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

A Commentary by Zarni: 1982 Citizenship Law of Myanmar and Myanmar's Popular Racism

Burma's military-controlled State rests on the country's official racism towards Burmese of 'impure blood'.

Scholars and policy analysts of Myanmar need to stop characterizing violence and racism against Muslims, 'Kalars' and Tayoke (Chinese) as simply 'sectarian' or placing undue emphasis on the society's role in the unfolding racist mass violence against the Rohingya and all Myanmar Muslims.

Yes, there have been prejudices among different communities.  But it is the State that modulates, mobilizes and facilitates these prejudices as some prejudices, for instance, anti-Muslim sentiments, are mobilized through state Ministries of Information and Home and Religious Affairs, as well as private media outlets such as the Voice and Eleven, two crony-owned 'news' groups, into proactively violent, neo-Nazi racism under the disguise of Buddhism.  

As clearly spelled out in this official English translation of Ne Win's speech to his top deputies at his Presidential Residence in Rangoon in 1982, racism against Burmese citizens and residents of mixed or all Chinese and Indian sub-continent ancestries, was  pursued as a matter of national policy.  This speech further sheds light on the deeply racist nature of 1988 Citizenship Act.  For no fault or deeds of their own, Myanmar residents and citizens who have been in the country for generations, and for many, for centuries, as settlers, migrants, courtly advisers, king's men, queen's women, have been made to suffer officially by racist rulers the likes of generals Ne Win, Than Shwe, Maung Aye, and presently Thein Sein.  As Ne Win made it very clearly in 1982 that these 'tayoke' and 'kalars' cannot be entrusted with any important positions in Myanmar's officialdom - that is, the bureaucracy and the Armed Forces.  Today,  successive military leaders have succeeded in cleansing their power base - the Armed Forces - of officers of Chinese and Indian ancestry, notwithstanding a few exceptions out of an estimated 400,000-strong military.

In addition to this nonsense of 'pure bloodedness', religion other than Buddhism has been made an issue on which strategic and political exclusion is anchored.

The running joke among the official corps in the military is there are two viruses on grounds of which the rank and file members of the Armed Forces will be - and have been discharged:  B virus and C virus.  An officer tested 'Hepatitis B positive' will be discharged, just as officers of Christian faith, that is, Christian or C virus will be forced to retired or be placed on the margins, with no prospects for career advancement.  The joke does not include the Muslim officers because Ne Win and his ideological heirs in the military leadership made Burmese officers with Islamic background extinct.  Out of 10,000 army cadets in various military academies there will be found none or few Muslim cadets or any cadets with 'impure bloodedness'.    

Reflecting the army-controlled state's official racism on which 1982 Citizenship Act rests, as recent as July 2013, at the Chatham House in London, UK, the current President and nominal state power holder ex-general Thein Sein, a handpicked lackey of the now officially retired Senior General Than Shwe, simply reiterated Myanmar's official racist stance on ethnic groups considered 'aliens' and 'impure bloods' and committed yet another official act of Rohingya ethnocide, that is, Myanmar President blatantly denied the official and historical presence of the Muslim Rohingya in the country, despite mountains of evidence to the contrary.

In the current system of governance in Burma only racists are rewarded, promoted and anointed to top most positions - from President to Commander in Chief to Ministers. 

The only problem is Ne Win, the initiator and institutionalizer of official racisms in Myanmar was a 'non-pure' Bama or any other 'son' of the land, or Tai-yin-tha. As a matter of fact, General Ne Win and many of his racist deputies himself were 'tayoke' or Chinese or Chinese origin.   

This whole 'blood' and 'purity' is common among monster racists in history: Stalin was no 'pure-blooded' Russian, but a Georgian. Hitler was known to be part Jewish, and so was the head of SS, Himmler.   In fact, Professor Greg Stanton at George Mason University has correctly observed that potentially genocidal societies and political systems do not have, respect or appreciate mixed ethnic categories.   Myanmar's nightmarish backsliding into this 'ethnic and religious purity' stands in sharp contrast with the multiculturalist, post-blood and Big Tent national vision and the idea of a post-colonial country widely shared by the martyred Aung San, Aung San Suu Kyi's father, and his multiethnic and inter-faith comrades.

In spite of their advanced liberal and/or technical training in some of the world's finest universities abroad, Burma's western-educated intellectuals and professionals who should know better have succumb to their petty interests as they have as a class lent credence and legitimacy to the militarists'  personal racism and bigotry.   Among the drafters of the 1982 Citizenship Act were British, Dutch Australian and American trained legal scholars, historians and other experts such as the late Dr Maung Maung, Dr Aye Kyaw, etc.  Likewise, Thein Sein's Presidential Inquiry Commission the Violence in Rakhine State which in effect whitewashed the organized and state-backed mass violence against the Rohingya in 2012 were stacked with Ivy League and Oxbridge-trained Burmese scholars and professionals.  

Dr Nyi Nyi, a tayoke or Chinese himself who rapidly climbed Ne Win's socialist ladder by offering advise on how to effectively combat anti-military student activism, from being a geology professor at the time of the coup in 1962 to #2 in the Education Department/Ministry by 1968 to the minister of mine in the early 1970's before being sacked for being 'too ambitious', told me during a taped interview in New York in the fall of 1994, "I had seen him Ne Win in shorts at home. His (yellow) complexion was a full proof of his Tayoke-ness (or Chinese in Burmese language)."   In order to compensate for his Chinese ancestry, it was Dr Nyi Nyi himself who proposed ultra-nationalist racist educational policies barring any academically qualified Myanmar students with one 'alien, tayoke or kalar, parental background' from the studies of  professional subjects medicine, engineering, vet science, etc, then lucrative and highly sought after in the Burmese context.

Earlier this spring, his former geology student at Rangoon University - Dr Yin Yin Nwe, PhD in geology Cambridge and Ne Win's ex-daughter in law, was simply upholding her old teacher's ugly racist legacies, as well as her family's racist and classist outlooks.   In her VOA Burmese TV interview widely popular with the country's neo-Nazi racists, the geologist came out with all kinds of racist observations serving on President Thein Sein's Inquiry Commission, including her resounding endorsement of the 2-child policy for the Rohingya woman, saying how expensive it was for her to raise her only child, one of the late despot Ne Win's grand children.

As recent as 19 August this year, on Britain's flagship BBC Radio 4, one of the London-based senior most staff at BBC Burmese, Mr Soe Win Than, a 3-times Buddhist monk, former Myanmar Ministry of Information bureaucrat and UC-Berkeley-trained Burmese journalist, had irresponsibly and unprofessionally weighed in on the side of the neo-Nazi racists in the country, denying the official and verifiable existence of the Rohingya as 'an ethnic group and citizens' while refuting the State's well-documented direct and indirect involvement in the mass violence against the Muslims and the Rohingya ethnic cleansing.



In contrast to this racism in the BBC Burmese Service in London, Britain's Speaker of the House the Rt Honorable John Bercow publicly slammed emphatically as 'racist' the Burmese who deny the ethnic background of the Rohingya and who refer to the latter as 'Bengali', a derogatory word in the local Burmese context.  How such anti-Rohingya racist and ethnocidal views are tolerated, if not actively encouraged, in the world's most prestigious and influential BBC is a matter that the British citizens and license fees payers ought to take up with the BBC Trust that set the editorial guidelines (against racism, among other things).



All these institutionalized and personal racisms in Myanmar, have now spread like a wild fire, thanks to the official patronage at the highest level of government and to the traditionally illiberal and racist Buddhist Order, most specifically the neo-Nazi 969 campaign.  The country's leading democrats - including Aung San Suu Kyi and former student leaders - have proven to be infested with racism, especially towards the Muslims.  While the population remains soaked in anti-Chinese racism, given China's international protection and the economic dominance in the country's economy of Chinese commercial interests the racist militarized State in Myanmar is too clever to let the popular anti-Chinese racism turn violent.  While Ne Win's military state felt comfortable enough to let the economically frustrated Burmese - 'pure blooded' and Buddhist? - in 1967 take their pent-up frustrations out on the entrepreneurial class of Chinese residents and citizens in places like Rangoon when Maoist China was weak and on the verge of starvation.

Now times have changed.

