the recount) of the ballots in the swing state of Florida: Scalia was appointed by the George Bush, Senior, the father. 

The Cardinal is engaged in no small part in the act of repayment (and in the advancement of the Church's newly established diplomatic ties with Myanmar. which was accomplished with Suu Kyi's second and most recent visit to the Vatican where she and the Pope sealed this establishment.
There is this scheduled visit by the Pope to Bangladesh where he will certainly meet with the Bangladeshi cardinal​​, and most likely meet with or say something on the half-million most downtrodden Rohingya refugees. 

​I met the Cardinal at the Human Rights Council in Geneva 2 years ago. Although I am Buddhist I called him Father, most genuinely and out of sincere respect for the fact that he was speaking on publicly on the Rohingyas' plight. ​

But this politiking unworthy of a top spiritual leader troubles me, and reminds of how the Church behaved in the midst of the Holocaust.

Here is one of the best works - officially on the US Holocaust Memorial Museum site - on the role of the Catholic Church in the Third Reich. (Just browse the table of contents at the link to get a flavour of its deeds while the Holocaust got on the way. 

Hitler’s Priests: Catholic Clergy and National Socialism

For the Church with a dark history of collaboration with the Nazi Genocide this fiasco is consequential and most alarming. 

There was a very famous Catholic priest in the Block 11, the Death Block, at Auschwitz I whose cell I paid a visit a few months ago, and closed my eyes and held a moment of silence in his memory. The German pastor volunteered to be executed in exchange for saving a fellow prisoner of Jewish background. He calmly bathed himself as inmates were required before they walked to the firing line against the wall about 30 yards away from the shower room, prayed and walked to his death where the SS-firing squad was waiting. 

I don't expect Cardinal Bo to replicate this extraordinarily courageous, spiritual and humane act. But I expected him to show greater moral strength than flipflopping on the persecuted minority. 

There is more to Myanmar Cardinal's response to the scathing critiques and Facebook comments than meets the eyes. 

The Cardinal is not going to get out of this hole. As the English saying goes, "if you are in a hole don't dig." ​ 

The Cardinal Maung Bo is digging in the hole he created himself. 

​Most sadly,


Charles Bo's racist comment about Rohingya as "illegals" 

The Archbishop of Yangon explains that "Rohingya means the Rakhine population : they are defined the population of Rakhine State , however, there are no Rohingyas but only Bangali " . "The point is that, long ago, a hundred years ago, they came to Myanmar. They - Msgr . Bo added - have the right to citizenship and the restrictions against them should be removed. At the same time , there is a large number who only recently moved to Rakhine State ... a few years ago. Citizenship must be assessed case by case . Certainly it can not be generalised".

Statement by Ms. Yanghee LEE, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar at the 35th session of the Human Rights Council

Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar Yanghee Lee. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

Statement by Ms. Yanghee LEE, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar at the 35th session of the Human Rights Council

Agenda item 4 
Geneva, 15 June 2017

Distinguished Representatives, 
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I thank you for the opportunity to once again allow me to address this Human Rights Council. This is the first time I am delivering a June oral update, and I will be covering some developments since March and will also look ahead to my next visit to the country which is scheduled to take place next month. I look forward to the Myanmar Government approving the dates, the length of my visit, and this time really provide access to the places I need to be in order to discharge my mandate appropriately.

I would like to take the opportunity at the outset to express my deepest sympathies to those affected by Cyclone Mora. My prayers are with all those who have suffered losses including their homes. I also express my sadness at the recent crash of a military plane carrying military personnel and their families which killed 122 people, including over a dozen children. My heart goes out to their families and friends at this difficult time. 

Mr. President, 

Since my last address to you, the Fact-Finding Mission has been established by the Council. I welcome their mandate to look into alleged recent human rights violations by military and security forces, and abuses, in Myanmar. Establishing the truth in these alleged cases is in the interests of all of Myanmar and I therefore encourage the Government to fully cooperate with the Mission. 


In Shan and Kachin States, unacceptable reports of serious human rights violations allegedly committed by several parties to the conflict including the Tatmadaw and ethnic armed groups have continued to arise. I was particularly distressed to see an appalling 17-minute video posted on social media in May, apparently showing soldiers from the Myanmar army beating several bound and unarmed men. The incident apparently occurred in 2015 and the fate of those involved is still unknown. In another incident in Kachin State, three individuals were found dead, with their bodies reportedly showing signs of torture, a few days after supposedly being detained by the Tatmadaw. I note statements from the authorities that they will investigate both incidents. However, I am unaware of any investigations into another incident in November 2016, which I just learnt about, where 18 people from Nam Hkye Ho village in Shan State were reportedly detained by the army, and their burnt remains found in a grave a few weeks later. 

