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

Burmese academic resigns from Brunei university over censorship

Radio Australia
January 29, 2013


A Burmese academic and human rights activist has resigned from his position at a Brunei university, complaining of censorship.

Dr Maung Zarni says the University Brunei Darussalam has "punished" him for speaking out about the violence between mainly-Muslim Rohingyas and mainly-Buddhist ethnic Rakhine in Burma.

Presenter: Liam Cochrane

Speaker: Dr Maung Zarni, visiting fellow at London School of Economics

How feudal imperialism continues to destroy the Union of Burma

Members of parliament from the military arrive for a parliamentary session at the lower house of parliament in Naypyitaw on 2 May 2012. (Photo - Reuters)

Maung Zarni
Democratic Voice of Burma
January 15, 2013

The government’s ongoing war against the Kachin, who helped establish the Union of Burma, a political union of ethnically equal communities, has demonstrated that the country’s leaders are not interested in nation building, but in empire building.

Naypyidaw’s disproportionate use of modern weaponry against the Kachins and its parroting of democracy, development and good governance betrays the deeply imperialistic, feudal nature of the regime whose ethos is stuck in the days of the failed empire-builders of the Kongbaung dynasty.

Burma’s Tatmadaw are reportedly conducting daily air raids from helicopter gunships and fighter jets and using heavy artillery to target Kachin Independence Army (KIA) positions. Naypyidaw’s spokespersons, from President Thein Sein down to his underlings Ye Htut and Htay Zaw, are lying to the world with a straight face and claim that all the violence unleashed on the ground as well as from the air is, well, “in self-defence”.

Beyond the human cost on both sides of the conflict in Kachin state, the government’s escalation of its internally colonialist war is, in effect, bound to unleash a new vicious cycle of ethnic wars.

Further, the ugly realities of the war atrocities committed against the Kachin has shattered the rose-tinted view of the Thein Sein government as a ‘peace-pursuer’ – to paraphrase the title of the International Crisis Group’s quaintly named award ‘In Pursuit of Peace’, which President Thein Sein is a co-recipient.

Viewed from a historical perspective, the government’s escalation of its ethnic war against the Kachins reveals that the celebrated reformist president and his comrades-in-arm are the newest in a long line of Bama imperialists who pursue a pathological militarism towards weaker, non-Bama ethnic communities.

Historically speaking, what we today call Burma, or Myanmar, has not experienced peace since the founding of the Kongbaung dynasty, which began ruling the country’s central plains in the 1750s. The Bama-centric official history usually blames the origins of the country’s post-colonial ethnic conflicts on the legacy of British colonial rule. However, Burma was a war-torn country long before the British colonized the Bama imperialist court at Mandalay in November 1885.

Empirically, wars and conflicts in the lives of the peoples of Burma have been a constant in the otherwise ever-changing realities on the ground. The country has remained at war with itself since the British transferred sovereignty and power back to the Bama political elites in 1948.

The ruling elites of all stripes and colours since independence have always looked for easy scapegoats to blame for their own failures in pursuing lasting peace and building a healthy web of ethnic relations among pockets of multiethnic peoples. Among the official scapegoats were the ‘power-mad’ Communists, secessionist minorities, Maoists in China, rightists in Thailand, Islamists in Bangladesh, Yankee imperialists and old colonialists in London.

Whatever their outward forms, the Bama political elites – democrats, communists, rightists, socialists, militarists, generals, dissidents and civilians –have one thing in common—their certifiably imperialist complex. Invariably, they all feel an entitlement to boss around and bully the rest of the country’s ethnic people. Successive military governments since General Ne Win came to power in 1962 have only institutionalised the most virulent strain of this cancerous ideology and pursued it in thoughts and deeds.

The only Bama nationalist leader who came closest to the ideal of an ethnically fair-minded anti-imperialist was Aung San, Aung San Suu Kyi’s father. “I am opposed to British imperialism, Japanese imperialism, and Bama imperialism,” said Aung San in a speech he delievered to the executive committee of the Anti-fascist People’s Freedom League, which he headed in May 1946.