Since the 8888 Nationwide Uprising in 1988, the fall of Berlin Wall and the West's shift in policies towards its dodgy allies such as Ne Win's 'socialist Burma', the military leadership had heavily relied on the international protection of the (Big) Brother - Pauk Hpaw - next door in Beijing, until Washington's Asian Pivot a few years ago.   And China is the country's largest foreign investor with its hand in too many major economic projects.  The popular fear is that the country is being swallowed by the Chinese and China.

Here the racially and religiously manipulative military leadership in Myanmar has found a convenient diversion from its key strategic pursuits including the regime survival, the political and economic primacy in and control over society and economy, the continued refusal to address legitimate ethnic grievances, the issues of leadership and policy accountability, fear of popular reprisal under a genuinely representative government, and so on: the Muslims of Myanmar and the Rohingya of Western Myanmar are sitting ducks, most vulnerable, with no international protectors, near or far.  

The Organization of the Islamic Cooperation/Conference or OIC is no China.  That is, it has very little leverage with Myanmar's racist ruling generals and ex-generals, unlike Beijing. And ASEAN has no Muslim Brotherhood that inspires the Muslim wretched of Myanmar. On its part, Iran is too preoccupied with its own problems at home, and in the region.  India that intervened in and effectively ended  the genocide of the Bangladeshi Hindu in the civil war of 1971 by West Pakistani military and militants, has a radically different policy priority in the presently genocidal Myanmar: resource grab for Indian interests and curbing the Chinese influence.

The ethno-mobilization by the State has also been found in other transitional societies, for instance, post-Yugoslavian states or Indonesia and Malaysia in Myanmar's Southeast Asian neighborhood.  As an extreme example, Milosevic and his genocidal Serbian ultra-nationalist mobilization springs to mind.  But democratic openings do not automatically and inevitably trigger this kind of genocidal racism and racist violence against Cultural and Religious Other.

It is only the combination of popular and institutionalized racisms and the mobilization and manipulation of those racisms for strategic purposes designed to advance the goals of the ruling power holders.

In the final instance, it is not the down-trodden society which has long been accustomed to economic and political  uncertainties which is the primary culprit behind the rise of neo-Nazi "Buddhism" and "Buddhist" mass violence.  Rather it is Naypyidaw's widespread sense of uncertainties and insecurities that best explains the regime's documented involvement in whipping up ultra-nationalism among the country's "Buddhist" masses.

For a regime that has, out of its strategic calculations and for its survival needs, opted
 to play the politics of free-marketizing the economy while attempting to keep the political and institutional lid on the long-oppressed society of Myanmar, scapegoating Muslims and the Rohingya for the country's ills and the popular frustrations - is far more strategically appealing - and convenient - than focusing on the genuine democratization and ethnic reconciliation.  No regime with mountains of skeletons in its closet and scattered on the streets will embrace genuine democratic transition.

Romanticization of Buddhists as naturally and philosophically peace-loving people has not also advanced the international understanding of neo-Nazi "Buddhist" violence and Rohingya genocide either.

Myanmar's 969 monks, Rakhine ultranationalists and Bama racists have proven beyond the shadow of the doubts.  Historically and empirically speaking, Buddhists all over the world are as capable of both entertaining and pursuing home-grown 'Final Solutions' to annihilate human communities that they have demonized and de-humanized as 'viruses' 'animals' 'sub-humans' and so on as any Western and Eastern Europeans.

No amount of debates and discussions about the canonical Buddhism, or historical examination of 'Buddhist' violence or warfare will really shed light on the dangerous mass violence and the Rohingya genocide.  Whatever the texts or claims of what the Buddha taught or not taught, Buddhists whatever their nationalities - Thai/Siamese, Buddhist or Sinhalese are of secondary importance.  It's in the political economy and historical and social foundations of these violent racist societies with outwardly Buddhist manifestations  such as temples, pagodas, monasteries, monks and rituals.

Myanmar Government approved and/or instigated "Buddhist" protesters telling the UN Human Rights Special Investigator, who is mistakenly and widely viewed as 'biased' towards the Rohingya, or Bengali, to use the local racist terminology, to 'get out'
Likewise, no Burma or Myanmar analysis can be treated as credible or accurate unless it is examined through the prism of this dialectical interface between the popularly racist society and the officially bigoted State that has mid-wived the birth of Burma's homegrown neo-Nazism with the "Buddhist" face.

Any peaceful attempts to effectively address this two-fold neo-Nazi problem in Myanmar must factor in both the military leadership that is officially and unashamedly racist and the un-conscious civilization that talks the talk of Buddhism, but doesn't walk the Buddhist walk.



The Paradox Of Our Age



The Paradox Of Our Age

We have bigger houses but smaller families;
more conveniences, but less time.

We have more degrees but less sense;
more knowledge but less judgment;
more experts, but more problems;
more medicines but less healthiness.

We’ve been all the way to the moon and back,
but have trouble in crossing the street to meet our new neighbor.

We built more computers to hold more copies than ever,
but have less real communication;
We have become long on quantity,
but short on quality.

These are times of fast foods but slow digestion;
Tall men but short characters;
Steep profits but shallow relationships.

— The 14th Dalai Lama

Myanmar's Genocide-inducing Myth about the Rohingya and the Myanmar Muslims

The Rohingya and Myanmar Muslims are portrayed by 969 neo-Nazi "Buddhist" campaign and President Thein Sein's Government as a Threat to Myanmar Buddhist Society and National Sovereignty.

The numbers and demographic trends since 1950's tell a different story.




Why are Myanmar's Rohingya officially and popularly referred to as "Bengali', a racist slur in the Burmese context?

At the heart of Myanmar's official and, sadly, popular use of the term 'Bengali' is a discursive strategy meant to to illegalize, alien-ize and de-tetorrialize the Rohingya one and the same time.

This act is tantamount to the butcher of a verifiable and consequential truth by both the regime and the society, including Burma's 'human rights' leaders such as Suu Kyi, Ko Ko Gyi, etc.

Though the Rohingyas were recognized by the post-independence State in Burma well into the 1970s, after the Naga Min operation the discursively formulated word 'Bengali' was used as a matter of policy by the very military leaders who addressed leaders of the Rohingya as 'Esteemed Rohingya Leaders'. (Dig ex-Brigadier Aung Gyi and his deputies up from their graves and ask them how they called the Rohingya who opposed the Mujahiddeen separatist movement).

Before, the political system was built on official lies manufactured out of the Ministry of Defense Psychological Warfare Department.

Now even the society - un-civil society, I would say - itself is being built on popular lies.

My own alienation as a Burmese by both the State and the society is thus made doubly irreversible.

This double-alienation, among other things, is what enables and empowers me to speak my mind with absolutely no fear of societal and state condemnation and denunciation of me as a traitor.

Here is a contemporary analysis of the earliest wave of State-sponsored Rohingya ethnic cleansing.

This year-end review in the University of California's Asian Survey includes an early and then fresh analysis of the first last scale Rohingya ethnic cleansing operation as part of the general border control operation called Naga Min or Dragon King, launched in Kachin, Shan and later extended to the Rakhine state.





Combating Islamophobia in Myanmar is both a Principled Stance and a Strategic Necessity

For anyone or organization that wishes to see genuine democratic change and reforms in Burma or Myanmar it is imperative to appreciate that combating Islamophobia and the attendant mass violence against the Muslims there is not only principled and humanistic but also a strategic necessity.

A concrete example is in order.

In the old Arakan - now Rakhine - religious and ethnic communities had always co-mingled and mixed. Purity of ethnicity, customs, faiths and traditions is more a myth than a historical reality over the centuries.

For those who question, out of their commonsensically driven disbelief in any deliberate evil-doing by any ruling class, they need to know that the last thing Burma's generals and the military want in Rakhine State is peace and harmony between the Rohingya and the Rakhine.

Historically, the Rohingya leaders involved in Mujaheddin separatist movement of predominantly Rohingya districts in Northern Rakhine and the Rakhine separatists.  (In fact, Mujahaddins, the armed movement among the Rohingya and the then East Pakistan borderland-based east Pakistani was born when the Union of Burma government, also made up of anti-Muslim racists, closed off all legal and peaceful channels for the Muslims of Northern Burma to register and get their grievances addressed fairly and legally in the 1950s.)

