Calling on Canada to help end Myanmar Genocide of Rohingya at Toronto City Council on 23 Nov 2017

Saying "Sorry!" to a Rohingya brother who survived Myanmar Genocide, Kutupalong Camp, Bangladesh, 7 Nov 2017.

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

Meeting with The Minister of Foreign Affairs Rt. Honourable Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali, M.P., State Guest House, Dhaka, 4 Nov 2017

"National Traitor and Enemy of the State" for his opposition to Rohingya Genocide. Sun Rays, 16/9/17

Myanmar’s Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis

Border guards in Bangladesh are refusing entry to Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. Credit: Anurup Titu/IPS

By Dr Maung Zarni
March 20, 2016 

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia - The persisting humanitarian crisis of the Rohingya minority in Myanmar has been a global concern after two bouts of organised mass violence against them in 2012. While the Rohingya persecution has been going on for nearly four decades, Myanmar’s reforms launched in 2011 facilitated the international media’s coverage of the mass violence.

Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingya is an unmistakable breach of international human rights laws. Successive Burmese military governments have since early 1970s viewed the Rohingya Muslim minority, who live on their ancestral borderlands between the Islamic country of Bangladesh and Buddhist Myanmar, as “a threat to Myanmar’s national security and local Buddhist culture”.

The Rohingya persecution by the Myanmar military began in 1978 under the pretext of a crackdown on the illegal Bengali immigration into Western Myanmar from the then newly independent Bangladesh. The military used the Rohingya as a proxy population against the extremely nationalistic and anti-Myanmar Rakhine people, who resent Myanmar rule as a colonial occupation of their once sovereign nation.

In addition, with the consent and cooperation of the Rohingya community leaders who preferred not to be ruled by the anti-Rohingya Rakhine from the local state capital of Sittwe, Myanmar’s ministry of defence organised a separate administrative district named Mayu – named after the region’s river Mayu – made up of 2 predominantly Rohingya towns and a web of villages. The new administration was placed the direct command of the War Office, then in Rangoon. My own late great-uncle, then Major Ant Kywe, was deputy commander of this Mayu administration.

This pro-Rohingya stance shifted when the military leadership purged pragmatic elements from the inner circle within a few years of the military coup in 1962.

Progressively, the country’s strong-man, General Ne Win, turned anti-Muslim, xenophobic and erratic to the point where the locals throughout Myanmar would know that the military dictator was in town when they did not hear any amplified calls – 5 times a day – to Muslim prayers: the military banned any Muslim prayer calls from loudspeakers fitted atop mosques as Ne Win found them disturbing his peace!

With Ne Win’s tilt towards anti-Muslim racism, Myanmar no longer accepted the Rohingya as historically bi-cultural, pre-state people of the Western Myanmar borderlands region. Additionally, it was feeling threatened by the emergence of a new populous Muslim nation of Bangladesh in 1973 out of Pakistan’s 9-months-long civil war. As a result, Myanmar’s successive military governments have singled out the Rohingya as a ‘threat to national security’, framed them as merely “British-era farm coolies” who were pulled to British Burma’s thriving industrial agriculture.

Accordingly, the country’s military, the backbone of all governments since 1962, has pursued varied and evolving strategies to reduce, remove, replace, relocate and otherwise destroy the Rohingya.

The state’s strategies range from framing the Rohingya as ‘British colonial era farm coolies’ from the present day Bangladesh who came to British Burma only after the 1820s to painting the impoverished and oppressed Rohingya as potential Islamists intent on importing terrorism from the Middle East. From formulating and spreading the view of the Rohingya as aliens to enacting a national citizenship law to strip the Rohingya of their right of belonging – citizenship – to Myanmar.

Myanmar leaders have vehemently rejected the claim that the Rohingya are natives of Myanmar. In July 2013, before a VIP audience at Chatham House in London the visiting Myanmar President Thein Sein asserted that “we do not have a term ‘Rohingya’”, an assertion Myanmar’s most powerful general Min Aung Hlaing repeated to the Washington Post in the fall of 2015, adding “they are descendants of colonial-era farm coolies from Bangladesh.”

Myanmar’s official denial and popular rejection of the Rohingya as one of the country’s indigenous peoples collapses under the weight of historical and official documentation. Pioneering historical studies by G.H. Luce and Than Tun as well as ethno-linguistic studies carried out by some British East India Company staff dating back to the 1780’s firmly establish the integral presence of the Rohingya as a distinctly Muslim population of the then Arakan kingdom.

