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

"National Traitor and Enemy of the State" for his opposition to Rohingya Genocide. Sun Rays, 16/9/17

The new found roles of Aung San Suu Kyi in the post-Obama visit

Out of its desire to save their most distinguished visitor - President Obama - from presidential embarrassment Naypyidaw waited 10 days before firebombing Buddhist monks at Lat Pa Daung, near Monywa.

Then President Thein Sein and his team defended the 29 November firebombing of unarmed and peaceful monks as protest dispersing act fully 'in line with the rule of law'.

Now the rule of law has become a magic wand.  The concept has been emptied out of any substance.

Officially, the wand is in the hands of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Chair of the Parliamentary Committee on the Rule of Law, another substance-less entity in the country where decisions are made - and will continue to be made -  by a clique of men, in uniform or in skirt, with experience in 'national security matters'.  

That effectively rules out the idea of Aung San Suu Kyi or any presidential advisers with western PhDs - not from Yangon or Mandalay universities - and, more importantly, their political ambitions, hidden and not-so-hidden.    For some of these presidential parasites, ceremonial roles may be good enough to keep on whoring themselves, ultimately, in the service of murderous tyrants in Naypyidaw.  But, that's a story for another day.

As with the Nobel Lady in Naypyidaw, she is vested with no power other than the power to feed the Burmese public the monkey meat -

"I will try my best to solve the conflict (over the Chinese-Burmese military mining project) peacefully".  "Thank you, Mummy!" the crowd thundered approvingly.

Incredible words uttered 36 hours after the monks' skins peeled off during Naypyidaw's pre-dawn military-style operation against the camps.

Indeed she has now taken on multiple challenges, playing new roles, some obvious and others not so obvious.

1) assure foreign investors that Myanmar will honor contractual agreements signed by the direct military dictatorship of Senior General Than Shwe, however ecologically devastating and economically destructive to hundreds of rural communities across the country - dam, mining, logging, new plantation projects, "special economic and industrial zones";

2) placate the wretched of Myanmar which suits the ruling military, China, and cronies;

3) continue to serve as a smokescreen for foreign governmental interests who talk the talk of "human rights", but pursue the 'balance-of-power' policy in Burma (remember the Cold War and US foreign policy?);

4). helps cover up, unwittingly and out of her own self-interest of riding into Presidential Office in 2015 with the military's blessings, the real nature of the generals' reforms - that is, the military's pursuit of its core interests by another name; and

5) misuses her moral authority in the apparently racist and hypocritical ways not as human rights defender but rather as the newly fashioned "dispute mediator" between the military and foreign commercial interests on one hand, and the increasingly disenfrenchised and angry Burmese communities on the other.

She showed up in the upcountry district of Monywa the day after the firebombing of anti-Chinese mine protesters.   

But even the generally sympathetic mainstream corporate and (foreign) governmental media such as the Voice of American and AP asked damning questions as to why she was travelling to the Burmese heartland where 3 dozen monks were injured, but not to Western and Eastern Burma provinces of Arakan and Kachin state where roughly 200,000 Rohingya and Kachin refugees have suffered devastation of their communities, thanks to the policies of her business partners in Naypyidaw, namely President Thein Sein and his military comrades.

The sad reality is Burmese public remains extremely feudal and vulnerable to the racist and feudal mobilization by the ruling and un-ruling elites, be they Thein Sein's men and their anti-Muslim ethno-religious mobilization or the NLD's Dear Leader and her playing the "I-am-an-honest-politician-and-I-won't-sell-you-down-the-river card" card with the desperate masses, who view her like a demi-god, as opposed to a politician with her own personal interests, calculations and agenda.  

We call this scenario "the mad monk in a wobbly boat" - Hpone Gyi Yoo Hnae Hlae Loo, meaning it gets madder and madder!

ICG: Mistaking President Thein Sein's Pace-Maker for the (non-Existent) Peace-Maker in Him


International Crisis Group has shown remarkable intellectual inability to distinguish between Pace-Maker and Peace-Maker when it comes to their manufactured icon - President Thein Sein of Myanma. 

Evidence has been un-earthed that Burma experts with the ICG have been unable to distinguish PACE-MAKER President Thein Sein wears and PEACE-MAKER, which the President is not.

Where are the reforms that Obama, Suu Kyi, Cameron, Ban Ki-Mon, Ashton, etc., as well as the International Crisis Group have been lauding?

To add insult to injury (of the Burmese people), the ICG even went so far as to decide to confer on Myanmar's ex-general and President Thein Sein with its top honor - In Pursuit of Peace Award.

An empirical study of Burma over the past 5 years negates the hyped-up image of Thein Sein's "reforms", "progress", "democracy", and you get the drift.

First, re-jailing of the 88 Generation Student who led the Consumer Price Protest (Aug 2007)

Then, the slaughter and raid against the Saffron Monks (Sept and Oct 2007)

Afterwards, the blocking of emergency relief to the Cyclone Nargis victims (May 2008)

A year later, The Lady's turn - John Yettaw the Swimmer trial and extension of the Lady house arrest (2009), which conveniently allowed the regime to keep Suu Kyi locked up until after 10 November Generals' Election

Then came the counting of dead-people as voters, granting the Rohingyas to vote - in the generals' election and disenfranchisement of thousands of ethnic minorities in Eastern and Northern Burma (Nov 2010)

Later, it was the turn of the politically non-pliant Kachins (Naypyidaw's calculated breaking of the 17-years ceasefire, 2011)

This year (June 2012) saw the final push against the Rohingya in the form of the State-backed "sectarian violence" against them

This morning (29 November 2012) the regime is showing its true colours to the Burmese public and the world:





President Thein Sein's troops used 'fire bombs' against the monks, civilians, etc, who were asleep in their protest camp.




(Don't forget Thein Sein chairs the National Defense and Security Council).


So much for the hype about Thein Sein's reforms.  The Burmese public should call for Thein Sein's immediate resignation.

What is the Nobel Lady in Waiting doing instead of providing leadership in the people's darkest hours of need and anguish?  She has failed to be "the voice of the voiceless" Rohingya and the Kachin.

Is she going to fail the rural communities and the Buddhist monks again?

The Lady on Leash and the Snaky Generals: A Tale of Myanma's "Extraordindary" Reforms



 Snakes with new skins will still be venomous.

Contrary to reform hypes from the media, International Crisis Group, the IMF,  the World Bank, EU, ASEAN and western governments ,  President Thein Sein and his ruling circle are torching the country, literally.

First, there is an active war in Northern Burma.

Naypyidaw deliberately broke the written ceasefire agreement of 17 years with the Kachin Independence Organizing, calculating that China would approve of clearing Sino-Burmese buffer region of any security threat to Chinese interests and that the KIA was a sitting duck - like the Kokant Han Chinese drug-related groups. (and that they were about to bag Aung San Suu Kyi and that the West was desperate to get back in the "balance of power" vis-a-vis China over Burma and SEAsia).

Second, the large scale destruction of wholesale Rohingya and Muslim communities across Western Burma - Arakan State.  

There is ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya and other Muslims in Western Burma, again in areas which are important commercially and strategically to both the Burmese military and the Chinese interests such as Special Economic Zone, the start of the 2,800-kilometer long pipelines, deep seaport, naval facilities, etc. 

Third, burning of large scale protests which united monks, intellectuals and rural communities against the copper mine project in a place called "Kyae Sin Taung" or "Pure Copper Mountain" in the Burmese heartland of Dry Zone.  

Curiously, the pre-dawn - 3:30 am? - crackdown was launched by the security troops the night before the Lady was scheduled to speak to the protesters.

What that in part signals is this:

After the regime has bagged the Lady they have put a leash on her  is not long enough to let her go, interact, hear from and speak to the growing civil society protesters who demand nothing short of the cancellation of the country's largest  - and most destructive - mining project.

 She is allowed to give speeches around the world endorsing the military's  realignment of its core strategic interests.  As Chairwoman of the Parliamentary "Rule of Law" Committee, she can make noises in the military-controlled Parliament, but she can't block Naypyidaw's un-lawful crackdown against un-armed peaceful protesters who ask the regime to uphold its own Nargis Constitution - promote the welfare of the people and protect the Environment.

Snakes with new skins will still be venomous.  Or is it a tale of leopards not changing their spots, as they say. 

So much for the reforms.  



Myanmar's Step-by-step Approach toward Rohingya Genocide and Ethni-cide



#1 Early anti-Rohingya policy

I would call the military's policy towards the Rohingya "structural genocide", a systematic and sustained act of policy maintained and pursued, irrespective of which general or ex-general is in charge.  This includes various severe restrictions and other punitive acts in order to create living conditions as unattractive and unbearable as possible so that they would voluntarily exit Burma - and which thousands have done.