On the eve of Burma’s independence in 1947, the non-Bama ethnic leaders representing the Kachin, the Karenni, the Shan and the Chin chose to join the Bama leader Aung San in founding the Union of Burma as equal and voluntary partners, signing the founding treaty among different ethnic groups which later came to be known as the ‘Panglong Treaty’. Their choice was made as a result of his convincing personal integrity and in part out of their own strategic calculations.

Aung San developed and internalised an inclusive ‘Big Tent’ multi-ethnic vision for the country on the cusp of independence. He believed rightly that the only workable formula to build a healthy multi-ethnic country was to enshrine the principle of ethnic equality among different ethnic communities and improve the conditions among non-Bama ethnic peoples living in peripheral but strategic borderlands populated by the Kachin, the Shan, the Karenni, the Chin, and so on.

But when the only Bama revolutionary leader, who represented the majority Bama public, was assassinated only months before independence, the assassins’ bullets killed not only the national visionary but also his inclusive vision of an independent Burma. Not a single one of Aung San’s colleagues and deputies, including the Bama politicians such as Prime Minister U Nu or General Ne Win, shared his conviction in creating an inclusive Union. Nor was there any institution that was tasked to realise or capable of implementing Aung San’s ‘Big Tent’ vision.

The late U Chan Tun, a British-educated barrister and key constitutional advisor to Aung San who played a vital rule in drafting the original Constitution of 1947, remarked honestly that post-Aung San’s assassination, the Union of Burma that emerged was federal only in name, and the state that was created according to that Constitution was in effect unitary in nature.

The non-Bama ethnic minorities started their membership in the new Union of Burma post-independence feeling they were cheated by the Bama political elites who reneged on their promise of ethnic equality. As early as 1953, the civilian politicians from U Nu’s government and the military leaders led by General Ne Win were collaborating in taking pre-emptive military measures against any ethnic group from seceding from the Union – constitutionally or through armed revolts.

Because the Shans were the most organised, sophisticated and independence-mined, the Bama elites built a new town at Ba Htoo in the Shan Hills as a site ostensibly for the Defense Services Academy. According to retired Colonel Chit Myaing, a well known commander in northern Shan state at the time, the hidden mission behind constructing the new town was to serve as the first Bama military base in the heart of the Shan territories from which the central State’s Armed Forces would project its military power in order to reign in any pro-secession centrifugal forces.

Despite the Bama elites’ political paranoia, most of the non-Bamas, including the official co-founders of the Union, namely the Kachins, the Chin and the Shans, remained loyal to the Union and fended off, alongside the Bama military and political elites, any secessionist efforts from other ethnic minorities such as the Karens.

Still, the Bama paranoia runs too deep for them to trust anyone other than themselves to retain the reins of the state in Burma. Two years after the military staged the coup in the early 1960s, many nationally acclaimed writers, for instance, the late Maung Htin, were denouncing any public mention of ‘federalism’ as a slippery slope towards the balkanization of Burma.

Maung Htin was writing anti-Federalist fear-mongering popular essays in Myawaddy – a large circulation magazine put out by the Army’s Psychological Warfare Division in Rangoon. Within the Armed Forces, the generals have succeeded in institutionalising this paranoid view that ‘federalism equals balkanization’.

In 2005, a high ranking military officer who was in charge of the National Convention outside Rangoon said to me, with deep disdain and fear, that some well-known Kachin peace-brokers proposed some federal arrangements as part of the re-construction of Burma as a peaceful Union. When powerful military leaders wrongly – and typically in knee-jerk fashion – dismiss the only viable idea, namely federalist devolution of state power to different constitutive ethnic communities, as a step towards the balkanization of Burma, then we are in for deep trouble.

History matters

After his ruthless but victorious military campaign against the lower country’s Mon rivals, U Aung Zeya, the Bama imperialist founder of the last Kongbaung dynasty stopped at a small fishing village surrounded by swamps and jungles and renamed it ‘Yangon’ or the ‘End of Strife’, in an apparent superstitious attempt to signal that his decisive military victories against the Mons marked the end an era and the beginning of another. That was in the 1750s.

Over the past 250 years, the country has not experienced any lasting peace, with or without alien British or Japanese rule. Burma is the only country in all of Southeast Asia where the civil war has not stopped since it broke out in the wake f World War II.

