Pardon? Britain are doing what now? That can’t be right, everything is too perfect at the moment. Please don’t spoil things, we’ve had a Royal baby, WE have all just given birth to a King! Have some respect!
Alas, “British Aid for Myanmar Ethnic Cleansing” was the accusation levelled at ‘us’ in an Asia Times article written last week by Maung Zarni. Who is this renegade anti-Brit? Who does he think we are, America?!
Actually, quite well-esteemed is the answer. Mr Zarni is an exiled dissident blogger from Myanmar (formerly Burma) and currently a visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics. So what is he talking about?
Before we begin, this isn’t as major as it first appears, but every story needs a good headline. Britain is not LITERALLY helping state sponsored ethnically motivated mass murder. This is not happening. Maung Zarni is alluding to something that has not yet happened, but he believes will do in the future. So put down your strawberries and listen up. His article argued that:
“Britain is effectively aiding and abetting the unfolding “ethnic cleansing” of Muslim Rohingya by helping to finance the country’s controversial 2014 national census.”
The Myanmar President Mr. Thein Sein was on an official visit to Britain last week, when it was announced that Britain planned to give Myanmar a £30million aid and development package. A chunk of that money will be spent on a census. This is the part that Mr. Zarni has taken issue with.
A British Government statement read that bankrolling the census is “essential to make sure support is getting to those who need it”. Within the last year Myanmar, has been in several trade and development negotiations with Britain since the EU lifted trade embargoes.
Zarni disagrees with the British Government and believes that the census will be used against the Rohingya ethnic group, who have been persecuted for years by the state and are still not considered proper citizens of Myanmar. Anti-Islamic rhetoric is rife across the country, particularly amongst ultra-nationalist Buddhist monks. The Rohingya have the misfortune of not only being considered non-citizens, tied to their supposed historical origins (that are untrue), they are also Muslim. Many have been killed in rioting in Arakan State recently and thousands have fled into refugee camps or into neighbouring countries.
Zarni went on to explain that:
“Because Thein Sein’s government is forcing the Rohingya people to register as “Bengali”, a continuation of a decades-old policy of stripping the Rohingya of both their citizenship and ethnic identity, Britain’s financial support for this process is troubling. The coming census will no doubt be used to reinforce this racist policy and practice of forcibly registering the self-referenced Rohingya and erasing the fact that the Rohingya as an ethnic nationality group ever existed in Myanmar.”
Essentially, by classifying different groups, age old prejudices, feelings of resentment and an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ attitude, Zarni believes, will be exacerbated. Zarni therefore feels that the violence towards the Rohingya will continue and perpetuate because of the census.
As Zarni believes, have Britain become ‘officially complicit in the atrocities against the Rohingya’?
To attribute this to Britain is difficult. You cannot say whether the census will be used as a tool by the state to attack more Rohingya and to try to remove them from the country. Most importantly, the census has not been created yet.
The worrying thing about this quandary is the precedent. Firstly, there is a precedent in Myanmar for state ordered violence and persecution towards the Rohingya, as well as deep-rooted national antipathy towards the group. According to Zarni in 1978 a fully operational state programme effectively caused the removal of 150,000 Rohingya. Not a good start.
Secondly, the process of officially demarking different ethnic groups by documentation has led to some of the most hideous events in history. The Jewish population in Nazi Germany became ‘officially’ labeled in the 1930s. The Tutsi’s in Rwanda were separated through I.D cards, which preceded the Rwandan Genocide. Time and again throughout history ethnic minorities have suffered because perceived ‘differences’ become legitimised via documentation. It is then easier for a ruling group to maneuver against the minority, be it through violence, forced-evacuation or discrimination via the manipulation of state services such as healthcare and education. Not good either.
This is the worry that Zarni is bringing to our attention. There is also no doubt that the Rohingya are marginalized in Myanmar. According to Zarni the statistics bear witness to this. The doctor:patient ratio for the Rohingya in Northern Rakhine State is reportedly 1:83,000 and the adult illiteracy rate is reportedly at 90%.
As well as these two different aspects of precedence, you must be suspicious of the Myanmar Government…… in almost every way.
“Are you Generals in disguise?” “Democracy you’re having a laugh” and “A regime that imprisons its people for speaking freely, we know what you are” would be a pretty apt football-themed way of singing it. So this is pretty bad.
Can Britain trust the regime of Thein Sein? Who am I to say, but instinctively you wouldn’t, say, let him look after your cat for a week whilst you go on holiday. Is this a realistically useful question to ask when a country is in democratic transition and a strong candidate as a future British ally? Unfortunately not really. That’s the name of the game.
I don’t want to pooh-pooh the democratic changes that have already been introduced to Myanmar since 2010, but there is still a long way to go. Any international development must not get ahead of itself for the sake of the Myanmar population.
What Britain can ensure is that there is a mechanism in place to monitor how the census is used, and make sure that financial assistance is used to integrate the Rohingya, rather than isolate them. The British Government has a responsibility to see that the money is used in a proper manner because ultimately, they are accountable.
