In contrast to Huffington Post, the New York Times misleads the readers on Myanmar Government's central role in the Rohingya pogroms

New York Times and international media continue to report misleadingly - and wittingly - on their reportage about the Rohingya in Myanmar.   (See the piece below "Trapped Between Home and Refuge, Burmese Muslims Are Brutalized", JANE PERLEZ, NYT, 14 March) attributes the brutal treatment and 'ghettoization' to 'an extreme Buddhist ideology' (held by the local Buddhist Rakhine). 

While there were sectarian tensions between these two religious communities in Rakhine state, in the past 70 years  only one major  communal/horizontal violent conflict took place between these two religious and ethnic communities - in 1942.  

It is in fact Burma or Myanmar military leadership that has self-consciously pursued what amounts to genocidal policies towards the Rohingya, in fact, a borderland people of Burma like Karen, Chin, Kachin, Rakhine, etc, whose roots spread across new boundaries of the post-WWII nation-states. (The violent conflicts in 1942 took place as the result of the British Raj fleeing the country as the Fascist Japanese troops advanced into Burma and occupied the country for the duration of the WWII. The Buddhist Rakhine sided with the fascist Japanese just as the Buddhist Burmese sided with them - while the Rohingya and other non-Buddhist minorities including Indians, Kachin, etc sided with the British. The changing of power equation triggered the violent conflict in 1942 between the Rakhine and the Rohingya. 

But the 'reformist' military state in Myanmar today has been whipping up the mass mania of Muslim hating and scape-goating the Rohingya as a way of 1) diverting popular frustration and pent-up anger towards land-grab, economic loot, power abuses, etc - all by the military and ex-military leaders in power and their families and family-linked Burmese cronies; and 2) mobilizing the discourse of human rights and democracy - of Aung San Suu Kyi - into the primodial racist sentiments about non-Buddhist others. The Rohingya are the most vulnerable in that its social foundation has been eroded over the past 35 years as the direct result of the military's anti-Rohingya policies and practies. It is the only ethnic group of sizable population that does NOT have any armed resistance organization to defend its own people and to negotiate for a humane treatment and place in Burmese political system. 

The New York Times will need to be recorded here for its culpability in the unfolding state-sponsored genocide of the Rohingya.  For New York Times editors and reporters are holding collective nose when it comes to the verfiably instrumental role the State in Burma or Myanmar.   The ruling quasi-civilian government of President Thein Sein is now becoming a fast business and strategic partner of Western commercial and strategic interests.

As a Burmese who has done extensive research on the persecution of the Rohingya, I am persuaded by the Times' coveragae that NYT is culpable in the unfolding Rohingya genocide when it is wittingly creating a verifiably false narrative which puts the blame and responsibility on the Rakhine locals.  When it does it it ignores something that an average politically aware Burmese person knows:  that the Burmese military leaderships have outsourced the task of death and destruction, including instigating Rakhine protests against any international relief agencies providing survival services to the Rohingya in ghettos and IDP camps, where they have been herded into by the state security troops, which impose and enforce ABSOLUTE BAN on physical movement. 

Myanmar's policy of apartheid with the ultimate purpose of erasing the Rohingya as an identity and a community has been put in place in 1978 by Ne Win's military dictatorship and maintained to date by the highest Myanmar authorities including President Thein Sein and his quasi-civilian 'reformist' government.  

Shedding light honestly on the role of the West's new darling, namely the Burmese military leadership in civilian guises - Aung San Suu Kyi is a spent force who has served a PR cover for the West's re-engagement with Myanmar's military - does NOT resonate with the emerging Western narrative about Myanmar and its broad reforms!

Liberal or conservative, don't expect the corporate mainstream media to take the side of the poor, the persecuted - or Fanon's Wretched of the Earth.


New York Times: 


Violence against Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim minority by the Rakhine ethnic group, driven by an extreme Buddhist ideology, has led tens of thousands of Rohingya to flee in the last 18 months through smuggling rings that pledge to take them to Malaysia, a Muslim country that quietly accepts the desperate newcomers.


March 14, 2014
The Rohingya Crisis: Finding a Way Forward
Michel Gabaudan

Huffington Post (Opinion)


The Myanmar government still imposes an absolute ban on Rohingyas' freedom of movement, slowly converting their camps into de facto ghettos. This ban is also causing new displacement: Rohingyas who were not expelled from their homes by violence, but are subject to the same movement restrictions, have no way to support their families, so many are dismantling their houses to sell the wood. They either move into the camps in order to receive assistance, or try to reach Thailand and Malaysia using unsafe boats controlled by abusive people smugglers. An estimated 80,000 have left Myanmar by sea just in the past year, and dozens have died in the process.

The Rohingyas are increasingly left without any sense of what the future holds for them, and the government's current policies are rapidly pushing them from poverty into absolute misery. Furthermore, many humanitarians are tormented by the fact that their work is practically underwriting segregation and playing into the hands of the authorities.

The international community has expressed concern about the Rohingyas, but it has been careful not to let this crisis poison their broader relationship with Myanmar at a time of major reforms. Western countries are rightly concerned that hard-won changes (including economic liberalization, the release of some political prisoners, and the acceptance of political opposition) could be challenged in the years to come. The elections planned for 2015 could be difficult, and the ongoing review of Myanmar's constitution will pitch political groups against each other in an atmosphere of growing civil society pressure, demands for federalism from the ethnic states, and defensive posturing by the powerful military and its allies.