(after the Caretaker Government of General Ne Win took care of the restive Rakhine nationalists and their demand for autonomous Statehood in the 1950s. The Rohingya were useful as a counter-force towards the Rakhine nationalists in Arakan).

#2 Mass expulsion

"Naga Min" (meaning "conqueror of all Kulars") (or literally Dragon King) Expulsion Operation to expel the Rohingya (this operation was led by the man known as Ne Win's Butcher Brigadier General Sein Lwin, a conservative Buddhist monastery product born in an Upper Burma village and raised by the Burma Army, whose formal Buddhist education stopped at 4th Grade. Sein Lwin was also in charge of the bloody crackdown of 8.8.88 uprisings)

Bangladesh, emerging out of its civil war of East and West Pakistan as an independent nation, openly threatened Ne Win's regime by telling General Ne Win that Burma needed to take these Rohinga refugees back, or Bangladesh had ample stockpiles of arms to give away to the angry Rohingyas. That was when Ne Win and his deputies backed down and took 200,000 Rohingya refugees back).

General Ne Win was the country's best known racist, especially with a rather virulent strain of anti-Muslim and Christian racisms. He was the only Burmese general who ordered mosques in Mandalay to stop any early morning prayers which are generally amplified through loud-speakers mounted atop mosques every time he stayed in the Northwest Command Military Headquarters inside Mandalay's walled city (the Palace).   Ne Win embarked on the policy of cleansing of the Burma Army of any officer who was not a Buddhist. There was one or two exception. But as a matter of policy, Christian and Muslim officers were forced out of any position of importance early in their careers. Since Ne Win's time, the successive MILITARY regimes, including Thein Sein's, has been on autopilot with this cleanse-the-army-and-the-government of Christians and Muslims.

#3 Citizenship denial

Ne Win's regime stripped the Rohingyas citizenship and de-acknowledge the officially recognized "Rohingya", and re-wrote citizenship law in line with anti-Rohingya racism. This was a direct response to the fact that they felt forced to take the Rohingya refugees back from Bangladesh. 

Now the current verification process undertaken by the Border Affairs Minister under Than Shwe's pet Lt-General Thein Htay involves forcing through threats the Rohingya families in camps and other locations to write down their ethnic origin as "Bangali" and, in some cases, enticing them of the promise of full citizenship and other protections.  

This is ETHNO-CIDE.  


#4 Illegal Migration from Bangladesh

there were in-flow of Bangladeshi migrants into Western Burma. It would be untrue to say that there were no illegal immigration coming to Burma from Bangladesh. Before the situation in Arakan State worsened progressively some Bangladeshi attempted to enter Northern Arakan state via boats. According to veteran Burma naval officers, they wouldn't even bother arresting or sending these boat-loads of illegal Bangadeshi in Burmese waters. They simply blew entire boats up - no bodies, no traces, no need to waste man-power to arrest, house, feed and process them for deportation.

#5 Outsourcing ethnic cleansing and genocide to the local Rakhine

The recent waves of violence against the Rohingya which began in June was the opposite of the earliest post-independence policy which used the local Rohingya by recognizing them as a national ethnic group and administering them as a special group directly by the Head of the Rakhine State Security Forces (mostly Tatmadaw).

The Rakhine State Security Head was the late Colonel Kyaw Soe who later became Minister of Home Affairs in Ne Win's early Revolutionary Council Government and who was operationally responsible for blowing up Rangoon University Student Union.

The violence against the Rohingya and the rise in anti-Muslim racism were the direct outcome of the State's ethnic mobilization - in fact, directly through the facebook of Presidential Office Director and Government Spokesperson - you can't get any more Presidential than that!, all State broadcast and print media outlets, and the crony-owned private media outlets such as the Voice Weekly of Myanmar Egress and Eleven Day News Group.

#6 Acting contradictory and inconsistent as a matter of policy

There are elements that are not directly or even indirectly affiliated with Thein Sein government, who have been involved in the violence against the Rohingya. They are acting out of their own calculations, politically and ethically motivated. These cannot be construed as part of the regime's designs against the Rohingya.

What IS part of the regime's designs is they would give the troops different and often seemingly contradictory orders from the Central Command. Local Rakhine admin and authorities dare NOT act on anything without Naypyidaw's knowledge and command. So, what appears to be local acts are in fact greenlighted by Naypyidaw. Half-century of only taking orders from the highest authorities cannot be erased after 2 years of luke-warm democratization and devolution.

One of the reasons that outsiders, including human rights researchers, can't get their head around is why certain local security forces are protecting Muslims and Rakhines in one place and other local forces were siding with the Rakhine skin-heads in slaughtering the Rohingya and Muslims. That was precisely because the troops were given different orders from central command, depending on the contexts. This seeming contradiction was meant to give the general international impression that the government is UNABLE or UNWILLING to end the 'sectarian conflict/violence'. This comes up far short of capturing the central role the State itself is playing through various sophisticated techniques of outsourcing and incitement of large scale attacks on the Rohingya and to a lesser extent the other Muslims.

# 8 President Inquiry Commission

Established on 16 August 2012 in the face of the mounting threats from the Organization of the Islamic Conference of 57 UN member states, Naypyidaw scrambled a diverse group of 27 Burmese and showcased them as "independent-minded upstanding citizens" who will get to the bottom of the "sectarian violence" in Arakan State.  Well, at the bottom is Naypyidaw.  Why would the generals and ex-generals want to anyone to sniff for real truths and share them with the whole wide world?  

They know exactly what transpired - because they have been involved in the attempted genocide for nearly 40 years.  So, as glamorous and respectable sounding as it is, the Presidential Inquiry is a decoy, a ploy and one of the biggest jokes of contemporary Myanmar!

# 7 Where is "democratic" Myanmar heading after Rohingya ethnic cleansing or genocide?

An institutionalized Apartheid in Western Burma and anti-Muslim racist behavior across the country - and all kinds of racism against the Chinese, Christians, etc.

# 8 What are the gains for Naypyidaw?

Too many to list. But have a glance here

A potent version of traditional "Buddhist" racism and racialism have been revived in the service of the militant and militaristic "democratic" government which now speaks softly, that is, getting better at spins but remains as ruthless and callous as it has ever been since 1962 coup. Monks are happy with the regime. NLD has no real voice or power in the Parliament, no intellectual or policy input other than calling for greater deployment of troops in the conflict/violence-prone Arakan State. Plus its leader Daw ASSK has been making utterances without having done her homework about Bangladesh and its alleged illegal immigrants to Burma (while Thein Sein cleverly downplayed this issue in his VOA Burmese interview with Than Lwin Htun after the -expel-or-cage-the-Bangali illegals fiasco - during the meeting with the visiting UNHCR head 5 months ago).

#9 Does this all sound conspiratorial? You betcha!

The Generals do NOT inherit power or influence - 99% of them do NOT have famous dead fathers or grandfathers or -mothers. They know it. Everything they have they have worked at it. We can say they have "earned" the power to rule through CONSPIRING tirelessly round the clock.

They have plans A-Z in order to make sure 1) they do NOT ever have to give up the ultimate control over Burma's political and power institutions and 2) Aung San Suu Kyi never becomes head of state or have any real power in Burmese politics, beyond the illusion of policy influence.

Welcome to our ugly majoritarian neo-Fascist democracy run by militarists!

When a genocide is not a 'genocide', Maung Zarni


A sattelite image of Pauk-taw Township, Arakan State, Western Burma, after the organized destruction: 

"( c ) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;"

The world is witnessing, and Burma's Rohingya are experiencing, the genocide, that cannot be called 'genocide'.

Too much strategic interests (of various external powers such as Washington, Beijing, London, Moscow, Paris, Jakarta, Delhi, Tokyo, etc.) stand in the way of framing the genocide of the Rohingya truthfully.

So, the world hears about 'sectarian violence', from the Human Rights Watch down to the hard-core -- read amoral -- realists in the corridors of power.  It's not that this characterization of the situation in Western Burma is entirely untrue but that this framing glosses over the central, sustained (over 3 decades), and structural role of the successive Burmese military regimes and successive generations of generals in the genocide of the Rohingya.



Source: UK Channel 4 News

Curiously for communal violence, the Rohingya have suffered the overwhelming devastation and the death toll, according to Reuters's Special Report on the violence against the Rohingya as well as the BBC.

