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

The White-Savior Industrial Complex

By Teju Cole

If we are going to interfere in the lives of others, a little due diligence is a minimum requirement.


Left, Invisible Children's Jason Russell. Right, a protest leader in Lagos, Nigeria / Facebook, AP
A week and a half ago, I watched the Kony2012 video. Afterward, I wrote a brief seven-part response, which I posted in sequence on my Twitter account:








These tweets were retweeted, forwarded, and widely shared by readers. They migrated beyond Twitter to blogs, Tumblr, Facebook, and other sites; I'm told they generated fierce arguments. As the days went by, the tweets were reproduced in their entirety on the websites of the Atlantic and the New York Times, and they showed up on German, Spanish, and Portuguese sites. A friend emailed to tell me that the fourth tweet, which cheekily name-checks Oprah, was mentioned on Fox television.

These sentences of mine, written without much premeditation, had touched a nerve. I heard back from many people who were grateful to have read them. I heard back from many others who were disappointed or furious. Many people, too many to count, called me a racist. One person likened me to the Mau Mau. The Atlantic writer who'd reproduced them, while agreeing with my broader points, described the language in which they were expressed as "resentment."

This weekend, I listened to a radio interview given by the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nicholas Kristof. Kristof is best known for his regular column in the New York Times in which he often gives accounts of his activism or that of other Westerners. When I saw the Kony 2012 video, I found it tonally similar to Kristof's approach, and that was why I mentioned him in the first of my seven tweets.

Those tweets, though unpremeditated, were intentional in their irony and seriousness. I did not write them to score cheap points, much less to hurt anyone's feelings. I believed that a certain kind of language is too infrequently seen in our public discourse. I am a novelist. I traffic in subtleties, and my goal in writing a novel is to leave the reader not knowing what to think. A good novel shouldn't have a point. 

But there's a place in the political sphere for direct speech and, in the past few years in the U.S., there has been a chilling effect on a certain kind of direct speech pertaining to rights. The president is wary of being seen as the "angry black man." People of color, women, and gays -- who now have greater access to the centers of influence that ever before -- are under pressure to be well-behaved when talking about their struggles. There is an expectation that we can talk about sins but no one must be identified as a sinner: newspapers love to describe words or deeds as "racially charged" even in those cases when it would be more honest to say "racist"; we agree that there is rampant misogyny, but misogynists are nowhere to be found; homophobia is a problem but no one is homophobic. One cumulative effect of this policed language is that when someone dares to point out something as obvious as white privilege, it is seen as unduly provocative. Marginalized voices in America have fewer and fewer avenues to speak plainly about what they suffer; the effect of this enforced civility is that those voices are falsified or blocked entirely from the discourse.

It's only in the context of this neutered language that my rather tame tweets can be seen as extreme. The interviewer on the radio show I listened to asked Kristof if he had heard of me. "Of course," he said. She asked him what he made of my criticisms. His answer was considered and genial, but what he said worried me more than an angry outburst would have:
There has been a real discomfort and backlash among middle-class educated Africans, Ugandans in particular in this case, but people more broadly, about having Africa as they see it defined by a warlord who does particularly brutal things, and about the perception that Americans are going to ride in on a white horse and resolve it. To me though, it seems even more uncomfortable to think that we as white Americans should not intervene in a humanitarian disaster because the victims are of a different skin color.
Here are some of the "middle-class educated Africans" Kristof, whether he is familiar with all of them and their work or not, chose to take issue with: Ugandan journalist Rosebell Kagumire, who covered the Lord's Resistance Army in 2005 and made an eloquent video response to Kony 2012; Ugandan scholar Mahmood Mamdani, one of the world's leading specialists on Uganda and the author of a thorough riposte to the political wrong-headedness of Invisible Children; and Ethiopian-American novelist Dinaw Mengestu, who sought out Joseph Kony, met his lieutenants, and recently wrote a brilliant essay about how Kony 2012 gets the issues wrong. They have a different take on what Kristof calls a "humanitarian disaster," and this may be because they see the larger disasters behind it: militarization of poorer countries, short-sighted agricultural policies, resource extraction, the propping up of corrupt governments, and the astonishing complexity of long-running violent conflicts over a wide and varied terrain.

I want to tread carefully here: I do not accuse Kristof of racism nor do I believe he is in any way racist. I have no doubt that he has a good heart. Listening to him on the radio, I began to think we could iron the whole thing out over a couple of beers. But that, precisely, is what worries me. That is what made me compare American sentimentality to a "wounded hippo." His good heart does not always allow him to think constellationally. He does not connect the dots or see the patterns of power behind the isolated "disasters." All he sees are hungry mouths, and he, in his own advocacy-by-journalism way, is putting food in those mouths as fast as he can. All he sees is need, and he sees no need to reason out the need for the need.

But I disagree with the approach taken by Invisible Children in particular, and by the White Savior Industrial Complex in general, because there is much more to doing good work than "making a difference." There is the principle of first do no harm. There is the idea that those who are being helped ought to be consulted over the matters that concern them.

I write all this from multiple positions. I write as an African, a black man living in America. I am every day subject to the many microaggressions of American racism. I also write this as an American, enjoying the many privileges that the American passport affords and that residence in this country makes possible. I involve myself in this critique of privilege: my own privileges of class, gender, and sexuality are insufficiently examined. My cell phone was likely manufactured by poorly treated workers in a Chinese factory. The coltan in the phone can probably be traced to the conflict-riven Congo. I don't fool myself that I am not implicated in these transnational networks of oppressive practices.

And I also write all this as a novelist and story-writer: I am sensitive to the power of narratives. When Jason Russell, narrator of the Kony 2012 video, showed his cheerful blonde toddler a photo of Joseph Kony as the embodiment of evil (a glowering dark man), and of his friend Jacob as the representative of helplessness (a sweet-faced African), I wondered how Russell's little boy would develop a nuanced sense of the lives of others, particularly others of a different race from his own. How would that little boy come to understand that others have autonomy; that their right to life is not exclusive of a right to self-respect? In a different context, John Berger once wrote, "A singer may be innocent; never the song."

One song we hear too often is the one in which Africa serves as a backdrop for white fantasies of conquest and heroism. From the colonial project to Out of Africa to The Constant Gardener and Kony 2012, Africa has provided a space onto which white egos can conveniently be projected. It is a liberated space in which the usual rules do not apply: a nobody from America or Europe can go to Africa and become a godlike savior or, at the very least, have his or her emotional needs satisfied. Many have done it under the banner of "making a difference." To state this obvious and well-attested truth does not make me a racist or a Mau Mau. It does give me away as an "educated middle-class African," and I plead guilty as charged. (It is also worth noting that there are other educated middle-class Africans who see this matter differently from me. That is what people, educated and otherwise, do: they assess information and sometimes disagree with each other.)

In any case, Kristof and I are in profound agreement about one thing: there is much happening in many parts of the African continent that is not as it ought to be. I have been fortunate in life, but that doesn't mean I haven't seen or experienced African poverty first-hand. I grew up in a land of military coups and economically devastating, IMF-imposed "structural adjustment" programs. The genuine hurt of Africa is no fiction.

And we also agree on something else: that there is an internal ethical urge that demands that each of us serve justice as much as he or she can. But beyond the immediate attention that he rightly pays hungry mouths, child soldiers, or raped civilians, there are more complex and more widespread problems. There are serious problems of governance, of infrastructure, of democracy, and of law and order. These problems are neither simple in themselves nor are they reducible to slogans. Such problems are both intricate and intensely local.

How, for example, could a well-meaning American "help" a place like Uganda today? It begins, I believe, with some humility with regards to the people in those places. It begins with some respect for the agency of the people of Uganda in their own lives. A great deal of work had been done, and continues to be done, by Ugandans to improve their own country, and ignorant comments (I've seen many) about how "we have to save them because they can't save themselves" can't change that fact.

