Zarni, at the launch of International Pepsi boycott campaign, Chapel Hill, N. Carolina, 27 October 1995

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

Discussing Myanmar's slow burning genocide of the Rohingya with Tomas Ojea Quintana and Penny Green, The Norwegian Nobel Institute, 26 May 2015

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 Srebrenica Moment has arrived. Army torching villages and killing Rohingya families

Myanmar's Srebenica Moment has arrived. The entire Burmese society has remained indifferent.

Myanmar's "civil society" apparently exists only in grant applications for the 'donors' in the face of a genocide in its midst.

It is spiritually and intellectually dead as far as the unfolding new phase of genocidal acts.

Here is a collection of videos of innocent Rohingya families fleeing attacks by the Tatmadaw THIS MORNING - 13 Nov 2016 (local time in Burma).

For Myanmar Tatmadaw (military) is carrying out genocidal attacks this morning.

Thank you for Jamila Hanan for compiling these links - and thank you, ultimately, to the Rohingya activists who risk their lives recording the genocide for the world to witness.


Here is sattelite imageries from Human Rights Watch, from the last week's genocidal atatcks:

Click the link to see the images of burned villages and their locations.

November 12, 2016 9:25PM EST

Burma: Massive Destruction in Rohingya Villages

Satellite Images Show 430 Burned Buildings; UN-Aided Inquiry Needed

(New York) – High-definition satellite imagery shows widespread fire-related destruction in ethnic Rohingya villages in Burma's Rakhine State, Human Rights Watch said today. The Burmese government should immediately invite the United Nations to assist in investigating reported destruction of villages in the area. Human Rights Watch identified a total of 430 destroyed buildings in three villages of Maungdaw District from an analysis of very high resolution satellite imagery recorded on the mornings of October 22, November 3, and November 10, 2016. © 2016 Human Rights Watch

“New satellite images not only confirm the widespread destruction of Rohingya villages but show that it was even greater than we first thought,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Burmese authorities should promptly establish a UN-assisted investigation as a first step toward ensuring justice and security for the victims.”

Human Rights Watch identified a total of 430 destroyed buildings in three villages of northern Maungdaw district from an analysis of very high resolution satellite imagery recorded on the mornings of October 22, November 3, and November 10, 2016. Of this total, 85 buildings were destroyed in the village of Pyaung Pyit (Ngar Sar Kyu), 245 in Kyet Yoe Pyin, and 100 in Wa Peik (Kyee Kan Pyin). Damage signatures in each of the assessed villages were consistent with fire, including the presence of large burn scars and destroyed tree cover. Because of dense tree cover it is possible that the actual number of destroyed buildings is higher.



Human Rights Watch identified a total of 430 destroyed buildings in three villages of Maungdaw District from an analysis of very high resolution satellite imagery recorded on the mornings of October 22, November 3, and November 10, 2016. Of this total, 85 buildings were destroyed in the village of Pyaung Pyit (Ngar Sar Kyu); 245 buildings were destroyed in the village of Kyet Yoe Pyin; and 100 buildings were destroyed in the village of Wa Peik (Kyee Kan Pyin). Damage signatures in each of the assessed villages were consistent with fire, including the presence of large burn scars and destroyed tree cover.

2016-11-Asia-Burma-Kyet-Yoe-Pyin-Before 2016-11-Asia-Burma-Kyet-Yoe-Pyin-Before JuxtaposeJS

Before: © 2016 Human Rights Watch After: © 2016 Human Rights Watch

In addition to satellite imagery reviewed by Human Rights Watch, reports by human rights organizations, the media, and members of a delegation of nine foreign ambassadors who visited some impacted areas on November 2-3 confirm that the damage was substantial. The delegation conducted no formal investigation or assessment but confirmed that they saw burned structures in several towns.

The crisis follows violence on October 9 in which gunmen attacked three police outposts in Maungdaw township in northern Rakhine State near the Bangladesh border, leaving nine police officers dead. The government said that the attackers made off with dozens of weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition. The Burmese government asserts the attack was carried out by a Rohingya group, but actual responsibility remains unclear.

Related Content

HRW Burma Destruction Assessment

Immediately after the attacks, government forces declared Maungdaw an “operation zone” and began sweeps of the area to find the attackers and lost weapons. They severely restricted the freedom of movement of local populations and imposed extended curfews, which remain in place. A UN-assisted investigation needs to examine the deadly attacks on border guard posts on October 9, and allegations by the media and local groups that government security forces subsequently committed summary killings, sexual violence, torture, arbitrary arrests, arson, and other abuses against Rohingya villagers in Maungdaw district, Human Rights Watch said.

On October 28, Reuters published interviews with Rohingya women who allege that Burmese soldiers raped them. The government also allegedly pressured the Myanmar Times to fire one of its editors who reported allegations of rape by Burmese army soldiers. Government-imposed restrictions on access to the area by journalists and human rights monitors continue to hinder impartial information gathering.

A second attack on a border guard post in Maungdaw was reported to have occurred on November 3. The attack reportedly resulted in the death of one police officer.

Burma is obligated under international law to conduct thorough, prompt, and impartial investigations of alleged human rights violations, prosecute those responsible, and provide adequate redress for victims of violations. Standards for such investigations can be found, for example, in the UN Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions, and the UN Guidance on Commissions of Inquiry and Fact-Finding Missions. Burma’s failure to conduct such investigations in the past underscores the need for UN assistance, Human Rights Watch said.

Reuters has reported that the military has ignored the civilian government’s request for more information about the situation.

“The Burmese armed forces are not only keeping independent observers out of affected Rohingya areas, they apparently aren’t even telling their own government what happened,” Adams said. “The authorities need to allow the UN, the media, and rights monitors unfettered access into the area to determine what happened and what needs to be done.”

The government recently granted the World Food Programme (WFP) access to four villages for a one-time food delivery. However, humanitarian aid groups continue to be denied full access, placing tens of thousands of already vulnerable people at greater risk. The vast majority of villages are not receiving any assistance, and the area remains sealed to humanitarian assessment teams and human rights groups. A statement by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on November 8 noted that the children in northern Rakhine State already suffer from high levels of deprivation and malnutrition. “Their futures depend on help from doctors, nurses, teachers and others who can provide them with nutrition, health and education services,” the statement said.

The Burmese government should immediately deliver on its assurances to resume humanitarian aid to all impacted areas, Human Rights Watch said.

“The Burmese government and military should immediately allow humanitarian access to vulnerable populations,” Adams said. “The UN and concerned governments need to dial up the pressure on the authorities to ensure aid reaches all affected areas as this crisis enters its second month.”

Myanmar Leaders and Cronies Behind Anti-Muslim Genocide: Testimony, 9 Nov 2016

Statement on Myanmar Leaders' Plot to Bomb Shwedagon to create anti-Muslim violence on Eid Mubarak Day in 2013.