I have reported to you on a regular basis similar incidents, and I fear a recurring pattern here. The Tatmadaw, or some elements of it, conduct themselves in violation of human rights. Some of these cases are reported but cannot be verified for lack of access. A couple of these cases get out, often because they had been caught on tape and circulated. The authorities say they will investigate, and we, the international community, accept this as an adequate response and let it go. Until the next case comes out again into the public realm, and the cycle of events repeats itself. I must remind that investigations must be conducted into all allegations, not just those that are extensively picked up by the media. And I must also remind that all investigations must be carried out in line with international standards and with all perpetrators fully held to account. I will be following progress in the cases that I have highlighted and others closely in the coming months. 

Friends and Colleagues,

Sadly, the continuing conflict in Kachin, Shan and Chin States has caused more people to flee. Despite repeated requests from the United Nations agencies and their partners, and clear humanitarian needs, permission to travel to areas not under government control to assist those newly displaced has still not been granted. I am particularly concerned by recent reports that 1,500 civilians in Kachin State, who were instructed by the Tatmadaw to flee their homes, are stranded unable to travel further as the armed forces have blocked waterways normally used for transportation. 

Clearly, sustainable peace and demilitarization are sorely needed across the country. I note that the most recent union peace conference was held from 24 to 29 May, which was attended by eight ethnic armed groups with seven others attending parts of the conference as special guests and some other groups choosing not to attend at all. I welcome the inclusion of a number of human rights issues in the 37 general points that were agreed on by all participants. I was also pleased to see an increase in the representation of women in this conference, and hope that renewed effort can be taken to ensure that the minimum 30% target of female participation is achieved across all delegations and the full inclusion of civil society organizations and young people in the process. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I welcome the release of a number of those imprisoned for simply exercising their rights in the amnesties of prisoners announced on 12 April and 24 May. This includes Hla Phone and Myo Yan Naung Thein whom I visited in prison in January. I note however that many such individuals still remain in jails, awaiting trial or serving sentences, including human rights defender Khaine Myo Tun, whom I visited in January and who also suffers from health conditions. 

The increasing use of the vaguely worded defamation provision in section 66 (d) of the Telecommunications Act is particularly worrying. It is especially notable that each case has to be approved by the Ministry of Communications and Transport in order to be charged, and that an estimate of 66 cases have been reported since the new government came to power. Discussing issues of public interest, satirising the military or the President should not risk criminal charges with a maximum three-year sentence. 

Mr. President,

In my forthcoming visit to Myanmar in July, I will continue to look into business and human rights issues, including the rights of those affected by Special Economic Zones. Investment projects should translate into a positive transformation, and more must be done to ensure this is the case for all and to uphold the rights of local communities. 

I am particularly concerned by the developments at Letpadaung copper mine where police fired rubber bullets at community members protesting an incident in March during which a truck hit a local villager. Ten villagers and six police officers were injured and 50 individuals were later charged with offences in relation to the protests. There also continue to be protests in various areas over land confiscations, including the case of ten farmers who were convicted in April in Shan State to 16 months in prison for refusing to vacate land which had been confiscated from them. 

I congratulate Myanmar on its achievement of becoming a medium ranked country in the human development index. I encourage further efforts to improve access to education and life expectancy which form part of the indicators. This must include further tackling child labour. Another shocking case of child abuse has recently come to light of a girl who was working as a domestic servant and I call on the government to do more to protect all children, including those forced to work, from abuse and neglect. 

Distinguished Representatives, 

There have been a number of alarming incidents of incitement of intercommunal tension and religious violence since my last update. In April, extremist Buddhist nationalists reportedly pressured authorities to close two Islamic schools in Yangon that traditionally have served as a prayer site, with no consultation and investigation. That they remain closed through Ramadan, a sacred month for Muslims when they not only observe the fasting but are also encouraged to conduct additional prayers, has resulted in a sense of greater isolation amongst the community. Three individuals peacefully protesting the schools’ closure through prayer outside the schools reportedly now face charges. These undue restrictions are in contravention of the Muslim community’s basic right to religious freedom and right to manifest it through worship and observance. 

I commend the Government’s actions in pursuing the arrest of individuals involved in the Mingalar Taung Nyunt incident in Yangon where a mob of over a hundred Buddhist nationalists entered a Muslim home under the pretext of finding illegal residents, which later resulted in a clash breaking out on the streets. Many in the Muslim community are nonetheless worried that the Government is unable to counter the growing threat of extreme Buddhist nationalism. As I have said in the past, the Government must take more concerted, systematic efforts to curb hate speech and violence incited by such nationalist groups. 

