Securitizing Myanmar's Genocide: A critique of ICG report on the emerging Rohingya insurgency

If you are concerned about the prospects for Rohingyas resorting to violence - out of commonly acknowledged desperation and loss of faith in the existing global governance mechanisms - UN, ICC, ASEAN, etc. - these two reports are a good place to start learning about the history and developments of organized resistance by the victimized community.

Both Euro-Burma Office's report, which has greater historical depths, and the more publicized and more current ICG report have some raw info and interesting observations.

Both reports agreed that the armed resistance by the Rohingyas can NOT be labelled "terrorism". Not as of yet. The Burmese gov. has been trying to make this charge or label sticks, straight from the highest level of leadership, perhaps with the exception of Suu Kyi. UnderThein Sein regime, his office of info - manned by Zaw Htay (ex-Major and now Suu Kyi Gov spokesperson) and Ye Htut (ex-Colonel and son of a retired or late Chief of Police), info minister - was directly involved in spreading false rumors about the Rohingya "terrorists" coming in to Burma as early as 2012-13.

The regime has been looking for ways or pretext to scale up the destruction of the Rohingya communities in N. Rakhine. S. Rakhine has been emptied out over the last 38 years, save those in IDPs camp (Miliitary Intelligence Services has engaged in trans-migration forcibly of Rohingyas into N. Rakhine. Former chief of intelligence ex-General Khin Nyunt openly discussed this "dumping of Rohingyas" from S. to N. Rakhine, where Rohingyas population have increased from about 75% in 1964 to now about 90-95%.

But what is noteworthy is ICG concludes, conditioally, that there is potential for the violent resistance to evolve into an international "jihadist", i.e., terrorist movement, IF THE BURMESE REGIME DOES NOT address the legitimate issue of persecution, the sufferings and the powerlessness and hopelessness of the Rohingya via restoration of freedoms and rights to the Rohingyas.

That is where the pros end.

The bad news is this:

ICG was one of the key influential players, who amplified the official rhetoric of Buddhist-Muslim "sectarian conflict" after two bouts of violence in 2012, and enabling the Thein Sein regime (and more historically the State) to absolve itself of any responsibility.

Thein Sein remade the perpetrating State into the Referee above the fray.

Now while communal dimension has always been there, it has been the State that organizes and directs this destruction against the Rohingya. Rakhines are not capable of inflicting large scale violence on the Rohingya.

Plus economically, both communities are interdependent in the sense that Rohingyas are producers of primary goods such as fish, rice, etc and the Rakhines are distributors and facilitators of commerce based on the produces.

It is the State that comes in and stir the calm waters. So, ICG has made seriously negative contributions to the international debates on the Rohingya - and the conflict in Rakhine. 

Additionally, ICG refuses to use the existing legal and sociological frameworks - genocide and crimes against humanity particularly - which hold the State responsible for the crimes against this most vulnerable population - leads to ICG's focus on rights denial (like talking about individual trees while refusing to acknowledge that ICG is dealing with a forest.

This needs to be challenged frontally because it misdirects the policy focus away from the principal culprit - the Gov. of Myanmar and its leaders, including Suu Kyi and the generals - and on to the symptom of the crime - violent responses by the victims.

This is 'securitization' of a state crime; it is NOT a solution to the genocide.

Obviously, the first prerequisite to address the Rohingya sufferings is to acknowledge Burma's policies and practices as an act of international criminal/human rights law.

Finally, the long-term implications of ICG's security perspective - 'international terrorism' - which does have traction with terrorism-obsessed world order will be 1) it will shift the focus on holding the Burmese gov to account and allowing it once again to forge ties with other governments in the name of 'intel cooperation' and (potential) "anti-terror operations'. Singapore in the region is one such mini-anti-terrorist state, and so is Thailand, and so is Bangladesh.

That will draw these regional states away from the issue of Burma's international crimes and in due course enable the Burmese military-controlled State to absolve itself of any state responsibility to protect one of its own communities.

ICG's amplifications of the previous Thein Sein regime's disingenuous framing of state-instigated and -directed violence against Rohingyas in 2012 as "communal or sectarian" have called attention to the horizontal racism and hostilities between Rohingyas and Rakhine.

It is time for the analysts, academics and journalists to call a spade spade. Burma is committing crimes against humanity including a slow genocide with periodic spikes of mass violence. It needs to be internationalized as such, not securitized as ICG has done it although it has, to its credit, stopped short of throwing the charge of "jihadist terrorism" against the victims.


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