The Burmese military intelligence used the Karen National Liberation Army captain to hatch this bombing plot and the crony named Soe Myint Aung (aka Kyaw Lwin) was involved.

Here is a 4-page letter released by jailed dissident Ko Htin Kyaw, detailing the incitement by Myanmar Generals and Cronies, including the then President Thein Sein, the then home Minister Lt-General Ko Ko, General Mya Tun Oo (head of Military Intelligence and Min Aung Hlaing's right hand).

It was Nov 2016.

Ko Htin Kyaw also spoke to the media on 9 Nov 2016 when he and his fellow jailed activists were brought before the Kyauk Ta Tar Township Court for hearing.

Watch Ko Htin Kyaw's press conference at the Kyauk Ta Tar Township Court on 9 Nov 2016.

The detailed activists want the ICC to haul the Burmese leaders to the Hague and try them for the crimes against humanity.

I have long pointed out that the immediate triggers for the anti-Rohingya mass violence in 2012 were manufactured straight out of Thein Sein's office: the tale of Buddhist Rakhine woman raped by 3 Rohingya or the premediated attacks on 10 Mulim pilgrims.

The well-known comedian and dissident Zarganar interviewed the medical examiner who performed the post mortem on the alleged rape victim in May 2012, and the doctor , on camera, emphatically told Zarganar (himself a medical/dental professional), that there was absolutely no evidence that the victim was raped before she was murdered. But the doctor said he was forced by the military authorities in Rakhine to assign the prefabricated medical report which claimed otherwise. I interviewed Zarganar on the phone at least 4 times in 2012 and saw him face to face in London in 2013. Zarganar was one of the most prominent members of the Thein Sein's Presidential Rakhine Inquiry Commission.

And yet ex-Major Zaw Htay, the then spokesperson for President Thein Sein and the current spokesperson for Aung San Suu Kyi, circulated the rape story and the picture of the murder victim Rakhine woman named Ma Thida Htwe (aged 28) on 28 May 2012. The official Burmese government newspapers - then run by ex-Colonel Ye Htut (a son of an ex-police chief and a brigadier) - repeated the same rape story and blamed the 3 Muslims for the sexual violence.

There is a pattern of Myanmar military intelligence and leaders - including ex-general Khin Nyunt, ex-general Shwe Mann (a close Suu Kyi ally) centrally involved in framing the Muslims in general and Rohingya in particular as a 'threat to Myanmar's national security and existence'.

From the Burmese government, the military leaders, the Rakhine citizens, ultra-nationalist "monks" and Rakhine parties are today celebrating Donald Trump's victory in Sittwe, Mandalay, Rangoon, etc.

Event: Global Health In The Media: Global Health On Your Newsfeed

The Medsin Barts Global Health Short Course is back, with Module 1: Global Health in the Media!

Come along to the first talk of the series, Global Health on Your Newsfeed: War & Conflict, on 8th November at 6pm in the Clark-Kennedy Lecture Theatre.

The incredible speakers at this event will be:

Dr Maung Zarni
Internationally acclaimed Burmese human rights campaigner and democracy advocate; previous lecturer at Harvard and founder of the Free Burma Coalition - one of the largest and most effective human rights campaigns in the world.

Fawzia Gibson-Fall
Teaching fellow at the King's Centre for Global Health and part of the King’s Conflict & Health Research Group, specialising in the relationship between global health, politics and security in conflict-affected areas.

Dr Jonathan Kennedy
Lecturer in Global Health at QMUL and previous research associate at the University of Cambridge, studying violent political conflict and its effect on public health in countries such as Nigeria, Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

It's sure to be a brilliant and enlightening evening, looking at war and conflict in the media, so don't miss out!

As always FREE FOOD & DRINK will be provided.

Hope to see you there!

Clark-Kennedy Lecture Theatre, Innovation Centre, Blizard Institute, 4 Newark St, London E1 2AT

Tuesday, November 8 at 6 PM - 8 PM UTC

Get Bronze, Silver and Gold Certificates for attending 3, 5 or 7 events this year!

The other lectures in this module series will be:
22nd Nov: Global Health On Film
6th Dec: Global Health in Print

[Our events are open to everyone, you don't have to be a medical student to attend!]

Myanmar's State Crime against Rohingya: Beware of Dogs, and Aung San Suu Kyi's "rule of law"

Beware of Dogs, and Aung San Suu Kyi's "rule of law". “The problem in Rakhine state is extremely delicate and care is needed in responding. The Myanmar government is responding to the issue of Rakhine state based on the principles of the rule of law”, Aung San Suu Kyi was quoted in this 3 Nov 2016 Reuters article. 

I was with her on the Rule of Law Roundtable at the London School of Economics in June 2012. There she refused to address the issue of our country’s genocidal persecution of Rohingya minority people in Western Burma. And I was preassigned by the chair of the roundtable Professor Mary Kaldor to address the unwelcome Rohingya question from the floor. So, when Aung San Suu Kyi barks "rule of law" in connection with the genocide of the Rohingya it got me worried – very worried. For she is “not a human rights defender, but a politician” through and through. She has made this abundantly clear in many an international fora and media interviews. 

But her "rule of law" in Burma is deeply criminalistic, not different from the laws of the Third Reich (Hitler's Germany). No genocide can be addressed “through the principles of the rule of law”. I am not sure if Aung San Suu Kyi is intellectual dishonest or simply naïve when she said the “delicate” matter is handled through the rule of law principles. 

It is imperative that activists and human rights defenders understand the criminal nature of Aung San Suu Kyi’s 'rule of law' mantra, when pushed in the context of a state that is, in both its nature and modes of operations, CRIMINAL.

What type of government or state is a criminal?

When the State breaks its own laws

When the State fails to ensure human rights or breaks international law

When the State behaves in a way that the people think is wrong and the people resist, protest or sabotage and by doing so define what types of state behaviour are criminal

RULE OF LAW FOR ACTIVISTS vs 'Rule of law' by Repressive Rulers

Two insightful quotes may be in order: one by the late Thomas Bingham, an eminent British judge who held the position of Britain's Chief Justice, and a white South African anti-apartheid activist and world renowned novelist the late Nadine Godimer.

“The hall marks of a regime which flouts the rule of law are, alas, all too familiar: the midnight knock at the door, the sudden disappearance, the show trial, the confession extracted by torture, the gulag and the concentration camp, the gas chamber, the practice of genocide or ethnic cleansing, the waging of aggressive war.”

- Lord Bingham 2010.

“The greatest veneration one can show the rule of law is to keep watch on it, and to reserve the right to judge unjust laws and the subversion of the function of the law by the power of the state. That vigilance is the most important proof of respect for the rule of law.”

- Nadine Gordimer.

Aung San Suu Kyi's mantra "rule of law" is extremely dangerous in the Burmese context where the State is the biggest criminal. 