Bama nationalism of the masses may simply be defined as an abstract idea of what Benedict Anderson famously, but quaintly termed ‘an imagined community’. But for the ruling elites, their self-professed nationalism is definitely more than imagining a national community as they please. The Bama ruling and counter-elite’s nationalism is more about resources, land grabs and controlling strategic regions that have never really been under the effective and direct rule of Bama imperialists.

Therefore, the escalated wars against the Kachins represent a fully imperialist campaign. The old European powers such as English and French waged their imperial wars of loot and domination against non-European peoples around the world under the rubric of a ‘Civilizing Mission’. But for Naypyidaw’s brutes and sincere deceivers, there can be no such excuse against the new discourses of human rights, ethnic equality, participatory democracy, etc. Plainly put, Naypyidaw’s war is fueled by greed, militarism and imperialist delusions.

Two and a half centuries ago, the Kongbaung dynasty was built by Bama feudal warlords. This feat was carried out on the backs of the conscripted multi-ethnic soldiers and labourers, which resulted in untold miseries. The old Bama empire builders and their incessant military campaigns forced literally hundreds of thousands of Arakanese, Shan, Karen and other ethnic peoples to flee to neighbouring kingdoms and territories to seek refuge.

By all indications, today’s ruling military is resuming the old feudal delusions of grandeur, which the mightier British colonizers crushed in the early 19th century. The fake gold-gilded throne in the Parliament, the feudal title of the capital Naypyidaw, the replica of Shwedagon pagoda, the absence of compassionate humanism as the state’s ethos, giant statues of the old warrior kings in the neo-Fascist parade ground are all the distinct manifestations of the ruling elite’s embrace of self-destructive imperialist feudalism.

What the country and her people need in the 21st century – and after 250 years of continual war and misery – is federalism where ethnic equality, religious tolerance and multiculturalism would be the organising principles for a new Burma.

Maung Zarni (www.maungzarni.com) is a visiting fellow at the London School of Economics, and until very recently, associate professor with the Institute of Asian Studies at the University of Brunei Darussalem, Brunei

Myanmar activist, professor resigns over Brunei university ‘censorship’


Nan Tin Htwe
January 14, 2013

A Myanmar professor and human rights activist has resigned his post with one of Asia’s top universities, complaining of censorship. 

Dr Maung Zarni, co-founder of the Free Burma Coalition, quit the Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD), saying it is “impossible to maintain his professionalism” and blaming “extreme and unprofessional academic censorship”. 

Dr Maung Zarni, who is described on his website as a “staunch advocate of unconditional human rights, as well as ethnic and gender equality,” is also a visiting fellow with the Civil Society and Human Security Research Unit at the London School of Economics, and the author of Life Under the Boot: 50 years of Military Dictatorship in Burma (Yale University Press). 

On January 7, he uploaded his resignation letter on his website expressing his “deep regret” at the situation. He says that last June he participated in a human rights and rule of law panel which was joined by Aung San Suu Kyi during her European trip. 

He alleges UBD punished him by withdrawing financial and institutional support 24 hours before his flight to London and forced him to take personal leave and to pay for the US$3000 flight himself. He says UBD also warned him not to use the university’s name during LSE’s roundtable discussion and panels, and to be “purely academic” – “[s]omething which, given the political role of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma, is entirely impossible,” he said. 

Upon his return to UBD, he was warned that “everyone is watching you”, and told to restrict his work to non-Myanmar issues or purely academic papers. 

His resignation attracted some attention around the region, with Steve Lai, a presenter at Channel NewsAsia, tweeting: “This makes me sad.” Similarly, Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim tweeted: “Let the world know about the resignation of Dr Maung Zarni.” 

Dr Maung Zarni said that he had never made any secret of his political and human rights activities. 

“I simply could not countenance allowing my employer to intimidate me into professional silence on unfolding human rights atrocities and war crimes against Myanmar’s Muslims and ethnic minorities in Burma on account of a monthly pay check,” he said. 

“In fact I am the only Burmese academic who is researching, publishing and speaking out against what the Organisation of the Islamic Conference/Cooperation (OIC) officially refers to as ‘genocide against the Muslim Rohingya’ in western Burma committed by the collaborating political and social forces, namely the Rakhine ‘Buddhists’ and the government of Burma itself,” Dr Maung Zarni added. 