The major and constant strategic consideration that has been running through the Bama military's policy towards the Rakhine state is to ensure these two communities do not unite against the Bama neo-imperial design on the Rakhine.

What I mean by neo-imperialism of the Bama military leadership is simply this:

suck the Rakhine state and its multiethnic and multireligious people dry (above and overground natural resources), control the territory and land with mininal regard for fairness and equity in the central and local relations in all dimensions, and adopt and pursue ethnic and religious 'divide and rule' among all peoples of Rakhine province/state.

The Muslims of Burma are kept divided as a matter of national policies, and so are the Buddhists and Muslims (and Christians).

Racism is a perfect tool that the Burmese generals use to keep themselves in power and to have 'chickens on the farm bicker, fight and kill one another' while the Lord of the Farm sits back and relaxes.  It is the Lord of the Farm that has, as a matter of factly speaking, manufactured triggers after triggers for the bloody conflicts among the wretched of the Rakhine State - both the Buddhist Rakhine and the Muslims of the Rakhine state.

Myanmar's private media outlets such as the ELEVEN Media and the Voice Weekly run by the army-bred cronies have also played a major role in whipping up the state's instrumental and institutionalized racism any the Muslims and anyone considered in solidarity with the oppressed Muslims in Myanmar.

That is why, the neo-Nazi "monk" Wirathu from Kyauk Hse, the up-country hometown of the aging despot Senior General Than Shwe near Mandalay, has been used as a strategic instrument by the Burmese military leadership. For he spreads rather effectively the anti-Muslim terrorism on behalf of President Thein Sein while the latter speaks the language of peace and harmony to please the ears of western 'donors', international business executives and global mass media. 

In direct reaction to Hannah Beech's TIME magazine portrayal of Wirathu as 'the Face of Buddhist Terror', President Thein Sein and his spokesmen, ex-Colonel Ye Htut and ex-major Zaw Htay, officially backed the neo-Nazi "Buddhist" preacher characterized him as ' a son of Lord Buddha' preaching message of peace!



Below is a hate and manifestly pro-terrorism speech straight from the horse's mouth.

Watch Wirathu's pro-terror speech - 52 second

(the date of the speech and the venue/occasion unknown, but appears to be recent).



"The guests (in reference to the 'kalars' or anyone considered of Indian sub-continental origin or increasingly of Islamic faith) need to read the hosts' face and behave accordingly. It's not the other way around.

Every Kalar must feel fear-struck at the sight of Bama - and of all other "tai-yin-thar" (Bumi-Putra in Sanskrit, or children of the land/earth)."

That is why, the fight against anti-Muslim racism is not only principled but exceedingly strategic in pushing for genuine social change in Burma.



Any Myanmar dissident leader who doesn't see this strategic necessity and spit out this oppressor's language 'national sovereignty' and 'national security' is complicit in the spread of Islamophobia and ends up aiding and abetting the regime that locked them up for years and tortured their own human rights activists to death.





George Orwell’s Letter on Why He Wrote ‘1984’

By George Orwell

In 1944, three years before writing and five years before publishing 1984, George Orwell penned a letter detailing the thesis of his great novel. The letter, warning of the rise of totalitarian police states that will ‘say that two and two are five,’ is reprinted from George Orwell: A Life in Letters, edited by Peter Davison and published today by Liveright.

To Noel Willmett 

18 May 1944
10a Mortimer Crescent NW 6 

Dear Mr Willmett, 

Many thanks for your letter. You ask whether totalitarianism, leader-worship etc. are really on the up-grade and instance the fact that they are not apparently growing in this country and the USA.

Corbis, Wikimedia Commons
I must say I believe, or fear, that taking the world as a whole these things are on the increase. Hitler, no doubt, will soon disappear, but only at the expense of strengthening (a) Stalin, (b) the Anglo-American millionaires and (c) all sorts of petty fuhrers° of the type of de Gaulle. All the national movements everywhere, even those that originate in resistance to German domination, seem to take non-democratic forms, to group themselves round some superhuman fuhrer (Hitler, Stalin, Salazar, Franco, Gandhi, De Valera are all varying examples) and to adopt the theory that the end justifies the means. Everywhere the world movement seems to be in the direction of centralised economies which can be made to ‘work’ in an economic sense but which are not democratically organised and which tend to establish a caste system. With this go the horrors of emotional nationalism and a tendency to disbelieve in the existence of objective truth because all the facts have to fit in with the words and prophecies of some infallible fuhrer. Already history has in a sense ceased to exist, ie. there is no such thing as a history of our own times which could be universally accepted, and the exact sciences are endangered as soon as military necessity ceases to keep people up to the mark. Hitler can say that the Jews started the war, and if he survives that will become official history. He can’t say that two and two are five, because for the purposes of, say, ballistics they have to make four. But if the sort of world that I am afraid of arrives, a world of two or three great superstates which are unable to conquer one another, two and two could become five if the fuhrer wished it.1 That, so far as I can see, is the direction in which we are actually moving, though, of course, the process is reversible.

As to the comparative immunity of Britain and the USA. Whatever the pacifists etc. may say, we have not gone totalitarian yet and this is a very hopeful symptom. I believe very deeply, as I explained in my book The Lion and the Unicorn, in the English people and in their capacity to centralise their economy without destroying freedom in doing so. But one must remember that Britain and the USA haven’t been really tried, they haven’t known defeat or severe suffering, and there are some bad symptoms to balance the good ones. To begin with there is the general indifference to the decay of democracy. Do you realise, for instance, that no one in England under 26 now has a vote and that so far as one can see the great mass of people of that age don’t give a damn for this? Secondly there is the fact that the intellectuals are more totalitarian in outlook than the common people. On the whole the English intelligentsia have opposed Hitler, but only at the price of accepting Stalin. Most of them are perfectly ready for dictatorial methods, secret police, systematic falsification of history2 etc. so long as they feel that it is on ‘our’ side. Indeed the statement that we haven’t a Fascist movement in England largely means that the young, at this moment, look for their fuhrer elsewhere. One can’t be sure that that won’t change, nor can one be sure that the common people won’t think ten years hence as the intellectuals do now. I hope 3 they won’t, I even trust they won’t, but if so it will be at the cost of a struggle. If one simply proclaims that all is for the best and doesn’t point to the sinister symptoms, one is merely helping to bring totalitarianism nearer. 

You also ask, if I think the world tendency is towards Fascism, why do I support the war. It is a choice of evils—I fancy nearly every war is that. I know enough of British imperialism not to like it, but I would support it against Nazism or Japanese imperialism, as the lesser evil. Similarly I would support the USSR against Germany because I think the USSR cannot altogether escape its past and retains enough of the original ideas of the Revolution to make it a more hopeful phenomenon than Nazi Germany. I think, and have thought ever since the war began, in 1936 or thereabouts, that our cause is the better, but we have to keep on making it the better, which involves constant criticism.

Yours sincerely,
Geo. Orwell 

[XVI, 2471, pp. 190—2; typewritten] 

1. and 2. Foreshadowings of Nineteen Eighty-Four.

3. Compare Nineteen Eighty-Four, p. 72, ‘If there is hope, wrote Winston, it lies in the proles.’

'George Orwell: A Life in Letters' edited by Peter Davison. 560 pp. Liveright; $35.

This article originally published here.

The Ultimate Revolution | by Aldous Huxley (Video)

Aldous Huxley author of Brave New World speaking at U.C. Berkeley in 1962. Aldous Huxley uses this speaking opportunity to outline his vision for the 'ultimate revolution', a scientific dictatorship where people will be conditioned to enjoy their servitude, and will pose little opposition to the 'ruling oligarchy', as he puts it. He also takes a moment to compare his book, "Brave New World," to George Orwell's "1984" and considers the technique in the latter too outdated for actual implementation.

"There will be, in the next generation or so, a pharmacological method of making people love their servitude, and producing dictatorship without tears, so to speak, producing a kind of painless concentration camp for entire societies, so that people will in fact have their liberties taken away from them, but will rather enjoy it, because they will be distracted from any desire to rebel by propaganda or brainwashing, or brainwashing enhanced by pharmacological methods. And this seems to be the final revolution." -- Aldous Huxley, Tavistock Group, California Medical School, 1961.