Calling the ethnically motivated violence in Western Burma "sectarian" or "communal" - which implicitly assigns equal responsibilities as Aung San Suu Kyi of all people has done rather dishonestly and shamefully - is like comparing 1,000 Hamas rockets "raining down" on Israel with 1,000 plus Israeli raids against Gaza, or the "Palestinian Ghetto" - both ignore blatantly the most crucial element in both respective narratives:
genocidal structural contexts maintained by both States which were born out of conflicts, violence, and national delusions, internal Burmese imperialism towards ethnic minorities and Zionist racism, respectively.



Here is the most authoritative source on what is and what is not GENOCIDE:


Approved and proposed for signature and ratification or accession by General Assembly resolution 260 A (III) of 9 December 1948, Entry into force: 12 January 1951, in accordance with article XIII

"( c ) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;"

=========================================================

The Irish Center for Human Rights, National University of Galaway

========================================================

NOVEMBER 17, 2012

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Genocide Watch Emergency Alert on Myanmar's Rohingya


Do you know what the greatest tragedy of Burma is?

Here is my straightforward answer from the street:

Good, honest Burmese of all ethnic and religious backgrounds get jailed, driven out of the country or simply slaughtered by the military over the past 50 years while successive waves of criminal regimes murder, rape, plunder and rule the country.

Reforms in Myanmar: hype and realities, Maung Zarni



US President Barack Obama is scheduled to arrive in Myanmar tomorrow (Mon) - perhaps the world's hottest destination at the moment. He should "see" the ugly realities of the country's reforms that lie just beneath the surface and hear the cries of the wretched of Myanmar such as the Muslim Rohingya and the Christian Kachins.

These days Myanmar's coming out party is talk of the town since President Thein Sein's government has embarked on reforms, ending the country's international pariah status and half-century of isolation, both self-imposed and externally-maintained. The generals' rule since 1962 has resulted in policy-induced poverty, prolonged internal conflicts and international isolation, with devastating societal consequences. Despite its firm grip on power the generals never really feel either secure or confident about their reign. They have always felt they are riding on the back of an angry and wounded tiger. 

Through their eyes reforms - and bringing on board Aung San Suu Kyi, their long-time nemesis, is the last resort both for themselves and the society at large. This is the existential background against which changes in Myanmar need to be understood.

As a welcome gesture, just about every leader of both the "free world" of the West and "un-free and semi-free worlds" of the East have hurried their way to Naypyidaw, Myanmar's purpose-built capital replete with North Korean-designed underground tunnels and bunkers. The freshly re-elected US President Barak Obama will top this list of international visitors who have thrown their weight behind the generals' reforms, with the Lady's blessings. 

Development and humanitarian packages worth hundreds of millions of dollars have been pledged, foreign debt to the tune of US$ 3.7 billion forgiven and official praise about Myanmar's changes has been thrown around in Washington, Tokyo, London, Berlin, Paris, Oslo, Brussels, and so on. New offices are springing up in Myanmar. Every tourist or long-stay visitor to Myanmar is now involved in 'institution- and capacity-building' of one kind or another. Investors, insurers, and do-gooders alike are all elated. Finally, Myanmar has arrived. 

But there is more to the hyperboles of this "model transition", as Washington put it, than meets the eyes. 

What really triggers these changes is as important to understand as what prospects - and challenges - lie ahead. Further, what real-world impact are these unfolding reforms having on the lives of the public, ethnic majority Bama and non-Bama ethnic minorities such as the Kachins in the North, the Rohingya in the West, the Shans and the Karens in the East?

Historically, it was the generals' fear of the loss of their half-century grip on power and wealth that led to state-ordered chronic waves of bloodbaths since the "8.8.88 Popular Uprising" when the entire nation rose up against the one-party military dictatorship of General Ne Win. In 2012, nearly a quarter century after the country's greatest revolt in modern history, it is again the same fear factor that has propelled the generals to make moves: reform the institutions and reform the way they rule the population. 

Mr Shwe Mann, Speaker of the Lower House, reportedly admitted the generals' collective fear. Within an hour of his meeting with the visiting US Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton in the parliament in December last year, the former third most powerful general in Than Shwe's ruling council was telling the Burmese journalists, "we do not want to end up like the Arab dictators. One day they were very powerful. The next day they died ignoble deaths". 

Of course, Washington's new strategy of "pivoting" back to Asia has also made it possible for the generals to come out of their bunkers, literally and figuratively. The Americans wanted the Burmese to walk away, as much as geo-strategically possible, from Beijing's embrace. The Burmese, on their part, are grateful to Washington in helping wean them off China's international protection, ironically, against Washington's perceived attempts at regime change in Myanmar. This is a classic geo-strategic symbiosis that is looking increasingly promising for the Burmese and the Americans.

However, through the natives' eyes, that is, the Burmese public, the country's recent history stands in the way of embracing the outsiders' rose-tinted views of Myanmar's reforms. They don't share the international community's "reckless optimism" about its collective future. The generals' past waves of nation-building have been nothing but national nightmares. 

Since 1962, Burmese military leaders have made and re-made themselves first as "socialist soldiers" bent on building a socialist economy and now overzealous "capitalist democrats" embracing the Free Market with fist and fury.

Fifty years ago the late General Ne Win, then commander-in-chief gave the green-light for deputies to end the country's fragile parliamentary democracy and build a 'socialist democracy'. Overnight military officers who had never dreamed of socialism as their guiding light were ordered to become the cadres of the Burma Socialist Programme Party. This socialist experiment ended up as a policy and system failure with devastating societal consequences in terms of human resources, public health, ethnic relations, economy and culture. The 25-years of continued military rule post-socialist dictatorship has only made the social legacy even worse. 

Almost 50 years after the late General Ne Win's military's socialist experiment, the "retired" Senior General Than Shwe ordered his juniors to discharge their new mission of building a "discipline flourishing democracy". Like the theatrical director, he slotted his deputies to play Speakers of the Houses, Chairman of the new army-backed ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party, Commander-in-Chief, and so on.

In Naypyidaw's new play, the soldiers are to form the backbone of reform push as 'democratisers' while western educated technocrats with developmental nationalism are to be advisers to the prince. Importantly, in this new cast of characters, the Lady too has an important role to play. The psyche-war savvy generals have worked on the Lady with a 'soft spot' for the Army which her martyred father founded three years before she was born. Through the regime's eyes, it has bagged the only thing in the world it needed to make itself entirely acceptable to the West. 

Remaining silent

Indeed Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has ceremoniously helped sell the generals' new play to the world while unceremoniously choosing to remain silent on the military's war crimes against the Kachin minorities in northern Burma, the ethno-religious cleansing of the Rohingya in western Burma, or economic disempowerment of ordinary farmers whose ancestral land is being confiscated by army-owned mining and commercial agricultural companies. 

To belabour the obvious, the ex-military officers and their active-duty brethren retain complete monopoly control over all aspects of reforms. In the new era of "democratic transition", these men, in skirts or in green shirts, continue to hold all levers of state power at all levels of administration, including "people's bicameral parliament", judiciary, foreign affairs and finance, besides their legitimate domain, namely state security apparatuses. And it is these "men on horseback", not collaborating dissidents or the advisory developmental technocrats, who determine the reforms' nature, scope, priorities, and pace.

This is the picture that increasingly worries the Burmese public that have borne the brunt of the military's policy, leadership and system failures. Here the cynical Burmese public know best. 

In dealing with unhappy Arab Streets, the House of Saud, for instance, has thrown billions at the Sultanate subjects to placate the latter while the Jordanian crown has created wiggle room for its subjects. Ex-generals in Naypyidaw, or "Abode of Kings", have in part adopted this "buy-the-impoverished-population" approach. The catch here though is this: unlike the House of Saud, which sits on the world's largest reserve of "black gold", the cash-strapped reformist President Thein Sein - cash-strapped because the country's revenues have been stashed away in personal bank accounts of senior and junior generals - wants the international community, including UN, international lending agencies and development banks, and "donor" countries, to foot his administration's bill. 

Commercial gains

Take, for instance, the literal cost of Naypyidaw's peace negotiations with ethnic armed resistance organizations. According to ex-Major General Aung Min, the Union Minister for Peace and a confidant of the President, his government does not even pay the hotel bills for peace negotiators. Thankfully from Naypyidaw's perspective, Oslo, bent on rebuilding its tarnished image of a global peace maker par excellence post-Sri Lanka's conflict, has stepped up to the plate, and so have the local Burmese cronies from Myanmar Egress, the best-known proxy for the Burmese intelligence services. Everyone in the peace process is poised to reap commercial and/or strategic gains, if and when the country's war zones are transformed into multi-billion dollar special economic zones and ethnic guerrilla fighters "swap their guns for laptops", as President Thein Sein poetically put it. 