Let me draw into this discussion an example from an African country I know very well. Earlier this year, hundreds of thousands of Nigerians took to their country's streets to protest the government's decision to remove a subsidy on petrol. This subsidy was widely seen as one of the few blessings of the country's otherwise catastrophic oil wealth. But what made these protests so heartening is that they were about more than the subsidy removal. Nigeria has one of the most corrupt governments in the world and protesters clearly demanded that something be done about this. The protests went on for days, at considerable personal risk to the protesters. Several young people were shot dead, and the movement was eventually doused when union leaders capitulated and the army deployed on the streets. The movement did not "succeed" in conventional terms. But something important had changed in the political consciousness of the Nigerian populace. For me and for a number of people I know, the protests gave us an opportunity to be proud of Nigeria, many of us for the first time in our lives. 

This is not the sort of story that is easy to summarize in an article, much less make a viral video about. After all, there is no simple demand to be made and -- since corruption is endemic -- no single villain to topple. There is certainly no "bridge character," Kristof's euphemism for white saviors in Third World narratives who make the story more palatable to American viewers. And yet, the story of Nigeria's protest movement is one of the most important from sub-Saharan Africa so far this year. Men and women, of all classes and ages, stood up for what they felt was right; they marched peacefully; they defended each other, and gave each other food and drink; Christians stood guard while Muslims prayed and vice-versa; and they spoke without fear to their leaders about the kind of country they wanted to see. All of it happened with no cool American 20-something heroes in sight.

Joseph Kony is no longer in Uganda and he is no longer the threat he was, but he is a convenient villain for those who need a convenient villain. What Africa needs more pressingly than Kony's indictment is more equitable civil society, more robust democracy, and a fairer system of justice. This is the scaffolding from which infrastructure, security, healthcare, and education can be built. How do we encourage voices like those of the Nigerian masses who marched this January, or those who are engaged in the struggle to develop Ugandan democracy? 

If Americans want to care about Africa, maybe they should consider evaluating American foreign policy, which they already play a direct role in through elections, before they impose themselves on Africa itself. The fact of the matter is that Nigeria is one of the top five oil suppliers to the U.S., and American policy is interested first and foremost in the flow of that oil. The American government did not see fit to support the Nigeria protests. (Though the State Department issued a supportive statement -- "our view on that is that the Nigerian people have the right to peaceful protest, we want to see them protest peacefully, and we're also urging the Nigerian security services to respect the right of popular protest and conduct themselves professionally in dealing with the strikes" -- it reeked of boilerplate rhetoric and, unsurprisingly, nothing tangible came of it.) This was as expected; under the banner of "American interests," the oil comes first. Under that same banner, the livelihood of corn farmers in Mexico has been destroyed by NAFTA. Haitian rice farmers have suffered appalling losses due to Haiti being flooded with subsidized American rice. A nightmare has been playing out in Honduras in the past three years: an American-backed coup and American militarization of that country have contributed to a conflict in which hundreds of activists and journalists have already been murdered. The Egyptian military, which is now suppressing the country's once-hopeful movement for democracy and killing dozens of activists in the process, subsists on $1.3 billion in annual U.S. aid. This is a litany that will be familiar to some. To others, it will be news. But, familiar or not, it has a bearing on our notions of innocence and our right to "help."

Let us begin our activism right here: with the money-driven villainy at the heart of American foreign policy. To do this would be to give up the illusion that the sentimental need to "make a difference" trumps all other considerations. What innocent heroes don't always understand is that they play a useful role for people who have much more cynical motives. The White Savior Industrial Complex is a valve for releasing the unbearable pressures that build in a system built on pillage. We can participate in the economic destruction of Haiti over long years, but when the earthquake strikes it feels good to send $10 each to the rescue fund. I have no opposition, in principle, to such donations (I frequently make them myself), but we must do such things only with awareness of what else is involved. If we are going to interfere in the lives of others, a little due diligence is a minimum requirement.

Success for Kony 2012 would mean increased militarization of the anti-democratic Yoweri Museveni government, which has been in power in Uganda since 1986 and has played a major role in the world's deadliest ongoing conflict, the war in the Congo. But those whom privilege allows to deny constellational thinking would enjoy ignoring this fact. There are other troubling connections, not least of them being that Museveni appears to be a U.S. proxy in its shadowy battles against militants in Sudan and, especially, in Somalia. Who sanctions these conflicts? Under whose authority and oversight are they conducted? Who is being killed and why? 

All of this takes us rather far afield from fresh-faced young Americans using the power of YouTube, Facebook, and pure enthusiasm to change the world. A singer may be innocent; never the song.

This article originally published here.

The Charitable-Industrial Complex

By Peter Buffett

I HAD spent much of my life writing music for commercials, film and television and knew little about the world of philanthropy as practiced by the very wealthy until what I call the big bang happened in 2006. That year, my father, Warren Buffett, made good on his commitment to give nearly all of his accumulated wealth back to society. In addition to making several large donations, he added generously to the three foundations that my parents had created years earlier, one for each of their children to run.

Early on in our philanthropic journey, my wife and I became aware of something I started to call Philanthropic Colonialism. I noticed that a donor had the urge to “save the day” in some fashion. People (including me) who had very little knowledge of a particular place would think that they could solve a local problem. Whether it involved farming methods, education practices, job training or business development, over and over I would hear people discuss transplanting what worked in one setting directly into another with little regard for culture, geography or societal norms. 

Often the results of our decisions had unintended consequences; distributing condoms to stop the spread of AIDS in a brothel area ended up creating a higher price for unprotected sex. 

But now I think something even more damaging is going on. 

Because of who my father is, I’ve been able to occupy some seats I never expected to sit in. Inside any important philanthropy meeting, you witness heads of state meeting with investment managers and corporate leaders. All are searching for answers with their right hand to problems that others in the room have created with their left. There are plenty of statistics that tell us that inequality is continually rising. At the same time, according to the Urban Institute, the nonprofit sector has been steadily growing. Between 2001 and 2011, the number of nonprofits increased 25 percent. Their growth rate now exceeds that of both the business and government sectors. It’s a massive business, with approximately $316 billion given away in 2012 in the United States alone and more than 9.4 million employed. 

Philanthropy has become the “it” vehicle to level the playing field and has generated a growing number of gatherings, workshops and affinity groups. 

As more lives and communities are destroyed by the system that creates vast amounts of wealth for the few, the more heroic it sounds to “give back.” It’s what I would call “conscience laundering” — feeling better about accumulating more than any one person could possibly need to live on by sprinkling a little around as an act of charity. 

But this just keeps the existing structure of inequality in place. The rich sleep better at night, while others get just enough to keep the pot from boiling over. Nearly every time someone feels better by doing good, on the other side of the world (or street), someone else is further locked into a system that will not allow the true flourishing of his or her nature or the opportunity to live a joyful and fulfilled life. 

And with more business-minded folks getting into the act, business principles are trumpeted as an important element to add to the philanthropic sector. I now hear people ask, “what’s the R.O.I.?” when it comes to alleviating human suffering, as if return on investment were the only measure of success. Microlending and financial literacy (now I’m going to upset people who are wonderful folks and a few dear friends) — what is this really about? People will certainly learn how to integrate into our system of debt and repayment with interest. People will rise above making $2 a day to enter our world of goods and services so they can buy more. But doesn’t all this just feed the beast? 

I’m really not calling for an end to capitalism; I’m calling for humanism. 

Often I hear people say, “if only they had what we have” (clean water, access to health products and free markets, better education, safer living conditions). Yes, these are all important. But no “charitable” (I hate that word) intervention can solve any of these issues. It can only kick the can down the road. 

My wife and I know we don’t have the answers, but we do know how to listen. As we learn, we will continue to support conditions for systemic change. 

It’s time for a new operating system. Not a 2.0 or a 3.0, but something built from the ground up. New code. 

What we have is a crisis of imagination. Albert Einstein said that you cannot solve a problem with the same mind-set that created it. Foundation dollars should be the best “risk capital” out there. 

There are people working hard at showing examples of other ways to live in a functioning society that truly creates greater prosperity for all (and I don’t mean more people getting to have more stuff). 

