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

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

Waves of Myanmar Genocidal Killings and Exodus Since 1978

What's happening in Myanmar is genocide

The Myanmar government has engaged in at least four of the five genocidal acts outlined in the Genocide Convention against the Rohingya, writes Starr Kinseth [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]

By Ashley Starr Kinseth
October 18, 2017

On the night of August 25, an attack on Myanmarsecurity forces by a handful of Rohingya militants in Northern Rakhine State prompted a brutal government counter-offensive that has, in turn, led to the greatest refugee crisis of the twenty-first century. Since then, more than 500,000 Rohingya have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh, with some estimating that as many as 15,000 continue to make the dangerous journey each day. In fact, in terms of rate of escalation, this is the greatest mass exodus - and has the makings to become the most significant humanitarian catastrophe - since the 1994 Rwandan genocide, when over 800,000 Hutus and moderate Tutsis were slaughtered over a mere 100-day period. 

To much of the international community, Myanmar's Rohingya crisis appears sudden, with few to no warning signs; indeed, it is only in recent weeks that the word "Rohingya" has begun to crop up in international headlines and to seep into the world's collective consciousness and conscience. Yet as a human rights lawyer who has long followed the Rohingya situation - and was present in Northern Rakhine the morning the violence erupted - I can say there is no question that the crisis unfolding now has been in the making for years, if not decades. Perhaps more importantly, by international legal and historical standards, the crisis bears all the characteristics of a genocide in bloom.

In fact, for those who have followed the situation closely, the use of the word "genocide" should come as no surprise. For generations, the Rohingya have faced an ever-growing list of discriminatory policies and state-sanctioned rights violations designed to cull the unwanted minority's numbers and force them from their ancestral lands: key markers of genocide. 

The oldest among them have seen their citizenship revoked and their children born stateless; they suffer tight restrictions on movement and access to education and healthcare; and the number of children a couple may bear has been legally limited to two. 

The Rohingya also regularly endure extortions for minor "offenses"; they have been barred from gathering in groups of more than five and require permission to hold routine events (like marriages); and have even faced limitations on the materials used to build or repair homes and other buildings (brick and concrete being considered too "permanent" for the unwanted minority). Direct reports from at least one prison also indicate that some prisoners from other parts of the country had been released early on condition that they resettle in Northern Rakhine in order to maximise the Buddhist population and limit Rohingya landholdings.

The Rohingya have also endured periodic crackdowns designed to drive them from their land, dating at least as far back as Operation King Dragon in 1978, with more recent pogroms in 1991 and 2012. Since 2012, smaller spates of violence have erupted, each time accompanied by reports of government and mob-led village raids and burnings, rapes and murders (sometimes two-sided), and ever-increasing restrictions on Rohingya movement and activity. 

Yet the present crisis undoubtedly represents the most extreme and disproportionate onslaught of violence, with widely corroborated horror tales from Rohingya refugees of savagely violent gang rapes, merciless tortures and beheadings, and even babies tossed into fires

If not adequately frightening on their own, these facts must be placed in a disconcertingly modern context: for there has never been a more powerful tool for the rapid dissemination of hate speech and racist-nationalist vitriol than Facebook and other social media. From a Western perspective, the dangers are easy to spot; one need only look to social media's role in recent elections and political debates to witness the rate at which false information can spread, and the surprising number of individuals who can fall prey to hateful and dangerous rhetoric, a phenomenon presently blazing across Myanmar society. 

Yet perhaps most disturbingly, historically, one can hardly fail to see the parallels between the current use of social media in Myanmar and that of radio in Rwanda to incite mob violence. The key exception is that social media is by all accounts an even faster, more graphic, immersive, "democratic", and ultimately, dangerous tool for the dissemination of hate speech: perhaps the most significant precursor to genocide.

Still, despite these new realities, the conflict we see now may once have been preventable, if not for the dancing around international law and realpolitiking at which the world's governments have played ever since the term "genocide" first entered the international legal lexicon in the aftermath of the Holocaust. 

In the wake of World War II, the international community of states came together in an unprecedented manner, forming the United Nations, and - as one of its first orders of business - passing the Genocide Convention in 1948, which forbade a series of acts committed with the "intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group".