Emphatically, the generals are, however, pursuing reforms largely for the wrong reasons - for their own long-term survival, both as powerful military families and as the most powerful institution with 'a deeply ingrained corporate sense of entitlement to rule'. Motives do matter. As a direct consequence, they remain wholly unprepared to do what is needed in terms of what will really promote public welfare and advance the cause of freedom, human rights and democracy.

As a matter of fact, the reforms are contradictory, reversible, and fragile. They are confined to such narrow domains as freedom of speech, new business and investment law. That is, the areas important to middle class Western liberals and attractive to venture capitalists and corporations. Further, reform moves bypass active conflict zones, strategic buffer areas, and resource-rich virgin lands. 

When it comes to economically and strategically important regions on the country's peripheries, that is, the ancestral homes of the country's 40% of ethnic minorities such as the Kachin, the Rakhine, the Shan, the Karen, the Mon, and the Karenni, the reforms simply translate into forced displacement, a rise in militarisation, a sharp increase in war-fleeing refugees, loss of livelihoods, and so on. It is indeed no coincidence that all fresh waves of violence, atrocities and raging wars happen to be in the ethnic minority regions designated to be homes of virtually all mega-development initiatives, commercial projects, resource extraction, special economic zones and industrial agricultural schemes - worth billions of dollars.

Curiously, both the origin and tail of China's 2,800-plus kilometre-long twin pipeline bear witness to the unfolding violence: ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya in the coastal region where the pipelines begin and the hot war against the Kachins in the Sino-Burmese highlands of northern Myanmar. To date, close to an estimated 100, 000 Rohingyas have been caged in new UN-financed refugee camps on the west coast while roughly the same number of Kachins in the North has fled the war on their ancestral highlands. On the eastern side of Myanmar along Thai-Burmese borders, donor agencies, for instance, Britain's Department of International Development (DfID) and the host country of Thailand are preparing to repatriate another 150,000 Karen and Karenni war refugees back to their regions, despite the absence there of either meaningful and functioning ceasefire or lasting peace. 

Dark side of reforms 

Because these wars and atrocities are off the beaten-path and largely inaccessible to UN and other aid agencies, the dark side of Myanmar's economic reforms by and large go unnoticed except for the US military's surveillance satellites which captured images of entire neighbourhoods in the strategic deep-sea port city of Kyauk Phyu razed to the ground. Why pay compensation for relocating a popularly disliked ethnic and religious minority community from strategically and commercially important locations if you can drive them out to the sea and torch their homes completely? These state-orchestrated crime scenes also lie outside the purview of the growing pool of visiting dignitaries, renowned experts and international statesmen and -women on their whirlwind state visits to Myanmar. 

More ominously, many international agencies and national governments by and large view this ugly side of development - ethnic, class and provincial conflicts, large scale displacement, pervasive land confiscation, absence of human and food security, growing income disparity, etc - as the necessary cost locals must bear if they are to enjoy projected fruits of developmental reforms in some distant future. Here the prevailing two-fold ideology of unfettered development and 'sustainable economic growth' is at work.

Even the country's iconic politician Aung San Suu Kyi, who has never set foot on active war zones of ethnic minorities, lacks any empirical understanding or experience to truly appreciate the negative consequences of the generals' reforms she is helping to market in Western capitals with great success.

The regime's pursuit of peace with armed ethnic resistance communities warrants a closer scrutiny than has been subject to. While running the country that has not seen real peace since independence from Britain 60-plus years ago, the generals talk the talk of peace, but do not walk the walk.

Take, for instance, its hyped-up ceasefire talks with two of the country's oldest and most resolute revolutionary organizations - the Karen National Union in Eastern Burma and the Kachin Independence Organization in Northern Burma. The widespread perception among the Kachin and Karen negotiators, and respective communities, is that the reformist government is more intent on imposing peace on its own terms, more or less. Naypyidaw is far more interested in exploiting natural resources in minority regions and securing strategic and commercial routes there than discussing seriously about the root cause of the country's ethnic rebellions, namely political autonomy founded on the principle of ethnic equality. 

The Kachins, who maintained truce a for 17 years, no longer feel they can trust the Burmese generals who attempted to lure them into trading the Kachins' collective drive for political autonomy in a genuinely federated Union of Burma for commercial deals for the Kachin upper crust.

This has led to Ko Mya Aye, one of the most prominent dissidents from the 88 Generation Group who travelled to the war zone and met with the Kachin resistance leaders, to remark pointedly, "The Burmese government knows what to change in order to have peace, but they do not want to do it. The government just does a little to look good to the international community". Myanmar's reforms are, upon closer scrutiny, more about the interests and longevity of the country's military and army-bred crony interests than about inter-ethnic and -faith peace, public welfare, or democracy.

Upon a closer and honest look, Myanmar's extraordinary reforms begin to lose their lustre. 

There is no denying that the country's quasi-civilian government has ushered in a new era of reforms. However, the types of reforms that President Thein Sein, an ex-general and a figurehead, are pursuing are ones that will protect the military's core interests above all else. At heart, the reforms are largely geared towards creating a "late developmental state" along the lines of Vietnam and China, a benign Leviathan that will secure the generals' electability on the basis of its economic performance and along popular "Buddhist" racism. When the illiberal society's deeply ingrained racism thunders the traditionally liberal discourses of human rights, democracy and multi-culturalism go muted. 

The current reform movement therefore lacks real potential to result in a new democratic polity which will build, and in turn feed off, a new and sustainable economic system. Sadly, the West and the rest alike are choosing to overlook the apparent pitfalls of Myanmar's reforms ignoring the cries of the wretched in a new Myanmar.

Maung Zarni (www.maungzarni.com) is a visiting fellow at the London School of Economics and founding director of the Free Burma Coalition (1995-2004).

Source: The Nation, Thailand, 19 November 2012

Go to Original .

BBC TV on Burma's state-backed sectarian violence against the Rohingya, "Buddhist" Racism and Aung San Suu Kyi's Silence

"Their fathers and forefathers were illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. We cannot accept them (the Rohingya even if they were born in our country. They have to go back to Bangladesh".

A Rakhine local

"We tried to put the flames out. T
hey shot (at us). My son was shot in the neck. He was brought to the hospital. As we were leaving the hospital they surrounded us. They were killing Muslims. They killed my husband. The police were just looking on".

One Rohingya survivor of the massacre

"When they burned the house my mother was inside. She was sick and I couldn't lift her. I heard the sound of shooting and ran away. My mother was burnt (to death)."

Another Rohingya victim

21 November 2012 Last updated at 12:59 GMTHelp

Reforms in Burma have revealed a sectarian divide between Buddhists and ethnic Muslims whose villages are being destroyed in brutal clashes with echoes of similar clashes in the Balkans, parts of Africa and Northern Ireland.

The Muslim Rohingya minority are being targeted by Burmese Buddhists and driven from their villages in their thousands. Their plight was highlighted during his recent visit by the US President Barack Obama, but hopes that Burma's most prominent civil rights campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi may support their cause have so far proved fruitless.

Feargal Keane reports from Burma

Watch this 9-minutes BBC Program here .





Naypyidaw's dirty little tricks at "peace building"

I often hear experts and peace-brokers, local and international, as well as 'donors' talk optimistically - and sometimes excitedly - about the Burmese regime's ceasefire deals and peace-making processes.

They often delude themselves into thinking that the generals need technical advice (often touted formula of DDR - Disarmament, De-mobilization, and Re-integration), financial assistance, political support, encouragement and you get the drift.  

Well-trained in psch-war ops, these 'peace-makers' from Naypyidaw know how to stroke your ego, entice you with things that you lust after, or simply abuse and manipulate your genuine desire to help end Burma's nasty civil wars of 60 plus year.  

Even if we naively and incorrectly assume that peace builders and support groups are high-minded and lack any hidden personal, organizational or national agendas expertly and 'donorly' involvement doesn't have much potentials to bring peace dividends in the current set up.  

The verifiable fact in the Burmese context is that the the generals and ex-generals don't embrace peace either intrinsically worthwhile goal in and of itself or as a corporate value.  They feel they can impose on resistance groups 'peace' on their own terms. 

The generals are only managing conflicts strategically and tactically for their own strategic goals of domination and eventual annihilation of any resistance groups, armed or non-violent and of control of land, above and under-ground resources, trade and strategic routes.  

On one hand, Naypyidaw's smooth-talking, but essentially dishonest and highly corrupted ex-intelligence officers like Aung Min, President Thein Sein's peace minister, talk peace, push for snap ceasefire deals and pose for the media - for propaganda's sake.