Money should be spent trying out concepts that shatter current structures and systems that have turned much of the world into one vast market. Is progress really Wi-Fi on every street corner? No. It’s when no 13-year-old girl on the planet gets sold for sex. But as long as most folks are patting themselves on the back for charitable acts, we’ve got a perpetual poverty machine. 

It’s an old story; we really need a new one. 

Peter Buffett is a composer and a chairman of the NoVo Foundation

This article originally published here.

Rohingya Ethnic Cleansing and anti-Muslim Pogroms are good for Myanmar: Rationales and Gains


By Maung Zarni
July 29, 2013

More substantial links between Chinese interests, Rakhine neo-Nazis, Wirathu, the Home Office, Uncle Tom and hate crimes

Ex-Ambassador U Hla Maung is connected with Myanmar Peace Center, if not officially, but through close personal ties. I know this for a fact. 

He has been worked on, very clearly. Myanmar Peace Center is headed by ex-military Aung Min. 

A Chinese in ethnic background, Aung Min blatantly denied that there was anything that could be considered 'hate speech' 'hate crimes' towards the Muslums in Burma.

The denial was made by him in their meeting (Union Minister and US-trained ex-admiral Soe Thein was with him) with select Muslim leaders not long ago, according to the Muslim leader from Mandalay and Wirathu's 'friend' who attended the meeting and attempted to confront Aung Min right on the spot.

Thein Sein's main handler in the disguise of Union Minister in the President Office, ex-admiral Soe Thein jumped in and corrected Aung Min saying, 'we do have a problem of that nature'. But that was window dressing because there was nothing else. (A weak, mild-mannered and robotic president is paired with a slick, US-trained ex-naval officer by Than Shwe himself to serve as the brain and the spine for the puppet President)

The fact is the Ministry of Home and Religious Affairs has been disseminating through its own publications of anti-Muslim tracts many of which were authored by the regime's propaganda officials with monks' pen names. 

In some books the 3 Objectives of the State (Doe Tar Wun Gyi Thone Bar _ were explicitly linked to the promotion of "Buddhism" at the costs of other religious communities, specially the Muslims. The stories the Ministry of Home and Religious Affairs published fall under the category of anti-Muslim 'hate speech'. 

In Wirathu's speeches, he would use some of the stories from the religious affairs publications, which are popular with the fellow monks. 

The official and popular narrative is always the Burmese woman victims of abuse, rape, and torture, preferably nieces of monks - Hpone Gyee Tuu Ma Mya (HGTMM). The informed Burmese joke about this narrative 'always HGTMM. 

Each time there was a popular outrage against the regime or the Chinese interests, this narrative in the form of rumors would be in circulation.

Some concrete incidents and contexts:

1) the famous Mahamuni Image, with a few tons of gold leaf on it, was partially buglarized; the monks in the governing body were outraged, and looking at some military elements as potential thieves. all of a sudden the HGTMM rape rumor spread like wildfire. the rapist, alleged, was of course ' a Muslim man'! Kyaw Yin Hlaing, then Hong Kong-based Burmese academic and now President Thein Sein's adviser, openly wrote that this was the work of the military intelligence. (Curious, why the Presidential adviser is not saying a single word about the prospective, actual or historical direct involvement of the State in spreading hate speech as a strategic tool to divert public attention from any real issue of substance and public importance to the most vulnerable community in Burma. What got in his mouth which no longer spoke truth??).

2) lest we forgot the popular resentment, and yes, hatred of Chinese commercial interests and China, was at its highest around the campaign to stop Myit-hsone Dam project, particularly in places like Mandalay - before Thein Sein announced its 'suspension' of the dam during his presidency. 

Prior to that there were small scale incidents indicating the local hatred of Chinese was going to boil over, and it was just a matter of time before that happened.

At a local gem market in Mandalay there were sparks between the Burmese locals and the Chinese gem traders. The authorities nipped the potential hate mass violence in the bud. For Naypyidaw simply can't afford to risk the anger of Beijing by letting the anti-Chinese bloodbath in Mandalay and other Chinese interests-controlled localities in the countries such as Lashio or Taunggyi or Myitkyina.

3) the ultra-nationalist Rakhines, who are also scattered and established in places like Mandalay, Moulmein (969 has a lot of Rakhine monks), Rangoon, etc., were beginning to ask for greater devolution of political power to the Rakhine and for the greater revenue sharing between the Rakhine admin and the central Naypyidaw (as Rakhine Coastline was about to become one of the most lucrative and strategic corridors - which will house the twin "Rohingya Genocide Pipeline or China-Myanmar Gas and Oil Pipeline), deep sea port, Special Econ Zone, etc. 

4) Suu Kyi's domestic popularity as evidenced in the NLD's by-election landslide sweep and her international influence as evidenced in her 'victory laps' in Europe and later USA drove chill down the spine of the old regime which manages the new regime staffed with handpicked elements from the former from behind the scenes as they were aware of the 2015 election contest

So, here is the regime's strategy to kill at least 5 birds with one stone: let the Rakhine to be the local instrument of the Rohingya genocide -- the mass violent phase of it as the State has long adopted the ehnocidal and genocidal policy towards the Rohinga already since Feb 1978 - and then unleash the long-Home Office incubated 969 via Wirathu, Rakhine monks, etc. against the Burmese Muslims as a whole community

Its gains:

1). internationally, the Lady is no longer this powerful icon whose words will be taken biblically;

2). ultra-nationalist Rakhine could find themselves dependent on the State's impunity to do their ethnic cleansings of the Rohingya - and all Muslims (that is to say, the Rakhine could no longer be making noises about their rights and wants vis-a-vis the Burmese controlled Naypyidaw);

3) the Burmese public came to be consumed by their popular prejudices against the Muslims and words like human rights, communal solidarity, democracy are rejected even by Islamophobic activists from the 1988 uprisings, considered, rather frighteningly to me personally, the second line leadership of the civil society (this 8888 group shows neither intellect nor heart);

4) the whole reform process got automatically held back as the popular discourse shifted from democracy and reforms to who can legally sleep and produce babies across religious and ethnic lines;

5) the regime benefits massively from the desperate West, including the UN agencies, which want to increase their 'footprint' and bureaucratic interests, which is determined NOT to frame the unfolding Rohingya genocide a genocide in order to avoid massive embarrassment about their genocidal business and strategic partners (UN is not innocent and neither is ASEAN or EU or powerful national governments) - a double impunity is in play: the regime offers anyone who serves as major instruments of genocide and mass violence against the Muslim - for instance, Aye Maung of RNDP and his neo-Fascist Rakhine colleagues, Wirathu and 969 monks while the international community offers the regime international impunity;

6) the regime also gets 'intellectual' cover from its certifiable apologists such as the International Crisis Group and Indonesian leaders who keep framing the pogroms and the State-adopted Rohingya genocide as 'communal violence which is not uncommon in democratizing countries' - forgetting that ethnic cleansing is an exception, not a norm or an inevitable feature of all democratic processes - guys like Michael Mann from UCLA would write books with misleadingly stupid title "Ethnic Cleansing: the Dark Side of Democracy" ignoring the fact that it was authoritarian and colonial regimes - USA, Australia, Burma, former Yugoslavia, Stalinist USSR, Mao's China, KMT's Taiwan, Suharto's Indonesia, etc., irrespective of the regime type that have engaged in genocide, colonial and post-colonial; 

7) while the world is busy worry about the Rohingya which they will not do anything to stop it the regime also fought and won on the Kachin war front, another strategically located community which need to be brought on its collective knees.

Myanmar's new Nazis: Wirathu's "Buddhist" vision, 969 Islamophobia, strategies and 969-Rakhine-China connections

Wirathu's Nazi vision, content of his Islamophobia, strategies and 969-Rakhine-China connections

"Muslim guests (in Burma) are violating, insulting and abusing the hospitality and tolerance of the Buddhist hosts. We have put up with these (Muslim) thieves, robbers abusers and invaders for too long.

I don't want to resort to violence. But they continue behave like a band of car thieves.

