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 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

Aung San Suu Kyi: Turning her back on Rohingya?

June 9, 2017

Aung San Suu Kyi: Turning her back on Rohingya? 

Since October 2016, nearly 75,000 of Myanmar's Rohingya have fled across the border to Bangladesh, as a United Nations international probe investigates accusations of rape and murder committed by Myanmar security forces. 

According to the UN, Rohingya families "may have had members killed, beaten, raped", in what likely amounts to crimes against humanity. 

With anti-Rohingya violence continuing to simmer in Myanmar, why doesn't the country's de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, put an end to it? 

"We know that Aung San Suu Kyi does not control the armed forces," says Maung Zarni, an exiled dissident from Myanmar. "[But] she controls four other ministries that are directly involved in dismissing, denying, and legitimising the persecution of the Rohingyas." 

But former East Timorese President Jose Ramos-Horta disagrees, claiming Suu Kyi inherited an "extraordinarily difficult situation". 

"She has to deal with the military, who still have enormous power," says Ramos-Horta, a Nobel prizewinner. "She inherits a very fractured society with more than 18 armed insurgencies, ethnic groups, and this is a very difficult transition from military dictatorship to democracy." 

In this week's Arena, scholar and activist Maung Zarni debates with Nobel laureate Jose Ramos-Horta on whether Suu Kyi has the power to help the Rohingya.

Till alla engagerade 'Burma-föreningar' med flera samhällsengagerade.

Med anledning av Aung San Suu Kyi's besök i Stockholm den 12 och 13 juni

så anordnar vi en demonstration på Mynttorget den 13 juni kl 09:00 - 11:30 för att uppmärksamma de brott mot mänskligheten som pågår i Myanmar uppenbarligen med Myanmars regerings goda minne.

Dessa brott har behandlats i The Permanent Peoples Tribunal i mars månad i London, och kraftfullt fördömts. Se: http://tribunalonmyanmar.org/

Vi önskar med vår demonstration uppmärksamma de övergrepp som sker i Myanmar - ofta mycket styvmoderligt behandlade i vår svenska press - och därför är det nu ett gyllene tillfälle att göra detta då Myanmars State Councellor Aung San Suu Kyi besöker den svenska regeringen för samtal med Stefan Löfven om 'bl a de bilaterala relationerna mellan Sverige och Myanmar'. Aung San Suu Kyi kommer även att ha bilaterala samtal med utrikesministern och med EU Margot Wallström - och med handelsministern Ann Linde samt med ministern för internationellt utvecklingssamarbete och klimat Isabella Lövin Det synes ej som om mänskliga rättigheter är en fråga som är planerad för ett större utrymme i diskussionerna!!

Vi har redan erhållit demonstrationstillstånd, och har förberett med banderoller, några 'affischer' och några blad att delas ut till intresserade. Vi avser också att det skall skanderas några korta sentenser för att uppmärksamma vår demonstration. Se bifogade bilder.

Vi inbjuder er att deltaga i vår demonstration så att den därmed får ytterligare slagkraft och genomslag. Vi behöver också naturligtvis deltagare i demonstrationen samt helst också aktiva funktionärer såsom t ex vakter, och självklart är finansiella bidrag också mycket välkomna (då vi fortfarande är en ofinansierad förening). Swisha gärna era bidrag till 0704 - 418078, eller betala in till vårt Bankkonto via Bankgiro 254-3940 - The Swedish Rohingya Association.

Även om ni inte önskar deltaga i vår demonstration vore vi mycket tacksamma för om ni sprider information om denna till alla ni kan tänka er, och i synnerhet till media så att det blir ett kraftigt genomslag där. Och sprid info gärna också internationellt. Det är viktigt att vår svenska protest kan höras också i andra länder.

Vi har också tankar om att göra en protestaktion den 12e juni i samband med ASSK's besök på Utrikesdepartementet och Rosenbad. Denna idé är ännu ej färdigtänkt men alla förslag och önskemål om deltagande mottages gärna.

(Önskar ni att er ev medverkan på något sätt skall hållas konfidentiell så säg till så att vi inte sprider era ev meddelanden ut till andra.)

Hör gärna av er så snart ni kan.

Med vänliga hälsningar

Abul Kalam / Jan Wihlborg


The Swedish Rohingya Association


Myanmar's Military-backed Civil Society Fascist Network re-brand itself

Official Documents (in Burmese) of the ban against Ma Ba Tha (the first 2 pix), Ma Ba Tha's call to national meeting (the third one with the Ma Ba Tha logo) and today's (28 May) official announcement (the 4th and last one) of its rebranding itself as a philanthropic foundation.

MaBaTha, Myanmar's military-backed civil society fascists rebranding themselves Buddha Dharma Philanthropy. The ban & rebranding documents.

"The Black Hands" behind Myanmar's anti-Muslim Movement

Commander in Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and his senior deputies.

(Commander in Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing with Sitagu. (date unknown) Photo: BBC)

Based on my own research the following are the drivers behind hate speech and hate deeds, beyond the country's general anti-Muslim prejudices: 

5 major forces, most of whom are rooted in the Burma Armed Forces - not necessarily in coordinartion - are behind the anti-Muslim hate campaign across the country in general. Their motivations and even strategic objectives are not necessarily the same. 

But the common element is this: they definitely want to disrupt, control, limit, slow down and otherwise derail the country's transition along genuinely liberal democratic lines.