On the other hand, their men in General Staff and Special Operations Bureau - the bad cop -- are expanding and reinforcing their front line positions.  Further, the Naypyidaw's Army is emptying, as a matter of strategy, Kachin land of non-combatant communities, thereby creating a major burden and pressure on the Kachin fighters in the form of 100,000 Kachin war refugees, who need to be housed, fed and protected.  
That obviously brings down the number of Kachin troops that can engage in actual battles with the advancing Naypyidaw troops.

So, Naypyidaw troops forcing the Kachin communities to flee to KIA's command centers is part of Naypyidaw's nasty strategy towards these communities who supported voluntarily the founding of the Union of Burma as a post-colonial country and defended the Union in the fragile and early days of Burma's independence when the ethnically Burmese Troops were incapable of defending the Union from the Communists and later the Karen military assaults.  

The Impact of President Barack Obama's Speech on the Burmese Mind



Washington Post

President Obama delivered a speech Monday at Yangon University in Yangon, Myanmar. Obama hailed Myanmar’s shift to democracy.
WHAT really was the impact of Obama's speech on the Burmese public?

Beyond the symbolism of Obama giving this historic speech at Rangoon University, and all the American-
centric media coverage of it in English language press, a simple math will help paint the speech's intellectual and ideological impact on the public's minds (and hearts). 

According to a DVB English language staff on the ground, only 10% of Obama's speech on Monday was translated lived on Myanmar TV.

What was the point of not translating the rest - 90% -- of O-Bama's speech in a country with wonderful educational stats? 

Here is a glance at the relevant statistics:

1) most Burmese university graduates don't know what BA or BSc stands for (according to a Burmese businessman who employs hundreds of university "graduates");

2) over the past 50 years under successive military regimes, including the present quasi-civilian government of ex-general Thein Sein, 1/3 of the country's school aged youth do not complete their 5 years of their basic/elementary schooling (K-4), according to the UN);

3) despite the myth that Burma has a high literacy rate,even those who went on to complete Middle School or even High School level education, don't have conceptual or critical thinking ability even in their own mother tongue, let alone in English medium, a requisite intellectual ability to relate to ideological/intellectual concepts such as 'anti-racism' 'constitution', 'unity in diversity' 'religious freedoms' 'tolerance' and so on;

4) the great majority of teachers who teach English do NOT have functional competency in English (I know what I am talking about. I was an English teacher and a tour guide before I left the country before 8.8.88 uprisings);

Obviously, the regime had the technical capacity to translate the 10 percent of the speech - that is, the first 3-4 minutes. 

The arbitrary and unpredictable nature of the current quasi-civilian regime, something it shares with the past openly military regimes, was apparent when the official Myanmar TV didn't even feel a need to give any excuse or explanation as to why the simultaneous translation stopped abruptly.

Someone or some group in position of power, most definitely, was watching Obama's speech live. He or the group decided that the Burmese public needed to be prevented from understanding the speech rich in metaphors and taboos - such as the "Rohingya" or "citizens", or "religious tolerance". 

Translator got un-plugged! Oops. Sorry!

It might be easier for Washington to wean "Myanmarese" generals and ex-generals off of Beijing.  But it is going to be an uphill battle for the Americans to try to wean the latter of their old habits.
You can't teach old dogs new tricks.

So much for US President's historic lesson to the Burmese: Democracy and Anti-Racism - 101.

From the Burmese generals' perspective on President Obama



From the Burmese generals' perspective on President Obama is another big fish they have bagged, after Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
BBC World Service News Hours with James Menedez
18 Nov 2012
under the title - "Gaza offensive continues 18 Nov 12"
Two views: my former deputy Min Zaw Oo's and my own analysis
Burma segment is from 17:10 till about roughly 22:30

Myanmar State Television (MRTV) censored Obama's speech in Burma

President Obama won me over with his stance against racism in Burma. Below is the full transcript of his speech. I take my hat off to this man!

Myanmar State Television (MRTV) stopped its simultaneous translation when Obama started talking about ethnic cleansing in Arakan State and violence against the Rohingya.

Today a "Kular", or Burmese equivalent of "nigger", from Washington came to give that speech that Aung San Suu Kyi ought to have given - out of compassion, idealism and common humanity.

She was there in the audience next to Hilary Clinton and Michael Posner in the Convocation Hall of Rangoon University.

Daw Aung Yang Suu Kyi went around the world giving wonderful speeches.

And yet she failed to give the only speech she needed to give - in her own language to her own people: that is, speech about popular Burmese racism against the Muslims and blind hatred of the Rohingya.

This is the state of our pro-democracy leadership: out of step with time, circumstances and perhaps out of step with their own humanity.

Be that as it may,  here is my favorite excerpt from Obama's speech :

" Your country will be stronger because of many different cultures, but you have to seize that opportunity. You have to recognize that strength.

I say this because my own country and my own life have taught me the power of diversity. The United States of America is a nation of Christians and Jews, and Muslims and Buddhists, and Hindus and non-believers. Our story is shaped by every language; it’s enriched by every culture. We have people from every corners of the world. We’ve tasted the bitterness of civil war and segregation, but our history shows us that hatred in the human heart can recede; that the lines between races and tribes fade away. And what’s left is a simple truth: e pluribus unum -- that’s what we say in America. Out of many, we are one nation and we are one people."


Nov. 19, 2012


The White House - Office of the Press Secretary: Remarks by President Obama at the University of Yangon


PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you. (Applause.) Myanmar Naingan, Mingalaba! (Laughter and applause.) I am very honored to be here at this university and to be the first President of the United States of America to visit your country.


I came here because of the importance of your country. You live at the crossroads of East and South Asia. You border the most populated nations on the planet. You have a history that reaches back thousands of years, and the ability to help determine the destiny of the fastest growing region of the world.


I came here because of the beauty and diversity of your country. I have seen just earlier today the golden stupa of Shwedagon, and have been moved by the timeless idea of metta -- the belief that our time on this Earth can be defined by tolerance and by love. And I know this land reaches from the crowded neighborhoods of this old city to the homes of more than 60,000 villages; from the peaks of the Himalayas, the forests of Karen State, to the banks of the Irrawady River.


I came here because of my respect for this university. It was here at this school where opposition to colonial rule first took hold. It was here that Aung San edited a magazine before leading an independence movement. It was here that U Thant learned the ways of the world before guiding it at the United Nations. Here, scholarship thrived during the last century and students demanded their basic human rights. Now, your Parliament has at last passed a resolution to revitalize this university and it must reclaim its greatness, because the future of this country will be determined by the education of its youth.


I came here because of the history between our two countries. A century ago, American traders, merchants and missionaries came here to build bonds of faith and commerce and friendship. And from within these borders in World War II, our pilots flew into China and many of our troops gave their lives. Both of our nations emerged from the British Empire, and the United States was among the first countries to recognize an independent Union of Burma. We were proud to found an American Center in Rangoon and to build exchanges with schools like this one. And through decades of differences, Americans have been united in their affection for this country and its people.

Above all, I came here because of America’s belief in human dignity. Over the last several decades, our two countries became strangers. But today, I can tell you that we always remained hopeful about the people of this country, about you. You gave us hope and we bore witness to your courage.


We saw the activists dressed in white visit the families of political prisoners on Sundays and monks dressed in saffron protesting peacefully in the streets. We learned of ordinary people who organized relief teams to respond to a cyclone, and heard the voices of students and the beats of hip-hop artists projecting the sound of freedom. We came to know exiles and refugees who never lost touch with their families or their ancestral home. And we were inspired by the fierce dignity of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, as she proved that no human being can truly be imprisoned if hope burns in your heart.


When I took office as President, I sent a message to those governments who ruled by fear. I said, in my inauguration address, “We will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.” And over the last year and a half, a dramatic transition has begun, as a dictatorship of five decades has loosened its grip. Under President Thein Sein, the desire for change has been met by an agenda for reform. A civilian now leads the government, and a parliament is asserting itself. The once-outlawed National League for Democracy stood in an election, and Aung San Suu Kyi is a Member of Parliament. Hundreds of prisoners of conscience have been released, and forced labor has been banned. Preliminary cease-fires have been reached with ethnic armies, and new laws allow for a more open economy.


So today, I’ve come to keep my promise and extend the hand of friendship. America now has an Ambassador in Rangoon, sanctions have been eased, and we will help rebuild an economy that can offer opportunity for its people, and serve as an engine of growth for the world. But this remarkable journey has just begun, and has much further to go. Reforms launched from the top of society must meet the aspirations of citizens who form its foundation. The flickers of progress that we have seen must not be extinguished -- they must be strengthened; they must become a shining North Star for all this nation’s people.