This situation requires radical solutions. We need covert actions like CIA and Mossad. 

I will make the Muslims of Mandalay starve. I will make them homeless. When I give you all the signal to start this campaign will you be ready to take actions!"

-- 969 Nazi "Monk" Wirathu, Mandalay, 3 September 2003 

To his call to arm, his fellow monks in the audience gave him thunderous applause and roared, "We WILL!!"

(half way through Wirathu's "Buddhist" sermon)

The day Muslims of Burma acquire human mind it will be the day I will stop preaching (anti-Muslim) sermons. But so far, they have despicable and dangerous destroyers of our Buddhism and Buddhist symbols, in spite of our country having greater religious freedoms than the United States with its animal rights. 

(Obviously out of deep ignorance), Wirathu said "the Chinese in Malaysia dare not purchase houses or own businesses because they are officially banned from the state in Malaysia". 

"I don't have much confidence in or anticipations for 'democracy'.   If we don't have democracy, Buddhism will still survive and thrive.  If we don't have Buddhism we will be finished.  So, we must work towards enacting a law banning Buddhist-Muslim marriages.

"The Muslims are plotting to take over Myanmar with their 100-year plan. They will take over our country's sovereignty through inter-faith marriages of Buddhists. The Muslims are sowing bad blood between our Armed Forces and the Burmese Buddhist public.

In Iran, if an Iranian woman marries a German, the German would be executed by the Iranian State. Iran isn't afraid of Germany you know. 



The local woman would be caned. But that's a bit too cruel. I will only propose the following:



Cut their (Muslim men's) dicks off. We need to make an example out of Muslim men who marry our women. As with our women who fell for the Muslim men, we can simply jail them. Only with this kind of legal actions will our mission of the 'defense of the Buddhist faith' will be most effective". 

-- Wirathu, Mandalay, 3 September 2003


(towards the end of his sermon)



Source: Aung Lion: Wirathu's background in the interests of the public (translated by Zarni)




"The Venerable Wirathu has been actively promoting religious hatred towards other faith-based communities for more than 10 years.

Instead of preaching the Buddha Dharma, he has done only two things: 1) dishing out scathing attacks against the Vipassana Meditation methodologies which the Venerable Tant-kyi-Taung (a famous mountain range on the west bank of the Irrawaddy across from the ancient city of Pagan in the Dry Zone), despite the fact that there is allowed freedom to pursue one's own practices and 2) spreading religious bigotry among the Buddhist monks and lay public.

In Kyaukse (Than Shwe's birthplace) in 2003, I saw with my own eyes the police and security troops turning away truck loads of Saffron Robed Burmese monks armed with machetes/swords coming in Dinar buses (imported used light trucks from Japan converted as passenger buses since around 1980's). They surely were responding to Wirathu's hate-driven call to acts against the Muslims. I can never erase that sight from my memory.

After his release from prison where he was jailed for inciting religious violence and tarnishing the image of Buddhism, he resumed his original mission: inciting religious hatred and mass violence against the Muslims. 

One thing that never ceases to amaze me is that Wirathu seems to always know ahead of any mass violence acts (against the Muslims). Instead of informing the authorities and working together to prevent these mass atrocities from happening he continues to be complicit in them.

For sure, Wirathu is collaborating with the regime's intelligence services, with the view towards the upcoming election in 2015. Both the regime and Wirathu are pursuing their old delusional mission of preventing any inter-faith marriages in Burma. 

I have been posting notes about Wirathu of late so that the public can be informed about him and his background"

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

Zarni's remark:

I have a collection of speeches by Wirathu and his seniors.

Among the Buddhist seniors whom Wirathu said fully supports his push for  Buddhist missions and Buddhist defense, including the Venerable Nyar-neik-tha-ya (Thi-da-gu Sayadaw), the most significant of which is the one he delivered in southern Mandalay near Mahamuni (Rakhine Buddha) on 3 Sept 2003. This was before Wirathu went to jail for inciting religious hatred against the Muslims.

Here he accused all branches of secular knowledge, History, Geography, Chemistry, Physics, Math, etc., which are officially taught from KG to pre- and post-graduate courses in Burma as harmful to Buddhism, "Buddhist race" and Buddhist nation of Burma.

He draws inspirations from Sri Lanka where Buddhism is, he claims, a bedrock of all schools.

THE TWOFOLD MISSION

1) make Buddhism mandatory in all schools and educational institutions;
the current branches of secular knowledge do not equip the Burmese Buddhists to defend their faith, their race and their nation against the imminent threat posed by the rising diabolical Muslim onslaught.
All Buddhist Dharma Lecturers need to take over and shape the school knowledge in all schools in their localities.

2) ban all Buddhist-Muslim marriages because Buddhist society has reached a high risk point where its population has been threatened by the growth of the Muslim population which is growing through coerced religious conversion of Buddhist men and women who marry Muslim spouses.

All secularly educated Burmese must operate mentally and intellectually, within "the Buddhist framework"; or they will themselves become instrument of destruction of Buddhism, Buddhist race and Buddhist nation.

As a matter of strategy, he advocated:

1) solicit official support and funding from the State in Burma because it is not enough for the Buddhist laity (lay public) and the Sangha (monks) to unite in the defense of Buddhist faith.  The state needs to back this movement to defend the faith, the nation and the race.  So far the State is doing nothing in defense of our faith.

2)   turn and fully develop Dharma teaching by Buddha Dharma Lecturers in to courses in 'nationalist consciousness' where we produce 'high quality Buddhists whose horizon has been expanded'.

3) train Dharma lecturers in public speaking and in the missionary methodologies.

Si-ta-gu Abbot Ven Nya-nate-tha-ya was publicly mentioned by him as a major Buddhist leader who is very keen on engaging in Buddhist missionary work.  Nya-nate-tha-ya, Wirathu said, will also be teaching these courses, along with lay Buddhist writers such as U Htay Hlaing and Dr Min Tin Mon.

Wirathu stressed that Malaysia is a prime example of state-sponsored, institutionalized religious  and race-based policies of discrimination, favoring the Malays and the Muslims vis-a-vis the rest of the ethnic, international and religious communities.   He contrasted Malaysia's policies with Burma's policies that are lax, corrupt and non-discriminatory.

Obviously out of deep ignorance, he said "the Chinese in Malaysia dare not purchase houses or own businesses because they are officially banned from the state in Malaysia".

"Muslim guests are violating, insulting and abusing the hospitality and tolerance of the Buddhist hosts.  We have put up with these (Muslim) thieves, robbers abusers and invaders."

CERTIFIABLY NAZI VIEWS

These men and their bigoted views are extremely harmful to the country, national and ethnic reconciliation and contributing to the rise of Nazi- worldviews disguised as 'Buddhism.

If you are a Buddhist and concerned about Burma's on-going mass atrocities against the Muslims and the Rohingya and the attacks on other people's religions - such as Christianity, Hinduism, and other monotheism the least you can do is speak out. 

Do NOT sign the 969 Marriage Law draft.

Educate your family, neighbors, and friends about the enveloping "Buddhist" Nazism in Myanmar.

Wirathu, China/Chinese interests-Wirathu/Rohingya Ethnic Cleansing/whipped up Islamophobia 


Some new revelations about the connections between Chinese interests, ultra-nationalist Rakhines in Mandalay, May Myo or Pyin Oo Lwin, and Wirathu

According to the Muslim sources close to Wirathu, the China/Chinese interests-Wirathu/Rohingya Ethnic Cleansing/whipped up Islamophobia need to be examined deeply.

Listen to Wirathu's preaching Nazi views, in 3 September 2003, which is in fact the repeat of his same sermon back in 2001.

The fact that Wirathu's mother, from a small town of Kyauk Hse, Than Shwe's birth place, ran off with a Muslim man, having left her 5 children, including Wirathu, with the struggling father - I would argue - does have a role in the development of Wirathu's unmistakably Nazi views towards the Muslims of Burma.