1) Thein Sein and his Union Solidarity and Development Party (overwhelmingly made up of ex-army officers)

After leaving office in 2015, ex-General and ex-President Thein Sein got ordained as a Buddhist monk temporarily. His proudest presidential legacy was to have enacted 4 anti-Muslim "National Race" laws with the help of hate-preaching Buddhist monks such as Wirathu whom he called "a son of Lord Buddha who preaches love".
Here is Aung Ko's interview hinting at the USDP party's involvement in hate-financing (He and Shwe Mann turned their back on the party of the military after they lost their intra-party power strugle to MinAungHlaing-TheinSein clique). Shwe Mann (DSA-11) was passed over by Than Shwe for the President's position which he was widely considered a shoe-in. Thein Sein (DSA-9) was hand-picked by Than Shwe to be the puppet President which he controlled ultimately from his (Than Shwe's) official retiremement.

“အခုလည္း မရလို႔မို႔ သမၼတ႐ံုးကို စာတင္ထားပါတယ္။ ဒါေတြမွာ အခုၾကည့္လိုက္ရင္ ျပန္ၾကည့္ လိုက္ပါ။ မေကြးတိုင္းကို ျပန္ၾကည့္လိုက္ပါ။ သန္း ၅ ေထာင္၊ ၆ ေထာင္မက ေပၚလာတယ္။ ၿပီးခဲ့တဲ့ အစိုးရ မလဲႊေျပာင္းခင္မွာ မေကြးတိုင္း ၾကည့္လိုက္၊ သန္း ၆ ေထာင္မက ေငြေတြ အခု ဘယ္ေရာက္သြားသလဲ။ ေနာက္ထပ္ ေပၚလာမယ့္ဟာေတြ ျပည္နယ္နဲ႔တိုင္း အားလံုးမွာ ရွိေန ပါေသးတယ္။ ဘယ္အဖဲြ႔အစည္းကလည္း၊ ဘယ္အစိုးရလက္ထက္ကလဲ။ ေနာက္ထပ္ ေပၚလာဖို႔ အမ်ားႀကီး ရွိပါေသးတယ္။ ဒါေတြ ျပည္သူေတြကသာ ဝိုင္းဝန္းေဖာ္ထုတ္မယ္ဆိုရင္ အဲဒီ ျပည္သူ႔ ဘ႑ာေတြကို တရားမဝင္ဘုန္းထားတဲ့ ေငြစာရင္းေတြအားလံုးဟာ ျပည္နယ္၊ တိုင္း အားလံုးမွာ ေပၚလာမွာ ျဖစ္ပါတယ္။”

2) the late Aung Thaung and his surviving associates, followers, etc. including racist cronies

According to Thura Aung Ko, the NLD's Religious Affairs Minister and Shwe Mann's close comrade, now in partnership with Aung San Suu Kyi, Amaya Bank, owned by Aung Thaung family, is involved, in "hate-financing" - to the tunes of hundreds of millions in local curreny. 

Here is Aung Thaung's story - when he was still alive.

What Does the Future Hold for Aung Thaung's Sons?


ex-general Khin Nyunt seen with Wirathu, Time's "The Face of Buddhist Terror".

3) ex-General Khin Nyunt and his followers - all purged since Sept 2004 

After his release from house arrest, Khin Nyunt re-grouped his subordinates from the defunct Directorate of Defense Services Inteligence (DDSI) under the cover of a meditation retreat. Ex-intelligence officers do not meditate to enter Nirvana. You have to be really stupid to believe former torturers, plotters and assassins are "men of Dhamma".

Ex-General Khin Nyunt and ex-Chief of Military Intelligence, seen here as a temporarily ordained monk, Rakhine, 6 Apr 2012

Writing in the Fletcher's World Affairs policy journal - out of Tufts University - former Thein Sein adviser Kyaw Yin Hlaing, then a member of the faculty in the department of Asian Studies at the City University of Hong Kong, noted the role of military intelligence in spreading false rumors to stoke anti-Muslim racism and religious riots - every time public anger was roused by any unscrupulous incidents involving the Burmese military (such as embezzlement or bulgary or theft suspected popularly of the job of military commanders).

ex-general Khin Nyunt with his former deputies from the defunct military intelligence service, as meditation-practitioners at this week-long Buddhist retreat in Insein, Rangoon, 23 Sept- 29 Sept 2012.

4) Commander in Chief Min Aung Hlaing and the security forces, including the post-Khin Nyunt military intelligence called Military Affairs Security (MAS or Sa Ya Hpa in Burmese). 

As the commander in chief all intelligence services report to Min Aung Hlaing. In Karen State with a substantial distribution of Muslims across Karen villages, the military intelligence have made attempts to instigate anti-Muslim riots using anti-Musli Karen Buddhist monks and the Tatmadaw's proxy (Border Guard Force) DKBA. (formerly known as Democratic Karen Buddhist Army). 

5) Muslim-hating Burmese abbots such as Sitagu, Wirathu, and others that congregate around 969, Ma Ba Tha, etc. - and that will remain at large and congregate around new entities they will certainly replace Ma Ba Tha. 