And your success in that effort is important to the United States, as well as to me. Even though we come from different places, we share common dreams: to choose our leaders; to live together in peace; to get an education and make a good living; to love our families and our communities. That’s why freedom is not an abstract idea; freedom is the very thing that makes human progress possible -- not just at the ballot box, but in our daily lives.


One of our greatest Presidents in the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, understood this truth. He defined America’s cause as more than the right to cast a ballot. He understood democracy was not just voting. He called upon the world to embrace four fundamental freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. These four freedoms reinforce one another, and you cannot fully realize one without realizing them all.


So that's the future that we seek for ourselves, and for all people. And that is what I want to speak to you about today.


First, we believe in the right of free expression so that the voices of ordinary people can be heard, and governments reflect their will -- the people's will.


In the United States, for more than two centuries, we have worked to keep this promise for all of our citizens -- to win freedom for those who were enslaved; to extend the right to vote for women and African Americans; to protect the rights of workers to organize.


And we recognize no two nations achieve these rights in exactly the same way, but there is no question that your country will be stronger if it draws on the strength of all of its people. That’s what allows nations to succeed. That’s what reform has begun to do.


Instead of being repressed, the right of people to assemble together must now be fully respected. Instead of being stifled, the veil of media censorship must continue to be lifted. And as you take these steps, you can draw on your progress. Instead of being ignored, citizens who protested the construction of the Myitsone dam were heard. Instead of being outlawed, political parties have been allowed to participate. You can see progress being made. As one voter said during the parliamentary elections here, “Our parents and grandparents waited for this, but never saw it.” And now you can see it. You can taste freedom.


And to protect the freedom of all the voters, those in power must accept constraints. That's what our American system is designed to do. Now, America may have the strongest military in the world, but it must submit to civilian control. I, as the President of the United States, make determinations that the military then carries out, not the other way around. As President and Commander-In-Chief, I have that responsibility because I'm accountable to the people.


Now, on other hand, as President, I cannot just impose my will on Congress -- the Congress of the United States -- even though sometimes I wish I could. The legislative branch has its own powers and its own prerogatives, and so they check my power and balance my power. I appoint some of our judges, but I cannot tell them how to rule, because every person in America -- from a child living in poverty to me, the President of the United States -- is equal under the law. And a judge can make a determination as to whether or not I am upholding the law or breaking the law. And I am fully accountable to that law.


And I describe our system in the United States because that's how you must reach for the future that you deserve -- a future where a single prisoner of conscience is one too many. You need to reach for a future where the law is stronger than any single leader, because it's accountable to the people. You need to reach for a future where no child is made to be a soldier and no woman is exploited, and where the laws protect them even if they're vulnerable, even if they're weak; a future where national security is strengthened by a military that serves under civilians and a Constitution that guarantees that only those who are elected by the people may govern.


On that journey, America will support you every step of the way -- by using our assistance to empower civil society; by engaging your military to promote professionalism and human rights; and by partnering with you as you connect your progress towards democracy with economic development. So advancing that journey will help you pursue a second freedom -- the belief that all people should be free from want.


It's not enough to trade a prison of powerlessness for the pain of an empty stomach. But history shows that governments of the people and by the people and for the people are far more powerful in delivering prosperity. And that's the partnership we seek with you.


When ordinary people have a say in their own future, then your land can’t just be taken away from you. And that's why reforms must ensure that the people of this nation can have that most fundamental of possessions -- the right to own the title to the land on which you live and on which you work.


When your talents are unleashed, then opportunity will be created for all people. America is lifting our ban on companies doing business here, and your government has lifted restrictions on investment and taken steps to open up your economy. And now, as more wealth flows into your borders, we hope and expect that it will lift up more people. It can't just help folks at the top. It has to help everybody. And that kind of economic growth, where everybody has opportunity -- if you work hard, you can succeed -- that's what gets a nation moving rapidly when it comes to develop.


But that kind of growth can only be created if corruption is left behind. For investment to lead to opportunity, reform must promote budgets that are transparent and industry that is privately owned.


To lead by example, America now insists that our companies meet high standards of openness and transparency if they're doing business here. And we'll work with organizations like the World Bank to support small businesses and to promote an economy that allows entrepreneurs, small businesspeople to thrive and allows workers to keep what they earn. And I very much welcome your government’s recent decision to join what we've called our Open Government Partnership, so that citizens can come to expect accountability and learn exactly how monies are spent and how your system of government operates.


Above all, when your voices are heard in government, it's far more likely that your basic needs will be met. And that’s why reform must reach the daily lives of those who are hungry and those who are ill, and those who live without electricity or water. And here, too, America will do our part in working with you.


Today, I was proud to reestablish our USAID mission in this country, which is our lead development agency. And the United States wants to be a partner in helping this country, which used to be the rice bowl of Asia, to reestablish its capacity to feed its people and to care for its sick, and educate its children, and build its democratic institutions as you continue down the path of reform.


This country is famous for its natural resources, and they must be protected against exploitation. And let us remember that in a global economy, a country’s greatest resource is its people. So by investing in you, this nation can open the door for far more prosperity -- because unlocking a nation’s potential depends on empowering all its people, especially its young people.


Just as education is the key to America’s future, it is going to the be the key to your future as well. And so we look forward to working with you, as we have with many of your neighbors, to extend that opportunity and to deepen exchanges among our students. We want students from this country to travel to the United States and learn from us, and we want U.S. students to come here and learn from you.


And this truth leads me to the third freedom that I want to discuss: the freedom to worship -- the freedom to worship as you please, and your right to basic human dignity.


This country, like my own country, is blessed with diversity. Not everybody looks the same. Not everybody comes from the same region. Not everybody worships in the same way. In your cities and towns, there are pagodas and temples, and mosques and churches standing side by side. Well over a hundred ethnic groups have been a part of your story. Yet within these borders, we’ve seen some of the world’s longest running insurgencies, which have cost countless lives, and torn families and communities apart, and stood in the way of development.


No process of reform will succeed without national reconciliation. (Applause.) You now have a moment of remarkable opportunity to transform cease-fires into lasting settlements, and to pursue peace where conflicts still linger, including in Kachin State. Those efforts must lead to a more just and lasting peace, including humanitarian access to those in need, and a chance for the displaced to return home.


Today, we look at the recent violence in Rakhine State that has caused so much suffering, and we see the danger of continued tensions there. For too long, the people of this state, including ethnic Rakhine, have faced crushing poverty and persecution. But there is no excuse for violence against innocent people. And the Rohingya hold themselves -- hold within themselves the same dignity as you do, and I do.


National reconciliation will take time, but for the sake of our common humanity, and for the sake of this country’s future, it is necessary to stop incitement and to stop violence. And I welcome the government’s commitment to address the issues of injustice and accountability, and humanitarian access and citizenship. That’s a vision that the world will support as you move forward.


Every nation struggles to define citizenship. America has had great debates about these issues, and those debates continue to this day, because we’re a nation of immigrants -- people coming from every different part of the world. But what we’ve learned in the United States is that there are certain principles that are universal, apply to everybody no matter what you look like, no matter where you come from, no matter what religion you practice. The right of people to live without the threat that their families may be harmed or their homes may be burned simply because of who they are or where they come from.


Only the people of this country ultimately can define your union, can define what it means to be a citizen of this country. But I have confidence that as you do that you can draw on this diversity as a strength and not a weakness. Your country will be stronger because of many different cultures, but you have to seize that opportunity. You have to recognize that strength.


I say this because my own country and my own life have taught me the power of diversity. The United States of America is a nation of Christians and Jews, and Muslims and Buddhists, and Hindus and non-believers. Our story is shaped by every language; it’s enriched by every culture. We have people from every corners of the world. We’ve tasted the bitterness of civil war and segregation, but our history shows us that hatred in the human heart can recede; that the lines between races and tribes fade away. And what’s left is a simple truth: e pluribus unum -- that’s what we say in America. Out of many, we are one nation and we are one people. And that truth has, time and again, made our union stronger. It has made our country stronger. It’s part of what has made America great.


We amended our Constitution to extend the democratic principles that we hold dear. And I stand before you today as President of the most powerful nation on Earth, but recognizing that once the color of my skin would have denied me the right to vote. And so that should give you some sense that if our country can transcend its differences, then yours can, too. Every human being within these borders is a part of your nation’s story, and you should embrace that. That’s not a source of weakness, that’s a source of strength -- if you recognize it.


And that brings me to the final freedom that I will discuss today, and that is the right of all people to live free from fear.