Empirically, Burma is ruled by the same old repressive Tatmadaw (army) military regime, with the pretty facade of Aung San Suu Kyi, backed by outside investors and institutions including the United Nations and ‘liberal’ regimes such as USA and UK, or EU. 

Here are the 3 ways to understand 'rule of law':

Who uses the term “Rule of Law”?

What do they mean by “Rule of Law”?

Doctrinal. Law is understood as a set of rules that is fundamentally unchangeable and unchallengeable. It exists outside of those us and outside of those in power. Activists use existing national or human rights law to challenge those in power or tweak existing laws. (From inside the existing legal framework).

Oppressive. Law is understood as a method by which the state oppresses the masses. The only way to stop it being used against us is for activists to overthrow those in power.

Changeable The way law is produced, understood and practiced can be challenged and changed by activists from outside of the legal system as well as inside. People can make, legitimise, challenge and change laws based on their own collective morals.


“Rule of Law” is sometimes understood as making sure that existing national laws are implemented correctly according to the law and that those in power should follow the existing laws as well as others. (Doctrinal)

“Rule of Law” is a concept used by the state to legitimise its laws so people in authority can maintain their power. (Oppressive)

“Rule of Law” is a idea which can be redefined by the people. Rule of Law is used to make sure that people in authority are put in check and that law is fair and equitable – this includes the laws themselves, the legal systems and the way law is practiced. (Changeable)


Principles for the Rule of Law

a) Equality – Everyone should be equally subject to the law, including those in power, who should be tried in the same courts as anyone else. Everyone should receive equal benefit from the law including, for example, those who are not citizens should still be able to seek justice if they are victims of crime.

b) Clarity and Predictability- The law should be clear and predictable so it cannot be used for the wrong reasons, such as extorting money from people or silencing protest. People in power should not be able to use too much discretion when applying the law because discretion can be used for benefit of individual officials or government.

c) Exercise of Power – the law should not be used to oppress. The powers of those implementing laws should be kept in check to prevent them from using their powers unfairly for benefit of themselves or state organisations.

d) Access to justice and fair trial – everyone should have access to a fair and impartial trial and to good legal advice. This applies even if you are poor, or from a minority group, or if you are not a citizen, or if you are an activist.

e) Law should protect human rights and comply with international law to make sure that laws are not created for the sole benefit of state organisations. For the sake of the Rohingya victims of Myanmar genocide, Aung San Suu Kyi urgently needs to be reminded of what the late Martin Luther King Jr pointedly said, “remember that everything Hitler did was legal” (in accord with the Nazi Laws).

Author: Zarni. Credit for the background research on the rule of law goes to Ms Natalie Brinham, Economic and Social Research Council PhD scholar in Law, with the International State Crime Initiative, Queen Mary University.

Myanmar Genocide of Rohingya People enjoys Double-Impunity

Myanmar - this time under Aung San Suu Kyi's leadership has launched another wave of attacks - security forces killing innocent Rohingya men, children and women. This act of killing members of the Rohingya group enjoys what I call 'double impunity":

first, the impunity from the genocidally racist society at large including "pro-human rights" NLD rank and file, as well as the top leadership of Aung San Suu Kyi; and second, the international impunity as in UN dropping its watch on the Rohingya persecution

Aung San Suu Kyi has shifted her position, rather grudgingly, on the Rohingya persecution only because - as she herself has said it on CNN interview with Zakaria - 'the issue is what the international community focuses on (she means 'fixated" or 'fussed over'), implying that she does not consider this an issue that merits her attention, on its own right.

I simply cannot conceive of a scenario wherein the persecution - at this genocidal level - will be ended, without any strong external intervention, something that will simply not happen.

Historically, no genocide is ended by the internal social forces - because these forces are typically part of the genocidal process.

We have a Catch-22 in Burma, and the Rohingya will continue to be destroyed from their existential foundations.

The Burmese generals are cleverer than Hitler and the Nazis. They set the process of destroying the targetted victim community in motion almost 4 decades ago, and they let it simmer, they let it spike, they let it plateau and they are now revving it up.

The latest framing of the issue of "extremism" 'terrorist attacks", and the frenzied racist "Buddhist" public gets whipped like Pavlovian experimental animals howling and barking in support the regime's killing of innocent Rohingya - men, women and children, burning down whole villages, firing rocket launchers into Rohingya villages.

Bangladesh has sealed off its Burmese-Bangladesh borders, closing off any safe passage to safety for the fleeing Rohingya. To control the public outrage among the Muslim populations in Bangladesh Bangladeshi government has effectively censored the news coverage of the latest wave of killings of the Rohingya in Burma.

The night gets darker and longer - with no morning rays on the horizons for these poor helpless souls.

This is the kind of world we live in. Maybe the world has never been enlightened or kind or intelligent.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s latest Rohingya solution: doomed to fail?

Photo: ITU/ J.M. Planche

“I’m always surprised when people speak as if I’ve just become a politician. I’ve been a politician all along. I started into politics not as a human rights defender or a humanitarian worker, but as the leader of a political party." - Aung San Suu Kyi

 By Dung Phan
September 17, 2016

Former United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, will head a commission to investigate solutions for the Rohingya people living in Myanmar. 

There is no warm welcome for Kofi Annan, the former United Nations Secretary-General, as he arrives in Myanmar. Only jeers, shouts and boos followed his convoy into town, where he met with members of political and religious groups before visiting Rohingya camps.

The nine-member Rakhine State Advisory Commission was set up by the government last month with Annan as the chairman. The other foreign experts are the Lebanon-based scholar, Ghassan Salamé, and the Netherlands-based diplomat, Laetitia Vanden Assum. The commission also includes six Myanmar nationals, with two Rakhine Buddhists, two Muslims and two government delegates.

Although the commission is supposed to help with ensuring humanitarian assistance, rights and reconciliation as well as establishing basic infrastructure and promoting long-term development plans, it is suffering from massive objections and a lack of cooperation.

The “international” factor

“No to foreigners’ biased intervention in our Rakhine State’s affairs,” and “No Kofi-led commission”, shouted protesters during a rally against Annan’s visit. The protest was organised by leaders of the region’s largest political group, the Arakan National Party (ANP). They insist that foreigners cannot understand the history of the area and their presence could encourage external intervention into Myanmar’s domestic affairs. “Our country has its own sovereignty, and there is no way we can accept a commission that is formed by foreigners,” ANP official Aung Than Wai said.

Some of the local protesters did not even know or care about what the group would do. “We came here because we don’t want that foreigner coming to our state,” said May Phyu, a local Rakhine Buddhist resident.