UBD had also shown displeasure at his writing on Myanmar’s transition for the National University of Singapore and being invited by Channel NewsAsia to debate democratisation in Myanmar. 

“I feel that with Brunei taking over the chair of ASEAN, my ability to function in the immediate future with professional integrity will be compromised beyond the levels which I am prepared to accept,” he said. 

In an interview with Mawkun magazine, Dr Zarni criticised Daw Aung San Suu Kyi for not taking a stand over Kachin, where, he said, the Kachin Independence Organisation is fighting not for an independent state but “equal rights”. 

He has accused the Tatmadaw of engaging in conflict in Kachin State so that Chinese projects could proceed, and said Myanmar people should be aware of China’s influence in their country. 

The university did not respond to email requests for comment last week.
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Nazism is not alien to the Myanmerse in Sein-Kyi's Burma

"Visitors to Myanmar these days often encounter young men in T-shirts emblazoned with a red swastika in a circle and the word "Nazi" written above. World War II-style motorcycle helmets decorated with the fascist emblem are also en vogue on the streets of Yangon".

Nazi (is) chic in new Myanmar- yes.   And it is not even alien to us!

If you want to adopt the Burmese as your 'scholarship's pets', nothing will stop you.

But, PLEASE... stop serving up stupid expertly explanations and excuses.

When it comes to murder and crimes, ignorance is no excuse.

Certainly, when it comes to embracing signs and symbols of Nazism it should not be a scholarly or expertly explanation.

The fact is the Burmese know who Hitler was, what Nazism was all about - and they - I won't use the word 'we', because I no longer feel Burmese enough to consider me a Burmese, so, yes traitor to the Nth degree, and proudly so -- talk about him and his devastating sickness approvingly.

As a matter of fact, the official texts during Ne Win's period did explain what Nazism was all about. Everyone who studied history in grade school - which was everyone who went beyond the 5th grade - knew Hitler masterminded the Final Solution. My mother was historian and history teacher. I crawled around history text books.

The fact is the Burmese of my grandparents and parents' generations were cheering on the side of the Nazis during the World War II - because they wanted the colonizer Brits to be defeated. With the news of German U-boats sinking Allied Ships anywhere, crowds of news-loving Burmese would burst into loud applause in public spaces - or at someone's house with a radio.

They romananticized the Japanese Fascism.

With the exception of hard-core Communists, virtually all Burmese nationalists embraced Fascist Japan as their military patron and their liberator. There is certainly no such thing as fascist/Nazi liberator, they discovered belatedly.

ONE BLOOD, ONE VOICE, ONE NATION UNDER ONE (STRONG) LEADER (after 2015 Aung San Suu Kyi?).

There have always been symptoms of blood-thirsty neo-Fascism within our 'Buddhist' culture and society.

Even the famed writer Maung Htin, writing in the Army's Psych War Department magazine "Myawadi", felt a need to speculate that the Burmese troops must have been extremely ruthless and militaristic towards weaker peoples and kingdoms.

He based his speculations on the level of hatred that the defated peoples felt towards the Burmese (troops and rulers), that is, most of the neighoring kingdoms, including the once independent Arakanese, the Siamese, the Manipurans and the Assamis.

Our culture condones VIOLENCE - and I am not sure in what ways the Burmese and the Burmese society are Buddhist?

In every awesome Buddhist temple and pagoda there were buried hundreds and thousands of skeletons of forced laborers, war prisoners and 'pagoda slaves'.

Nazi is chic - yes.   And it is not even alien to us although we call ourselves "Buddhists"!

Myanmar's New Gates of Hell



Nazi chic in the new Myanmar

Myanmar has arrived already not at the threshold of irreversibility  in terms of its democratization, but at gates, which Rodin would easily recognized as the Gates of Hell, that is, “Buddhist” and unqualified Nazi Hell.

Yes, I am talking about that Myanmar of odd reformist political ‘couple’, Thein Sein and Aung San Suu Kyi, in that award-winning marriage of strategic symbiosis.

Yes, I am referring to the same Myanmar which ‘world leaders’ and their personal secretaries tick on the check lists of ‘to gos or to have beens’.

The typically too excitable US leaders had described Myanmar's reforms that Sein-Kyi supposedly ushered in as a model transition.  Washington's favorite rogue states such as N. Korea and Iran must emulate the new behaviour of their old business partner in Naypyidaw.  Of course.  