Wirathu was jailed in connection with burning alive a well-to-do and well-respected Muslim family of 7 who locked the 3-story house and ran to the 3rd floor thinking they were safe from the machete-wielding monks and laymen who came to attack them. They were incinerated in the arson which the mob started.

Wirathu used the story circulated in some of the openly anti-Muslim books published by Home Affairs Ministry's Department of Religious Affairs around 2000.

He has very close ties with the regime, especially Than Shwe's close deputy USDP MP and former Minister of Industry-1 ex-Brigadier Aung Thaung. 3 Special Branch officers stay at his monastery at any given time.

Some of Wirathu's biggest financial patrons are wealthy Rakhine nationalists, including the family of the late NLD MP U Sein Hla Oo from Maymyo or PyinOo Lwin, and the Chinese/Yunnanese gem traders.

A young Rakhine ultra-nationalist recently arrested for his hate speech is said to be a close disciple of Wirathu.

The Chinese involvement in the 969 in the form of the donations puts the 969 and anti-Muslim Nazi campaign in a new light.

Lest we forget, during the days and weeks leading up to the outbreak of anti-Muslim mass violence and the Rohingya ethnic cleansing, Mandalay was soaked in the popular resentment and, yes, hatred of China and the Chinese because of China's staunch support of the Burmese regime and what the locals consider 'economic colonization of upper Burma' by the Chinese interests.

This China/Chinese interests-Wirathu/Rohingya Ethnic Cleansing/whipped up Islamophobia need to be examined deeply.

Related analyses:

Burmese Neo-Nazi Movement Rising Against Muslims, 22 March 2013


Myanmar's neo-Nazi Buddhists get free rein, 9 April 2013

Myanmar's radical monk targets interfaith marriage

Supporters of the ban against the Time cover, which labelled radical Buddhist monk, Wirathu, as the 'face of Buddhist terror', walk through Yangon. (Photo: Yin Min Maung)
By Auskar Surbakti
The Myanmar man dubbed 'The Face of Buddhist Terror' by Time magazine wants a law restricting marriages between Buddhists and Muslims.

Radical monk U Wirathu has been leading hundreds of Buddhist monks in protest. 

"This law is my dream," he said.

"I've given speeches like this in different places so that we could propose this law."

Last month, he joined around 200 other monks in Yangon to discuss ways to end rising religious violence that began in Rakhine state last year between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims.

It was here that U Wirathu, who is accused of fanning the tensions, announced his controversial proposal.


Senior leaders at the meeting have distanced themselves from the proposal, but U Wirathu and his followers are determined to present the idea to parliament.

"This marriage law means Myanmar girls can marry people of different religions, but their future husbands have to become Buddhist," he said.

"When Myanmar girls get married to Muslim men they're pressured to convert to Islam, so this marriage law will prevent this and protect our society."

Around 1,500 monks across the country have endorsed the proposal, and women are gathering signatures in support of U Wirathu's law.

Lwin Lwin is one of those who supports the marriage bill. 

"Buddhist women tend to be patient, and don't go against what's happening, so they're tolerant and submissive," she said.

"In the beginning, Buddhist women don't see Muslims as being from a different religious background so they treat them as neighbours or friends."

Meanwhile, U Wirathu's opposition to interfaith marriage has been condemned by the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other groups.

Zin Mar Aung from the Rainfall women's group believes the law is sexist. 

"The law's only focus is on the woman, so what this means is the concept of this law is based on sexism and nationalism," she said.
Growing support 

U Wirathu heads the 969 Buddhist movement which is fast gaining momentum across Myanmar. 

The numbers 9, 6, 9 refer to the virtues of Buddha, the practices of the faith and the community. 

What sounds like a peaceful organisation has come to embody a rabid nationalistic and religious sentiment used to stir up hatred against minorities, particularly the country's Muslim community.

Members of 969 call for Myanmar's Buddhists to band together to defend their faith and to do business only with other Buddhists. 

They want to exclude Muslims who have a strong tradition as merchants in Myanmar.

Buddhists make up around 90 per cent of the population in the country, while only around five per cent are Muslim. 

At protests, U Wirathu delivers sermons that play on the fear among some Buddhists of a rising Muslim population. 

U Wirathu says restrictions on interfaith marriages will reduce religious violence.

"If Muslims cannot marry Buddhist girls easily, their population will decrease," he said.

"Where they have more Muslims there is more violence.

"Like in case of Rakhine state, where they have a higher population of Muslims."

President of the Islamic Centre of Myanmar Al Haj U Aye Lwin says while Myanmar is a multi-racial and multi-religious society, the majority Buddhist culture is easily able to mobilise.

"The majority of them are Theravada Buddhist, and Buddhism has a very stirring effect on the people," he said.

"It can be a cohesive force for the people uniting."
Rising religious tensions 

U Wirathu has a history of inflaming religious tensions in Myanmar. 

In 2003, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison by the previous ruling junta for inciting religious hatred, but was released last year under a general amnesty.

U Wirathu and his followers blame the recent religious violence on Myanmar's Muslims.

Since last year's clashes in Rakhine which left nearly 200 dead, the violence has spread to other parts of the country, including the north-eastern town of Lashio and the central city of Meiktila.

Win Htein, the National League for Democracy representative for Meikhtila, was there at the time of the riots.

"Some angry mob passed through the police lines and dragged the Muslim youth and killed in front of them. In front of me," he said. 

"During my stay, about half an hour or 45 minutes there, seven people were killed."

Most of the victims have been Muslim, but so far only Muslims have been jailed. 

The rising religious tensions in Myanmar have marred the country's transition to democracy. 

On a visit to Myanmar this week, Australia's Foreign Minister Bob Carr has met with President Then Sein and Aung San Suu Kyi with the issue of religious violence high on his agenda.

Thitinan Pongsudhirak of Chulalongkorn University says the United States and Europe, as well as fellow ASEAN members, must exert more pressure on the leadership to turn back the extremist campaign led by the 969 Movement. 

"Otherwise, we will see more violence, the death toll will climb, and the road to 2015 will be very unruly and unconducive to a clean, free and fair election," he said.

This article originally published by Australia Network News.

Revive Aung San's Original Secularist Multicultural Vision for the new Myanmar


Aung San was murdered on 19 July 1947, 66 years of ago tomorrow. He was killed by 27 bullet wounds from the British Army-issued machine guns in the British-assisted assassination.

When Aung San and his multi-cultural and multifaith comrades were killed by Made-in-England bullets it was not just the men's lives they were taken away.   Aung San's secularist, egalitarian and multiculturalist vision too was killed and buried along with their remains.

Aung San was a rare bird from a deeply tradition-bound colonial Burma who attempted to redefine who was a son (or daughter) of the soil - or Tai-yin-tha.  He was secularist, anti-feudal radical thinker and leader, who defined everyone whose umbilical chord was cut on the Burmese soil as Tai-yin-thar.  If Aung San knew that his country is now having a Nazi-turn under the "Buddhist" disguise, he would certainly be turning in his grave.

Besides, the Burmese elites of today are attempting to bring back the British commercial and military complex against which Aung San fought throughout his grown-up life.

Ironically, it is the leaders of the Army he founded under Fascist Japan's patronage, and his own daughter who are facilitating this re-penetration of Burma by British interests as a frontier market and resource brothel - at the expense of the minorities - and the non-elite Burmese public.

According to the Nation editor and publisher the late Ed Law Yone, who met the last colonial governor Hubert Rance, in the latter home in Surrey, London was thinking of putting Galon Mr/U Saw, their local proxy and the local Mastermind behind Aung San's murder, to form the government immediately after Aung San's death on 19 July 1947.

The late Brigadier General Kyaw Zaw, one of the 30 members of the nucleus of the Burma Independence Army was unequivocal when he wrote in his Burmese language biography - that none other than the colonial Crime Investigation Department (CID) knew days ahead of U Saw's plot to take out Aung San. And Aung San himself knew the plot was being hatched to take him out and told his ADC Captain Tun Hla that it would be U Saw who would take him out.