In a news conference in Yangon, Kofi Annan emphasised that “we are not here as inspectors, as policemen.” The commission, however, has still been widely perceived as a foreign intrusion and people are mainly concerned about the huge influence of Annan over the international community. “Since he is a Nobel Peace Prize winner and also the former head of the UN if he says that the ‘Rohingya are really Myanmar people existing here as refugees’ the international community will accept that,” said U Zaw Win, a protest organiser.

The commission’s appointment comes amid urgent calls from international human rights groups regarding the Rohingya’s plight. In this light, Suu Kyi has again shown her pragmatism regarding foreign policy by summoning Annan. In fact, the diplomat’s first visit comes ahead of Suu Kyi’s visit to the US and her meeting with President Obama. She needs to build on recent successes; on Wednesday Obama announced that the US would lift economic sanctions and restore trade benefits to Myanmar.

A state-supported strategy?

Since she took office, Suu Kyi has been widely criticised by the international community for taking too soft a stance on the plight of the Rohingyas. She does not want to call them Rohingya and has also asked the US ambassador not to use the term. It means the government’s official position is that the Rohingya are Bangladeshis living in the country illegally.

But it is not a problem she could ignore forever. A 2015 study by the International State Crime Initiative (ISCI) concluded that “the Rohingya face the final stages of genocide,” in which they have been experiencing the first four stages: stigmatisation and dehumanisation; harassment, violence and terror; isolation and segregation; systematic weakening. Now they are on the edge of “mass annihilation.” The report also presents evidence that the attacks on the Muslim population involved, and were possibly inflamed by, the local authorities.

Above all, Suu Kyi has admitted herself she is a politician. “I’m always surprised when people speak as if I’ve just become a politician. I’ve been a politician all along. I started into politics not as a human rights defender or a humanitarian worker, but as the leader of a political party,” she said in an interview with CNN.

That might be the reason why Suu Kyi remains reluctant to embrace the Rohingya cause publicly. There is no doubt that she does not want to mess with the Buddhist nationalists who angrily protested en masse against the commission.

And although the presence of Kofi Annan and hs colleagues might imply some ongoing progress, it is worth noting that there is no Rohingya representative on the panel. The team now have 12 months to conduct their research and submit their findings before making any recommendations. Annan already failed to bring peace to Syria; is he up to the world’s other great humanitarian challenge?

Dr Maung Zarni comments on Kofi Annan Commission and Myanmar Genocide of Rohingya, Al Jazeera English News Hour, 7 September 2016

Dr Maung Zarni comments on Kofi Annan Commission and Myanmar Genocide of Rohingya, Al Jazeera English News Hour, 7 September 2016

UN chief calls on Myanmar to make Rohingya citizens

Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi (R) shakes hands with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (L) after their press conference at the Foreign Ministry office in Naypyidaw, Myanmar. (AP Photo/Aung Shine Oo)

August 31, 2016

NAYPYIDAW: Myanmar's stateless Rohingya should be given the right to citizenship after generations living in the country, UN chief Ban Ki-Moon said on Tuesday (Aug 30).

Many from the million-strong Muslim minority are denied citizenship, voting and work rights and reviled as imposters in overwhelmingly Buddhist Myanmar.

More than 120,000 have been displaced, many to squalid displacement camps in western Rakhine state, after fleeing violence stirred by Buddhist nationalists in 2012.

Thousands have fled to other Southeast Asian countries on rickety boats in search of better lives, only to drown or fall victim to human traffickers.

In June, the UN said the Rohingya suffered entrenched discrimination so deep it may amount to crimes against humanity.

"This is not just a question of the Rohingya community's right to self-identify," Ban told a press conference alongside Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

"People who have been living for generations in this country should enjoy the same legal status and citizenship as everyone else."

His comments come as Myanmar's new civilian government is seeking to tackle the seemingly intractable issue that has dogged Nobel laureate Suu Kyi for years.

Even the word Rohingya has become loaded - with Buddhist nationalists having staged protests across the country against using the term. They instead label the group "Bengalis" and cast them as illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh.

The veteran democracy activist has come under fire from international rights groups for failing to address the plight of the Rohingya, as she seeks to avoid stoking further unrest over the sensitive issue.

Last week, the government announced it would set up an advisory panel chaired by former UN secretary general Kofi Annan to find "lasting solutions to the complex and delicate issues in the Rakhine State".

His appointment has triggered a backlash from nationalists, including the local Arakan National Party, who denounced what they saw as foreign meddling.

Ban said he would support his predecessor's work in Rakhine and work with Myanmar's central authorities to tackle the Rohingya issue.

"The situation is complex (in Rakhine) and the government has assured me of their commitment to address the roots of the problem," he said.

"All of Myanmar's people, of every ethnicity and background, should be able to live in equality and harmony side by side with their neighbours."

Ban's speech comes on the eve of the opening of the new government's flagship peace conference to broker a deal with the country's warring ethnic minorities.

The five-day gathering is Suu Kyi's first big drive to end multiple insurgencies that have raged in Myanmar's borderlands since independence in 1948.

Organisers have been pushing for a unilateral ceasefire, but hopes have been shattered by renewed outbreaks of fighting, according to negotiators.

Human rights, key priority for a peaceful new Myanmar – UN Special Rapporteur

Ethnics leaders and Myanmar government officials attend the opening ceremony of the 21st Century Panglong Conference in Naypyitaw, Myanmar August 31, 2016. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
Human rights, key priority for a peaceful new Myanmar – UN Special Rapporteur

21st Century Panglong Conference (31 Aug – 5 Sep)

GENEVA (29 August 2016) – Speaking ahead of a crucial peace conference in Myanmar, United Nations independent expert Yanghee Lee has urged participants to prioritise human rights issues in their discussions over the coming days, and to do more to ensure the process is fully inclusive.

The 21st Century Panglong Conference, which will take place in the capital Naypyidaw from 31 August to 5 September, is the first major peace conference held in Myanmar since Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy assumed power in late March 2016.

“Discrimination, land rights, equitable sharing of natural resources are at the heart of the conflict in Myanmar, and therefore must also be at the heart of the peace discussions and solutions,” said the UN the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. “It is only by addressing and prioritising these issues that the durable peace desired by the people of Myanmar can be achieved.” 

“A lot is at stake with this Panglong Conference,” Ms. Lee stressed. “As with the peace process generally in Myanmar, this is the opportunity to transform the country, into a state that the people of Myanmar have wanted for several decades. But to do so it must be fully inclusive.” 

The human rights expert drew special attention to women’s participation as a vital ingredient in successful and transformative peace agreements. “Unfortunately,” she warned, “women will be underrepresented in the coming discussions despite making up over half of the population in Myanmar.”

Noting that civil society will have a parallel peace forum, Ms. Lee also underlined the need for “civil society organisations, who have been on the front lines of the conflict, to be fully involved in the process at every level.” 

“Young people, whose futures are most affected by the outcome of the conference should also have a voice in this and future discussions,” the human rights expert said. “But the young people themselves must also remember the importance of inclusivity not just amongst armed groups but within all communities.” 