These men are ideologues who have deeply held paranoia about the spread of Islam and its followers in what they see as "Buddhist Burma". During the monks' public meeting near Rakhine Buddha Temple (known as Maha Myat Mu Ni) in Southern corner of Mandalay, the then young and little known Wirathu made his intentions loud and clear to eradicate and "starve all Muslims" in Burma as early as 2002/03. He specifically mentioned that senior abbots such as Sitagu was involved in hatching this national campaign against all Muslims in the land. A year of two later Wirathu was imprisoned for his involvement in burning down the 3-storyed house that belonged to the entire well-to-do Muslim family - with the entire family locked inside - in a town called Kuauk Hse, the shared birthplace of his and dictator Than Shwe, between Mandalay and Meikhtila, the site of the major anti-Muslim mass violence in March 2013 which resulted in the death of at least 500 Muslim victims including children.

How Myanmar's "Mili-Monks" deliver racist violence in Muslim neighborhoods

Myanmar Mili-monks delivered racist violence in Muslim neighbourhoods 

Once again Myanmar's "Mili-Monks" and their lay colleagues are using #Facebook as their rallying tool in creating or attempting to create racist violence against Muslims. 

Here is how "mili-monks", violent racists and nationalist thugs organized last night's attempt to create racist violence in Rangoon. (Mili-monks is a term coined by an anti-racist hate-monitoring Burmese, depicting the now not-so-secret strategic and operational link between the Burmese military and these "monks" and lay racist groups.

Myanmar Anti-Muslim Hate networks mobilize their supporters for fresh round of violent attacks against Muslims in Mingalar Taung Nyunt quarter in Yangon this time.

On 8 May early evening, one account under the name Ko Latt (Mingalar Taung Nyunt quarter, Yangon) sent the following coded message:

"Any of our nationalist members who are back in Yangon (Rangoon), please be informed that we have a scheduled Zat, a Burmese theatrical performance on the street, at 10 pm tomorrow. It will be a lot bigger than the previous Zat at Thaketa quarter. We need you there."

On 9 May another account under Tin Lin Hteik posted several pictures of young men gathering at a restaurant, with the caption "We are gathered here for a meal and drinks before heading out for the Operation Kalar Round-Up (or "nigger", in reference to Muslims).

At the appointed hour last night, monks, women, men, etc. in this network responded to the message, apparently. A group of these hate-mongers went to a Muslim family home where they accused the members of the Muslim family of harbouring "illegal Bengali". When their accusations proved baseless they still attempted to pressure local police to detain the targetted family. 

When the police refused because they found the Muslim family completely lawful and innocent the Mili-monks and their supporters began to stir up fights with the Muslims. 

A dozen police had to be sent to the hate crime site and warning shots were fired to disperse the racist attackers. 

The first picture here is the facebook timeline where one Ko Latt sent the facebook rally call to the hate group members.

The second picture is the gathering of some hate group members before heading out to the Muslim neighborhood to trigger mass violence. 


Many believe that the Swan-Aa-shin (or The Force), which Aung San Suu Kyi labeled as (Senior General Than Shwe's) "Brown Shirt" for the Burmese military and its mass base "Union Solidarity and Development Association" (or since 2014, Union Solidarity and Development Party). 

Reuters won a Pulitzer in part on its expose of how the Burmese military since the time of the late General Saw Maung, Chair of the military junta named State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) post-1988 uprising, has incubated and spread, through its state media and its religious affairs department, Islamophobia throughout the conservative Buddhist Burmese society. (Vice Senior General Than Shwe was the Vice Chair of the SLORC and ex-General Khin Nyunt was Secretary #1 and head of military intelligence).

USDP is the previous military government with a civilian facade, which enacted 4 anti-Muslim racist national laws. It was headed by ex-general Thein Sein, the honoree of the ICG's "In Pursuit of Peace" Award in 2012, and the short-listed Burmese nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize for 2012. 

Now Aung San Suu Kyi is in partnership with the Burmese military - and has sipped tea with the retired Senior General Than Shwe, she keeps her mouth shut. As a matter of fact, she had cleansed her party of any Muslim leaders, as if she had modelled the democratic party on the Muslim-free Myanmar Tatmadaw or Armed Forces.

Myanmar Military uses Buddhist monks against Muslims in Myanmar: A Strategic Symbiosis

​In Burma, everyone who is remotely informed about the ways the military works ​knows th
​at the Burmese military is the ​Hidden Hand behind 
​anti-Muslim hate campaign across the country 

In Germany of 1920's and 1930's, the Nazi party was the main mobilizer, scapegoating the German Jews for the economic hardships and social ills in society. 

In Burma today, the army uses the Sangha or Buddhist Order - conservative, typically racist, ill-educated in terms of intellectual outlooks and growth of its members, and rural (parochial) - as its proxy mobilizer. 

The military - at the senior most level of leadership - has patronized a tiny gang of influential monks to do the army's bidding - racist divide and rule within the society that is generally anti-military.

Here two monks, namely Sitagu and Wirathu, are seen travelling with their security details. 
Sitagu, the more senior of the two, is based in Rangoon​. 

Wirathu became the "face of Buddhist Terror" when TIME ran a cover story with that title 

Beyond patronizing individuals monks, the military also bent the country's laws governing Buddhist organizations. The previous military government of the late general Ne Win (1962-88) singled out the Burmese monks - the Buddhist Order - as one of the two biggest threats to the military: student activists and monks -traditional allies. After a series of periodic unrests which were led by monks and students the Ne Win administration enacted a law, registering all Buddhist monks with the Department of Religious Affairs under Home Affairs Ministry and allowing only one central national monks' association. After the 2010 electioons which were "won" by the military's political proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party, the ruling party under ex-general and then President Thein Sein allowed the openly racist, anti-Muslim wing of the Buddhist Order to form "Race and Faith Defence League" where both Sitagu and Wirathu are most famous leaders. 