US President Obama travelling to Myanmar in mid-November last year on the heel of his re-election victory was supposed to have been a victory lap of for him.  Myanmar in extraordinary democratic transition, Obama dreamed of showcasing as a product of his wise-crack US foreign policy.

Unfortunately for Mr Obama, the events in Myanmar are taking neo-Fascist and internally colonialist turns.  It must feel like Mr President has gotten an unmistakable Middle Finger from Naypyidaw.  He thought they had grabbed the presidential hand which he extended to the rogues in neo-fascist capital of Naypyidaw.  

Mr Obama is not alone in being given a big MF by Naypyidaw's reformers.  

There might literally be hundreds of 'reckless optimists’, from among the rank and files of the Great Washed.  That is, all sorts of journos, philistines, pundits, technocrats, academics, endowed chairs, researchers, think tankers, and you get the drift.  Some  are noble and some simply opportunistic and self-seeking. But all Naypyidaw's fools (or "Stalin's idiots"), no less.

There there have been hyped up talks of  poverty eradication, currency rate change, privatization, ‘good governance’, dismantling official censorship in return for strict self-censorship, letting the regime’s old time Enemy Number One - the Lady of Latter-day Silence over Burmese Wars and Genocide -- transition from home prison to neo-Fascist parliament, welcoming US war ships, and seeking out ‘new friendship’ with the Pentagon.

But most importantly,  the reformists in Naypyidaw have simply let all Hell break loose when it comes to matters of its 'core strategic interests' in Western Burma (cleansing the commercially and strategic vital region of Muslims), trying to bring the Kachin resistance to its knees in an equally important strategic region in Nothern most region, or firebombing monks who trampled on Chinese-Burmese joint interests. 

The generals and ex-generals have accelerated their four decades of neo-Fascist Bama military’s genocidal and ethnocidal policies against the 800,000-Rohingya since last June.  They created for themselves the space for deniability and played the neutral referee while quietly out-souring to the hatred-soaked Rakhine bigots  - neo-Nazi hounds really - the job of conducting a full-scale genocide there.    

(Yes, genocidal. You don’t need technocrats, academics and lawyers to tell you what is and what is NOT genocide, just read the bloody ‘UN Convention of Genocide Prevention and Punishment’. The West or the Rest is choosing not to call the Rohingya genocide a genocide simply out of strategic interests and commercial and political calculations, but that does not make it NOT a genocide).

If the unfolding genocide and ethnocide  were not enough to convince the reform’s cheer-leaders, domestically or internationally, who have drunk the cool-aid of ‘reckless optimism’  of the unchanged nature of the regime in Naypyidaw, President Thein Sein and his backseat-drivers demonstrated that they were not push-overs and no one should think of messing with them - when it comes to the military and generals' core interests.   

Who, better than Saffron monks to use as a medium of their message  - that the generals are determined to hold on to everything that matters to them?

After all, Thein Sein himself had framed them as ‘racist’ instigators of mass violence against the ‘illegal Bangalis’.  And the monks were jelling with the rural communities in protesting against the Chinese-Burmese military mining projects.

They threatened the military’s core interests, the generals would of course teach them a lesson, revered racist sons of Lord Buddha or the unwanted 'Bangali illegals'.


The Rohingyas got mass expulsion and slaughter while the anti-mine monks got fire-bombed.  


The Lady has learned her lesson the hard way, herself.  So she keeps immoral silence over major issues, ah, like the genocide of the Rohingya in the West or the colonial war against the Kachins in the North.  

The generals have already taught the ‘Bangali Kalar’ or niggers from Bangladesh, a lesson in genocide while making the Rakhine skin-heads eternally indebted to the military for letting them wipe out the Rohingya populations and take their land, business, houses and other economic assets.

Enter the defiant Kachins realize that Naypyidaw's hands are no longer tied to other nasty jobs.

TNaypyidaw has already ‘neutered’, figuratively of course, our Aunty Suu through various manipulative acts and sugar-coated words.  They have been  dangling before her eyes a rather attractive idea of her as President in 2015.  