International journalists, genocide scholars, human rights researchers and humanitarian aid workers have all acknowledged Myanmar’s persecution of these Muslim minority people.

In the last several years, a growing international consensus is emerging as to the nature of the crime: Human Rights Watch has described the persecution of the Rohingya as ‘ethnic cleansing’ while several major empirical studies published by the University of Washington Law School, Yale University Law Clinic, Queen Mary University of London International State Crime Initiative and Al Jazeera English Investigative Unit have accused Myanmar’s military government of commissioning the crime of genocide and other crimes against humanity.

Virtually, every iconic leader in the world – from His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Pope Francis to Desmond Tutu and George Soros to the youngest Nobel Peace laureate Malala Yusufzai has called for the end of Rohingya persecution and restoration of their full citizenship rights.

Both Myanmar military leaders and the democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi have publicly refused to heed these calls while dismissing any accusation of Myanmar committing an international state crime against the Rohingya as “baseless” or “exaggerations”.

The predominantly Buddhist public in Myanmar is overwhelmingly anti-Rohingya, thanks to the decades of sustained state propaganda against this minority; Myanmar’s ugly religious bigotry echo the frighteningly Nazi-like attitude and views towards this persecuted Muslim minority while the country’s Citizenship Act of 1982 resembles Nuremberg Laws which de-Germanize the Jews and stripped them of citizenship rights and protection.

Whether one names Myanmar’s anti-Rohingya policies and practices ‘crimes against humanity’ or ‘genocide’ depends on the level of one’s pragmatism. But what is clear is Myanmar’s humanitarian crisis as experienced by the Rohingya is not an internal affair of a sovereign member state of the UN. Nor is it the outcome of the sectarian Buddhist-Muslim conflict rooted in historical grievances and animosities and unleashed by the country’s democratisation process.

It is in fact an act of international atrocity crime committed by Myanmar, a UN member state. As such, only the discourse of punitive action and international non-military intervention has the real potential to bring an end to this humanitarian crisis.

Dr Maung Zarni is a non-resident research scholar, Sleuth Rith Institute, (A permanent Documentation Centre of Cambodia) & former visiting lecturer, Harvard Medical School, USA

Dr Zarni's VOA Interview on Aung San Suu Kyi's nomination for a cabinet post (posts), 23 March 2016

By Voice of America
March 23, 2016

Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's name is among those on a list to serve in the National League for Democracy (NLD) government's Cabinet. It gives her a formal role in the new administration following November's electoral landslide victory. It is uncertain what post, or posts, she will be named to.

The Nobel laureate, and NLD leader, who has indicated she plans to rule above president-elect Htin Kyaw (tihn jaw), is barred by the constitution from serving as president because her late husband was, and her two childen are each, a foreigner. Myanmar activist and member of the Cambodia-based Sleuk Rith Institute Maung Zarni told VOA's Victor Beattie he welcomes the announcement, but cautions the military remains very much in charge of the direction of the country:

And, Maung Zarni says it is not in the military's interest in seeing the NLD push through reform to liberalize the political system. He points to the multiple coups instigated by the military in neighboring Thailand as an example of how prominent he expects the army to remain in Myanmar.

The World's "Buddhist" Triangle of Lethal Racism: Thailand, Burma and Sri Lanka

Buddhist monks attend a Ma Ba Tha ceremony to mark the approval of race and religious laws at Thuwana stadium in Yangon. The nationalist Buddhist network won an award for its good work to protect Buddhism in Thailand last month. (EPA photo)

By Sanitsuda Ekachai
March 23, 2016

Ma Ba Tha is known across the world as a racist Buddhist organisation. Its work fans the flames of hatred and violence against Muslims in Myanmar, particularly the Rohingya in Rakhine State. Its most prominent leader is Ashin Wirathu, dubbed the "bin Laden of Buddhism" for his violent, religious extremism. 

Last month, Ma Ba Tha, or the Association for the Protection of Race and Religion, received an award in Thailand for being an "outstanding Buddhist peace" organisation. The firebrand monk attended the ceremony and received a red-carpet welcome by members of the Thai clergy.

Does this mean the clergy endorses militant Buddhist nationalism?