This is a strategic symbiosis which has served the Burmese military's objectives of social control extremely well. It has enabled the military to keep the NLD - with absolutely no capacity for intelligence gathering or control of security forces - on its toes in terms of the socially destablizing impact of such racist mobilization by monks - with state impunity. 

Here Ma Ba Tha leader - TIME's Coverstory Wirathu - seen with Myanmar Commander in Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing (in off-white traditional Burmese jacket) in Mandalay, 2016. The hate preacher travels with the military's protection.

The first several pictures are Wirathu, very recent travels in Rakhine state including Rohingya towns.

The last picture is the most influential monk Sitagu with Karen Border Guard Force (ultimately the under Myanmar army's command) in Karen State where the army intelligence attempted to incite anti-Muslim violence, in collaboration with the border guard force and Karen monks). (Taken in March 2017)

Police fire warning shots as extremists speed up their anti-Muslim operations in capital city


An Evolution of Rohingya Persecution in Myanmar: From Strategic Embrace to Genocide

By Alice Cowley and Maung Zarni
April 21, 2017

“Send us as many birth control pills as you can. They (Myanmar troops) are gang-raping our women. They are arresting and killing all our men. There is nothing else you can do. Just pray to Allah and to wish us speedy deaths! This is just simply unbearable,” said a Rohingya woman talking from her mobile phone from Myanmar’s predominantly Rohingya region of Northern Rakhine State bordering Bangladesh.[1] [See Figure below right.] She was talking to her brother, an unregistered refugee living and working in a poor and rough neighborhood called Salayang on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Among the handful of Burmese eager for updates, listening to the phone conversation on speaker phone was U Maung Maung, a respected Muslim leader and activist from Mandalay, also making a living in Malaysia. Maung immediately posted this on his Facebook timeline on November 20, 2016,[2] hoping to alert people to the shocking events unfolding. Western experts on the region note there is an “information blackhole,”[3] owing to the Myanmar government’s lockdown of Northern Rakhine State for its ‘security clearance operations.’ As such, Myanmar authorities have barred access to humanitarian aid groups and local and international media. This latest lockdown was a result of the killing of nine Myanmar police officers which was believed to have been instigated by Rohingya hoping to form a resistance group.

However, Maung’s attempt to alert the world via Facebook came to naught. The post was in Burmese language. But more importantly, his alert — like many others conveyed by ‘locals’ — had not been vetted by any Western organizations or international human rights ‘experts,’ who have become the standard bearers of facts or “truth-conveyors” relating to other peoples’ experiences of atrocities. Victims and their accounts need first to be vetted by these mediating agencies — a system understood only too well by the Burmese government with its blanket denials of the allegations coming out of the information black hole it created. Aung San Suu Kyi Government’s Information Committee referred to the atrocities on many occasions, “fake rape”[4] and “exaggerations” or “fabrications.”[5]

Following hundreds of similar allegations and coordinated documentation by Rohingya groups of mass killings, mass rape, and destruction of whole villages, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCR) sent a team to interview Rohingya refugees who had recently fled to Bangladesh — 70,000[6] of whom had arrived in four months. Based on over 200 interviews, OHCR issued a damning Flash Report (Feb 3) complete with harrowing tales of burning elderly Rohingya men alive and slitting children’s throats.[7] The U.N. estimates that Myanmar may have killed as many as 1,000 Rohingya men in recent violence alone.[8] This information, presented at the 34th session of the Human Rights Council,[9] did not result in the much-hoped-and-lobbied-for U.N. Commission of Inquiry with a view towards the International Criminal Court. The result was a compromise — a ‘Fact Finding Mission’[10] — which both the military[11] and the National League for Democracy (NLD)-led government[12] are determined not to accept or cooperate with. 

We have previously argued that far from being a new phenomenon, waves of state-directed violence and communal destruction such as these have been occurring since 1978 and are part of a process of ‘slow-burning genocide.’[13] Two other independent studies published a year later reinforce our findings.[14] Over these decades, Rohingya experiences and sufferings have been tossed across multiple discourses that deny the central role of the military such as “communal violence”[15] or since the October 9 raids, “Muslim insurgency” pregnant with potential for escalations involving “international terrorism.”[16] In recent years, these have run concurrently with human rights bodies and organizations framing the situation as “ethnic cleansing”[17] and “crimes against humanity”— U.N. Special Rapporteurs and the OHCHR included.

Despite these shifting narratives, the fundamental nature of the problem has remained constant. The military-controlled state has attempted to “cleanse”the nation of the largest Muslim minority in Myanmar, unique with legitimate claims to Northern Rakhine as their ancestral home. Firstly, this has been attempted through legal, bureaucratic, and administrative means — such as removing their rights to citizenship, destroying and revoking documents in Rohingya possession, refusing to register thousands of Rohingya infants, household checks, as well as subjecting them to a web of criss-crossing security grids by which the freedom of movement of the Rohingya population is severely restricted and monitored.[18] Secondly, it has been attempted through denial of their history/identity and propaganda campaigns that serve to de-nationalize them.[19] Where these two attempts have not been achieved, communities have also been subjected to physical destruction through methods such as burning property, evictions, and killings.