Jakarta Bomb a Warning That Burma’s Muslim-Buddhist Conflict May Spread

ROMEO GACAD / AFP / Getty Images
Armed police secure the compound of Ekayana Buddhist Centre in Jakarta in the early morning of Aug. 5, 2013, hours after a bombing attack hit the temple in the evening of Aug. 4

The Ekayana Buddhist Centre in western Jakarta is a gaudy, bustling place of worship for the Indonesian capital’s mostly ethnic Chinese Buddhists. Known for its colorful Lunar New Year celebrations and visits from celebrity monks, Ekayana last made headlines in 2012, when it was cited as proof of the new tolerance being shown toward Chinese Indonesians — a minority that has had to cope with decades of social exclusion and repression. But the center made the news again on Sunday, this time for a bombing that inflicted minor injuries on three members of a 300-strong congregation that had gathered for a sermon. One explosive device failed to go off and was found smoldering in a bucket. There was a note from the perpetrators that read “We respond to the screams of the Rohingya.”

The attack on Ekayana is a grim warning that the Muslim-Buddhist conflict in Burma, officially known as Myanmar, may be spilling over into other parts of Asia. Official persecution of the Muslim Rohingya of western Burma, who are not recognized by the Burmese government as citizens, has driven tens of thousands to flee the country, mostly across the border to squalid camps in Bangladesh or on rickety boats to Malaysia and Indonesia. A violent pogrom in 2012 in the Burmese state of Rakhine, where Rohingya make up about 40% of the population, saw many more killed and displaced after clashes with the Buddhist majority. The bloodshed has now migrated to other parts of Burma, with terrifying reports of Muslim women and children being massacred, Muslim homes razed and, in some cases, Buddhist monks goading on frenzied mobs. The Buddhist extremist movement 969 is thought to have backing from the highest levels of the Burmese government.

The fear now is that the plight of the Rohingya has become a battle cry for Islamist militants in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation. “Now the terrorists may have shifted their target from [Christian] churches to [Buddhist] temples,” warned national police chief Sutarman.

Indonesia already has its own share of ongoing religious strife — most notably hard-line Muslims’ attacks on Christian churches and persecution of minority Islamic groups like the Shi‘ites and the Ahmadis. But officials have been uncharacteristically quick to condemn the Ekayana bombing. “We are disturbed by the Ekayana temple bombing at the end of Ramadan,” tweeted President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, referring to the Muslim fasting month that comes to an end today. “This is a damned and uncivilized action,” said Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali, who visited the temple on Monday morning. Yet their words may do little to restrain extremists for whom the Rohingya cause “is closer to home than, for example, the sectarian conflict in Syria,” says Sidney Jones, a Jakarta-based terrorism expert and the director of the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict.

Neither is the Ekayana bombing the first Rohingya-related trouble to have occurred in Indonesia. Last year, hard-liners from the Islamic Defenders Front vandalized Buddhist temples in Sulawesi during a pro-Rohingya rally. In April, Muslim and Buddhist refugees from Burma clashed at a camp in Sumatra, resulting in eight dead and 15 injured. In early May, police foiled a plot to bomb the Burmese embassy in Jakarta, capturing two men with pipe bombs en route to the site. Less than a week later, in two days of raids across Java, police arrested 13 suspected terrorists and killed seven others, some of whom were thought to have links with the embassy-bomb plot. Islamist radicals have been suspected of plotting attacks on Buddhist temples and a market in Jakarta’s Chinatown.

Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, regarded as the spiritual leader of Islamist radicals in Southeast Asia and currently serving a 15-year jail sentence in Jakarta, has meanwhile taken up the cause of Burmese Muslims. In an open letter to Burmese President Thein Sein, dated July 22 and published on militant Islamic websites days before the Sunday bombing, he threatened to wage a war if Muslims continue to be harmed there. “You must know that we are brothers as Muslims. Their pain is our pain, their sorrows are our sorrows, and their blood that you shed is our blood too,” Bashir wrote. “By the will of Allah, we can destroy you and your people.”

None of the plots, bar the attack on Ekayana, have been successful. But it may only be a matter of time before tragedy strikes. The Ekayana bombing “should give a warning to both Indonesia and Myanmar that a failure to deal with violence in Myanmar can have implications beyond its borders,” says Jones. “ASEAN should put pressure on the government of Myanmar to take firm steps against the violence and prejudice on the Rohingya and other Muslims.”

This article originally published here.

The number of the beast

Spreading hate: Ashin Wirathu has become the most recognisable face of the anti-Muslim 969 movement in Myanmar. The Buddhist monk has been accused of stoking extremist attitudes towards the country’s Muslim population, claiming that Muslims are “very violent” and that “they eat their own kind”
Signs of movement: stickers bearing the 969 symbol are displayed in a modern cafe in downtown Yangon
Running on empty: Muslim internally displaced persons (IDPs) queue for their food at an unofficial camp near Meiktila
Faith no more: the destroyed Mingalar Thiri Muslim quarter in Meiktila following anti-Muslim attacks and riots in March
On their knees: young Muslim refugees pray in an unofficial camp near Meiktila
Call for custom: a shrine in a shop at Moulmein market proudly displays a 969 sticker
Lunch for two: a teashop in Mawlamyine, where tensions between the Buddhist and Muslim communities seem minimal, despite the 969 movement reportedly being born here
The anti-Muslim 969 movement is fuelling the fire of religious discontent in Myanmar

By Carlos Sardiña Galache Photography by Vincenzo Floramo

Just as Myanmar seems to be casting off its shackles, a spectre is haunting the nation – the spectre of Buddhist extremism. An intolerant branch of nationalism linked to Theravada Buddhism has violently forced its way into full view during the last year, in a period when the government is opening up both politically and economically. The 969 movement, whose stated goal is defending the Buddhist character of the nation against a purported threat of Islamisation, is the vanguard of this trend. The longstanding sectarian divisions in the country have been deepened, and 969 is providing at least a breeding ground to the violent anti-Muslim attacks that have taken place in some cities during the past year.

The worst incidents took place in March in Meiktila, a town with a population of 100,000 in central Myanmar. After two days of violence, unrestrained by security forces, huge swathes of the town were left razed to the ground, at least 43 people had been killed and about 18,000 people were displaced from their homes. As in subsequent riots, it was the Muslims who bore the brunt of the violence.

Meanwhile, in the east of the country, the 969 symbol is ubiquitous in Mawlamyine, the capital of Mon state. Stickers bearing the brightly coloured emblem are plastered in shops, on taxis and motorcycles. It is a decoration that is now found in many of Myanmar’s cities.

Everything seems peaceful in Mawlamyine, a strongly Buddhist city with a sizeable Muslim population, although its recent history is not untainted by outbursts of sectarian violence: the city witnessed a wave of anti-Muslims riots in 1983, which rapidly spread to other parts of Myanmar. That was one of several such episodes in the country during five decades under a military regime that, at times, used the sectarian divisions as a survival strategy to deflect the attention of the population from more pressing issues.

The 969 symbol was designed in one of Mawlamyine’s monasteries, where it is claimed that the movement was born last year. The designer of the logo and secretary of the organisation is Ashin Sada Ma, the 37-year-old abbot of the Mya Sadi monastery on the outskirts of the city.

In an office bursting with the stickers, pamphlets and other material that will be distributed in order to advance the 969 movement, Ashin Sada Ma discussed its meaning and purpose. The numbers of the logo refer to the three jewels of Buddhism: the nine attributes of the Buddha, the six attributes of his teachings and the nine attributes of the sangha, the monastic community.

“This number has been used for more than 30 years in our country,” he said. “But we only launched this logo last year. In the modern age, the young people don’t know the jewels of Buddhism; this logo is designed to remind them. At least they can learn about this with the logo.”

The symbol was officially launched on October 30, Full Moon day of thadingyut, one of the main festivities of the Myanmar calendar. Shortly before that, a wave of murderous anti-Muslim violence had engulfed Rakhine state following an initial outbreak in June. The main victims were the ethnic Rohingya, regarded as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh by the Myanmar government and considered one of the most persecuted groups in the world by the United Nations. Hundreds were killed and thousands are now confined in internally displaced person (IDP) camps, in what Human Rights Watch has termed a state-sanctioned campaign of “ethnic cleansing” against the Rohingya.