No Thai monk would openly admit to that. But shared Islamophobia and the clergy's current push to make Buddhism the official state religion point to a dangerous precedent.

The questionable award first became public last week when a Facebook post by academic Somrit Luechai showed Ashin Wirathu at the award ceremony which was presided over by an elder from the Supreme Sangha Council.

Other pictures from Ashin Wirathu's Facebook page showed "The Face of Buddhist Terror", as the controversial monk is dubbed by Time magazine, receiving a hearty welcome at the Dhammakaya Temple and Mahachulalongkorn Rajavidyalaya University. 

Mr Somrit strongly condemned the award being given to a militant monk whose campaigns of hate have triggered mass killings of Rohingya Muslims. He also named Dhammakaya and Maha Chula as collaborators in the ceremony which he described as an abuse of Buddhism and an endorsement of hatred and violence.

Maha Chula is at the centre of the clergy's campaigns to make Buddhism the state religion and another supporting Somdet Phra Maha Ratchamangalacharn, also known as Somdet Chuang, to become the next supreme patriarch.

Since Somdet Chuang and the centre's links with the highly controversial Dhammakaya Temple are public knowledge, Mr Somrit's posts immediately triggered an online outcry and concerns that Dhammakaya would lead the country toward religious extremism.

Maha Chula, Dhammakaya, and the World Fellowship of Buddhist Youth (WFBY) quickly came out to distance themselves from the controversial monk, albeit unconvincingly.

A Dhammakaya spokesperson denied organising the World Buddhist Outstanding Leader Award on Feb 23 which took place at AIT Auditorium. The temple also denied inviting the militant monk to Dhammakaya, saying he was there to attend the Maka Bucha ceremony. Photos from Ashin Wirathu's Facebook page showed he was not treated as just another ordinary visitor.

Maha Chula adopted a similar line, denying both involvement with the award and having extended an invitation to Ashin Wirathu to visit the Buddhist university, insisting the monk was there on his own to meet Myanmar students. Photos from his Facebook page also showed a hearty welcome from a group of monks who sported a banner that read "We love Wirathu".

The award was actually organised by a group called World Buddhist Leaders Organisation, chaired by Dr Pornchai Pinyapong who is also president of the WFBY. But the award was not for Ashin Wirathu, he insisted. It was for "peace organisation Ma Ba Tha" for its outstanding achievements to protect Buddhism in Myanmar. 

Ma Ba Tha, a peace organisation? Does he pretend not to know Ashin Wirathu is the face of that organisation?

According to Dr Pornchai, Ma Ba Tha succeeded in pushing for a set of laws that promote religious harmony in Myanmar. They include a law prohibiting Buddhists from marrying people of different religions (read: Islam); the law on monogamy (read: to stop Muslim men from having multiple wives and too many children); and the law forcing some women (read: Muslim women) to space pregnancies by at least three years.

At present, he said poverty forces many Buddhist parents to sell their daughters into marriage with men of different religions (read: Islam again). The laws designed by Ma Ba Tha then protect Buddhist women from facing hardship and violence when marrying non-Buddhists, he added.

I reread his explanations several times and still failed to understand why the laws that reflect religious paranoia and racial hatred, portending to prevent an "Islamic invasion", are viewed as fostering religious harmony, and why the organisation propagating such oppression is considered peaceful.

The WFBY must really admire Ma Ba Tha's work. Last year, it reportedly donated over one million baht for the organisation to build two radio stations with the aim of spreading its message to a wider audience. Ashin Wirathu was reportedly present to thank the Thai delegation personally for the donation.

The organiser also praised Ma Ba Tha for setting up schools nationwide to teach youngsters about the traditions of Myanmar and Buddhism. 

Whether we agree with Ma Ba Tha's ideology or not, it is a fact that it is a very powerful organisation.

Anti-Muslim sentiments spewed by Ma Ba Tha and Ashin Wirathu have been so fierce that even Myanmar's democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi chose to keep silent amid the Rohingya massacres. Her party did not even dare field any Muslim candidates.

Here, the clergy are so weak that their nomination for the next supreme patriarch can simply be ignored by the government, as can their proposal for a state religion.

They only have themselves to blame. Temple corruption, monk misconduct, luxurious lifestyles and the total inefficiency of the Sangha Council have resulted in declining public faith in the clergy, which is aggravated further by their meddling in divisive politics.