Ms. Lee called the conference “a historic moment” but cautioned against celebrating too much too early. “This is the first brick into the paving of a long road ahead. There is so much, much more to be discussed and negotiated after the first 21st Panglong Conference.” She called for all parties to “be committed and to work together in full steam to achieve a sustainable, inclusive and transformative peace.”

“This is the beginning of the process of creating a beautiful mosaic of a diverse, harmonious, and peaceful new Myanmar,” emphasised the UN Special Rapporteur.

Ms. Yanghee Lee (Republic of Korea) was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2014 as the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. Ms. Lee served as member and chairperson of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (2003-2011). She is currently a professor at Sungkyunwan University, Seoul, and serves on the Advisory Committee of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea. Ms. Lee is the founding President of International Child Rights Center, and serves as Vice-chair of the National Unification Advisory Council. Learn more, go to:

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.

Check the Special Rapporteur’s latest report on Myanmar (A/HRC/31/71):

UN Human Rights, country page – Myanmar:

Original here.

Myanmar Military and Its 12-point Value Set

Myanmar Military and Its 12-point Value Set

Not unlike all other human relations and interactions, peace negotiations have a value component.

The following components that form a cohesive and institutionalized value foundation makes it inconceivable for any lasting peace in Myanmar.

Let's have a brutally honest look at Myanmar Military's institutionalized values - as opposed to rhetorical ones.

1) feudalistic Patron-Client value (adopt a boss, and adopt a loyalist)

2) Kiss-up, kick-down (feudal value)

3) Shut up and share your spoil across the hierarchy (theft and loot)

4) Total Obedience (shut up, listen and follow the orders, right or wrong)

5) Un-adulterated and delutional Patriotism

6) Bama-, Myanmar-,Burmese- or Burman-centric Historical View

7) Cancer-like Internally Colonial Mindset (of the 3rd rate quality and capabilities vis-a-vis world class colonialist mindset of Anglo-American strain)

8) Twofold Racism (inferioity complex towards the White world, and the superiority complex towards people of dark skin as well as the non-Bama "children of the sons")

9) Islamophobia

10) Mysogenistic male chauvinism

11) Nepotism

12) Anti-Human Rights

The Annan Commission needs to be successful

Dr Habib Siddiqui
Asian Tribune
August 28, 2016

On Friday, 19 August 2016, the first World Rohingya Day demonstrations took place around the world. Rallies and demonstrations took place in London, UK; Washington DC, Toronto, Canada, New York, Chicago; Stockholm, Sweden; Boston; Los Angeles; and many other places. The speakers demanded end to the ongoing genocide of Rohingya people who are indigenous people of Myanmar (formerly Burma) living in their ancestral lands.

The Rohingyas of Myanmar are a stateless people who are the most persecuted people in our time. They have been facing genocidal campaigns, especially since 2012, which saw a series of ethnic cleansing drives by the Rakhine Buddhists of Arakan – planned and aided by the local and central government and organized and mobilized by racist politicians and bigoted monks. It was a national project put into practice for the elimination of the Rohingya, who differ in ethnicity and religion from the majority Buddhists in this country of 55 million people. As a result, probably thousands were lynched to death, a quarter million lost their homes, tens of thousands were forced to choose exodus from this Buddhist den of intolerance and hatred, and an estimated 140,000 Rohingya internally displaced persons were caged in concentration camps in and around Sittwe (formerly Akyab). 

So evil was this proto-Nazi criminal eliminationist policy that anytime a fact-finding international aid agency or an NGO tried to voice its concern on deplorable inhuman condition of the Rohingya people, it was not only silenced by hateful Buddhist mobs that quickly rallied with hateful banners and posters, but was also barred from visiting the place next time. In this series of government sponsored pogroms, Ma Ba Tha – the terrorist organization of Buddhist monks, led by Wirathu – naturally played the role of Thein Sein’s hound dogs, and made the life of Muslims, living both inside and outside the Arakan state, unlivable. In essence, the world saw Buddhist Nazism in practice in much of Myanmar, especially in the western state of Arakan (Rakhine), bordering Bangladesh, where the Rohingyas have been living for centuries. 

Even the Nobel Laureate for peace, the much hyped democracy icon, Suu Kyi, chose to ignore the serious existential plight of this unfortunate people. An official census taken last year purposefully excluded the Rohingya denying them the voting right in country’s general election. All the political organizations that once represented the Rohingya people were disallowed from contesting in the election, and so were the former elected Rohingya MPs. It was all part of a very sinister plan to eliminate the Rohingya politically, socially and economically. 

The fate of the Rohingya refugees did not fare well in the next-door Bangladesh either; not only were they unwelcome there but aid organizations that provide a modicum of relief to Rohingya continue to be doggedly harassed by government agencies. 

With the election win of Suu Kyi’s NLD in the general election last year, a flicker of hope emerged within the international community who expected that she would self-correct her inexcusable role and do the needful towards improving the lot of the persecuted Rohingya. She had her own problems, too. Constitutional roadblocks were put on her way by Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian government that denied her the right to become the president of the country. But she was able to outmaneuver USDP’s intent smartly by creating a new post with more power. 

However, as days turned into months, nothing positive happened even as Suu Kyi took the reign of the government in Myanmar earlier this year. More problematically, she came under widespread international criticism for refusing to even mention the name “Rohingya” and rebuked an American diplomatic who did. Equally disturbingly, she revealed her own prejudice when after a heated interview with BBC’s veteran journalist, Mishal Husain, she was reportedly heard to say angrily, “No one told me I was going to be interviewed by a Muslim.” The case of the Rohingya looked utterly hopeless!

Then like a lightning bolt came the latest news: Suu Kyi has solicited the aid of Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the UN, to lead an “Advisory Commission on the Rakhine State.” The Annan-led commission includes both national and international officials who will recommend “lasting solutions to complex and delicate issues” in Rakhine state. 

What brought this change of heart? Is it because Suu Kyi’s government has realized that for Myanmar to move forward it must loosen its ties with her problematic past that had earned only bad reputation from the international community? Is it because of the realization that the ongoing abuse and discrimination of the Rohingya is also threatening to undermine Myanmar’s historic opening and democratic transition, let alone delaying the needed economic prosperity? 

Whatever may be the true intent of Suu Kyi’s government, there is little doubt that this decision was a timely one, and it was a bold one, too. Many Buddhists inside Myanmar, esp. in the Rakhine state, are die-hard racists and bigots. They resent this decision. They would rather see Rohingya and other religious minorities eliminated altogether from their country one way or another. Decades of falsification of historical truths and hateful propaganda that were propagated by the military government and hate provocateurs like (late) Aye Kyaw and Aye Chan have turned them into killers, justifying and allowing them to do savage crimes against the Rohingya and other Muslims. Forgotten in that lacunar worldview was the hard fact that the forefathers of today’s Rohingya people had settled in Arakan before those of the Rakhine people. 