The situation in Rakhine State remains tense with incidents of alleged rape, torture, kidnapping and a village official being stabbed to death continue to be reported. The situation for many of those who fled following the attacks on Border Guard Police facilities on 9 October last year and the subsequent clearance operations remains difficult. While the estimated 20,000 Rohingya who were displaced within Myanmar have mostly returned to or near their places of origin, returnees face significant shelter needs due to the large number of burnt homes, a situation exacerbated by the impact of Cyclone Mora. I am further informed that 332 Rakhine, Dynet and Mro evacuees are still unable to return to their homes. Whilst some of the reported 74,000 Rohingya who fled to Bangladesh appear to have now returned, exact numbers are difficult to ascertain as people fear prosecution for illegal border crossing.

I am especially alarmed by the reported recent rise in the number of child brides amongst women and girls who fled Myanmar and live in neighbouring countries. As we are all aware, this perpetuates the cycle of violence and of poverty experienced by these young women. 

I am also concerned by reports that at least 13 children have been detained by police in Rakhine State in relation to the October 9th attacks. According to a statement released by the State Counsellor’s Office on 5 June, one of these children died on February 2nd due to health reasons. I remind the Government that children should be detained strictly as a last resort, for the shortest appropriate period of time, and must be treated with humanity and respect in a manner which takes into account their age. I urge the Government to take all necessary measures to guarantee the rights of these children not to be arbitrarily deprived of their liberty and to fair and timely proceedings as well as to adequate medical care. Further, I urge the Government to immediately conduct a full investigation into this child’s death including why it was only reported four months later. 

Please allow me at this point to highlight again Myanmar’s international obligations, in particular, under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. As we all know, by being party to this treaty, the State has made a public commitment as to how it will treat everyone under the age of 18 within its jurisdiction. The provision that has particularly stuck in my mind is Article 2 of the CRC which, among others, reiterates the principle of non-discrimination, and requires appropriate measures to ensure that, “the child is protected against all forms of discrimination or punishment on the basis of the status, activities, expressed opinions, or beliefs of the child’s parents, legal guardians, or family members.” Myanmar has an obligation with respect to “each child within [its] jurisdiction” without discrimination of any kind. I repeat, within its jurisdiction. This includes all Rohingya children living in Rakhine. With your permission, Mr. President, I would like to ask the Government of Myanmar, if it really has respected and lived up to this promise? Now, I would also like to ask other distinguished representatives here if they have indeed made sure that Myanmar lived up to its promise? I ask this question because of the continuing dire, if not worsening situation of the Rohingyas. 

Mr President, 

During my last statement to you, I highlighted the shortcomings in the investigative mechanisms established by the Government to assess the situation in Rakhine State. Unfortunately, there have been no changes to address these concerns. In early March, the Maungdaw Investigation Commission conducted a three-day visit to Rakhine State, still without a robust methodology or witness protection policies in place. I remain unconvinced that the military investigation team, which recently announced its findings dismissing practically all allegations against the security forces as wrong or false, is sufficiently independent or impartial. 

I note the issuance of the interim report by the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State; and while Myanmar has said it “accepts totally” the interim recommendations therein, implementation has been tentative at best. Although the Government has been closing IDP camps as recommended, many individuals are not being permitted to return to their place of origin, despite their stated desire to do so. Muslims in Kyein Ni Pyin camp, most of who self-identify as Rohingya, were told that the Government would only provide housing in the location of their current displacement, whereas Kaman Muslims in Ramree were only offered transportation options to Yangon and financial support. In contrast, Rakhine Buddhists were offered re-settlement in a neighbouring area, in newly-built homes along with financial compensation, although they have raised concerns that the location is some distance from a school. I am worried that these different re-settlement practices offer little prospect of a durable solution for the 120,000 Rohingya still living in camps, and exacerbate the grievances between the Buddhist and Muslim communities. The Government has estimated that it will take five years to close all the camps, which means that some IDPs could spend as long as ten years confined in these camps. This is simply unacceptable.

Distinguished representatives,

During my statement in March, I highlighted the proposed joint benchmarks which the Human Rights Council invited me to work with the Government to develop. In the months since then, I have still not seen significant developments on the majority of these benchmarks. In my next visit to Myanmar in July, I hope to discuss with my interlocutors how we can work together to develop a work plan and time frame for their swift implementation. I recognize the inherent difficulties in any democratic transition, and as always, I seek to work with Myanmar to address and overcome the challenges she faces. I stand ready to assist in any way I can to achieve a Myanmar where the rights and fundamental freedoms of all are respected and fully realized. 

Thank you