The positive side to the clergy's downgrading is that while they strive to become as powerful as Ma Ba Tha, it will not be possible for them to become as destructive. Although the clergy tries to find scapegoats for its own problems by blaming other religions, any moves by the clergy to strengthen its own power through ultra-nationalism will always be tamed by opposing forces that do not exist in Myanmar.

We need to avoid the lethal mix of ultra-nationalism, racism and religion currently spreading across Theravada Buddhist countries. What can save us from this destructive militancy is not the clergy's wisdom, but its own weaknesses.

Sanitsuda Ekachai is former editorial pages editor, Bangkok Post.

On the edge of genocide

March 19, 2016

In recent months, the focus in Burma has been on the country’s strides towards democracy; but far from Rangoon and the capital Naypyidaw, a humanitarian crisis is moving ever closer to what many international observers regard as a full-blown genocide.

In this video, Coconuts TV turns its attention to Burma’s western edge, where the Rohingya Muslims of Arakan State are facing a relentless drive to erase them from the country’s history.

Crowded into camps since religious clashes in 2012 claimed dozens of lives and thousands of homes, some 140,000 Rohingya face an uncertain future, while one man strives to preserve their past.

Nationalists to protest against Christian as VP

Vice President Henry Van Thio (Photo: Swe Win/ Myanmar Now)

By Aung Kyaw Min
March 17, 2016

Buddhist nationalists have applied for permission to hold a protest in Yangon against the appointment of Henry Van Thio, an ethnic Chin and a Christian, as vice president.

The nomination of the hitherto unknown National League for Democracy MP came as a surprise to most last week, but the decision was widely welcomed by ethnic minority groups and political commentators as a step in the direction of national reconciliation. Extreme nationalist Buddhists, who have been advocating the protection of “race and religion”, have however not accepted the NLD leader’s choice.

“We can’t accept that someone from another religion has been appointed vice president. We won’t be silent. We will request in a democratic manner for him to be taken off [the position],” said U Agga Dhamma, founder of the Buddha Goenyi protection organisation which was established in 2012 and is based in a village in Hmawbi township near Yangon.

U Agga Dhamma said he would request that the constitution be amended so that only Buddhists could be appointed president.

He said the demonstration would be organised in cooperation with the ultra-nationalist 969 movement but not Ma Ba Tha – the Committee to Protect Race and Religion.

“Firstly I aimed to hold a single demonstration in Mahabandoola Park before the election in the hluttaw, but when I told my friend he suggested I plan it this way,” U Agga Dhamma said.

The monk said he thought that he would be granted permission to protest at the Bo Sein Hman Grounds in Bahan township or the Kyaikkasan sports grounds in Tarmwe township. He plans to hold the demonstration before the end of March, possibly within a week.

Key Criterion Words in Proxy Leaderships Chosen by Aung San Suu Kyi

Key words in Aung San Suu Kyi's choices of proxies (formula for failure)

a 'good liberal family', 'un-assuming', 'quiet' 'polite', 'man of few words', 'scholar', 'famous father', 'absolutely loyal' (to the Lady).

Before it was absolutely loyal cousin - Dr Sein Win - who played Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's puppet.

Now it's U Htin Kyaw's turn.

Absolute (personal) loyalty versus real leadership qualities as the most crucial criterion in national politics has produced absolutely disastrous consequences for the nation - in the last half century.

General Ne Win was known to have institutionalized this despicable trait of those in power - personal loyalty.

Senior General Than Shwe has merely continued with this harmful practice.

Now Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has done it herself.

For someone who has been involved in Burmese exile politics from 1988 onward until 2004 - when I openly declared my opposition to the sanctions/isolation orthodoxy of NLD - I had lived through this 'absolute loyalty' bullshit.

According to Professor Christina Fink, then 'a pigeon' between thhe exile groups and ASSK, it was her first cousin Dr Sein Win who met that criterion: the Lady told her Dr Sein Win had her full support (as her representative abroad). Over the years, it was proven beyond reasonable doubts that the Cousin Proxy wasn’t cut to play the role she envisioned for him: no initiative, leadership qualities - much less revolutionary qualities and any other trait that would have helped build an international exile movement to compliment his cousin's non-violence campaign inside Burma.