Myanmar needs the necessary foreign investment to move up economically, and cannot allow a delay of that process until investors’ perception of human rights of the country improves significantly. The international community has been dissatisfied with Suu Kyi’s slow response to ensuring protection, fairness, and justice for all of its people, esp. the Rohingya people whose plight is simply inhumane and unacceptable. Human rights groups have long been demanding donors to leverage their aid, and for the broader international community to pressure the Suu Kyi government to end the repression. They have been demanding that Myanmar respect international law, end its complicity in violating Rohingya rights and punish those promoting and carrying out ethnic cleansing whatever their motivation.

Suu Kyi, thus, had to find someone like Mr. Annan with a prudent track record that would provide the necessary positive publicity for her government, let alone infusion of the needed foreign money. 

After leaving the UN, Mr. Annan has undertaken a few of these missions. In 2007, a disputed election in Kenya lead to widespread communal violence and threatened to unravel and otherwise thriving country. He mediated between the two parties and helped establish a commission of inquiry that investigated post-election violence, turning its findings over the International Criminal Court. He mediated a power sharing agreement that ended the prospect of further violence. It was no accident that groups like the Amnesty International have welcomed the decision. “Today’s announcement is a sign that Myanmar’s authorities are taking the situation in Rakhine state seriously. But it will only have been a worthwhile exercise if it paves the way for the realization of human rights for all people in the state,” said Rafendi Djamin, Amnesty International’s Director for South East Asia and the Pacific said in a statement released earlier.

The formation of the advisory commission should be a matter of celebration. However, as hinted above, many Buddhists, esp. Rakhines (e.g., Arakan National Party – a racist group) are opposed to the Annan commission. They don’t want to solve the Rohingya problem. [The ANP has lately objected to the granting of citizenship of 29 white-card holding Muslims in Buthidaung in the Rakhine state. Prior to the 2015 election, the ANP had thrown its weight behind a successful push to disenfranchise white-card holders. It is worth noting here that according to government figures supplied, there were nearly 800,000 white-card holders in Myanmar at the time they were revoked last year, with over 660,000 in Rakhine State. White cards were first issued as a stop-gap measure in the early 1990s, with many of the state’s Muslims being assured it would pave the way to full citizenship.]

For years, the official Burmese mantra has been that "no foreigner can possibly understand Rakhine's problems". Thus, for the first time, the Burmese government is seeking international expertise to try and solve one of the country's most complex problems. It is a big shift for the government in Myanmar. 

Many human rights are also concerned because of the inclusion of Daw Khin Saw Tint - a known racist and bigot - in the commission. She is a Rakhine Buddhist who chairs the Rakhine Literature and Culture Association (Yangon), responsible for promoting intolerance against the Rohingya people. As Burmese human rights activist, Dr. Maung Zarni has shown in his blog, Ms. Khin Saw Tint remains a very hostile, anti-Rohingya zealot who falsely considers that Rohingyas have no history prior to the Burma's independence from Great Britain. I wish Suu Kyi had been more careful in selection of the members of the Advisory Commission. 

After being named in the commission, Khin Saw Tint said she believes working together with independent and highly respected international figures will present a clear image of what is happening in Rakhine State to the international community. “The problem can only be solved with a bilateral approach,” she said. I pray that she is not speaking with a forked tongue and does not torpedo the needed task of the commission, which does not include a single Rohingya. 

The Annan commission is expected to start work in September and will release a full report, including a set of recommendations on “conflict prevention, prevention, humanitarian assistance, rights and reconciliation, institution building and promotion of development of Rakhine state” by the second half of 2017. However, as we all know too well, the litmus test going forward is whether or not the government will accept and implement those recommendations.

No Rohingya On Commission To Address Their Fate

By Abdul Malik Mujahid
August 27, 2016

Rights Groups Doubt that Systemic Discrimination against Rohingya Will Be Resolved

As manifested in the United States, race and religion are extremely delicate topics for politicians to explore. And eradicating widespread endemic prejudices against certain racial and religious groups is a notoriously explosive proposition. However, that is exactly what is required in Burma, where a slow-burning genocide against the Rohingya people is becoming an urgent priority for the international community. On Aug. 23 2016 Burma’s Nobel Peace Laureate and de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi announced the establishment of a 9-member Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, where the Rohingya primarily live, as “a national initiative to resolve protracted issues in the region”. This sounds, at first blush, like a promising step — considering that the peaceful Rohingya were not invited to the Norway peace conference with other ethnic organizations (EAOs).

Burma Task Force welcomes Ms. Suu Kyi’s belated response to the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State and the conditions of poverty and oppression that instigated it. But we are extremely troubled by signs that this Commission has already been compromised by inclusion of staunch defenders of the previous military regime as well as deniers of mass atrocity crimes. The inclusion of former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan cannot restore the balance to this advisory commission — especially since Secretary Annan himself has expressed regret at not doing a better job to handle the Rwandan genocide of 1994. We can pray that he will apply the lessons he learned from Rwanda throughout his work on this Commission, but I fear his voice may be drowned out by the extremist Buddhist nationalists who have expressed quite hostile views of the Rohingya. Most importantly, no Rohingya representatives have been included! I am profoundly dismayed by Ms Suu Kyi’s failure to appoint a single Rohingya leader to a commission tasked to discuss their fate. What could be more damning?

While the presence of two Christians on the Commission will hopefully add a breath of fresh interfaith air, two Rakhine members — namely U Win Mra (Chair of the National Human Rights Commission) and Saw Khin Tint (Chairperson, Rakhine Literature and Culture Association and Vice-Chairperson of the Rakhine Women’s Association) have engaged in denial of mass atrocity crimes committed by the extremist Buddhist nationalists. It’s easy to doubt the comment one of the newly appointed Commission members, Aye Lwin, made to the Democratic Voice of Burma: “This is very impartial third-party intervention.”

An ethnic Rakhine, Win Mra is the chair of the Myanmar Human Rights Commission (MHRC), an organization whose name could not be more misleading. The MHRC officially refuses to accept or utter the name of the Rohingya in blatant disregard for the international norm that any group has the right to self-identify. In fact, established by the previous President and ex-General Thein Sein on whose watch two separate waves of violent pogroms against the Rohingya and other Muslim communities took place, MHRC has been in the fore-front of denying the existence, identity, and history of the Rohingya people.

Mrs Saw Khin Tint is an even more unconscionable choice. A nationally-known Rakhine leader who is on the record condoning the slaughter of all Rohingya as early as December ‘12, within 2 months of the second wave of organized and state-sanctioned killing and community destruction of the Rohingya people, she gave a speech in which she remarked:

“Seeing their [non-Rohingya natives of Myanmar] great anger and compassion, and hear them say, ‘We just want to go and kill all of those Bengali people with our own hands!’ we’ve now got the advantage of gaining the support of all the national races all over Myanmar on the incidents that we’ve sacrificed so far.” (The bi-lingual English-Burmese transcript of the speech delivered by Saw Khin Tint at the gathering of the Rakhines in Yangon on 22 December 2012.)