In this context, it is hard to imagine that the government will fully address the roots of the Rohingya crisis - namely, the Rohingyas' legal status and their acceptance within society - during the next few years. But refusing to propose any initiatives or ducking the problem entirely (as the government did recently after a massacre of Rohingyas in northern Rakhine State) is not an option and cannot be tolerated by Myanmar's international partners. The world should therefore seek concrete, step-by-step improvements in the Rohingyas' situation, in the hope that they will lead to bigger changes over the long term.

Michel Gabaudan became president of Refugees International in September of 2010, leading RI forward in its mission to bring attention and action to refugees and displaced people worldwide. Prior to his role with RI, Michel served as the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) Regional Representative for the United States and the Caribbean.


Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar

19 Feb 2014

 Follow the top link under "most recent special procedures reports".

during his five visits to Rakhine State, and in particular since the June 2012 violence and its aftermath, he concludes that the pattern of widespread and systematic human rights violations in Rakhine State may constitute crimes against humanity as defined under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.


Taking into consideration the information and allegations the Special Rapporteur has received throughout the course of his six years on this mandate,[1] including during his five visits to Rakhine State, and in particular since the June 2012 violence and its aftermath, he concludes that the pattern of widespread and systematic human rights violations in Rakhine State may constitute crimes against humanity as defined under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. He believes that extrajudicial killing, rape and other forms of sexual violence, arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment in detention, denial of due process and fair trial rights, and the forcible transfer and severe deprivation of liberty of populations has taken place on a large scale and has been directed against the Rohingya Muslim population in Rakhine State. He believes that the deprivation of healthcare is deliberately targeting the Rohingya population, and that the increasingly permanent segregation of this population is taking place. Furthermore, he believes that these human rights violations are connected to discriminatory and persecutory policies against the Rohingya Muslim population, which also include ongoing official and unofficial practices from both local and central authorities restricting rights to nationality, movement, marriage, family, health and privacy. In Myanmar’s ongoing process of democratic transition and national reconciliation, the human rights situation in Rakhine State will be a critical challenge for the Myanmar Government and the international community to address

[1] See reports A/63/341 para 61-62, A/64/318 para 70-80, A/HRC/13/48 para 86-94, A/65/368 para 73, A/HRC/16/59, A/66/365 para 29, A/67/383 para 56-67, A/HRC/22/58 para 46-60, A/68/397 para 46-57.

March 15, 2014

Doctors Without Borders still excluded from Myanmar's Rakhine state
Patrick Winn, Global Post


The government has said restrictions on the organization are a result of a broken agreement with the capital. A leaked document suggests there is more to the story.

YANGON, Myanmar — Last month’s decision by the government of Myanmar to suspend the operations of the medical aid charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) prompted widespread concerns about the impact the organization’s withdrawal would have on the tens of thousands reliant on the support they provide.

Since that time, the temporary ban has been revised, and now only covers Rakhine state, on the country’s western coast.

In the wake of the announcement, government spokespersons stressed that the chief reasons for this decision were that MSF had breached the terms of a memorandum of understanding with Naypyidaw—the capital city of Myanmar—and had shown favour unduly toward one ethnic group in Rakhine.

However, documentary evidence and testimony obtained by GlobalPost appears to contradict this publicly stated rationale and instead suggests that the action may be punitive, linked to MSF’s response to a massacre that occurred at the end of January in northern Rakhine state—the same area where the charity's ability to operate remains frozen.

The village of Du Chee Ya Tan lies a few miles south of the town of Maungdaw, not far from Myanmar's border with Bangladesh.

The now deserted settlement is reported to have been the site of mass slayings perpetrated by ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and riot police, accompanied by members of the army, in the early hours of Jan. 14. The attack is believed to have targeted the village's ethnic Rohingya Muslims, and to have been prompted by the alleged killing of a policeman several hours before.

The official position of Naypyidaw on the event in question remains that no massacre occurred and that only the police officer died, a stance affirmed in a recently released internal report commissioned by the government.

By contrast, the United Nations issued a statement in January estimating that nearly 50 people, mainly women and children, had been slaughtered; for their part, MSF reported that they had treated 22 people from the village suffering from a variety of injuries, including gunshot wounds.

Spokesmen for Naypyidaw described the UN's statements on the matter as "unacceptable" and later cited MSF’s statement on the incident as a peripheral reason for their removal, along with the complaint that the charity had employed Rohingya.

Rights groups are now concerned that the operational ban and persistent denial is just a government effort to silence witnesses and responders to the alleged attack.

Here is my overview of the state-sponsored Rohingya group destruction based on my 3-years of research which I have just completed with a researcher colleague of mine.

The Dissident Blog, International PEN, 13 March 2014


This spring, the University of Washington Law School’s academic publication, the Pacific Rim Law & Policy Journal, however, is scheduled to publish a three-year study of Myanmar’s atrocities against the group. The article, which I co-authored with a colleague from the London-based Equal Rights Trust’s Statelessness and Nationality Project, is entitled “The Slow-Burning Genocide of Myanmar’s Rohingya.” Our research has persuaded the journal’s editors and anonymous peer-reviewers that since 1978, successive Myanmar governments and local Buddhists have been committing four out of five acts of genocide spelled out in the United Nations' Genocide Convention of 1948. Our study finds Myanmar to be guilty of the first four acts, such as “killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group”.

Still, misleadingly, international media and foreign governments have characterized the Rohingya persecution as simply “sectarian” or “communal.” Not only does this ignore the instrumental role Myanmar’s successive governments have played in the death and destruction of the Rohingya, but it also overlooks the fact that the Rohingya have no rights or means by which to defend themselves.


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