Dr Sein Win is a quiet, unassuming mathematician, whose father was General Aung San's older brother and martyred alongside Aung San. He was known universally as a man with no political ambitions who was not cut to play the role he was assigned to play as "Prime Minister of the government in exile" (National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma, formed at the then KNU headquarters with the backing of the KNU and KIO).

Now this sordid history is repeating in Burma:

U Htin Kyaw, from a 'good liberal family', 'un-assuming', 'quiet' 'polite', 'man of few words', 'scholar', 'famous father', 'absolutely loyal' to the Lady.

Both are lovely, likeable men worthy of respect. But the country struggling against a neo-absolutist military regime needs more than gentlemen from “good families”, ofr a Lady from an exemplary family.

But again We the People have no other choice than live the consequences of the deeds of the Leader they love.
We reap what we sow. And many still don’t have a clue as to what it is ‘We’ are sowing.
I rest my case.

Myanmar’s new president might not be Aung San Suu Kyi, but he does represent progress

Htin Kyaw, the newly elected president of Myanmar, with Aung San Suu Kyi. Photograph: Aung Shine Oo/AP

By Maung Zarni
March 16, 2016

For the first time in decades, the Burmese people have a civilian president. Now they must weather the clash of military and opposition proxies to come 

Myanmar parliament’s official confirmation on Tuesday that Aung San Suu Kyi’s aide – Htin Kyaw– is to be the presidential proxy ended months of hopeful speculation. Numerous articles and newspaper editorials had, excitedly, touched on the fairytale of a Burmese Mandela moment: the country’s most popular politician, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, assuming the highest office after years of relentless persecution, heroic perseverance and noble reconciliation.

For those of us Burmese who know the military’s institutionalised disdain towards the woman who most of the country call Ahmay, or Mother, we knew that western media was wasting ink on a foregone conclusion. The military will never let Aung San Suu Kyi be the head of state, nor hold the reins of state power. They did not accept her when she first emerged in 1988 and they still don’t accept her leadership, 28 years later, on the verge of her 71st birthday. 

The generals used to give their approval to derogatory references to her that appeared in the numerous Burmese-language publications run by the military intelligence services. Because she was married to a Briton, she used to be called Kala maya (or wife of a white nigger), or, worse still, Kala ma (female nigger). Against the backdrop of the Arab spring and Barack Obama’s offer to decriminalise “rogue regimes” should they cooperate with the Americans, the generals decided to change their tack in dealing with their nemesis, the darling of the west. 

Shrewdly, they dropped crude and crass references to Suu Kyi and instead began playing nice and smiling broadly. In exchange, they got her to open doors for them in the private sector, to rekindle military ties at Sandhurst and West Point, and secure the acceptability and legitimacy of indirect military rule under its new management of media-friendly generals. But deep down, non-cooperation with Suu Kyi and her party remains the military’s default position, something the media and Myanmar experts have overlooked. 

10 years ago, a young colonel from military intelligence picked me up from Rangoon airport and asked me point-blank: “Do you think only Aung San Suu Kyi can bring democracy to our country?”, to which I answered bluntly, “No, absolutely not. Democracy is about the people, not the leaders, much less a specific leader.” Some ranking generals couldn’t even bring themselves to say her name, and often resorted to calling her “that woman”. That colonel now is among the top three generals in the country, and backed his former boss, ex-Lt-General Myint Swe, a hardliner, to be the military’s man as vice president.

In her tireless efforts to secure cooperation from the military, Suu Kyi has repeatedly expressed her appreciation, respect and “genuine” affection for the Tatmadaw (feudal military), which her father founded under Japan’s fascist patronage in December 1942, much to the dismay of many minorities who have borne the brunt of the organisation’s ruthless policies. There has been no shortage of accusations of widespread war crimes and crimes against humanity against Christian and other minorities in eastern Myanmar and a slow but systematic genocide against the Rohingya Muslims in western Myanmar.

All her displays of love were, predictably, to no avail. A stormy road lies ahead. As her relationship with the generals has reportedly turned sour again, a game of tit-for-tat now awaits the country. For their part, the generals who retain the ultimate say in the country’s affairs are digging in their heels, having put Myint Swe, a former head of military intelligence, as an uncompromising counterbalance to Suu Kyi’s puppet president.