(One famous astrologer for tourists has even expedited the coronation of the Lady of Latter-day Silence and Immorality to 2014.   But don't hold your breath for such a public display of otherworldly stupidity).  

The reformist generals also know that they have played the West and the Rest really well, speaking the language of neo-liberal reforms - like 'good governance' ?

So, free at last from the political and PR constraints.

Naypyidaw has ordered the final assault, Sri Lankan-style, on the Kachins running air raids and firing from Putin's gunship helicopters.

The sins of the Kachins?  Being in their own homeland, sitting on the resources and occupying strategic routes.

Nearly 2 years since the old fox - Senior Statesman Than Shwe - implemented his game plan, Than Shwe Inc has been raking in political, monetary and legitimacy dividends - development, humanitarian, loans, debt forgive-ness, you name it.

Meanwhile, the Burmese 'Buddhist' society with lovely racists is experiencing a wonderful Fascist turn.

Freedom of expression, of course, in a new Myanmar, thanks to that Sein-Kyi couple.

You may now express your latent worldviews, no matter how sick,  alarming and depraved,.  Just don't ask for your land back from the street, Peace, or healthy Environment - clean from toxins and toxic waste from the military-Chinese copper mines.

Myanmar is entering the Age of Free Nazi Expression indeed.

I have been calling my society’s emerging new philosophy “neo-Fascist” to the outrage of, well, skin-heads and other bigots.

Surely, most Burmese know Hitler gassed millions of Jews and others in Europe.   Remember our forefathers and -mothers cheered on as the German U-Boats sank Allied ships in the Atlantic, including the merchant marines?

And many Burmese certainly approve of genocidal acts, themselves believers in purity 'race' 'blood' 'religion' and 'language'.   Just read the Burmese language social media to know that they are largely Hitlerites.    And in Sein-Kyi's Myanmar they - yes, they, not we, because I don't count myself a Burmese if it means a skin-head -- don't think there is anything wrong with Nazism.

If you think I am exaggerating ask the Rohingya, the Kachin, the Chin, the Karen, the Mon, the Shan, and so on.

As cultural - as opposed to practizing - Buddhists, the Burmese have no Mesiah or Savior or Liberator who will come to meet them at their gates of Nazi "Buddhist" Hell.

They will certainly be there for a while. 

Well, maybe I am just recklessly pessimistic!  Let's hope so.  

Dr. Maung Zarni: Resignation Letter

Dr. Maung Zarni
Mr. Anwar Ibrahim's Tweet on Twitter

To: Universiti Darussalam Brunei (UBD)

Dear Vice Chancellor Zul and Assistant Vice Chancellor Anita,

It is with deep regret that I am writing to you to submit my resignation from the post of Associate Professor with the Institute of Asian Studies at the Universiti Darussalam Brunei (UBD).

You were both the key members of the interview team which recruited me to come and work for the University a little over a year ago. I was very much impressed by your narrative of UBD being a place for open intellectual inquiry, supportive bureaucracy, and the new drive for innovation and research. This description of UBD was central to my decision to accept the post.

Months before I arrived in Brunei and officially joined the UBD on 3 Jan 2012, the then Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, where I would be based, assured me in writing that there was academic freedom for faculty, and I should only steer clear only of two taboo subjects, namely the Sultan and Islam.

But my first-hand one-year professional experience at the UBD has been anything but positive, intellectually and professionally, save the experience of teaching and providing academic support to my Bruneian students.

In June 2012, I travelled to London and joined a highly distinguished LSE panel of experts and practitioners in the fields of human rights and the rule of law including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Sir Geoffrey Nice, deputy head of the ICC Tribunal for Slobodan Milosevic, and LSE Professor Mary Kaldor. UBD authorities punished me by withdrawing UBD’s financial and institutional support 24 hours before my flight to London left , forcing me to take a personal annual leave for this important occasion, and pay for an expensive $3,000 last minute flight and instructing me, in writing, NOT to use the UBD’s name even for affiliation purposes for the LSE roundtable program and to ensure that my contribution to the panel discussion be “purely academic” – something which given the political role of Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma is entirely impossible.