However, this has not always been the case. In 1961, the Burmese co-author’s late great uncle, Zeya Kyaw Htin Major Ant Kywe, a decorated nationalist solider, was the Deputy Commander of the administrative district of Mayu in 1961, which was effectively established as a homeland for Rohingya in Rakhine State in order to maintain law and order[20] in the region where the central government was confronted with rebellions from two different fronts: Muslim Rohingya separatists and Buddhist Rakhine nationalists clamouring for statehood. 

On Myanmar’s Independence Day (January 4, 1948), even as the Union Jack was lowered at the colonial Secretariat in Rangoon, the Burma Army was engaged in ferocious battles against armed Rakhine (Buddhist) rebels[21] who wanted to reclaim the sovereignty they had lost to the militarily dominant Burmese Buddhist group in 1784. 

In the years following Myanmar independence in 1948, the central government, specifically the Ministry of Defense, strategically sought to embrace Rohingyas as a bona fide ethnic minority of the new Union of Burma,[22] with equal and full citizenship rights, along with multiple other minorities with armed revolts against the ethnically Burmese central government. It is essential to see the root of the Rohingya persecution not simply in the sectarian ethnic conflict between the two main co-habitant communities in Rakhine state of Western Burma, namely Rakhine Buddhist majority and Rohingya Muslim minorities, but in the ethnic triangle involving also the majority Burmese in ultimate control of the state (both the military under General Ne Win and the civilian political coalition headed by PM U Nu).[23]

Although the Burma Army was fighting battles on two fronts in West Myanmar, it was the Rakhine rebellions that presented a more serious threat to the central government than the simultaneous Muslim/Rohingya armed movements, some of which sought, with no success, to join with the predominantly Muslim nation of Pakistan (East Pakistan). During the Rohingya surrender ceremony of 290 Muslim rebels, held on 4 July 1961 in Northern Rakhine town of Buthidaung, the Commander of the Border Area Administration and Territorial Forces Colonel Saw Myint promised “absolutely no religious or ethnic discrimination” against Rohingyas — vis-à-vis Rakhine Buddhists —and guaranteed “equal protection under Law for all those who abide by the law and live in peace.”[24] Saw Myint’s superior and the second in command, after General Ne Win of the Burma Army Brigadier Aung Gyi, presided over the ceremony and explained the need for Rohingyas as an ethnic minority group to recognize and accept the primacy of political allegiance to the Union of Burma over their kinship, cultural, and religious ties in exchange for the full citizenship rights and ethnic equality which they were offered.[25]

In addition, as early as May 1960, the Ministry of Defense agreed to the Rohingyas’ request to carve out the predominantly Rohingya geographic pocket in Northern Rakhine State and establish a new district named after the local river Mayu. The co-founder of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, the then-young Lt-Colonel Tin Oo, was tasked with establishing the Mayu District, which was to be administered centrally from the Burmese-controlled Rakhine Military Command.[26] Rohingyas’ request was precipitated by the moves made by Prime Minister U Nu’s re-elected civilian government in order to fulfil its election pledge of granting Rakhine Buddhists a separate statehood, within the Union of Burma.[27]

Within eight months of the establishment of the May-U District, General Ne Win and his deputies staged a coup against U Nu’s government on the pretext that Nu’s opportunistic electioneering and weak leadership were emboldening ethnic minorities’ demands for devolution of power away from the Burmese centre. While the coup leaders continued to honour the arrangements with Rohingyas, the policy orientation of the military leadership shifted towards racist, isolationist, xenophobic, and socialistically doctrinaire. The more liberal and less radical military leaders such as the Deputy Commander in Chief of Army Brigadier General Aung Gyi and Colonel Chit Myaing were sacked in 1963 and 1964.[28]The remaining military leaders under Ne Win’s commandership began to marginalize and eventually cleanse the Armed Forces of Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Hindu officers unless they agreed to convert to Buddhism. Having remade this once-multiethnic, multi-faith national institution of unrivalled power and control over society, the military leadership turned its sights to society at large.[29] Most important, the army leadership initiated, promoted, and sustained the process of radically reimagining ethnic and political histories, national identity, and the society at large along the army’s new “purist” Buddhist vision.[30]

In 1978, Ne Win launched a centrally organized, violent operation against Rohingyas of both Southern and Northern Rakhine, under the pretext of surprise immigration checks. Known as Operation King Dragon, the events of 1978 are carved into the consciousness and the inter-generational memories of Rohingya communities. It was conducted as an interagency campaign of terror involving Immigration, Religious Affairs, Police, Courts, Army, Navy, and police intelligence, as well as local administrations made up of anti-Rohingya Rakhine.[32] Myanmar’s former chief of military intelligence until 2004, Ex-General Khin Nyunt, who was operationally involved on the ground as a young major from Special Operations Bureau, Ministry of Defense, serving as the Commander of Infantry Regiment No. 20 based in Rakhine, wrote that a total of 277,938 fled, between February 12 and June 3, from Western Burma into the neighboring Bangladesh.[33] Shut off from the outside world by an isolationist military regime, the Burmese public — the Burmese co-author included — was misinformed of this operation as an act of national defense, under the slogan “the (Buddhist) race could be swallowed up by other (alien) race”[34] — an understanding that still resounds today. This was the first of the chronic waves of state-sponsored and state-condoned violence against Rohingyas which have resulted each time in hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fleeing “unbearable life on land.”