Still, Htin Kyaw’s assumption of the presidency is a symbolically important moment for the Burmese public, who have repeatedly expressed their desire to rid the country of their military overlords. For the first time in 53 years, 51 million Burmese people have got a genuine civilian president who is not a general or ex-general in civilian clothing, and who can be expected not to promote the military’s interests.

Beyond this symbolic progress, the presidential politics of proxies in the high offices of Myanmar – the military with their ex-intelligence chief and Suu Kyi with her absolutely loyal former classmate – doesn’t augur well for the future of the country. But again, genuine democracy will require a renewed, hard and sustained push by all sections of the country.

Burmese Buddhist Monks Love Muslim-Hating Trump

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast

By Lucy Kafanov
March 13, 2016

Has the Donald ever heard of the Rohingyas? Unlikely. But the persecuted Muslims of Myanmar certainly have heard of him.

YANGON — He has been called a “xenophobic fascist,” compared to Adolf Hitler, andaccused of stoking Islamophobia across America, but U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump is finding admirers in an unlikely corner of the world, among Myanmar’s extremist Buddhist monks.

“As long as the Quran exists there will be terrorists, and like Trump we are trying to protect our country and our religion from the threat of Islam,” said U Parmaukkha, a monk and a senior member of a controversial ultra-nationalist organization known by its Burmese initials Ma Ba Tha.

U Parmaukkha was speaking in an interview at his Magwe Pariyatti Monastery, which is situated along a dusty road on the outskirts of Yangon (Rangoon). There are no glittering pagodas or Buddhist statues greeting visitors. Instead, the front entrance is adorned with a lurid banner depicting atrocities allegedly perpetrated against Buddhists by Muslims across Myanmar (Burma).

Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric—including a proposal for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States”—is resonating among hardline Buddhist nationalists who have increasingly sought to portray Muslims as an existential threat to the country’s Buddhist majority. They, like Trump, have tapped into a deep vein of anger and bigotry under the guise of protecting their respective countries from the threat of Islamic extremists.

While Trump has defended himself against accusations of Islamophobia, he came out in support of surveillance of “certain mosques” and a database tracking Muslims living in America. The GOP frontrunner’s first TV campaign ad also spotlights his call for a ban on Muslims entering the United States, citing the threat of “radical Islamic terrorism.”

Such positions have endeared Trump to Burmese hardliners such as Win Ko Ko Latt, the 34-year-old chairman of the Myanmar National Network—a youth group with links to the Ma Ba Tha that regularly hosts anti-Muslim events.

“I like Donald Trump because he understands the danger posed by Muslims,” Latt said in an interview during a recent visit to the Magwe monastery. “It shows that our struggle is a global one and that Islam isn’t just a threat to Myanmar but to the entire world.”

Just as Muslims and Islam have played an outsized role in the 2016 race for the White House in the wake of last year’s terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Islamophobia has cast a shadow over politics in Myanmar as the country transitions toward democracy after five decades of oppressive military rule.

Formally known in English as the Association for the Protection of Race and Religion, Ma Ba Tha and its predecessor, the “969” movement, have been accused of stirring up anti-Muslim sentiment. Prominent monks associated with the groups have been linked to a wave of violence against the country’s Muslim minority in 2012 that left hundreds dead and displaced more than a quarter-million others.

They include Ashin Wirathu, who has been dubbed, ironically, “the Burmese bin Laden” and spent several years in jail for inciting deadly anti-Muslim riots in 2003. Last year, Wirathu called the UN’s special envoy on human rights a “whore” and a “bitch” after she criticized the Ma Ba Tha-drafted legislation restricting interfaith marriage and religious conversions.

Ma Ba Tha is believed to be aligned with the military government, and its leaders have openly campaigned against Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD), which swept Myanmar’s landmark November elections. The group’s influence is believed to have played a role in the NLD’s decision not to field a single Muslim among its 1,151 regional and national candidates.

While Trump is far from being a household name in Myanmar, his positions have drawn comparison to Wirathu. A popular satire column in The Myanmar Times last month launched a contest series—“Who said it: Trump or Wirathu?”—which asked readers to guess the author of inflammatory remarks. (First quote was “There are people that shouldn’t be in our country. They flow in like water.” That was Trump.)