Ashin Sada Ma holds a different opinion. “For the last year, there has been a lot of conflict in western Myanmar between Bengalis [the name given by many Myanmar to the Rohingya] and the ethnic Rakhines [the Buddhist ethnic group that comprises the majority in Rakhine state],” he said. “Lots of Bengalis are migrating to Myanmar. If they come, they can influence easily our country. So this symbol and campaign’s purpose is to defend ourselves. I fear that some Bengali Muslims are terrorists and have a mission to Islamise our country.”

Like other monks, Ashin Sada Ma has toured the country spreading the message of 969. He claims that the organisation does not operate at the national level, but that its various branches work independently in different states and divisions. “In other places, they will spread the symbol on their own. Other townships use the logo for their own purposes,” he explained.

The most visible face of 969 is Ashin Wirathu, a monk who has become famous in Myanmar and abroad for his vitriolic anti-Muslim speeches. His fame was further enhanced when he appeared on the cover of Time magazine in June, under the headline, “The Face of Buddhist Terror”. This has sparked protests against Time in Myanmar.

Wirathu was detained in 2003, accused of instigating a wave of anti-Muslim violence in central Myanmar and was released under an amnesty in 2012. Now he seems to enjoy the protection of the government. The Time issue with his portrait has been banned in Myanmar, while President Thein Sein’s office stepped in to defend him and condemned the magazine in a statement published on its website.

Since his release, Wirathu has been freely touring the whole country delivering his firebrand speeches. The violence in Meiktila took place four months after he travelled there and shortly after a video containing one of his speeches, in which he warned that Muslims were taking over the town, was widely distributed.

In early April, shortly after the Meiktila clashes, Wirathu was sat on a chair in Maesoyin monastery, Mandalay, as he expounded his theories about a “Muslim conspiracy” devised to conquer Myanmar. With several huge portraits of himself looking down on him, the 45-year-old monk explained how he discovered this conspiracy in 1996, when a monk who had recently converted from Islam gave him a document that had supposedly been circulated within the Muslim community. Wirathu claims that it laid out plans to Islamise Myanmar, which includes the economic conquest of the country, as well as marrying Buddhist women in order to force them to convert to Islam and give birth to as many Muslim children as possible.

“If Buddhists don’t do anything to stop it, the whole country will be like the Mayu region in Rakhine state [an area mostly populated by Muslim Rohingya] by 2100,” Wirathu warned.

He also has a clear idea of steps that can be taken to solve the “Muslim problem”. “Buddhists can talk with Muslims, but not marry them; there can be friendship between them, but not trade,” he said.

In order to prevent such instances, Wirathu recently proposed a law restricting marriages between Buddhist women and men of other religions. The idea has created much controversy in Myanmar and has been endorsed by a great number of monks.

Wirathu went on to deny that his speeches incited any riots and even argued that, if Buddhists listened to him, they would not commit any acts of violence. Ashin Sada Ma also denied any responsibility should be taken by the 969 movement, and pointed out that no incidents have taken place in Mon state so far, despite it being the birthplace of the movement.

It is believed that 969 is a response to the number 786, used by many Muslims in Myanmar to represent the sentence, “In the name of God, the most merciful, the most compassionate.” The number is displayed in many shops, and some Buddhists note that the three figures add up to 21, claiming it is a code that points to Muslims’ supposed intention to conquer Myanmar and the whole world during the current century.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, an imam at one of Yangon’s largest mosques vehemently denied these allegations and explained that Muslims merely use the number 786 to “ask God for help and good luck”. He added that he and other imams “are calling in their sermons to the Muslim youth to keep calm and not respond to the provocations of the Buddhist terrorists”.

The imam accused elements of the government of being behind the 969 movement and the recent wave of violence – a claim forcefully denied by both Ashin Sada Ma and Wirathu. It is a suspicion shared by many, given the potential benefits to the government of continued instability: it allows the army to present itself as a defender of Buddhism, ensures a military presence remains a necessity in strategically important regions, and provides an opportunity to side with the Rakhine and other Buddhist minorities, like the Shan or the Mon, ahead of the 2015 election.

Of course, not all of Myanmar’s monks support 969 and its anti-Muslim rhetoric. Some are encouraging a peaceful coexistence between both communities.

One such monk is Ashin Pum Na Wontha, a 56-year-old with a long history of political activism. He is a member of the Peace Cultivation Network, an organisation that promotes dialogue and understanding among different faiths, and one of the few people to be found in Myanmar who openly defends the right of Rohingyas to be treated as legitimate citizens of the country.

“Both Wirathu and the 969 movement receive financial support from the [government’s] cronies,” he said. “Some Muslim businessmen have huge assets in different industries, especially in the central regions of the country, and the cronies covet them. The military is also involved in stoking the violence, in order to create instability.”

With the 969 movement spreading rapidly throughout the country – without any opposition from the government – it is impossible to gauge exactly how many monks support 969 and how many oppose it. It is clear, however, that pro-969 monks are receiving more media attention, both within Myanmar and abroad. At any moment, the anti-Muslim violence threatens to spiral out of control: an outcome that remains the direct consequence of 969 propaganda.

This article originally published here.

BIRMANIA: La democrazia birmana ed il capitalismo globale, Maung Zarni, Terre sotto vento, 06 agosto 2013


Posted on 06 agosto 2013




Nei passati tre anni è traspirato un cambiamento in Birmania ad una velocità impressionante. Uno sguardo rapido al volgere degli eventi, dal rilascio di centinaia di prigionieri politici alle relazioni rinnovate con l’occidente, fa capire sulla superficie di una nuova di reazione dopo decenni di dittatura. Ma verso dove si muove la Birmania e come si può meglio comprendere questo cambiamento?

Due autorità mondiali in fatto di democratizzazione come Thomas Carothers e Larry Diamond, hanno raggiunto quasi la stessa conclusione dopo alcune visite in Birmania: gli obiettivi di Naypyidaw, la definizione ed il modo di operare della “democrazia” si trovano all’opposto rispetto all’essenza di un governo davvero rappresentativo.

Carothers ha paragonato le riforme birmane con le riforme dei capi arabi dallo stile dall’alto verso il basso nei decenni precedenti alle primavere arabe che hanno spazzato il Medio Oriente ed il Nord Africa. “I passi intrapresi dai governi arabi non erano riforme di democrazia quanto sforzi attentamente circoscritti disegnati proprio per cancellare la possibilità di una vera democratizzazione attraverso un alleggerimento dell’insoddisfazione popolare con i regimi”.

Diamond è stato molto più diretto nel parlare della situazione birmana: “Credo che la transizione si trovi ancora in uno stato primordiale, e non è affatto chiaro a questo punto che si avrà una democrazia elettorale o che la democrazia elettorale sia il risultato atteso.”

Il barometro domestico delle riforme, il capo dell’opposizione e già prigioniero politico Aung San Suu Kyi, ha sostenuto inizialmente Thein Sein, ex generale e primo ministro delle passate giunte, come un uomo con cui iniziare a lavorare per la democrazia. Comunque a maggio Suu Kyi affermò che non c’erano stati progressi tangibili da quando le tanto proclamate riforme erano state lanciate dal governo all’inizio del 2011.

Allora perché la comunità internazionale si culla gli attuali generali ed estende loro aiuti per il valore di milioni di dollari nel nome del popolo e delle riforme e della transizione democratica? Perché i governi occidentali continuano a riempire di lodi e prestigio Thein Sein ed i suoi presunti riformisti persino mentre presiedono ad una pulizia etnica e ai crimini contro l’umanità contro i Rohingya, violenze di massa antimusulmane perpetrate da gruppi neonazisti sostenuti dallo stato ed una crisi umanitaria causata dall’espansione della guerra nello stato Kachin?

La risposta breve e chiara è di perseguire gli interessi del capitale. I generali birmani hanno dato il proprio assenso ad una trasformazione di mercato guidata dall’esterno della sua economia politica malandata in cambio dell’accesso all’aiuto e all’investimento occidentale. E’ da notare che questo reimpegno, dopo anni di isolamento imposto dalle sanzioni con l’occidente, liberale è stato di gran lunga secondo le necessità di Naypyidaw, se si esclude qualche concessione simbolica per scopi di pubbliche relazioni.