Following Ne Win’s coup in 1962, the nation’s vision fundamentally changed — from one that sought to establish peace through a unified multiethnic nation based on equality, to one which harnessed and mobilized the Buddhist public’s anti-colonial sentiments, and along with this their anti-Indian (subcontinent) and anti-Muslim racisms, which emerged out of the colonial-era political economy in which locals were subordinated to Indians.[31] It was a vision which sought to ‘cleanse’ the nation through systematic attempts to subjugate some ethnic minorities whilst removing others (such as Rohingyas) from the national fold.

The now internationally infamous 1982 Citizenship Act was one part of a long process of stripping the Rohingya of their citizenship and the rights of future generations of Rohingya to obtain Myanmar citizenship. It was accompanied by eviction, land confiscation, and disenfranchisement of the Rohingya. Although this controversial law does not mention Rohingyas by name, viewed within the historical context of large scale forced repatriations from Bangladesh, and based on accounts of those involved in drafting the Act, it can be concluded that the primary aim in drafting the Act was to exclude Rohingyas from citizenship.[35] The law — and its application regarding 135 fixed ethnic nationalities excluding Rohingya, on the basis of their absence in the dubious colonial censuses, who in fact existed in Myanmar prior to the first British Annexation of Western Burma in 1826 — has not simply left Rohingya vulnerable to multiple discriminatory policies aimed at non-nationals, it has also fed popular anti-colonial racisms in society that have led to pervasive social ostracism of Rohingya and violence in which Rakhine Buddhists and state security forces have worked hand in glove. 

Despite annual U.N. human rights monitoring in Myanmar since 1992[36] and the UNHCR having a presence on the ground in northern Rakhine State since the early 1990s, violent persecution of the Rohingya has continued unabated and indeed increased. This persecution was largely perceived as a part of the authoritarian regime’s general pattern of rights violations, for the Myanmar military was notoriously repressive towards ethnically Burmese opposition movement under Aung San Suu Kyi’s leadership across the country, as well as other non-Bama ethnic groups in the country’s North and North East regions.

Myanmar’s rights abuses in Rohingya regions of Western Myanmar weren’t seen as something that demanded special attention. Today, while the anti-historical and institutionally amnesiac discourses such as “humanitarian concern,” “communal conflict,” “security and terrorism,” “lack of development,” and “livelihood creation” float through the ether world of foreign embassies, development, and U.N. agencies, the decades of facts relating to the instrumental role of the central Myanmar State in the abuses of Rohingya are buried alongside very real human corpses — again — waiting to be verified and validated by the right kind of foreign experts and the right kind of U.N. process. People and processes that never come. As Rohingyas in Northern Rakhine wait and their diasporic relatives post desperate calls for U.N. peacekeepers and intervention on Facebook, “Never again!”— the foundational myth of the United Nations — must sound bitterly hollow.

Fifty-five years ago, the Myanmar Ministry of Defense and its military leaders officially embraced Rohingya as an ethnic minority, granted them equal rights, and full citizenship while enabling them to make contributions to the country’s politics, society, and economy. Today, the military’s radical reversal of Rohingya policy created the space in society where Rohingyas are commonly seen as “leaches,” their identity and history “a hoax,” and their presence a demographic and jihadist threat to the Buddhist nation. Meanwhile, over the same period, under the same national visions, other ethnic communities along the country’s strategic, resource-rich borderlands including Kachins, Shan, Karenni, etc., were offered promises, pledges, and agreements by generations of military and civilian leaders, only to have them reneged when powerful stakeholders changed their strategic calculations. Under the military regime, those that refused to be co-opted into the military’s national vision complete with its Burmese dominance, were and still are subject to persecution, oppression, and war. They are victims of the same ideologies that cleanse the nation of Rohingyas and all those that oppose or live in contradiction to the state’s centralized control and organization of Burma’s ethnic minorities.

With NLD elected to government and with Aung San Suu Kyi as de facto leader, one would hope for at least a dilution of the military leadership’s post-1962 purist ideologies, or at best for a radical re-imagination of the Burmese national community incorporating her late father’s (Aung San) vision of post-colonial Burma as a secular, progressive, multi-culturalist, multiethnic nation. Tragically, it is not only the armed forces that have implemented internal cleansing of their institutions. NLD is now also without a single Muslim representative from the population. Every time the government calls rape ‘fake’ on the military’s behalf or refuses to cooperate with U.N. bodies' attempts to unearth and validate atrocities, Aung San’s multiethnic vision of Burma is trampled further into the ground.

[1] Amartya Sen, the foremost scholar on famines, explains why Burma’s intentional measures to deny, severely limit, or block Rohingyas’ access to livelihoods, nutritional opportunities, and essential medical services is an act of “institutionalized killing,” a slow genocide, not like Khmer Rouge’s genocide, Rwanda or the Holocaust. Conference on the Plight of the Rohingya, Harvard University, November 4, 2014, accessed April 5, 2017, http://tribunalonmyanmar.org/2014/11/15/the-slow-genocide-of-the-rohingya-by-nobel-laureate-amartya-sen/

[2] Ibid.

[3] International State Crime Initiative (ISCI), Queen Mary University of London, “Genocide of Rohingya in Myanmar may be entering a new and deadly phase, October 17, 2016, April 3, 2017, http://www.qmul.ac.uk/media/news/items/hss/187983.html.