The Convention placed heavy weight on the use of the term "genocide" by governments - essentially requiring that, once a party to the Convention recognised that a genocide was occurring in another state, it bore a responsibility to act to stop the atrocities. Unfortunately, the planet's collective memory and joint resolve proved short-lived, as international governments - and particularly the United States - have spent decades performing mind-bending linguistic backflips to avoid public use of the term.

Instead, we see politicians using turns of phrase such as "genocidal acts may have been committed" to circumvent outright use of the word itself - and in turn, to avoid violating what is perhaps international law's most sacred treaty. 

It thus comes as little surprise that the Rohingya crisis has until recently garnered little international attention. In fact, to date, only one world leader - France's newly-minted President Macron - has dared utter the word, vowing on September 20 to work with the Security Council to condemn "this genocide which is unfolding, this ethnic cleansing." 

Unfortunately, the very structure of the UN makes coordinated intervention (like deployment of a peacekeeping mission) highly unlikely, as this would surely be met by a Security Council veto by China. Indeed, such intra-UN constraints help to explain why - though many in the Office of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide have long been aware of the Rohingya crisis - the Special Adviser has spoken rarely and hesitantly on the situation. 

This is despite the fact that the Myanmar government has engaged in at least four of the five genocidal acts outlined in the Genocide Convention, including "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; and imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group."

But if not genocide, what might we call the horrific situation unfolding in Northern Rakhine? No doubt the "Rohingya issue" is viewed much differently throughout Myanmar, where most believe the Rohingya to be illegal Bengali migrants of questionable (or at least exceedingly "different") moral character; reproducing at a high and disproportionate rate (factually disproven); and hell-bent on Islamicising the predominantly Buddhist nation. Indeed, I have met many educated Myanmar citizens - from aid workers to fellow human rights lawyers - who carry these views, and who are quick to except the Rohingya from rights that they would otherwise view as inherent to all human beings. It is this pervasive dehumanisation of the Rohingya - backed by military and religious forces that rely on the existence of a despised "other" to maintain some semblance of power amidst Myanmar's precarious democratisation - that have allowed for the Rohingya's continuing persecution.

Admittedly, the atrocities we witness today in Northern Rakhine are not entirely one-sided. Surely, many Rakhine Buddhists also suffer the effects of conflict, and international media should also report on this suffering. Yet having visited many Rohingya and Rakhine villages, and remaining in touch with many Rohingya and Rakhine contacts, I also could not in good conscience equate the two groups' experiences or poverty levels, as many in Myanmar print and social media circles routinely demand of international observers. 

Rakhine Buddhists are surely poorer than most ethnic groups in Myanmar (excepting, perhaps, only the Rohingya), and many do currently suffer alongside the Rohingya in terms of physical and food security. However, it would be false to suggest that as many Rakhine Buddhist villages have been looted and razed, or as many Rakhine Buddhist individuals raped, tortured, slaughtered, or otherwise victimised, as have the Rohingya. And while I know of some Rakhine Buddhists who have also become internally displaced - no doubt under deeply abhorrent circumstances - the fact is they possess the freedom of movement to do so and a greater chance of attaining aid and even alternative livelihoods elsewhere in Myanmar. 

All that said, if Myanmar continues to refuse access to Northern Rakhine by neutral observers, then there will be no way for the international media to provide the balanced reporting frequently demanded by Myanmar's citizenry. Instead, as it stands, we outside observers must rely either on our own direct experience to date - as I have here - or on reports flooding across the border from, one must imagine, the most vulnerable Rohingya. In the meantime, it appears that the international community of states, favouring inaction, has tiptoed around such deeply disturbing refugee accounts for far too long. And from the perspective of an international lawyer, based on the information that is presently available to outsiders, there can only be one word for the Rohingya experience in Myanmar: and that word is genocide.

Ashley Starr Kinseth is an international human rights and humanitarian lawyer.

A Polemic Against Liberal Analyses of the Rohingya Crisis

By Tim Frewer
October 19, 2017

Tim Frewer shows the limits of liberal analyses of the Rohingya crisis.