Dalla prospettiva del capitalismo globale la Birmania è vista in modo vario come “un bordello di risorse”, un mercato di frontiera e/o un fulcro strategico per le rispettive “grandi strategie” nell’infinito gioco delle superpotenze che attualmente si gioca tra Cina ed USA. Alla fine del XIX secolo nelle discussioni parlamentari di Londra, la Birmania era considerata come “uno degli ultimissimi mercati inesplorati” in attesa dello sfruttamento inglese, quindi una parola perfettamente onorevole in riferimento alle comunità non europee e alle loro risorse naturali.

Nei giorni della politica imperialista di Bibbia e Cannoniere, la retorica espansionista, facilitata dalle conquiste intellettuali europee e dalla conseguente rivoluzione industriale, si focalizzava sulla cosiddetta “missione civilizzatrice” e sul “fardello dell’uomo bianco”. Nel periodo dopo la seconda guerra mondiale, quando non andava più di moda la chiara costruzione dell’impero, i discorsi paternalistici si spostarono sulla modernizzazione e sugli stati dello sviluppo.

Muoviamoci velocemente verso il Forum Economico Mondiale di Naypyidaw di giugno 2013 e le frasi altisonanti che andavano da “democrazia dall’alto”, al “rafforzamento della società civile” e agli “investimenti socialmente responsabili” e ai “mercati liberi assistiti dalle multinazionali”. Le grandi multinazionali, le agenzie di aiuto governativo e le ONG internazionali ora servono a fornire il cosiddetto progresso, la modernità e lo sviluppi su un piatto capitalista.

Ma nel profondo dei loro cuori inscuriti, le politiche internazionali verso la Birmania servono ad estrarre il bottino ottimale da uno dei mercati di frontiera più intatti al mondo. Le civiltà possono ancora scontrarsi su fedi astratte e sistemi di credo organizzati, ma gli attori più conseguenziali sono le elite del capitale e le loro istituzioni al lavoro per guadagnarsi i profitti massimi.

La frenesia alimentata sulla Birmania ha mostrato la sottilissima linea tra il potere politico USA e i suoi interessi economici. A giugno l’ex segretario di Stato Albright era vista versarsi la Coca Cola da una bottiglia di plastica ad una cerimonia a Rangoon. L’occasione: il produttore della bibita, uno dei clienti della compagnia di consultazione Albright-Stonebridge aveva appena aperto la sua prima azienda di imbottigliamento in Brmania.

Come presidente dell’Istituto Democratico Nazionale degli USA era anche nel paese per promuovere la democrazia e il dialogo tra fedi. La sua missione meno conosciuta era di insegnare, con le parole del sito della Coca Cola, come insegnare a bere la Coke in modo appropriato a “persone che non l’hanno mai assaggiata” per conto di uno dei principali clienti dell’impresa.

Non è la sola con un chiaro conflitto di interessi tra la promozione della democrazia e il profitto personale. Il filantropista George Soros, non ché promotore dei fondi speculativi, ha anche scommesso di unirsi alla corsa all’oro in Birmania. Di recente ha fatto una proposta di concessione telefonica andata a male per una delle due concessioni di telefoni mobili offerte al mercato. La sua offerta era fatta mentre il suo Open Society Institute dava fondi per la democrazia, l’istruzione e lo sviluppo della società civile da un ufficio di Rangoon di una proprietà assicurata dal Ministero del Commercio.

Il già assistente del segretario di stato per il Pacifico Kurt Campbell che fu l’uomo iniziale di Obama per la sua politica verso l’Asia, affermò mentre era la governo di presiedere “la storica normalizzazione dei legami bnilaterali USA Birmania”. Ora nella sua qualità di socio fondatore e presidente del ASIA Group, un gruppo di investimento e di consigli strategico, Campbell “senza sosta difende gli interessi americani specialmente nella promozione del commercio e degli investimenti” come afferma il sito della sua impresa.

E questo include la possibilità di vincere per il suo gruppo un contratto ricco per migliorare e modernizzare l’aeroporto di Rangoon. “E’ un’opportunità incredibile di aiutare a far crescere il progresso che la Birmania ha fatto negli scorsi due anni migliorando le prospettive di investimenti economici ed assicurare la connessione con l’ASEAN ed il mondo”, ha detto Campbell sul contratto ancora pendente per l’aeroporto in un articolo su una rivista.

A dire il vero gli americani non sono da soli. Nel mezzo dei progrom contro i Rohingya e gli altri musulmani, lo stato islamico del Golfo, il Qatar, non si è fatto chiaramente problemi nell’accettare un contratto telefonico miliardario da un governo complice nella pulizia etnica degli amici musulmani. Nè il gigante norvegese Telenor, una concessione che alcuni commentatori hanno visto come un accenno di assenso alla decisione di Oslo di diminuire i finanziamenti ai gruppi di esiliati, come Democratic Voice of Burma di stanza a Oslo, che per anni ha criticato le giunte militari e che ora versa in difficoltà finanziarie a causa del ritiro dei fondi del donatore.

Se Carlo Marx fosse vivo, riconoscerebbe chiaramente il processo in corso in Birmania, caratterizzato da un accaparramento vasto di terra, delegittimazione economica, vaste unità di lavoratori poveri e condizioni malsane di lavoro che assomigliano alle condizioni del lavoro a metà del XIX secolo, come il processo spesso disumano che chiamò “accumulazione primitiva”.

Diversamente dalla storia europea dove l’accumulazione di capitale creò una forte classe media e quindi democratizzò le società feudali, le riforme attuali economiche e politiche birmane aiutano semplicemente la classe al governo dei militari e dei loro amici. Questi generali si sono davvero aggiustati dagli isolazionisti dal pugno di ferro ai procuratori amici del mercato per le forze globali del mercato guidate dall’Europa e dagli USA.

Guardando al di là della retorica della democratizzazione, delle riforme, delle elezioni, e della prospettiva limitata tra i duri e i riformatori, è importante comprendere le forze che stanno dietro alla trasformazione capitalista della Birmania in un mercato globale di frontiera, forze meglio comprese con un termine di “prospettive di precarietà tripla”, TIP, tradizionale precarietà nazionale, precarietà globale e precarietà umana.

La prima precarietà si riferisce immediatamente al permanente senso di precarietà dello stato nazione che nella sua forma più cruda sono le incertezze rispetto alla sopravvivenza del regime. La seconda, la precarietà globale, si definisce come un senso di insicurezza e vulnerabilità dell’ordine economico e politico mondiale il quale a sua volta si appoggia sull’insicurezza dello stato nazione che costituisce l’economia politica globale.

La terza e ultima, la precarietà umana, si riferisce all’assenza di “sicurezza dell’individuo e delle comunità in cui si vive come opposto alla sicurezza degli stati e delle frontiere”, mia inversione della definizione offerta dalla London School of Economics Civil Society and Human Security Research Unit.

TIP definisce che sin dalla fine della guerra fredda il capitalismo globale porta le comunità, gli ambienti naturali e le economie e politiche nazionali in una singola complessità in un processo largamente considerato come globalizzazione. Qui i tre discorsi di sicurezza competono per il primato nelle pratiche e nella costruzione delle politiche.

Mentre si parla di ordine internazionale prevedibile, basato sulla legge, ogni stato nazione si prepara all’eventualità di una calamità e della guerra. Guidati da un profondo senso di insicurezza sia internazionalmente che nazionalmente, persino gli USA si sa spiano sui propri cittadini, alleati e rivali come ha mostrato lo scandalo internazionale PRISM.

Mentre le tre precarietà non sono necessariamente mutualmente esclusive, il problema delle vulnerabilità, come i rifugiati, le persone disperse internamente, i disoccupati, sono posti tipicamente nel dimenticatoio della politica. La sicurezza ed il benessere delle persone e delle comunità sono calpestate, sia letteralmente che figurativamente, specialmente quando gli altri due regimi di insicurezze, nazionali e globali, si associano per formare una simbiosi esclusiva per calcoli strategici e espedienti politici.