[4] Myanmar State Counsellor Information Committee, “Information Committee Refutes Rumours of Rape,” December 26, 2016, accessed April 3, 2017, http://www.statecounsellor.gov.mm/en/node/551. See also “Aung San Suu Kyi is making war time rape easier to commit,” MSN.com, December 26, 2016, accessed April 3, 2017, http://www.msn.com/en-sg/news/other/aung-san-suu-kyi-is-making-wartime-rape-easier-to-commit/ar-BBxzZR6.

[5] “Aung San Suu Kyi laughs out loud at Rohingya genocide allegations while in Singapore,” The Independent, January 5, 2017, April 3, 2017, http://www.theindependent.sg/aung-san-suu-kyi-laughs-out-loud-at-rohingya-genocide-allegations-while-in-singapore/; and Jonah Fisher, “Myanmar’s Rohingya: Truth, lies and Aung San Suu Kyi,” BBC, accessed April 3, 2017, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-38756601 Accessed 3 April 2017.

[7] “Devastating cruelty against Rohingya children, women and men detailed in UN human rights report,” Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), February 3, 2017, accessed April 3, 2017, http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=21142&L...http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=21142&LangID=E#sthash.ktblvICd.dpuf Accessed 3 April 2017. See the full report at http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/MM/FlashReport3Feb2017.pdfAccessed 3 April 2017. 

[8] “Exclusive: More than 1,000 feared killed in Myanmar army crackdown on Rohingya - U.N. officials,” Reuters, February 8, 2017, accessed April 3, 2017, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-myanmar-rohingya-idUSKBN15N1TJ.

[9] U.N. OHCR, “Statement by Ms. Yanghee LEE, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar at the 34th session of the Human Rights Council,” March 2017, accessed April 3, 2017, http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=21355&LangID=E#sthash.au9jPlEw.dpuf.

[10] “Rohingya issue: UN to send fact-finding mission to Myanmar,” ANI News, March 24, 2017, accessed April 3, 2017, http://www.aninews.in/newsdetail-MzY/MzA1NzIz/rohingya-issue-un-to-send-fact-finding-mission-to-myanmar.htmlAccessed 3 April 2017.

[11] “Myanmar Military Chief Defends Crackdown Against Rohingya in Rakhine State,” Radio Free Asia, March 27, 2017, accessed April 3, 2017, http://www.rfa.org/english/news/myanmar/myanmar-military-chief-defends-crackdown-against-rohingya-in-rakhine-state-03272017154143.html.

[12] “Myanmar rejects UN call for rights probe,” Bangkok Post, March 25, 2017, accessed April 3, 2017, http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/general/1221134/myanmar-rebuffs-un-rights-probe

[13]Maung Zarni and Alice Cowley, “The Slow-Burning Genocide of Myanmar’s Rohingya,” Pacific Rim Law & Policy Journal 23, 3 (2014): 683-754, accessed April 3, 2017, http://digital.law.washington.edu/dspace-law/handle/1773.1/1377. (Hereafter “The Slow-Burning Genocide”). 

[14] See Penny Green, Thomas MacManus & Alicia de la Cour Venning, “Countdown to Annihilation: Genocide in Myanmar,” International State Crime Initiative Report, Queen Mary University of London, 2015, accessed April 3, 2017, http://statecrime.org/state-crime-research/isci-report-countdown-to-annihilation-genocide-in-myanmar/; and “Is Genocide Occuring in Myanmar’s Rakhine State?: A Legal Analysis,” Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic, Yale Law School, October 2015, accessed April 3, 2017, http://www.fortifyrights.org/downloads/Yale_Persecution_of_the_Rohingya_October_2015.pdf.

[15] See, for instance, Jim Della-Giacoma, “A Dangerous Resurgence of Communal Violence in Myanmar,” International Crisis Group, March 28. 2013, accessed April 3, 2017, https://www.crisisgroup.org/asia/south-east-asia/myanmar/dangerous-resurgence-communal-violence-myanmar. See also “Why is there communal violence in Myanmar?” BBC, July 3, 2014, accessed April 3, 2017, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-18395788.

[16] “Myanmar: A New Muslim Insurgency in Rakhine State,” International Crisis Group Report No. 283/Asia, December 15, 2016, accessed April 3, 2017, https://www.crisisgroup.org/asia/south-east-asia/myanmar/283-myanmar-new-muslim-insurgency-rakhine-state; Tim Johnston and Anagha Neelakantan, “The World's Newest Muslim Insurgency Is Being Waged in Burma,” TIME, December 13, 2016, accessed April 3, 2017, http://time.com/4601203/burma-myanmar-muslim-insurgency-rohingya/.

[17] Human Rights Watch, “Burma: End Ethnic Cleansing of Rohingya Muslims,” April 22, 2013, accessed April 3, 2017, https://www.hrw.org/news/2013/04/22/burma-end-ethnic-cleansing-rohingya-muslims. See also Jocelyne Sambira, “Myanmar minorities suffer 'systemic' discrimination, abuse: UN,” United Nations Radio, June 20, 2016, accessed April 3, 2017, http://www.unmultimedia.org/radio/english/2016/06/myanmar-minorities-suffer-systemic-discrimination-abuse-un/#.WOKL1_nyu5s.