Upon return I was called in by Professor Chee-Kiong Tong, my immediate line manager and Strategic Advisor to the Vice Chancellor, and emphatically told “everyone is watching you”, insinuating that I was being spied on by neighbouring countries, merely for my role in this high-profile event – , something any credible university would both support and take pride in. In addition, I was told by Professor Chee-Kiong Tong that I should restrict my work to non-Burma related issues or write only “purely academic” papers, effectively attempting to gag me on my area of academic and professional expertise.

As a socially engaged academic with a known activist background – I was 100% transparent during the recruitment process in my CV and during the job interview in London about my years of human rights activism on the military-ruled country of mine, Burma – I simply could not conscience allowing my employer to intimidate me into professional silence on unfolding human rights atrocities and war crimes against Myanmar’s Muslims and ethnic minorities in Burma on account of a monthly pay check.

In fact, I am the only Burmese academic who is researching, publishing and speaking out against what the Organization of Islamic Conference/Cooperation (OIC) officially refers to as “genocide against the Muslim Rohingya” in Western Burma committed by the collaborating political and social forces, namely the Rakhine “Buddhists” and the Government of Burma itself.

There were other events and articles that I have been prevented from contributing to, or have been made acutely aware of UBD’s displeasure with my contribution in no uncertain terms by UBD authorities. These include writing an invited guest editorial on Burma’s transition for National University of Singapore LKY School’s peer-reviewed Asian Journal of Public Affairs for its February 2013 Special Issue on Burma and being invited to Singapore-based Channel News Asia’s live premier debate on the question of democratization in Burma.

Besides the UBD’s preemptive attempts to stop me from performing my professional public service to the wider Asian public, I have been derided, in writing, for participating in them, being told that they are trivial, luxurious and culturally inappropriate acts which only liberal universities in the West allow their faculty members to engage in.

I have also been prevented from carrying out my own UBD-assigned central professional assignment, namely to develop a key research and publication program on the South China Sea. Just weeks before the scheduled international seminar on the S. China Sea which I was tasked to organize, I was instructed to ‘postpone it until next year’ – causing me considerable professional embarrassment in front of some of the world’s most esteemed scholars on the S. China Sea. For the topic of the S. China Sea was finally deemed too sensitive a subject even to discuss among a small group of about 15 invited – and confirmed – academics and policy practitioners from ASEAN, China, Australia, Europe and N. America.

Recently, at the UBD-NUS co-sponsored Inter-ASEAN Universities Conference on human insecurities in Asia, I read a research paper on the plight of the Rohingya people, based on my own field work with fleeing Rohingya refugees, members of the Presidential Inquiry Commission, local Rakhines and the UN staff based in Western Burma where large-scale ‘sectarian’ violence broke out.

Under pressure from none other than Myanmar Embassy/Government, the UBD initially prevented its own Southeast Asian Studies students with a concern for and an interest in the Rohingya persecution from attending my session- a decision that was later reversed because the chair of my panel Professor Gary Jones insisted that UBD research students ought to hear my academic presentation.

Finally, the Senior Management of the University instructed me NOT to accept any direct invitation to give lectures or briefings on any issue from outside institutions – not even Brunei’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. I was told that any institution that wishes to invite me must send their official written requests to the Vice Chancellor who will then decide whether I should be allowed to accept the invitation. To my deep dismay, I have found a greater degree of intellectual and professional openness in such non-academic institutions here, namely Brunei’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Ministry of Defence vis-a-vis the Universiti Brunei Darussalam.

I was genuinely committed not only to my role in research and publication, but also in institution building and public service in the form of ‘public intellectual activities’ such as informing the public at large about important issues including human rights, democratization and social justice in Burma and internationally. It is will deep regret that I have come to the conclusion that, given the restrictions imposed on me professionally by the extreme institutional and professional censorship within UBD, it is no longer possible for me to maintain my productivity or make valuable contributions to UBD’s stated objective of being ranked in Top 50 in Asia by 2015. Neither is it possible for me to maintain my professional or personal integrity.

Starting 1 January 2013, Brunei will be chairing the ASEAN, and as the first professor in the Institute of Asian Studies and a noted expert on Burmese affairs, I have already been asked to give my expert comments or write commentaries on policy-relevant issues such as the Rohingya, the South China Sea, human insecurities and civil society. However, I feel that in sharing my expertise on these issues with the public or small groups of diplomats, my position at UBD will be compromised due to the institutional censorship, placing me in an impossible professional position.