Questa è la ragione per cui spesso ascoltiamo storie di come politiche e pratiche degli stati, corporazioni e agenzie multilaterali e istituzioni finanziarie internazionali contribuiscono collettivamente al peggioramento delle comunità di base e a persone umane senza volto, ai loro habitat e all’accesso alle fonti di vita, sicurezza, libertà di movimento, associazione e così via.

Se la si vede attraverso il prima del TIP, le riforme dall’alto della Birmania hanno a che fare più col capitalismo globale che con la democrazia. Si tratta in primo luogo di una elite nazionale al potere che fa un patto con le forze globali capitaliste mentre si trasformano essi stessi in una classe sociale, chiamata capitalisti soci dei militari.

In questo patto, i capi nazionali aprono le loro ambite risorse e mercati in cambio di una normalizzazione, riconoscimento, legittimazione e accesso al capitale e alle tecnologie. Naypyidaw apre il paese solo in termini favorevoli e accettabili ai loro principali azionisti, cioè, i militari e il regine di insicurezza nazionale. In questo processo persino l’icona globale e politica più influente, Aung San Suu Kyi, si è trovata sul palco capitalista globale dove non controlla più né il tono, né il testo, né l’ambientazione.

L’ancora attuale caso di pulizia etnica dei Rohingya presenta un caso empirico e potenzialmente rivelatore per il TIP. L’occidente e i suoi interessi capitalistici, avendo fatto una simbiosi col regime di sicurezza nazionale birmano, ha finora continuato ad abbracciare incondizionatamente il regime “democratico” di Thein Sein nonostante le bene documentate complicità nei pogrom contro le comunità marginali musulmane.

A contrasto con l’abietta povertà dello stato Rakhine, le aree Rohingya in coabitazione con i buddisti Rakhine fino ai pogrom dello scorso anno sono strategici e potenzialmente lucrativi nell’economia emergente capitalista del paese compreso un porto da mare profondo strategico, terra agricola fertile con un potenziale di agroindustria, un’industria della pesca ricca, ed il sito di origine del gasdotto ed oleodotto cinese di 2100 chilometri disegnato per trasportare carburante in Cina attraverso la Birmania.

La maggioranza degli studiosi occidentali e degli osservatori non hanno soppesato a sufficienza la simbiosi emergente tra le forze capitaliste globali e gli interessi di sicurezza della classe militare capitalisti birmana. Hanno ignorato i fatti concreti che le minoranze etniche e religiose, che rappresentano il 40% della popolazione, siano ulteriormente marginalizzate e private dei diritti, cacciate dalle loro terre ancestrali o altrimenti decimate.

Nel 2006 la FAO pubblicò un rapporto che sottolineava l’importanza commerciale enorme delle regioni a minoranza etnica. Il rapporto notava che il delta dell’Irrawaddy, la risiera tradizionale del paese e del mondo negli anni 20 e 30, è ora saturata, mentre terre vergini economicamente importanti sono situate nel Kachin, Chin, Karen ed altre frontiere. L Norvegia sta ora lavorando alla pace tra l’armata birmana e le popolazioni etniche nelle stesse terre di confine dove gli interessi capitalistici norvegesi investono già nel settore emergente delle monoculture.

Nella guerra civile del 1971 tra Pakistan occidentale ed Orientale, il generale pakistano occidentale Tikka emise un ordine da brivido alle sue truppe: “Voglio la terra non le persone”. Il regime di sicurezza nazionale birmano sta ora lavorando a riacquistare la terra percepita come persa nella Birmania occidentale senza i Rohingya. Nelle aree Kachin e Karen l’esercito ha segnato per l’espropriazione terre coltivate che ora appartengono ai Karen e Kachin che vivevano sotto i gruppi di resistenza armata.

Davvero, pace e sviluppo sembrano essere all’orizzonte mentre la corsa all’oro birmana si accelera dietro la spinta dei fondi esteri e dell’impunità locale. Ma se non si contestualizza appropriatamente la transizione della Birmania in questa rete confusa di tre insicurezze, la comprensione delle supposte riforme, del cambiamento politico e della democratizzazione saranno come un pane cotto a metà, al pari di una democrazia che è allevata dal regime di insicurezza nazionale di Naypyidaw e dei suoi amici capitalisti globali.

Capital insecurity in Myanmar By Maung Zarni (www.maungzarni.com )

Capital insecurity in Myanmar, Maung Zarni, Asia Times, 5 Aug 2013


From a Burmese father to his son
Son: Dad, what are the differences among our country's 'socialist regime', 'military dictatorship' and 'democracy government'?
Father: Nothing significant. They are all made up of and run by the same old murderous, corrupt shitheads.

Over the past three years, change in Myanmar has transpired at a dizzying pace. A cursory look at the turn of events, ranging from the release of hundreds of political prisoners to restored diplomatic relations with the West, indicates on the surface a new national direction after decades of dictatorship. But what is Myanmar transitioning towards and how best to understand the changes?

Thomas Carothers and Larry Diamond, two of the world's leading authorities on democratization, reached more or less the same conclusion after recent visits to the country: that Naypyidaw's goals, definition and modus operandi of "democracy" are at odds with the essence of a truly representative government.

Carothers likened Myanmar's reforms with Arab leaderships' top-down reforms in the decade prior to the Arab Spring convulsions that swept through the Middle East and Northern Africa. In his own words: "The steps taken by Arab governments were not democratizing reforms, rather they were carefully circumscribed efforts designed precisely to head off the possibility of true democratization by alleviating popular dissatisfaction with regimes."

Diamond was more direct in his assessment of Myanmar's situation: "I think the transition is still very much in an early stage, and it is not clear by any means at this point that electoral democracy will be the outcome of it or that electoral democracy is the intended outcome."

Myanmar's domestic barometer of reforms, opposition leader and former political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi, initially endorsed President Thein Sein, an ex-general and former prime minister of the previous ruling junta, as a man she could engage in working towards democracy. However, in May she said there have been "no tangible changes" since his government's much-lauded "democratic" reforms were launched beginning in 2011.

Why then is the international community coddling the country's former and current generals and extending them aid packages worth hundreds of millions of dollars in the name of people, reforms and democratic transition? Why do Western governments continue to shower praise and prestige on Thein Sein and his supposed reformists even as they preside over a campaign of ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity against ethnic Rohingya, mass anti-Muslim violence perpetrated by state-backed neo-Nazi Buddhist groups, and a humanitarian crisis driven by their escalation of war in Kachin State?

The short, blunt answer is the pursuit of capital interests. Myanmar's generals have agreed to the externally driven, market transformation of its ailing political economy in exchange for access to Western aid and investment. It is noteworthy, however, that this re-engagement after year of sanctions-imposed isolation with the liberal West has been largely on Naypyidaw's own terms, apart from a few symbolic concessions for public relations purposes.

From the perspective of global capitalists, Myanmar is viewed variously as a "resource brothel", a "frontier market" and/or a strategic linchpin for respective "grand strategies" in the unending game of Great Power rivalry, currently waged mainly between China and the United States.

In the last decade of the 19th century, in parliamentary discussions in London, Burma, as the country was known under colonialism and military rule until 1989, was framed as "one of the world's last unexplored markets" that awaited Britain's "exploitation" - then a perfectly honorable word in reference to non-European communities and their natural resources.

In the days of Bible-and-gunboat imperialism, facilitated by Europe's intellectual advances and the resultant Industrial Revolution, the expansionist rhetoric focused on so-called "civilizing missions" and the "white man's burden". In the post-World War II period, when overt empire-building was no longer fashionable, paternalistic discourses shifted towards "modernization" and "stages of development".

New lingo, same agenda

Fast forward to the World Economic Forum held in Naypyidaw in June 2013 and the buzz phrases ranged from "top-down democracy", "empowering civil society" and "socially responsible investment" and "corporate-assisted free markets". Transnational corporations, government aid agencies and international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) now effectively serve to deliver so-called progress, modernity and development on a capitalist platter.

But at their darkened heart, international policies towards Myanmar are designed to extract optimal spoils out of one of the world's last untapped frontier markets. Civilizations may indeed still clash over abstract faiths and manufactured belief systems, but the more consequential actors are capitalist elites and their supporting institutions geared towards the pursuit of maximized quarterly profits.