The truth of the matter is Aung San was a smart (as opposed to doctrinaire) Marxist-influenced radical nationalist whom the British Establishment saw as a serious threat to Britain's post-independence designs over Burma.

Weeks leading up to his assassination, Aung San was so stridently anti-British economic exploitation - and accused the British authorities of attempting to de-stablizie the country on-the-verge of independence. He called the British all kinds of name, and derided Britain's colonial mindset and worldview.

My neighbor in Oxford was the film director Rob Lamkin, formerly with the BBC, who made the documentary "Who killed Aung San?" He said the British Government removed or otherwise destroyed official dispatches from Rangoon back to FCO in London, which would have incriminated Brits in the assassination of Aung San and half of his multicultural and multiethnic cabinet.

There have 60-plus years' attempts to sanitize the narrative of the assassination of Aung San and his closest colleagues. Even Suu Kyi's late husband Michael Aris was involved. According to Lamkin, the day "Who killed Aung San?" was aired on the BBC Panorama (?) Mr Aris called the director and angrily registered his deep displeasure that Rob went ahead and more than insinuated the shadowy British official involvement in the killing of Aung San. He was worried that the film would put "Suu in a very difficult position with the British government (which she came to rely on as a foreign source of support)."

The official entity that was involved, according to the documentary, was the British Council, more specifically, a key staff of the Council was the main liaison with the local Mastermind U Saw. U Saw kept asking prison officials when he would be able to see his main contact.

A few months prior to the assassination, the news broke that about 200 Made-in-England automatic sub-machine guns disappeared or stolen from the British Army arms depot. Surely, the assassins killed Aung San and his deputies, including 2 Muslim colleagues, with the very machine guns. The officer in charge of the depot slipped out of the country in no time, and with no troubles, assisted by the last colonial government.

U Nu was eventually handpicked by the British to lead the new cabinet, and Nu did everything in his power to quell the popular public opinion by burying the truth behind Aung San's assassination: the British aiding and abetting the local Mastermind whom they later hang when the events turned out against their original idea of making Saw Aung San's successor. On his part, Nu, now the head of the almost nearly independent government, went ahead, giving Britain major economic concessions and accepting British military advisers to train the Burmese Army.

The communists bitterly opposed Nu's terms of independence - the Burmese paying full compensation to all the British commercial firms including natural resource extractive industry such as Burmah Oil Corporation (BOC), mining companies, etc.

When the communists rejected the independence of Burma as a sham and went underground within 90-days of independence - in March 1947 - India was the first to help Nu fight the Communist revolt. In due course, the British came to Nu's aid, training Burmese strategists in ruthless counter-insurgency methods - most specifically the infamous "Four Cuts" strategy and selling all military hardware that Ne Win and his army needed to fight the Communists.

Now history is repeating itself.



Funeral Process of Aung San and his comrades, Fall 1947

The British banks sucked Burma dry leading up to the Japanese-Burma Independence Army 'invasion' in Dec 1942 while externalizing their blood-sucking responsibility to the South Indians known as Chettyers who came to be scapegoated for all the ills of the colonial Burma.

Now the vampires are heading back to their old lucrative hole to suck more!

This time our ruling and opposition elites are facilitating this blood-sucking process, themselves morphing into third class mini-vampires!

Orwell calls the 'white man's civilizing mission' in colonial Burma 'humbug' and the Raj nothing more than 'a system of theft'.

Now Orwell's thieves and looters are heading back to Burma in a second Gold Rush. Indeed the second coming of the Raj, this time Raj Lite.

Oxbridge-trained financiers from the City, Sandhurst and Royal Academies-trained advisers and ex-British service men in Britain's arms industry, that sold GBP 12 billion worth of arms to repressive regimes around the world last year are all about to rush in to penetrate the frontier market. Back in 1880's the Kingdom of Burmah was 'one of the world's unexplored markets'. A century and half on, today's Myanmar is one of the very few remaining 'frontier markets'. So, Britain won't miss the rush.

Aside the country being about to be re-exploited by the British interests, what the society and a people have long already lost, thanks to the British colonial designs, is this:

When Aung San and his multi-cultural and multifaith comrades were killed by Made-in-England bullets it was not just the men's lives they were taken away.

It was their original secularist-multiculturalist vision for a post-independence Burma that was murdered and buried along side these martyrs who included a Shan, a Karen, a Myanmar Muslim, a devout Bama Buddhist, a liberal socialist, and a radical secularist Aung San.



For those pro-Aung San Burmese campaigners trying to revive the annual call to pay homage to the fallen co-founders of a post-independence Burma through the state broadcast sirens at 10:37 am tomorrow they should go beyond the siren calls for a few minutes and observing a moment of silence.

They - and the whole nation on the brink of Nazification - urgently ought to embrace, and actively put in practice, the Martyrs' 'Big Tent" vision of a secularist multiculturalist Burma - for all, irrespective of race, faith, and ideologies.

Only then will the fallen Martyrs will be able to say,

Sadu/Thadu! Sadu/Thadu! Sadu/Thadu! (A good deed has been done!)

Well-done! Well-done! Well-done!

Special Report: Thai authorities implicated in Rohingya Muslim smuggling network

A Short Poem by Maung Zarni

Rohingyas as Commodities.
Brother, genocide is big money.
Slit that guy.
Split the spoils.
Thailand is our smugglers' paradise!


xxxx

Narunisa, a 25-year-old Rohingya woman, is reunited with her children after returning to a shelter for Rohingya women and children in Phang Nga June 18, 2013. (Photo: REUTERS/Damir Sagolj) 
Jason Szep and Stuart Grudgings
July 17, 2013

The beatings were accompanied by threats: If his family didn't produce the money, Myanmar refugee Abdul Sabur would be sold into slavery on a fishing boat, his captors shouted, lashing him with bamboo sticks.

It had been more than two months since Sabur and his wife set sail from Myanmar with 118 other Rohingya Muslims to escape violence and persecution. Twelve died on the disastrous voyage. The survivors were imprisoned in India and then handed over to people smugglers in southern Thailand.

As the smugglers beat Sabur in their jungle hide-out, they kept a phone line open so that his relatives could hear his screams and speed up payment of $1,800 to secure his release.

"Every time there was a delay or problem with the payment they would hurt us again," said Sabur, a tall fisherman from Myanmar's western Rakhine state.

He was part of the swelling flood of Rohingya who have fled Myanmar by sea this past year, in one of the biggest movements of boat people since the Vietnam War ended.

Their fast-growing exodus is a sign of Muslim desperation in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, also known as Burma. Ethnic and religious tensions simmered during 49 years of military rule. But under the reformist government that took power in March 2011, Myanmar has endured its worst communal bloodshed in generations.

A Reuters investigation, based on interviews with people smugglers and more than two dozen survivors of boat voyages, reveals how some Thai naval security forces work systematically with smugglers to profit from the surge in fleeing Rohingya. The lucrative smuggling network transports the Rohingya mainly into neighboring Malaysia, a Muslim-majority country they view as a haven from persecution.

Once in the smugglers' hands, Rohingya men are often beaten until they come up with the money for their passage. Those who can't pay are handed over to traffickers, who sometimes sell the men as indentured servants on farms or into slavery on Thai fishing boats. There, they become part of the country's $8 billion seafood-export business, which supplies consumers in the United States,Japan and Europe.

Some Rohingya women are sold as brides, Reuters found. Other Rohingya languish in overcrowded Thai and Malaysian immigration detention centers.

Reuters reconstructed one deadly journey by 120 Rohingya, tracing their dealings with smugglers through interviews with the passengers and their families. They included Sabur and his 46-year-old mother-in-law Sabmeraz; Rahim, a 22-year-old rice farmer, and his friend Abdul Hamid, 27; and Abdul Rahim, 27, a shopkeeper.

While the death toll on their boat was unusually high, the accounts of mistreatment by authorities and smugglers were similar to those of survivors from other boats interviewed by Reuters.

The Rohingya exodus, and the state measures that fuel it, undermine Myanmar's carefully crafted image of ethnic reconciliation and stability that helped persuade the United States and Europe to suspend most sanctions.