In many ways, fear is the force that stands between human beings and their dreams. Fear of conflict and the weapons of war. Fear of a future that is different from the past. Fear of changes that are reordering our societies and economy. Fear of people who look different, or come from a different place, or worship in a different way. In some of her darkest moments, when Aung San Suu Kyi was imprisoned, she wrote an essay about freedom from fear. She said fear of losing corrupts those who wield it -- “Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it, and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.”


That's the fear that you can leave behind. We see that chance in leaders who are beginning to understand that power comes from appealing to people’s hopes, not people's fears. We see it in citizens who insist that this time must be different, that this time change will come and will continue. As Aung San Suu Kyi wrote: “Fear is not the natural state of civilized man.” I believe that. And today, you are showing the world that fear does not have to be the natural state of life in this country.


That’s why I am here. That’s why I came to Rangoon. And that’s why what happens here is so important -- not only to this region, but to the world. Because you're taking a journey that has the potential to inspire so many people. This is a test of whether a country can transition to a better place.


The United States of America is a Pacific nation, and we see our future as bound to those nations and peoples to our West. And as our economy recovers, this is where we believe we will find enormous growth. As we have ended the wars that have dominated our foreign policy for a decade, this region will be a focus for our efforts to build a prosperous peace.


Here in Southeast Asia, we see the potential for integration among nations and people. And as President, I have embraced ASEAN for reasons that go beyond the fact that I spent some of my childhood in this region, in Indonesia. Because with ASEAN, we see nations that are on the move -- nations that are growing, and democracies that are emerging; governments that are cooperating; progress that’s building on the diversity that spans oceans and islands and jungles and cities, peoples of every race and every religion. This is what the 21st century should look like if we have the courage to put aside our differences and move forward with a sense of mutual interest and mutual respect.


And here in Rangoon, I want to send a message across Asia: We don’t need to be defined by the prisons of the past. We need to look forward to the future. To the leadership of North Korea, I have offered a choice: let go of your nuclear weapons and choose the path of peace and progress. If you do, you will find an extended hand from the United States of America.


In 2012, we don’t need to cling to the divisions of East, West and North and South. We welcome the peaceful rise of China, your neighbor to the North; and India, your neighbor to the West. The United Nations -- the United States will work with any nation, large or small, that will contribute to a world that is more peaceful and more prosperous, and more just and more free. And the United States will be a friend to any nation that respects the rights of its citizens and the responsibilities of international law. 


That's the nation, that's the world that you can start to build here in this historic city. This nation that's been so isolated can show the world the power of a new beginning, and demonstrate once again that the journey to democracy goes hand in hand with development. I say this knowing that there are still countless people in this country who do not enjoy the opportunities that many of you seated here do. There are tens of millions who have no electricity. There are prisoners of conscience who still await release. There are refugees and displaced peoples in camps where hope is still something that lies on the distant horizon.


Today, I say to you -- and I say to everybody that can hear my voice -- that the United States of America is with you, including those who have been forgotten, those who are dispossessed, those who are ostracized, those who are poor. We carry your story in our heads and your hopes in our hearts, because in this 21st century with the spread of technology and the breaking down of barriers, the frontlines of freedom are within nations and individuals, not simply between them.


As one former prisoner put it in speaking to his fellow citizens, “Politics is your job. It’s not only for [the] politicians.” And we have an expression in the United States that the most important office in a democracy is the office of citizen -- not President, not Speaker, but citizen. (Applause.)


So as extraordinary and difficult and challenging and sometimes frustrating as this journey may seem, in the end, you, the citizens of this country, are the ones who must define what freedom means. You're the ones who are going to have to seize freedom, because a true revolution of the spirit begins in each of our hearts. It requires the kind of courage that so many of your leaders have already displayed.


The road ahead will be marked by huge challenges, and there will be those who resist the forces of change. But I stand here with confidence that something is happening in this country that cannot be reversed, and the will of the people can lift up this nation and set a great example for the world. And you will have in the United States of America a partner on that long journey. So, cezu tin bad de. (Applause.)


Thank you. (Applause.)

Reforms in Myanmar: hype and realities, Maung Zarni

US President Barack Obama is scheduled to arrive in Myanmar tomorrow (Mon) - perhaps the world's hottest destination at the moment. He should "see" the ugly realities of the country's reforms that lie just beneath the surface and hear the cries of the wretched of Myanmar such as the Muslim Rohingya and the Christian Kachins.



These days Myanmar's coming out party is talk of the town since President Thein Sein's government has embarked on reforms, ending the country's international pariah status and half-century of isolation, both self-imposed and externally-maintained. The generals' rule since 1962 has resulted in policy-induced poverty, prolonged internal conflicts and international isolation, with devastating societal consequences. Despite its firm grip on power the generals never really feel either secure or confident about their reign. They have always felt they are riding on the back of an angry and wounded tiger. 

Through their eyes reforms - and bringing on board Aung San Suu Kyi, their long-time nemesis, is the last resort both for themselves and the society at large. This is the existential background against which changes in Myanmar need to be understood.

As a welcome gesture, just about every leader of both the "free world" of the West and "un-free and semi-free worlds" of the East have hurried their way to Naypyidaw, Myanmar's purpose-built capital replete with North Korean-designed underground tunnels and bunkers. The freshly re-elected US President Barak Obama will top this list of international visitors who have thrown their weight behind the generals' reforms, with the Lady's blessings. 

Development and humanitarian packages worth hundreds of millions of dollars have been pledged, foreign debt to the tune of US$ 3.7 billion forgiven and official praise about Myanmar's changes has been thrown around in Washington, Tokyo, London, Berlin, Paris, Oslo, Brussels, and so on. New offices are springing up in Myanmar. Every tourist or long-stay visitor to Myanmar is now involved in 'institution- and capacity-building' of one kind or another. Investors, insurers, and do-gooders alike are all elated. Finally, Myanmar has arrived. 

But there is more to the hyperboles of this "model transition", as Washington put it, than meets the eyes. 

What really triggers these changes is as important to understand as what prospects - and challenges - lie ahead. Further, what real-world impact are these unfolding reforms having on the lives of the public, ethnic majority Bama and non-Bama ethnic minorities such as the Kachins in the North, the Rohingya in the West, the Shans and the Karens in the East?

Historically, it was the generals' fear of the loss of their half-century grip on power and wealth that led to state-ordered chronic waves of bloodbaths since the "8.8.88 Popular Uprising" when the entire nation rose up against the one-party military dictatorship of General Ne Win. In 2012, nearly a quarter century after the country's greatest revolt in modern history, it is again the same fear factor that has propelled the generals to make moves: reform the institutions and reform the way they rule the population. 

Mr Shwe Mann, Speaker of the Lower House, reportedly admitted the generals' collective fear. Within an hour of his meeting with the visiting US Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton in the parliament in December last year, the former third most powerful general in Than Shwe's ruling council was telling the Burmese journalists, "we do not want to end up like the Arab dictators. One day they were very powerful. The next day they died ignoble deaths". 

Of course, Washington's new strategy of "pivoting" back to Asia has also made it possible for the generals to come out of their bunkers, literally and figuratively. The Americans wanted the Burmese to walk away, as much as geo-strategically possible, from Beijing's embrace. The Burmese, on their part, are grateful to Washington in helping wean them off China's international protection, ironically, against Washington's perceived attempts at regime change in Myanmar. This is a classic geo-strategic symbiosis that is looking increasingly promising for the Burmese and the Americans.

However, through the natives' eyes, that is, the Burmese public, the country's recent history stands in the way of embracing the outsiders' rose-tinted views of Myanmar's reforms. They don't share the international community's "reckless optimism" about its collective future. The generals' past waves of nation-building have been nothing but national nightmares. 

Since 1962, Burmese military leaders have made and re-made themselves first as "socialist soldiers" bent on building a socialist economy and now overzealous "capitalist democrats" embracing the Free Market with fist and fury.

Fifty years ago the late General Ne Win, then commander-in-chief gave the green-light for deputies to end the country's fragile parliamentary democracy and build a 'socialist democracy'. Overnight military officers who had never dreamed of socialism as their guiding light were ordered to become the cadres of the Burma Socialist Programme Party. This socialist experiment ended up as a policy and system failure with devastating societal consequences in terms of human resources, public health, ethnic relations, economy and culture. The 25-years of continued military rule post-socialist dictatorship has only made the social legacy even worse. 

Almost 50 years after the late General Ne Win's military's socialist experiment, the "retired" Senior General Than Shwe ordered his juniors to discharge their new mission of building a "discipline flourishing democracy". Like the theatrical director, he slotted his deputies to play Speakers of the Houses, Chairman of the new army-backed ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party, Commander-in-Chief, and so on.