The feeding frenzy over Myanmar has revealed the paper thin line between the US policy establishment and its associated corporate interests. This June, former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright was seen downing Coca Cola straight out of a plastic bottle at a ceremony in Yangon. The occasion: the soft drink manufacturer, one of Albright's corporate clients for her Albright-Stonebridge Consulting firm, had just opened its first-ever bottling factory in Myanmar.

As chair of the US National Democratic Institute, Albright was also reportedly in the country to promote democracy and interfaith dialogue. Her lesser known mission was to teach, as the Coca Cola website puts it, "the people who have never had a sip" how to drink Coke properly on behalf of one of her top corporate clients.

She is not the only one with an apparent conflict of interest between democracy promotion and personal profit. New York-based hedge fund honcho-cum-philanthropist George Soros has also bid to join Myanmar's gold rush. He recently made an unsuccessful bid through a business consortium for one of the country's two mobile telecom concessions offered for international bidders. His bid was placed while his Open Society Institute doled out funds for democracy, education and civil society development from a prime real estate Yangon office secured from the Ministry of Commerce.

Former US assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs Kurt Campbell, President Barack Obama's initial point man for his Asian "pivot" policy, claimed while in government to oversee "the historic normalization of US-Myanmar bilateral ties". Now, in his capacity as founding partner and chairman of the Asia Group, a private strategic advisory and investment group, Campbell "tirelessly advocates American interests, especially the promotion of trade and investment", according to his company's website.

That includes his group's current bid to win a lucrative contract to upgrade and modernize the Yangon airport. "This is a thrilling opportunity to help advance the progress Myanmar has made over the past couple years by enhancing prospects for economic investments, and ensuring connectivity for Myanmar with ASEAN and the world," he was quoted as saying about the still pending airport contract in a March 11 Foreign Policy article.

To be sure, the Americans are not alone. Amid the unfolding pogroms against the Rohingya and other Muslims, the Islamic Gulf state of Qatar apparently had no qualms in accepting a multi-billion dollar telecom contract from a government complicit in ethnic cleansing fellow Muslims. Nor did Norway's telecom giant Telenor, a concession some commentators saw as a nod to Oslo's decision to wind down its funding for exile groups, including the Oslo-based Democratic Voice of Burma broadcaster that for years criticized military rule but now faces financial difficulties with the withdrawal of donor funds.

Primitive accumulation
If Karl Marx were alive, he would clearly recognize the process underway in Myanmar - characterized by pervasive land grabs, economic disempowerment, armies of working poor, and filthy labor conditions that mirror the conditions of the English working class in the mid-19th century - as the often ruthless capitalist process he termed 'primitive accumulation.'

Unlike Europe's history where capital accumulation created a strong middle class and thus democratized feudal societies, Myanmar's current economic and political reforms are simply aiding the ruling military-crony class. Those top generals have effectively refashioned themselves from ham-fisted isolationists to market friendly proxies for the global market forces driven by the European Union and United States.

Looking beyond the rhetoric of democratization, reforms, elections, and the limited binary perspective of hardliners and reformers, it is important to understand the driving forces behind the capitalist transformation of Myanmar into a global frontier market. Those forces are best understood through what I term a "Triple Insecurity Perspective", or TIP, namely traditional national insecurity, global insecurity and human insecurity.

First, national insecurity straightforwardly refers to the permanent sense of in-security of nation-states, which in its crudest form is about the uncertainties with respect to "regime survival". Second, global insecurity is defined as the overall sense of insecurity and vulnerability of the world's economic and political order, which in turn rests on the security of the nation-states which make up the global political economy.

Third and finally, human insecurity refers to the absence of "the security of the individual and communities in which he or she lives as opposed to the security of the states and borders" - my own inversion of the definition offered by the London School of Economics Civil Society and Human Security Research Unit.

TIP argues that since the end of the Cold War global capitalism has been bringing communities, natural environments and national political-economies into a single overarching whole in a process widely referred to as "globalization". Here the three discourses of security compete for primacy in policy making and practices.

While talking about the rule-based, predictable international order, every nation-state is preparing for eventualities such as calamity and war. Driven by a profound sense of insecurity, both domestically and internationally, even the United States is now known to be spying on its own allies, citizens and rivals alike as the global surveillance PRISM scandal clearly showed.

While all three of these insecurities are not necessarily mutually exclusive, the issue of vulnerabilities - such as refugees, internally displaced persons, the unemployed, etc - typically get placed on the policy backburners. The security and well-being of persons and communities are trampled upon, literally and figuratively, especially when the other two insecurity regimes - national and global - team up to form an exclusive symbiosis out of strategic calculations and political expediency.

That is why we often read stories about how the policies and practices of states, corporations, multilateral agencies and international financial institutions collectively contribute to the detriment of grassroots communities and faceless human persons, their natural habitats and their access to livelihoods, safety, freedom of movement, association and so on.

Military crony capitalists
Seen through this prism of insecurity, or TIP, Myanmar's "top-down democratic reforms" are less about democratization and more about global capitalism. They are primarily about the country's national ruling elites making an elite pact with globalist capitalist forces while morphing into a social class of their own, namely military crony capitalists.

In this pact, national leaders open up their hotly sought after markets and resources in exchange for normalization, recognition, legitimacy and access to capital and technology. Naypyidaw is opening the country up only on the terms agreeable and favorable to its most powerful stakeholders, that is, the military and its national insecurity regime. In this process even the country's most influential politician and global icon, Aung San Suu Kyi, has found herself on the global capitalist stage where she no longer controls the script, setting, or tone.

The still unfolding case of ethnically cleansed Rohingya Muslims presents an empirical and potentially revealing test case for the Three Insecurity Perspective. Having forged a symbiosis with Myanmar's national security regime, the West and its capital interests have so far continued to unconditionally embrace Thein Sein's "democratic" regime despite its well-documented complicity in the brutal pogroms against marginalized Muslim communities.

In spite of the abject poverty in Rakhine State, the areas the Rohingya co-inhabited with the Buddhist Rakhines until the pogroms last year are strategic and potentially lucrative in Myanmar's emerging capitalist economy, including a strategic deep sea port, fertile agricultural land with potential for industrial agriculture, a resource-rich fishing industry, and the site of origin of China's 2,100-kilometer long twin gas-and-oil pipeline designed to carry fuel across Myanmar into southwestern China.

The emerging symbiosis between global capitalist forces and the security interests of Myanmar's ruling military-crony class has not been sufficiently weighed by most Western scholars and other Myanmar watchers. Most have ignored the hard fact that ethnic and religious minorities, 40% of the country's total population, are being further marginalized and disenfranchised, pushed from their traditional lands or otherwise decimated.

In 2006, the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization published a report which highlight the enormous commercial importance of the country's minority regions. The report noted that the Irrawaddy Delta, the historical rice bowl of the country and the world in the 1920s and 1930s, is now saturated, while lucrative virgin lands are situated in Kachin, Chin, Karen and other borderlands. Norway is now bidding to broker "peace" between the Myanmar Army and its subject ethnic peoples in these same borderlands while Norwegian capital interests are already investing in Myanmar's emerging mono-crop plantation sector.

In the civil war between East and West Pakistan in 1971, West Pakistani General Tikka issued a chilling order to his troops: "I want the land, not the people." Chillingly, Myanmar's national security regime is now bidding to reacquire perceived as lost land in western Myanmar without the Rohingya people. In the Karen and Kachin areas in eastern and northern areas, the army has reportedly "marked" for expropriation farm lands that now belong to the Karen and Kachin communities who lived under armed resistance groups.

Indeed, peace and development appear to be on the horizon as the Myanmar gold rush accelerates behind the push of foreign funds and local impunity. But without properly contextualizing Myanmar's transition in this entangled web of three insecurities, understanding of supposed reforms, political change and democratization will remain half-baked - no less half-baked than a democracy being midwived by Naypyidaw's national insecurity regime and its new global capitalist backers.

Maung Zarni (www.maungzarni.com ) is Associate Fellow with the University of Malaya Centre of Democracy and Elections and concurrently a Visiting Fellow at the Civil Society and Human Security Research Unit, London School of Economics. He tweets @drzarni.
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