At least 800 people, mostly Rohingya, have died at sea after their boats broke down or capsized in the past year, says the Arakan Project, an advocacy group that has studied Rohingya migration since 2006. The escalating death toll prompted the United Nations this year to call that part of the Indian Ocean one of world's "deadliest stretches of water."

EXTENDED FAMILIES

For more than a decade, Rohingya men have set sail in search of work in neighboring countries. A one-way voyage typically costs about 200,000 kyat, or $205, a small fortune by local standards. The extended Rohingya families who raise the sum regard it as an investment; many survive off money sent from relatives overseas.

The number boarding boats from Myanmar and neighboring Bangladesh reached 34,626 people from June 2012 to May of this year - more than four times the previous year, says the Arakan Project. Almost all are Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar. Unprecedented numbers of women and children are making these dangerous voyages.

A sophisticated smuggling industry is developing around them, drawing in other refugees across South Asia. Ramshackle fishing boats are being replaced by cargo ships crewed by smugglers and teeming with passengers. In June alone, six such ships disgorged hundreds of Rohingya and other refugees on remote Thai islands controlled by smugglers, the Arakan Project said.

Sabur and the others who sailed on the doomed 35-foot fishing boat came from Rakhine, a rugged coastal state where Rohingya claim a centuries-old lineage. The government calls them illegal "Bengali" migrants from Bangladesh who arrived during British rule in the 19th century. Most of the 1.1 million Rohingya of Rakhine state are denied citizenship and refused passports.

Machete-wielding Rakhine Buddhists destroyed Sabur's village last October, forcing him to abandon his home south of Sittwe, capital of Rakhine state. Last year's communal unrest in Rakhine made 140,000 homeless, most of them Rohingya. Myanmar's government says 192 people died; Rohingya activists put the toll as high as 748.

Before the violence, the Rohingya were the poorest people in the second-poorest state of Southeast Asia's poorest country. Today, despite Myanmar's historic reforms, they are worse off.

Tens of thousands live in squalid, disease-ridden displacement camps on the outskirts of Sittwe. Armed checkpoints prevent them from returning to the paddy fields and markets on which their livelihoods depend. Rohingya families in some areas have been banned from having more than two children.

Sabur's 33-member extended family spent several months wandering between camps before the family patriarch, an Islamic teacher in Malaysia named Arif Ali, helped them buy a fishing boat. They planned to sail straight to Malaysia to avoid Thailand's notorious smugglers.

Dozens of other paying passengers signed up for the voyage, along with an inexperienced captain who steered them to disaster.

"DYING, ONE BY ONE"

The small fishing boat set off from Myengu Island near Sittwe on February 15. The first two days went smoothly. Passengers huddled in groups, eating rice, dried fish and potatoes cooked in small pots over firewood. Space was so tight no one could stretch their legs while sleeping, said Rahim, the rice farmer, who like many Rohingya Muslims goes by one name.

Rahim's last few months had been horrific. A Rakhine mob killed his older brother in October and burned his family's rice farm to the ground. He spent two months in jail and was never told why. "The charge seemed to be that I was a young man," he said. Rakhine state authorities have acknowledged arresting Rohingya men deemed a threat to security.

High seas and gusting winds nearly swamped the boat on the third day. The captain seemed to panic, survivors said. Fearing the ship would capsize, he dumped five bags of rice and two water tanks overboard — half their supplies.

It steadied, but it was soon clear they had another problem - the captain admitted he was lost. By February 24, after more than a week at sea, supplies of water, food and fuel were gone.

"People started dying, one by one," said Sabmeraz, the grandmother.

The Islamic janaza funeral prayer was whispered over the washed and shrouded corpses of four women and two children who died first. Among them: Sabmeraz's daughter and two young grandchildren.

"We thought we would all die," Sabmeraz recalled.

Many gulped sea water, making them even weaker. Some drank their own urine. The sick relieved themselves where they lay. Floorboards became slick with vomit and feces. Some people appeared wild-eyed before losing consciousness "like they had gone mad," said Abdul Hamid.

On the morning of the 12th day, the shopkeeper Abdul Rahim wrapped his two-year-old daughter, Mozia, in cloth, performed funeral rites and slipped her tiny body into the sea. The next morning he did the same for his wife, Muju.

His father, Furkan, had warned Abdul Rahim not to take the two children - Mozia and her five-year-old sister, Morja. The family had been better off than most Rohingya. They owned a popular hardware store in Sittwe district. After it was reduced to rubble in the June violence, they moved into a camp.

On the night Abdul Rahim was leaving, Furkan recalls pleading with him on the jetty: "If you want to go, you can go. But leave our grandchildren with us."

Abdul Rahim refused. "I've lost everything, my house, my job," he recalls replying. "What else can I do?"

On February 28, hours after Abdul Rahim's wife died, the refugees spotted a Singapore-owned tugboat, the Star Jakarta. It was pulling an empty Indian-owned barge, the Ganpati, en route to Mumbai from Myanmar. The refugee men shouted but the slow-moving barge didn't stop.

But as the Ganpati moved by, a dozen Rohingya men jumped into the sea with a rope. They swam to the barge, fixed the rope and towed their boat close behind so people could board. By evening, 108 of them were on the barge.

Mohammed Salim, a soccer-loving grocery clerk, and a young woman, both in their 20s, were too weak to move. Close to death, they were cut adrift; the boat took on water and submerged in the rough seas.

"He was our hope," said Salim's father, Mohammad Kassim, 71, who emptied his savings to pay the 500,000 kyat ($515) cost of the journey.

Of the 12 who died on the boat, 11 were women and children.

MISTAKEN FOR PIRATES

What happened next shows how the problems of reform-era Myanmar are rapidly becoming Asia's.

The tugboat captain mistook the Rohingya for pirates and radioed for help, said Bhavna Dayal, a spokeswoman for Punj Lloyd Group, the Indian company that owns the barge. Within hours, an Indian Coast Guard ship arrived. Officers fired into the air and ordered the Rohingya to the floor.

Rahim, the rice farmer, said he and five others were beaten with a rubber baton. With the help of some Hindi picked up from Bollywood films, they explained they were fleeing the strife in Rakhine state. After that, everyone received food, water and first aid, he said.

Another Indian Coast Guard ship, the Aruna Asaf Ali, arrived. It took the women and children to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, an Indian archipelago a short voyage to the south, before returning for the men.

In Diglipur, the largest town in North Andaman Island, immigration authorities separated the men from women and children, putting them all in cells. Guards beat them at will, Rahim said, and rummaged through their belongings for money. He lost 60,000 kyat ($62) and hid his remaining 60,000 kyat in a crack in a wall.

Rupinder Singh, the police superintendent in Diglipur, denied anyone was beaten or robbed.

After about a month, the Rohingya were moved to a bigger detention center near the state capital Port Blair. They joined about 300 other Muslims, mostly Rohingya from Myanmar, who had been rescued at sea. The men went on a one-day hunger strike, demanding to be sent to Malaysia.

The protest seemed to work. Indian authorities brought all 420 of them into international waters and transferred them to a double-decker ferry, said the Rohingya passengers.

"They told us this ship would take us straight to Malaysia," said Sabur.

It was run, however, by Thailand-based smugglers, he said.

Commander P.V.S. Satish, speaking for the Indian Navy and the Indian Coast Guard, said there was "absolutely no truth" to the allegation that the Navy handed the Rohingya to smugglers.

After four days at sea, the Rohingya approached Thailand's southern Satun province around April 18. They were split into smaller boats. Some were taken to small islands, others to the mainland. The smugglers explained they needed to recoup the 10 million kyat ($10,300) they had paid for renting the ferry.

ECONOMICS OF TRAFFICKING

Thailand portrays itself as an accidental destination for Malaysia-bound Rohingya: They wash ashore and then flee or get detained.

In truth, Thailand is a smuggler's paradise, and the stateless Rohingya are big business. Smugglers seek them out, aware their relatives will pay to move them on. This can blur the lines between smuggling and trafficking.