[18] See “The Slow-Burning Genocide.” See also Widney Brown, “Where there is police There is persecution, Physicians for Human Rights,” Physicians for Human Rights, October 2016, accessed April 3, 2017, http://physiciansforhumanrights.org/library/reports/myanmar-rakhine-state.html?referrer=https://uk.search.yahoo.com/.

[19] In addition to the state-controlled mass media and official speeches by the generals and ex-generals, Myanmar Military Intelligence Services spread deliberately false historical information through teachers’ refresher courses at the Civil Servant Training School at Hpaung Gyi, which thousands of Burmese state school teachers are required to attend, according to Daw Khin Hla, former Rohingya Middle School Teacher, from Myanmar, who spoke at the conference on Rohingya Persecution, November 4, 2014, accessed April 3, 2017, http://isites.harvard.edu/fs/docs/icb.topic662843.files/HGEI-Burma_Semin...

[20] “Finally, peace has prevailed in Mayu Borderlands District,” Editorial, Special Issue on Mayu, Current Affairs (or Khit Yay), Ministry of Defense, the Union of Burma, 12, 6 (July 18, 1961): 5. (Burmese Language publication).

[21] Tape-recorded Interview in Virginia, U.S. (July 1994) with retired Colonel Chit Myaing, former member of General Ne Win’s Revolutionary Council (1962). As the Deputy Commander of the Burma Rifle Brigade 5, Chit Myaing led the government’s military campaign against the armed Rakhine rebellion in January 1948.

[22] The full text of the official Burmese language transcript of the speech delivered by Brigadier General Aung Gyi, Vice Chief of Staff (Army), at the Surrender Ceremony of Mujahideen Rohingya troops, Maung Daw Town, Northern Rakhine State, 4 July 1961. See “Special Issue on Mayu”, Current Affairs (or Khit Yay), Ministry of Defense, the Union of Burma, 12, 6 (July 18, 1961): 8-10 & 23-24. (Hereafter Brigadier General Aung Gyi’s speech).

[23] For the detailed records of this triangular politics amongst Rakhine-Burmese-Rohingya see the book-length Burmese language publication, Kyaw Win, Mya Han and Thein Hlaing, “Myanmar Naing Ngan Yay” (Burma’s Politics), Volume 3 (years 1958-1962), (Rangoon: Universities Press, 1991), in particular Chapter 12, pp. 167-250. (Hereafter “Burma’s Politics,” 1991).

[24] The full text of the official Burmese language transcript of the speech by Colonel Saw Myint, Chief of the Border Areas Administration and Commander of the Territorial Forces, “Special Issue on Mayu,” Current Affairs (or Khit Yay), Ministry of Defense, the Union of Burma, 12, 6 (July 18, 1961): 15.

[25] Brigadier General Aung Gyi’s Speech, 1961.

[26] Transcript of the Current Affairs magazine discussions with Prime Minister’s Private Secretary-2 U Khin Nyunt, “Special Issue on Mayu,” Current Affairs (or Khit Yay), Ministry of Defense, the Union of Burma, 12, 6 (July 18, 1961): 16-20.

[27] “Burma’s Politics” (1991), 230.

[28] Interview with retired Colonel Chit Myaing, 1994, op cit.

[29] Within Myanmar Armed Forces – and in the society at large – it is widely known that non-Buddhist military officers no longer get promoted beyond the ranks of Major. 

[30] Wa Lone, “Snr Gen Min Aung Hlaing pledges to help safeguard Buddhism,” Myanmar Times, June 24, 2016, accessed April 3, 2017, http://www.mmtimes.com/index.php/national-news/21035-snr-gen-min-aung-hlaing-pledges-to-help-safeguard-buddhism.html.

[31] Maung Zarni, “Buddhist Nationalism in Burma

Institutionalized racism against the Rohingya Muslims led Burma to genocide”, Feature, Tricycle, Spring 2013, https://tricycle.org/magazine/buddhist-nationalism-burma/Accessed 3 April 2017.

[32] Personal Testimony delivered by U Ba Sein, a former Rohingya civil servant – now a refugee in London, UK - who lived through this King Dragon Operation in N. Rakhine, Permanent People’s Tribunal on Myanmar, Queen Mary University of London. March 6-7, 2017, accessed April 3, 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k9Q11ZhC8qI (Ba Sein’s testimony begins at 7:55 minutes).

[33] Ex-General Khin Nyunt, Naing Ngan Ei Ah Nauk Hpet Ta Gar Pauk Ka Pya Tha Na (or The Crisis from the Western Gate of Burma), (Rangoon: Pan Myo Ta Yar Press, 2016), particularly Chapter 3, pp. 21-43.

[34] Although race/ethnicity and faith are two different “things,” the majority Buddhist Burmese public collapse the two. The Burmese popular saying sums it up: “to be Burmese is to be Buddhist.”

[35] The Burmese co-author and a key drafter, the late Rakhine historian Dr Aye Kyaw, were friends and fellow exiles for years in the United States. A few years before the two bouts of violence against Rohingyas in 2012 Aye Kyaw gave a Burmese language interview to the influential Irrawaddy News Group wherein he explained in details the internal discussions among the Drafting Committee members, that focused on the best ways to de-nationalize Rohingya through the citizenship act. Irrawaddy has since removed Aye Kyaw’s Burmese language interview. 

[36] See the mountains of Human Rights Situation Reports on Myanmar for the last 25 years beginning March 3, 1992, United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, accessed April 3, 2017, http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/dpage_e.aspx?m=89