Rohingya activist Wai Wai Nu has reportedly weighed in on the conversation, calling the cartoon “dangerous” and “insulting”. According to Coconuts Yangon, Nu said in an interview today: “It’s like boat people are coming into the place of the ethnic people. It’s a bad image and the depiction is wrong. Because boat people are just going out of the country, they are not coming in. It’s insulting and dangerous because it is giving the wrong message to people.”
Myanmar Hate Mongers use Facebook to create racist violence against Muslims.
Facebook should be notified of Wirathu's use of FB to cause preemptive violence by the racists in Burma. Wirathu attempts to mobilize hatred and fear of Muslims in Myanmar Wirathu is Myanmar's best-known Saffron-robed hate-monger with a shaven head - not a monk by any definition. Here is his vicious fear-mongering posting at his Facebook time-line (dated 12 May). "Maung Daw (a Rohingya town) is approaching a critical point (of terrorism)" On 13 May (today), illegal Muslim migrants are plotting to stir up disturbances in Maung Daw, Bu Thi Daung and Ra Thae Daung townships. Myanmar authorities have already issued the security/terrorist alert to that effect. Despite their efforts to organize and stage a protest rally by these Muslims, the permit has not been granted for their protest, it is learned. There has been a threat issued by them that the Muslims will wage a Jihad against anyone who enters the Muslim neighborhoods or villages. The Rakhine public is very concerned about another round of Jihadist violence in their state/province. There are 3 factors that appear to be coalescing: 1) the US Embassy in Myanmar is openly using the term Rohingya; 2) the Rohingya Solidarity Organization (RSO) - Zarni's note: viewed as 'a terrorist' group, although there is no real factual evidence for that view - is stepping up its propaganda efforts internationally; 3) and the same RSO is instigating the illegal Muslim migrants (from Bangladesh) (to create disturbances in Myanmar).
Listen to Dr Zarni's Reflection on Burmese Racism
Listen to Dr Zarni's Reflection on Burmese Racism, Gesellschaft für bedrohte Völker (GfbV), Geneva, Switzerland, 15 March 2016
Come to the upcoming one-day Research Conference
Come to the upcoming one-day RESEARCH CONFERENCE at the University of Oxford and hear Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak's keynote lecture with the above title, on 11 May 2016 (8:30 am to 4:30 pm).
Dr Zarni will be speaking on the Rohingya genocide
Dr Zarni will be speaking on the Rohingya genocide at the largest gathering of Muslim communities in Scandinavia, Stockholm, Sweden - 5: 15 pm to 6:15 pm, Friday, 25 March 2016
On the edge of genocide
Human Rights situation in Myanmar
UN Special Rapporteur Professor Yanghee Lee on the human rights situation in Myanmar (10 minutes), UN Human Rights Council, Geneva, 15 March 2016
Will Suu Kyi lead Myanmar from behind the scenes?
BURMA: ”Rohingyas utsätts för ett långsamt folkmord”
Maung Zarni kommer från en militärsläkt och lämnade Burma för att göra karriär. Det var först i exilen han blev dissident och aktivist, och en förkämpe för landets mest utsatta minoritet – den muslimska folkgruppen rohingyas. Amnesty Press träffade Maung Zarni när han gästade Stockholm.
Myanmar regime's response to the Oslo Conference which indicts Myanmar leaders of crimes against humanity including genocide, against the Rohingya.
Rohingya Genocide Begins 37 Years Ago Today
"Myanmar/Burma's genocide of Rohingyas began 37 years ago this week. How many more decades will the governments and UN keep ignoring this slow-burning genocide?"
The Annual Owen Kupferschmid Memorial Lecture
Conference in Malaysia on 26th Feb 2015
A Seminar over Breakfast with Dr Maung Zarni
An Upcoming Event in Sweden on February 10, 2015
Amartya Sen: Burma's "slow genocide" of Rohingya
Watch Professor Amartya Sen speak on what he calls Burma's 'slow genocide' of Rohingya, Harvard, 4 Nov 2014
Myanmar – Rohingya And US Realpolitik
In this 9-minute radio interview with Malaysia's top Business FM station Dr Zarni dissects the state of Burma and Washington's real agenda in his native country.
BBC World Service commentary on Burma
Dr Maung Zarni's BBC World Service commentary on Burma's demonetization move which eventually led to the collapse of General Ne Win's one-party military dictatorship.
"Elements of Genocide" against Rohingya
"Elements of Genocide" against Myanmar Rohingya: UN Special Rapporteur says
Destruction of Myanmar's Rohingya
Nazi-inspired hate speech against Islam
"Nazi-inspired hate speech against Islam and all Muslims of Myanmar enjoys both tacit and official backing of the 'reformist' government at the highest level'. the banner reads (adaptive translation): "Oppose Islam, the Faith of Animals. Muslims Procreate Like Rabbits"