The liberal analyst always works in the best interests of “the people”. He himself has no stake in the issue at hand – he merely offers the world his insights. His crisp analysis carefully rummages through events sorting fact from fiction– each false claim uncovered elevating his writing above the humdrum. He weighs up one side against the other. He never takes sides- centrism is his sanctuary. He is always careful to avoid strong sentiments. He always has the long term in mind. His game is truth and objectivity – as long as he is the one producing that truth and policing objectivity. He can always see the entire field where others are blinded or led astray by passions and politics. He determines who’s to blame, who took the wrong path and who is acting short sightedly. But above all he is pragmatic. He knows what must be done to achieve the best outcome for all involved – or the least worse. But his pragmatism is always confined to the safe limits of the liberal worldview. As a man who has been nurtured by state thinking, he naturally tends toward the state as the ultimate fixer and either ignores or looks on with disdain at the struggles of people who have real stakes in an issue.

It may seem unhelpful to engage in a seemingly pedantic critique at a time of such enormous human suffering. Yet the Rohingya crisis has revealed the limits of the liberal analyst where some profoundly unhelpful commentaries and analyses have been produced which not only obscure the politics of the event but even blame the Rohingya for the unfolding tragedy. If conflicts and crisis are revealing of underlying politics and positions, the Rohingya crisis has shown the extraordinarily level to which some analysts, diplomats and academics will go to defend the Burmese state and undermine the Rohingya. When David Scott Mathieson, for instance, stated that ‘pro-Rohingya social media traffic [sic] trades’ in ‘exaggerations, half-truths and fabricated videos and photos of security force-perpetuated abuses.’ Without actually bothering to give any examples, he not only creates a false correspondence between the well-oiled state propaganda machine and Rohingya media, but actively undermines the efforts of Rohingya activists. Several others have since engaged in similar commentaries. Yet the reason why critique of liberal analysis is so urgent during this time of great suffering is its complicity with power. Not only is it highly influential within the thinking of journalists, diplomats and academics alike, but its tendency to polarise the situation and its pseudo pragmatic message of ‘it’s complicated’ have become handmaidens to both the Tatmadaw’s own propaganda machine and to other states like Australia who wish to secure their own interests in Myanmar.


The fundamental sin of the liberal analyst is political feebleness. Always positioning his own analysis in the safety of the centre, he is careful to avoid any real commitment to the people who are suffering. But the centre is a relative concept and the centre for the analyst is far different to the centre of the people involved in the conflict. The liberal analyst constructs the centre by putting two things alongside each other as if both have equal and exactly opposite power to determine outcomes. The Rakhine against the Rohingya; the tenacity of the Rohingya to protect their self-identification vs the Rakhine and Burmese tendency to denounce it; victimising the Rohingya vs blaming them[i]; the ARSA against the Tatmadaw. Aung Sun Suu Kyi’s silence against her tenuous position with the military[ii]; taking a moral stand vs a pragmatic position of working with power; short term vs long term solutions and so and so forth.

For the liberal analyst, the binary is an indispensable tool that helps give the sense that his analysis is moderate and reasonable. The liberal analyst cannot resist the temptation to condemn the Tatmadaw without condemning the ARSA; to be critical of the repeated government clearance operations without being critical of supposed Rohingya stubbornness (i.e. to demand official recognition of their ethnic title or engage in violent struggle). This inevitably leads to a confusion of the situation as very different and disparate material and discursive forces become jumbled up together as if all are on an equal playing field. Rather than viewing the long-term and progressive state-backed project for what it is, genocidal ethnic cleansing becomes watered down comparable to the primitive attacks of the ARSA. Causality often gets mixed up – ARSA attacks suddenly become the cause of ethnic cleansing. Communal violence becomes a key explanatory factor rather than manifestation of some ethnic cleansing.

By constantly defining the centre according to the analyst’s own interpretive limitations and whims, the entire situation becomes reframed in terms that inevitably benefit both the analyst and the state. The pragmatism that the liberal analyst always predictably rests upon reinforces the importance of patience, dialogue and understanding – as if violent conflict originally arose due to a lack of these things. It doesn’t matter that for thirty years, Rohingya patience and a desire for dialogue has been met with machetes and automatic rifle fire.

Conflict Sensitive Development

The rise in popularity of conflict sensitive development epitomises the weaknesses of the liberal analytic framework. The twentieth century complicated the generally optimistic view that liberalism has of itself where it predicts that violence and conflict will generally subside as liberalism takes hold across the world. Instead liberal democracies have at least a complicated relation with violence and ethnic cleansing. Not only have liberal democracies developed their own unique modes of mass killing (through overseas wars),[iii] but there has always been a related risk that democracies will slip into modes of exclusion and violence through legal exceptions[iv] and pre-emptive attempts to immunise against threats.[v] This is the context of the Holocaust and the war on terror. The violent exclusions which settler colonial liberalisms[vi] are based upon unsettle the myth of the peaceful foundations of liberalism. As Soe Lin Aung points out in regard to liberalism and Myanmar “liberalism is no bulwark against the most extreme forms of violence, exclusion, and suffering.”