“Bengali” is the inflammatory and insulting term extremist Buddhist nationalists use to imply that Rohingya do not belong to Burma, but rather are illegal interlopers from Bangladesh. This false narrative is the prime excuse the genocidaires have been using to facilitate the Rohingya’s extermination.

International experts have unequivocally agreed with Burma Task Force’s strong designation of the Rohingya persecution as ‘genocide’ — including Professor Amartya Sen, Suu Kyi’s teacher at Delhi University and a close friend of her late husband Michael Aris. Professor Gregory Stanton, President of the Genocide Watch and past President of the International Association of Genocide Scholars, is in accord with this assessment. So are two widely publicized studies by Queen Mary University of London and Yale University Human Rights Law Clinic. It appears that, in the choice of her Commission members, Suu Kyi is far more interested in pleasing the ubiquitous monks than in heeding the warnings of trustworthy international scholars. Peace will not come to Rakhine State, let alone development, if pandering is a higher priority than good policy.

Despite 4 consecutive years of deafening silence, evasion, and dismissal of the concern as “exaggeration”, Suu Kyi should not be able to ignore the mounting criticisms from across the worldwide political spectrum — voices including Pope Francis, the Dalai Lama, George Soros, and Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi—alarmed that 150,000 Rohingya Muslims live in concentration camps and other “conditions calculated to bring about their destruction”. Nor, fortunately, can she prevent the international community, particularly the United States government, from respecting the group right of the Rohingya to self-identify. In brave opposition to the powerful monks’ hate groups, United States Ambassador to Burma Scot Marciel has held to the international norm of self identification & insisted that the Rohingya do exist. Around the globe, World Rohingya Day rallies were held last Friday, 19 August, to demonstrate the Rohingya’s positive existence and clear desert for equal rights in their home country.

Ms Suu Kyi must not shy away from her responsibility with regards to the Rohingya genocide. She must end the wide spread suffering and honor the Rohingya’s legitimate and verifiable claim to full and equal citizenship rights as Burmese citizens. International partners must not be fooled by empty or misleading gestures. Instead, to be true friends of Burma, local and international stakeholders must demand that more appropriate members be added to this Advisory Commission, and that the Commission be fully transparent in its deliberations on this urgent issue. The MaBaTha, the society established by extremist monks to “protect race and religion”, has been disbanded; this is an excellent first step, but will in no way stamp out the hateful prejudices of many Rakhine and other Burmese against the defenseless Rohingya minority. It is imperative that Suu Kyi include Rohingya voices on this Commission, and that concrete steps be taken to restore balance, equality & human decency in Rakhine State.

Abdul Malik Mujahid is President of Sound Vision; Chair of Burma Task Force USA

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Aung San Suu Kyi picks a well-known Rohingya genocidaire to serve on her advisory commission of "Eminence Persons

Aung San Suu Kyi picks a well-known Rohingya genocidaire to serve on her advisory commission of "Eminence Persons

When Law Is Not Justice, (a Conversation with Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak), NY Times 13 July 2016

Out of the Darkness, the Lord Gave Us Light, 2003 Credit Thornton Dial, Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art
By Brad Evans and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
THE STONE, The New York Times
July 13, 2016

This is the sixth in a series of dialogues with philosophers and critical theorists on the question of violence. This conversation is with Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, who is a university professor in the humanities at Columbia University. She is the author of “An Aesthetic Education in the Era of Globalization,” and other books.

Brad Evans: Throughout your work, you have written about the conditions faced by the globally disadvantaged, notably in places such as India, China and Africa. How might we use philosophy to better understand the various types of violence that erupt as a result of the plight of the marginalized in the world today?

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak: While violence is not beyond naming and diagnosis, it does raise many challenging questions all the same. I am a pacifist. I truly believe in the power of nonviolence. But we cannot categorically deny a people the right to resist violence, even, under certain conditions, with violence. Sometimes situations become so intolerable that moral certainties are no longer meaningful. There is a difference here between condoning such a response and trying to understand why the recourse to violence becomes inevitable.

When human beings are valued as less than human, violence begins to emerge as the only response. When one group designates another as lesser, they are saying the “inferior” group cannot think in a “reasonable” way. It is important to remember that this is an intellectual violation, and in fact that the oppressed group’s right to manual labor is not something they are necessarily denied. In fact, the oppressed group is often pushed to take on much of society’s necessary physical labor. Hence, it is not that people are denied agency; it is rather that an unreasonable or brutish type of agency is imposed on them. And, the power inherent in this physical agency eventually comes to intimidate the oppressors. The oppressed, for their part, have been left with only one possible identity, which is one of violence. That becomes their politics and it appropriates their intellect.

This brings us directly to the issue of “reasonable” versus “unreasonable” violence. When dealing with violence deemed unreasonable, the dominating groups demonize violent responses, saying that “those other people are just like that,” not just that they are worth less, but also that they are essentially evil, essentially criminal or essentially have a religion that is prone to killing.

And yet, on the other side, state-legitimized violence, considered “reasonable” by many, is altogether more frightening. Such violence argues that if a person wears a certain kind of clothing or belongs to a particular background, he or she is legally killable. Such violence is more alarming, because it is continuously justified by those in power.

B.E.: At least some violent resistance in the 20th century was tied to struggles for national liberation, whether anti-colonial or (more common in Europe) anti-fascist. Is there some new insight needed to recognize forces of domination and exploitation that are separated from nation states and yet are often explained as some return to localism and ethnicity?

G.C.S.: This is a complicated question demanding serious philosophical thought. I have just come back from the World Economic Forum, and their understanding of power and resistance is very different from that of a group such as the ethnic Muslim Rohingya who live on the western coast of Myanmar; though both are already deeply embedded in global systems of power and influence, even if from opposing sides. The Rohingya have been the victims of a slow genocide as described by Maung Zarni, Amartya Sen and others. This disrupts an Orientalist reading of Buddhism as forever the peace-loving religion. Today, we see Buddhists from Thailand, Sri Lanka and Myanmar engage in state-sanctioned violence against minorities.

The fact is that when the pro-democracy spokesperson Aung San Suu Kyi was under house arrest there, she could bravely work against oppressive behavior on the part of the military government. But once she was released and wanted to secure and retain power, she became largely silent on the plight of these people and has sided with the majority party, which has continued to wage violence against non-Buddhist minorities. One school of thought says that in order to bring democracy in the future, she has to align herself with the majority party now. I want to give Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi the benefit of the doubt. But when the majority party is genocidal, there is a need to address that. Aligning with them cannot possibly bring democracy.