Smuggling, done with the consent of those involved, differs from trafficking, the business of trapping people by force or deception into labor or prostitution. The distinction is critical.

An annual U.S. State Department report, monitoring global efforts to combat modern slavery, has for the last four years kept Thailand on a so-called Tier 2 Watch List, a notch above the worst offenders, such as North Korea. A drop to Tier 3 can trigger sanctions, including the blocking of World Bank aid.

A veteran smuggler in Thailand described the economics of the trade in a rare interview. Each adult Rohingya is valued at up to $2,000, yielding smugglers a net profit of 10,000 baht ($320) after bribes and other costs, the smuggler said. In addition to the Royal Thai Navy, the seas are patrolled by the Thai Marine Police and by local militias under the control of military commanders.

"Ten years ago, the money went directly to the brokers. Now it goes to all these officials as well," said the smuggler, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

A broker in Myanmar typically sends a passenger list with a departure date to a counterpart in Thailand, the smuggler said. Thai navy or militia commanders are then notified to intercept boats and sometimes guide them to pre-arranged spots, said the smuggler.

The Thai naval forces usually earn about 2,000 baht ($65) per Rohingya for spotting a boat or turning a blind eye, said the smuggler, who works in the southern Thai region of Phang Nga and deals directly with the navy and police.

Police receive 5,000 baht ($160) per Rohingya, or about 500,000 baht ($16,100) for a boat of 100, the smuggler said.

Another smuggler, himself a Rohingya based in Kuala Lumpur, said Thai naval forces help guide boatloads to arranged spots. He said his group maintains close phone contact with local commanders. He estimated his group has smuggled up to 4,000 people into Malaysia in the past six months.

Relatives in Malaysia must make an initial deposit of 3,000 ringgit ($950) into Malaysian bank accounts, he said, followed by a second payment for the same amount once the refugees reach the country.

Naval ships do not always work with the smugglers. Some follow Thailand's official "help on" policy, whereby Rohingya boats are supplied with fuel and provisions on condition they sail onward.

The Thai navy and police denied any involvement in Rohingya smuggling. Manasvi Srisodapol, a Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman, said that there has been no evidence of the navy trafficking or abusing Rohingya for several years.

CAGES AND THREATS

Anti-trafficking campaigners have produced mounting evidence of the widespread use of slave labor from countries such as Myanmar on Thai fishing boats, which face an acute labor shortage.

Fishing companies buy Rohingya men for between 10,000 baht ($320) and 20,000 baht ($640), depending on age and strength, said the smuggler in Phang Nga. He recounted sales of Rohingya in the past year to Indonesian and Singapore fishing firms.

This has made the industry a major source of U.S. concern over Thailand's record on human trafficking. About 8 percent of Thai seafood exports go to supermarkets and restaurants in the United States, the second biggest export market after Japan.

The Thai government has said it is serious about tackling human trafficking, though no government minister has publicly acknowledged that slavery exists in the fishing industry.

Sabur, his wife Monzurah and more than a dozen Rohingya thought slavery might be their fate. The smugglers held them on the Thai island for five weeks. The captors said they would be sold to fisheries, pig farms or plantations if money didn't arrive soon.

"We were too scared to sleep at night," said Monzurah, 19 years old.

Arif Ali, the family patriarch in Kuala Lumpur, managed to raise about $21,000 to secure the release of 19 of his relatives, including his sister Sabmeraz, Sabur, and Monzurah. They were taken on foot across the border into Malaysia in May. But 10 of the family, all men, remained imprisoned on the island as he struggled to raise more funds.

As Ali was interviewed in early June, his cellphone rang and he had a brief, heated conversation. "They call every day," he said. "They say if we call the police they will kill them."

Some women without money are sold as brides for 50,000 baht ($1,600) each, typically to Rohingya men in Malaysia, the Thai smuggler said. Refugees who are caught and detained by Thai authorities also face the risk of abuse.

At a detention center in Phang Nga in southern Thailand, 269 Rohingya men and boys lived in cage-like cells that stank of sweat and urine when a Reuters journalist visited recently. Most had been there six months. Some used crutches because their muscles had atrophied.

"Every day we ask when we can leave this place, but we have no idea if that will ever happen," said Faizal Haq, 14.

They are among about 2,000 Rohingya held in 24 immigration detention centers across Thailand, according to the Thai government.

"To be honest, we really don't know what to do with them," said one immigration official who declined to be named. Myanmar has rejected a Thai request to repatriate them.

Dozens of Rohingya have escaped detention centers. The Thai smuggler said some immigration officials will free Rohingya for a price. Thailand's Foreign Ministry denied immigration officials take payments from smugglers.

PROMISED LAND

When Rahim, Abdul Hamid and the other Rohingya finally arrived in Thailand, smugglers met them in Satun province, which borders Malaysia.

They were herded into pickup trucks and driven to a farm, where they say they saw the smugglers negotiate with Thai police and immigration officials. The smugglers told them to contact relatives in Malaysia who could pay the roughly 6,000 ringgit ($1,800).

"If you run away, the police and immigration will bring you back to us. We paid them to do that," the most senior smuggler told them, the two men recalled.

After 22 days at the farm, Rahim and Hamid escaped. It was near midnight when they darted across a field, cleared a barbed-wire fence and ran into the jungle. They wandered for a day, hungry and lost, before meeting a Burmese man who found them work on a fruit farm in Padang Besar near the Thai-Malaysia border. They still work there today, hoping to save enough money to leave Thailand.

If the smugglers get paid, they usually take the Rohingya across southern Thailand in pickup trucks, 16 at a time, with just enough space to breathe, the smuggler in Thailand said. They are hidden under containers of fish, shrimp or other food, and sent through police checkpoints at 1,000 baht ($32) apiece, the smuggler said. Once close to Malaysia, the final crossing of the border is usually made by foot.

Abdul Rahim, the shopkeeper who lost his wife and toddler, arranged a quick payment to the smugglers from relatives in Kuala Lumpur. He was soon on a boat to Malaysia with his surviving daughter and his sister-in-law, Ruksana. They were dropped off around April 20 at a remote spot in Malaysia's northern Penang island.

For Abdul Rahim and many other Rohingya, Malaysia was the promised land. For most, that hope fades quickly.

At best, they can register with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and receive a card that gives them minimal legal protection and a chance for a low-paid job such as construction. While Malaysia has won praise for accepting Rohingya refugees, it has not signed the U.N. Refugee Convention that would oblige it to give them fuller rights.

Those picked up by Malaysian authorities face weeks or months in packed detention camps, where several witnesses said beatings and insufficient food were common. The Malaysian government did not comment on conditions in the camps.

The UNHCR has registered 28,000 Rohingya asylum seekers out of nearly 95,000 Myanmar refugees in Malaysia, many of whom have been in the country for years. An estimated 49,000 unregistered asylum seekers can wait months or years for a coveted UNHCR card. The card gives asylum seekers discounted treatment at public hospitals, is recognized by many employers, and gives protection against repatriation.

The vast majority, like Sabur, Abdul Rahim and their families, don't obtain these minimal protections. They evade detention in the camps but live in fear of arrest.

By early July, Sabur had found temporary work in an iron foundry on Kuala Lumpur's outskirts earning about $10 a day. He will likely have to save for years to pay back the money that secured his release.

Abdul Rahim's family now lives in a small, windowless room in a city suburb. His late wife's sister, Ruksana, coughed up blood during one interview, but is afraid to seek medical help without documentation.

By early July, Abdul Rahim had married Ruksana. He was picking up occasional odd jobs through friends but was struggling to pay the $80 a month rent on their shabby room. Despite that, and the loss of his first wife and daughter, he still believes he made the right decision to flee Myanmar.

"I don't regret coming," he said, "but I regret what happened. I think about my wife and daughter all day."

(Stuart Grudgings reported from Kuala Lumpur. Additional reporting by Amy Sawitta Lefevre in Bangkok and Sruthi Gottipati in New Delhi. Editing by Bill Tarrant and Michael Williams)

This report originally published by Reuters.