Widespread discrimination against Muslims, who form an estimated four percent of Myanmar’s 52 million people, has been particularly hard on the country’s long-persecuted Rohingya ethnic minority. Deprived of citizenship and voting rights—and largely confined to squalid displacement camps in the aftermath of the 2012 violence—Rohingya Muslims face restrictions on freedom of movement, access to proper medical care and education.

Myanmar’s hardline nationalists, including the Ma Ba Tha, have framed the Rohingya issue as a security threat, suggesting that the Rohingya are not citizens of Myanmar but rather illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

“Most of these people are illegal so it is important to stop the new government from granting them citizenship, which would be a great danger to our country,” said Myanmar National Network’s Latt.

There is little insight about Trump’s foreign policy priorities for Myanmar or his views on the plight of the Rohingya (the campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment). Still, his comments about Muslims have raised alarm bells among some Rohingya in refugee camps —where news travels quickly through word of mouth and on social media.

Sitting outside of a thatched bamboo hut that now serves as his home at the Ohn Taw Gyi camp on the outskirts of Myanmar’s provincial capital Sittwe, 22-year-old Myo Tun said he has heard about Trump’s views through social media and is worried that a Trump presidency would translate to lessened international pressure on Myanmar’s government to address the plight of the Rohingya.

“Our situation is getting worse each day and it is hard to see change coming from political leaders in this country,” said Myo Tun, who had hoped to study political science at Sittwe University before a Buddhist mob torched his village in 2012. “[Trump] talks about Muslims the same way as some of our government officials. This is something that makes me nervous because the international community is our only hope.”

Reporting for this article was supported by a grant from the International Reporting Project.

Myanmar regime sadly pass over two qualified presidential blokes for an ex-general

Dr Thant Myint-U and US President Obama

Historian U Thant Myint-U, himself a one-time wildcard pick favoured in Myanmar media for the presidency, called his family friend U Htin Kyaw “a stellar choice”. “[He is] well respected, [with] unimpeachable integrity, and a very nice man.”

Source: U Htin Kyaw: from computer science grad to NLD loyalist, By Ye Mon and Lun Min Mang | Friday, 11 March 2016. 


Dr Kyaw Yin Hlaing

I am utterly gutted!:

Dr Thant Myint-U and Dr Kyaw Yin Hlaing were not among the presidential nominees!

The military passed over Dr Thant Myint-U (Harvard and Cambridge) and Dr Kyaw Yin Hlaing (Mandalay and Cornell) with impeccable educational backgrounds and unquestionable loyalty to the Burmese military regime for presidential nominations; instead, the Commander in Chief and his senior deputies - some my old mates - decided to nominate their own fellow warrior, namely ex-Lt-General Myint Swe, Chief Minister of Rangoon and former chief of military intelligence.

How sad and disappointing for my former civilian mates ....!

Either one of these Stalin's Idiots would have been excellent presidential materials.

Kyaw Yin Hlaing has a solid record of lying for Thein Sein for the last 5 years, particularly helping deny the genocide and crimes against humanity as well as erasing Rohingya history and identity. His own parents were Ne Win-era socialist party functionaries.

Thant Myint-U, a UN-bred known as an incredibly smooth operator, who accesses vast networks of UN and international circles built through 2 generations of grandfather and father at the UN; he uses them in the service of the genocidal regime. Like me, he has a very solid feudal background but, unlike me,a Marxist-anarchist, I know that he would love to relive the glorious feudal past of the entire family.

Plus Mr Thant and Mr Kyaw are both pliant and pliable: they know which red buttons they must not press, which red lines they must not cross. Above all, which side of the bread is buttered.

Do NOT be surprised if they continue to serve our country as 'presidential advisers' to their new family friends - like proxy-President-nominee U Htin Kyaw and his boss Daw ASSK.

As with Myanmar media, having considered and favoured Thant Myint-U as their favorite 'wild card pick' for presidency, well, that's beyond stupid.

59 (F) applies to Aung San Suu Kyi, as much as Thant Myint-U, a US citizen, with an Icelandic-Burmese son. It does to me as well. So, I decided not to stick around the military, knowing that I can't waste my life away, "advising" the generals. Which intellectual in their right mind, and with self-respect, would choose to be a pseudo-Brahmin to a bunch of thick-heads, who are proven incapable nation-builders who are incapable of acting morally and compassionately towards fellow country-men and -women.

(These "green-men" are smart and ruthless enough to keep power in their hands since 1962, but not smart enough to lead the nation of multiethnic communities).