However, rather than retreating back into focused identity politics, resistance in this context means connecting the plight of the Rohingya to global struggles, the context of which is needed in order to address any particular situation. Older, national, identity-based struggles like those you mention are less persuasive in a globalized world. All of this is especially relevant as Myanmar sets up its first stock exchange and prepares to enter the global capitalist system.

In globalization as such, when the nation states are working in the interest of global capital, democracy is reduced to body counting, which often works against educated judgments. The state is trapped in the demands of finance capital. Resistance must know about financial regulation in order to demand it. This is bloodless resistance, and it has to be learned. We must produce knowledge of these seemingly abstract globalized systems so that we can challenge the social violence of unregulated capitalism.

B.E.: What are the implications when the promotion of human rights is left to what you have called “self-appointed entrepreneurs” and philanthropists, from individuals such as Bill Gates onto organizations like the World Bank, who have a very particular conception of rights and the “rule of law?”

G.C.S.: It is just that there be law, but law is not justice.

The passing of a law and the proof of its existence is not enough to assure effective resistance to oppression. Some of the gravest violations of rights have occurred within legal frameworks. And, if that law governs a society never trained in what Michel Foucault would call “the practice of freedom,” it is there to be enforced by force alone, and the ones thus forced will find better and better loopholes around it.

That is why the “intuition” of democracy is so vital when dealing with the poorest of the poor, groups who have come to believe their wretchedness is normal. And when it comes time to starve, they just tighten their nonexistent belts and have to suffer, fatefully accepting this in silence. It’s more than children playing with rocks in the streets. It takes over every aspect of the people’s existence. And yet these people still work, in the blazing heat, for little or next to nothing for wealthy landowners. This is a different kind of poverty. 

Against this, we have this glamorization of urban poverty by the wealthier philanthropist and aid agencies. There is always a fascination with the picture-perfect idea of poverty; children playing in open sewers and the rest of it. Of course, such lives are proof of grave social injustice. But top-down philanthropy, with no interest in an education that strengthens the soul, is counterproductive, an assurance that there will be no future resistance, only instant celebrity for the philanthropist.

I say “self-appointed” entrepreneurs because there is often little or no regulation placed upon workers in the nongovernmental sector. At best, they are ad hoc workers picking up the slack for a neo-liberal state whose managerial ethos cannot be strong on redistribution,, and where structural constitutional resistance by citizens cannot be effective in the face of an unconstituted “rule of law” operating, again, to protect the efficiency of global capital growth. The human rights lobby moves in to shame the state, and in ad hoc ways restores rights. But there is then no democratic follow-up, and these organizations rarely stick around long enough to see that.

Another problem with these organizations is the way they emphasize capitalism’s social productivity without mentioning capital’s consistent need to sustain itself at the expense of curtailing the rights of some sectors of the population. This is all about the removal of access to structures of reparation: the disappearance of the welfare state, or its not coming into being at all.

If we turn to “development,” we often see that what is sustained in sustainable development is cost-effectiveness and profit-maximization, with the minimum action necessary in terms of environmental responsibility. We could call such a thing “sustainable underdevelopment.” 

Today everything is about urbanization, urban studies, metropolitan concerns, network societies and so on. Nobody in policy circles talks about the capitalization of land and how this links directly to the dispossession of people’s rights. This is another line of inquiry any consideration of violence must take into account.

B.E.: While you have shown appreciation for a number of thinkers known for their revolutionary interventions, such as Frantz Fanon, you have also critiqued the limits of their work when it comes to issues of gender and the liberation of women. Why?

G.C.S.: I stand by my criticism of Fanon, but he is not alone here. In fact he is like most other men who talk about revolutionary struggle. Feminist struggle can’t be learned from them. And yet, in “A Dying Colonialism,” Fanon is really trying from within to understand the position of women by asking questions about patriarchal structures of domination. 

After the revolution, in postcolonial Algeria and elsewhere, those women who were part of the struggle had to separate themselves from revolutionary liberation organizations that were running the state in order to continue fighting for their rights under separate initiatives. Gender is bigger and older than state formations and its fight is older than the fight for national liberation or the fight between capitalism and socialism. So we have to let questions of gender interrupt these revolutionary ideas, otherwise revolution simply reworks marked gender divisions in societies.

B.E.: You are clearly committed to the power of education based on aesthetic practices, yet you want to challenge the canonical Western aesthetic ideas from which they are derived using your concepts of “imaginative activism” and “affirmative sabotage.” How can this work?

G.C.S.: Imaginative activism takes the trouble to imagine a text — understood as a textile, woven web rather than narrowly as a printed page — as having its own demands and prerogatives. This is why the literary is so important. The simplest teaching of literature was to grasp the vision of the writer. This was disrupted in the 1960s by the preposterous concern “Is this book of relevance to me?” which represented a tremendous assault on the literary, a tremendous group narcissism. For literature to be meaningful it should not necessarily be of obvious relevance. That is the aesthetic challenge, to imagine that which is not immediately apparent. This can fight what is implicit in voting bloc democracy. Relevant to me, rather than flexible enough to work for others who are not like me at all. The inbuilt challenge of democracy – needing an educated, not just informed, electorate.

I used the term “affirmative sabotage” to gloss on the usual meaning of sabotage: the deliberate ruining of the master’s machine from the inside. Affirmative sabotage doesn’t just ruin; the idea is of entering the discourse that you are criticizing fully, so that you can turn it around from inside. The only real and effective way you can sabotage something this way is when you are working intimately within it.

This is particularly the case with the imperial intellectual tools, which have been developed not just upon the shoulders, but upon the backs of people for centuries. Let’s take as a final example what Immanuel Kant says when developing his “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment.” Not only does Kant insist that we need to imagine another person, he also insists for the need to internalize it to such an extent that it becomes second nature to think and feel with the other person.

Leaving aside the fact that Kant doesn’t talk about slavery whatsoever in his book, he even states that women and domestic servants are incapable of the civic imagination that would make them capable of cosmopolitan thinking. But, if you really think about it, it’s women and domestic servants who were actually trained to think and feel like their masters. They constantly had to put themselves in the master’s shoes, to enter into their thoughts and desires so much that it became second nature for them to serve.

So this is how one sabotages. You accept the unbelievable and unrelenting brilliance of Kant’s work, while confronting the imperial qualities he reproduces and showing the contradictions in this work. It is, in effect, to jolt philosophy with a reality check. It is to ask, for example, if this second-naturing of women, servants and others can be done without coercion, constraint and brainwashing. And, when the ruling race or class claims the right to do this, is there a problem of power being ignored in all their claimed benevolence? What would educated resistance look like in this case? It would misfire, because society is not ready for it. For that reason, one must continue to work — to quote Marx — for the possibility of a poetry of the future.