In Naypyidaw's new play, the soldiers are to form the backbone of reform push as 'democratisers' while western educated technocrats with developmental nationalism are to be advisers to the prince. Importantly, in this new cast of characters, the Lady too has an important role to play. The psyche-war savvy generals have worked on the Lady with a 'soft spot' for the Army which her martyred father founded three years before she was born. Through the regime's eyes, it has bagged the only thing in the world it needed to make itself entirely acceptable to the West. 

Remaining silent

Indeed Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has ceremoniously helped sell the generals' new play to the world while unceremoniously choosing to remain silent on the military's war crimes against the Kachin minorities in northern Burma, the ethno-religious cleansing of the Rohingya in western Burma, or economic disempowerment of ordinary farmers whose ancestral land is being confiscated by army-owned mining and commercial agricultural companies. 

To belabour the obvious, the ex-military officers and their active-duty brethren retain complete monopoly control over all aspects of reforms. In the new era of "democratic transition", these men, in skirts or in green shirts, continue to hold all levers of state power at all levels of administration, including "people's bicameral parliament", judiciary, foreign affairs and finance, besides their legitimate domain, namely state security apparatuses. And it is these "men on horseback", not collaborating dissidents or the advisory developmental technocrats, who determine the reforms' nature, scope, priorities, and pace.

This is the picture that increasingly worries the Burmese public that have borne the brunt of the military's policy, leadership and system failures. Here the cynical Burmese public know best. 

In dealing with unhappy Arab Streets, the House of Saud, for instance, has thrown billions at the Sultanate subjects to placate the latter while the Jordanian crown has created wiggle room for its subjects. Ex-generals in Naypyidaw, or "Abode of Kings", have in part adopted this "buy-the-impoverished-population" approach. The catch here though is this: unlike the House of Saud, which sits on the world's largest reserve of "black gold", the cash-strapped reformist President Thein Sein - cash-strapped because the country's revenues have been stashed away in personal bank accounts of senior and junior generals - wants the international community, including UN, international lending agencies and development banks, and "donor" countries, to foot his administration's bill. 

Commercial gains

Take, for instance, the literal cost of Naypyidaw's peace negotiations with ethnic armed resistance organizations. According to ex-Major General Aung Min, the Union Minister for Peace and a confidant of the President, his government does not even pay the hotel bills for peace negotiators. Thankfully from Naypyidaw's perspective, Oslo, bent on rebuilding its tarnished image of a global peace maker par excellence post-Sri Lanka's conflict, has stepped up to the plate, and so have the local Burmese cronies from Myanmar Egress, the best-known proxy for the Burmese intelligence services. Everyone in the peace process is poised to reap commercial and/or strategic gains, if and when the country's war zones are transformed into multi-billion dollar special economic zones and ethnic guerrilla fighters "swap their guns for laptops", as President Thein Sein poetically put it. 

Emphatically, the generals are, however, pursuing reforms largely for the wrong reasons - for their own long-term survival, both as powerful military families and as the most powerful institution with 'a deeply ingrained corporate sense of entitlement to rule'. Motives do matter. As a direct consequence, they remain wholly unprepared to do what is needed in terms of what will really promote public welfare and advance the cause of freedom, human rights and democracy.

As a matter of fact, the reforms are contradictory, reversible, and fragile. They are confined to such narrow domains as freedom of speech, new business and investment law. That is, the areas important to middle class Western liberals and attractive to venture capitalists and corporations. Further, reform moves bypass active conflict zones, strategic buffer areas, and resource-rich virgin lands. 

When it comes to economically and strategically important regions on the country's peripheries, that is, the ancestral homes of the country's 40% of ethnic minorities such as the Kachin, the Rakhine, the Shan, the Karen, the Mon, and the Karenni, the reforms simply translate into forced displacement, a rise in militarisation, a sharp increase in war-fleeing refugees, loss of livelihoods, and so on. It is indeed no coincidence that all fresh waves of violence, atrocities and raging wars happen to be in the ethnic minority regions designated to be homes of virtually all mega-development initiatives, commercial projects, resource extraction, special economic zones and industrial agricultural schemes - worth billions of dollars.

Curiously, both the origin and tail of China's 2,800-plus kilometre-long twin pipeline bear witness to the unfolding violence: ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya in the coastal region where the pipelines begin and the hot war against the Kachins in the Sino-Burmese highlands of northern Myanmar. To date, close to an estimated 100, 000 Rohingyas have been caged in new UN-financed refugee camps on the west coast while roughly the same number of Kachins in the North has fled the war on their ancestral highlands. On the eastern side of Myanmar along Thai-Burmese borders, donor agencies, for instance, Britain's Department of International Development (DfID) and the host country of Thailand are preparing to repatriate another 150,000 Karen and Karenni war refugees back to their regions, despite the absence there of either meaningful and functioning ceasefire or lasting peace. 

Dark side of reforms 

Because these wars and atrocities are off the beaten-path and largely inaccessible to UN and other aid agencies, the dark side of Myanmar's economic reforms by and large go unnoticed except for the US military's surveillance satellites which captured images of entire neighbourhoods in the strategic deep-sea port city of Kyauk Phyu razed to the ground. Why pay compensation for relocating a popularly disliked ethnic and religious minority community from strategically and commercially important locations if you can drive them out to the sea and torch their homes completely? These state-orchestrated crime scenes also lie outside the purview of the growing pool of visiting dignitaries, renowned experts and international statesmen and -women on their whirlwind state visits to Myanmar. 

More ominously, many international agencies and national governments by and large view this ugly side of development - ethnic, class and provincial conflicts, large scale displacement, pervasive land confiscation, absence of human and food security, growing income disparity, etc - as the necessary cost locals must bear if they are to enjoy projected fruits of developmental reforms in some distant future. Here the prevailing two-fold ideology of unfettered development and 'sustainable economic growth' is at work.

Even the country's iconic politician Aung San Suu Kyi, who has never set foot on active war zones of ethnic minorities, lacks any empirical understanding or experience to truly appreciate the negative consequences of the generals' reforms she is helping to market in Western capitals with great success.

The regime's pursuit of peace with armed ethnic resistance communities warrants a closer scrutiny than has been subject to. While running the country that has not seen real peace since independence from Britain 60-plus years ago, the generals talk the talk of peace, but do not walk the walk.

Take, for instance, its hyped-up ceasefire talks with two of the country's oldest and most resolute revolutionary organizations - the Karen National Union in Eastern Burma and the Kachin Independence Organization in Northern Burma. The widespread perception among the Kachin and Karen negotiators, and respective communities, is that the reformist government is more intent on imposing peace on its own terms, more or less. Naypyidaw is far more interested in exploiting natural resources in minority regions and securing strategic and commercial routes there than discussing seriously about the root cause of the country's ethnic rebellions, namely political autonomy founded on the principle of ethnic equality. 

The Kachins, who maintained truce a for 17 years, no longer feel they can trust the Burmese generals who attempted to lure them into trading the Kachins' collective drive for political autonomy in a genuinely federated Union of Burma for commercial deals for the Kachin upper crust.

This has led to Ko Mya Aye, one of the most prominent dissidents from the 88 Generation Group who travelled to the war zone and met with the Kachin resistance leaders, to remark pointedly, "The Burmese government knows what to change in order to have peace, but they do not want to do it. The government just does a little to look good to the international community". Myanmar's reforms are, upon closer scrutiny, more about the interests and longevity of the country's military and army-bred crony interests than about inter-ethnic and -faith peace, public welfare, or democracy.

Upon a closer and honest look, Myanmar's extraordinary reforms begin to lose their lustre. 

There is no denying that the country's quasi-civilian government has ushered in a new era of reforms. However, the types of reforms that President Thein Sein, an ex-general and a figurehead, are pursuing are ones that will protect the military's core interests above all else. At heart, the reforms are largely geared towards creating a "late developmental state" along the lines of Vietnam and China, a benign Leviathan that will secure the generals' electability on the basis of its economic performance and along popular "Buddhist" racism. When the illiberal society's deeply ingrained racism thunders the traditionally liberal discourses of human rights, democracy and multi-culturalism go muted. 

The current reform movement therefore lacks real potential to result in a new democratic polity which will build, and in turn feed off, a new and sustainable economic system. Sadly, the West and the rest alike are choosing to overlook the apparent pitfalls of Myanmar's reforms ignoring the cries of the wretched in a new Myanmar.

Maung Zarni (www.maungzarni.com) is a visiting fellow at the London School of Economics and founding director of the Free Burma Coalition (1995-2004).

Source: The Nation, 19 NOvember 2012

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