In light of the intensification of the restrictions placed on my professional activities in the recent months, I feel that with Brunei taking over the chair of ASEAN, my ability to function in the immediate future with professional integrity will be compromised beyond the levels to which I am prepared to accept. Thus my resignation is effective immediately – from Jan 1st- the beginning of Brunei’s ASEAN chair and before the start of the 2013 academic year on Jan 7th.

I believe I was mislead regarding the professional environment at UBD during the recruitment process, and due to the on-going attempts to gag me on the persecution and slaughter of minorities, including Muslim minorities, in the country of my birth, I no longer wish to be subject to this level of extreme and unprofessional academic censorship. I need to work at a professional institution where the word ‘politics’ is mentionable, social conscience livable, and compassion honourable.

On a personal level, I wish you both all the very best in 2013. Anita, I greatly appreciated your personal intervention to overturn the initial decision to prevent me from attending the public seminar with Professor Amartya Sen at Columbia University on the conflicts in Burma in September. Unfortunately, good individuals are not an antidote to illiberal institutions.
_______________________

Dr. Maung Zarni is member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment, founder and director of the Free Burma Coalition (1995-2004), and a visiting fellow (2011-13) at the Civil Society and Human Security Research Unit, Department of International Development, London School of Economics. His forthcoming book on Burma will be published by Yale University Press. he was educated in the US where he lived and worked for 17 years. Visit his website www.maungzarni.com.

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Naypyidaw's campaigns of lies, wars and divide and conquer


President Thein Sein and Karen National Union Peace Delegation

Soaked in blatant lies, official propaganda and nationalist delusions, Naypyidaw's generals and ex-generals are playing a serial game of 'divide and conquer' with the Kachins, the Karens, and the Bama-led nationalistic NLD.

In their Orwellian world of doublespeak, bombings and air raids against the Kachins in their own ancestral land in Northern Burma are "self-defense".  

Meanwhile, Thein Sein talked up the 'third phase of reforms' serving up "good governance" to western "donors", self-serving and immoral UN agencies and the likes of the World Bank and the ADB.

The earlier waves of impactful reforms included 1) the genocidal wave against the Rohingya and other Muslims in Western Burma and 2) teaching loving kindness neo-fascist monks a lesson in how NOT to encroach on the military's assets - like copper mines.

Naypyidaw knows that they can count on the international media to dutifully repeat its spin - Good Governance!  WOW, Thein Sein is now launching the third phase of reforms - verbatim, without offering important contextual information.

As for the international community, they all need some ideological smokes screen to move in on to a new 'brothel of resources', an emerging cheap labor force, a new market for all kinds of reject and about-to-be-decommissioned items, and new mega-loans.

So, 'good governance' comes from the barrel of guns and fighter-bombers, as far as the Kachin experience.

These Bama militarists intent on delivering 'good governance' to Kachin communities via fighter jets and Swedish-made anti-rank Gustaf weaponry are playing this game as I write.

After all, they have succeeded in playing a similar game with the Rakhine skin-heads vis-a-vis the Rohingya which Ne Win's regime began to single out as the target population for destruction.

Now Thein Sein himself is 'playing peace-maker' - that's his assigned role - with the Karen National Union while his troops have been bombing and raiding Kachin positions as if the Kachins were our country's enemy.

Neither the Karen National Union leadership nor the Bama-led nationalist NLD of Aung San Suu Kyi has said any words - let along taken acts - of solidarity with the Kachins - nor have they said anything humane or humanistic about the genocide of the Rogingya.

Here the militarists in Naypyidaw are winning.

For the oppressed who should know better are only sticking to their own petty self-interests.

Don't expect anything intellectually or political solid coming of the NLD leadership.  When Mommy Suu exhorted matronizingly the NLD supporting masses 'not to expect any savior' she is absolutely right.  

NLD has become a party of every woman for herself.

Just like Burmese Buddhism, both in the state's rhetoric and the mass level practices, the NLD's democratic leadership is all about form - not substance.  

The alternative to forms and substancelessness of Aung San Suu Kyi and her opposition is Naypyidaw's lies, airraids and fire-bombing.

I suppose the opposition is nobler, in the Burmese context.

But that doesn't say much.