In a hypothetical case of Thant Myint-U assuming notional presidency, I can at least hope to ask him to return the favor he knows he owes me: get me entry visas to Burma (just as I secured him visas from the military).

At least, my old "mate", U Myint Swe is going to be Vice-President!

Congratulations, Dear Old General!! 

Will you please kindly consider stopping the Rohingya genocide, which will not require any constitutional amendment.

Dispatches: Keep Up the Pressure on Rights in Burma

Soldiers parade to mark the 70th anniversary of Armed Forces Day in Burma's capital Naypyidaw, March 27, 2015. © 2015 Reuters

By John Fisher
March 11, 2016

The new, civilian-led government in Burma under Aung San Suu Kyi’s leadership could herald a new era for human rights in Burma. But before euphoria breaks out, the United Nations Human Rights Council should take into account the many challenges Burma faces.

It’s hard to overstate the systemic problems facing the incoming government. Military operations in Burma’s ethnic minority areas have increased over the past year, even as a partial ceasefire with several ethnic groups has been touted – and sometimes misrepresented – as a nationwide ceasefire. Renewed fighting has displaced thousands of civilians amid allegations of serious laws-of-war violations by government forces and ethnic armed groups, including forced labor, torture and ill-treatment, and sexual violence against women.

Burma’s outgoing military-backed government has used the police and courts to imprison people on politically motivated charges, raising the number of political prisoners to approximately 100, while another 400 people face criminal charges for peaceful activism. This is the most at any time since the major political prisoner releases of 2012.

A raft of abusive laws remain on the books, whose use even the new government may not be able to stop. The military-drafted constitution allows the armed forces to appoint the home affairs minister – who controls the police -- as well as the defense and border affairs ministers. An unreformed judiciary remains corrupt, incompetent, and subordinate to the military. The military remains above civilian control, with complete impunity for past and ongoing crimes.

Race and religion remain unresolved flashpoints. The Rohingya Muslim minority, long a target of government repression, were disenfranchised during recent elections. More than 130,000 remain in squalid displacement camps, while the remaining 1.1 million face everyday curbs on basic rights, including their freedom of movement. Aung San Suu Kyi has shown no inclination to stand up for them.

At HRC negotiations in Geneva this week, the European Union and other governments have seemed ready to relax international scrutiny before the new government has even taken office. Some even want to move Burma from an Item 4 situation, the agenda category for states with serious human rights issues, to Item 10, which is intended for states of lesser concern that only need technical assistance.

It is wishful thinking that a single election and the partial withdrawal of the military from governance has transformed the situation. The rights situation in Burma remains poor. Now is exactly the wrong time to relax international scrutiny. On the contrary, the HRC has an important opportunity to fully engage on rights in Burma by working with the new government to address deeply entrenched rights violations. This includes repealing rights-abusing laws; unconditionally releasing political prisoners and dropping charges against hundreds more; ending discrimination and internment of Rohingya; and producing a roadmap for constitutional reform that provides for a genuinely democratic political system under civilian rule. The HRC should call on Burma to agree to the swift creation of a Burma office of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights with a full mandate to promote and protect rights.

Powerful forces in Burma will try to stop reforms in their tracks. The HRC and UN member states need to send a strong message that they will stand with the Burmese people until the reform process is complete.

Will Suu Kyi lead Myanmar from behind the scenes?

March 11, 2016

Myanmar's parliament set to vote on presidential nominees on Monday.

After her party won a landslide victory in parliamentary elections last year, Nobel peace prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi was well-placed to lead Myanmar.

But her two sons are British, and under the country's military-drafted constitution, that prevents her from becoming president.

Having failed to convince the army to let her run anyway, she has named Htin Kyaw, a man from her inner circle, as presidential nominee.

It's widely seen as a way for Suu Kyi to rule Myanmar indirectly.

On this Inside Story, we look at the deal that's been done to allow Suu Kyi to stay at the pinnacle of Myanmar's politics.

And ask, will she have to compromise with the military?

Presenter: Mike Hanna


Sam Zarifi - Regional director, Asia and the Pacific at the International Commission of Jurists.

Kyaw Zwa Moe - Editor at The Irrawaddy Magazine (English edition) 

Maung Zarni - Burmese scholar and dissident based in the UK