Yet rather than come to terms with the very insightful and productive work that came out of twentieth century genocide and ethnic cleansing, conflict sensitive development instead fixates on a simplistic liberal framework of opposed but rational actors. In place of the potency of political theories coming out of the work of Benjamin, Arendt, Foucault, Deleuze, Agamben, Esposito and Mbembe, conflict sensitive development uses the impotent analytical framework derived from international aid donors and their failed interventions in conflict settings.

Conflict sensitive development offers several tools to analyse and provide guidance on working in conflict settings. This includes many of the usual tropes of the development industry – capacity development, participation, and do no harm. Mostly orientated towards NGOs operating in conflict zones, it has also become an influential analytical framework for understanding conflict more broadly. The emphasis of conflict sensitive development is on working with actors and engaging in transparent dialogue and communications. It adheres to an essentially liberal world view which understands subjects as rational actors whose grievances become multiplied and violent when communication failures are rife. It calls for interventions and modes of analysis that are ‘sensitive’ to the diverse views of concerned actors. Like all liberal theories, it places a large emphasis on communication as this is seen as the fundamental trait of the liberal subject that allows him to express his rationality. What gets hopelessly lost in the explanations of conflict analyses however is any coherent accounts of how the state and capitalism play a part in violence.

Take for instance, the NGO CDA’s 2016 Reshaping Engagements: Perspective on Conflict Sensitivity in Rakhine State. Despite aiming “to serve as a platform to build common understanding across stakeholder groups on the current conflict” and “provide a basis for joint action”, the report does not actually consider the perspective of Rohingya. In fact, it does not even mention the word ‘Rohingya’ preferring to simply use the term ‘Muslims’. The report mentions nothing of ethnic cleansing, genocide or the long history of state exclusion of the Rohingya. Instead it focuses on ‘breakdowns in communication’ and ‘competing agendas’. The author has since gone on to publicly defend the military and Aung San Suu Kyi. In another conflict analysis produced by the Harvard Kennedy school for Proximity Designs, the author similarly nervously approaches the subject of ethnicity, noting that Rohingya is a ‘controversial’ title and preferring to use the term ‘Muslim’. Although acknowledging that ‘Muslims’ and Rakhine are on unequal footing, the report still falls into the bi-polar Buddhist-Islam modality while barely touching on the role of the state and capital – “[W]ith a lack of many close links between the Muslim and Buddhist communities, the recent violence has further frayed any trust… It is difficult on the Burmese side to fully recognize this lack of parity of damage. It is difficult for the Muslim side to admit that their actions have, at times, also inflamed the situation.’ Another major project on conflict analysis from Deakin University Australia also insists on using inverted commas when talking about the Rohingya. Once again, the research predominantly focuses on the grievances of Buddhists and Muslims and ways for improved engagement.

Many of the conflict analyses share an intellectual cynicism about the Rohingya ethnic category. Highly influenced by the work of Jacques Leider and the work of Derek Tonkin, several pieces have criticised the Rohingya for their insistence on self-identification. As the Burmese and Rakhine are trying to violently exclude Rohingya from Myanmar in a physical and cultural sense, some western intellectuals have continued to unhelpfully question their right to self-identification. A Harvard university student wrote in the Diplomat “[I]n even a cursory survey of Rohingya history, it is clear that the Rohingya are not an ethnic, but rather a political construction…. At stake are issues of legitimacy. The international community’s use of the term ‘Rohingya’ validates the narrative of essentialising a Muslim identity in Rakhine state”. Many such analyses give a pseudo sense of complexity that seeks to water down murderous ethnic cleansing and deny any political urgency. By maintaining a centrism that can supposedly see all sides, the liberal analyst can always claim the situation is complex and nuanced. Yet for Rohingya in Rakhine, the violence of genocidal ethnic cleansing is straightforward, obvious and immediate. Convoluted liberal analyses that deny this immediacy and criticise the actions of the Rohingya are politically feeble.

Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing

Unlike other ethnic groups, the state does not frame the Rohingya issue as one of needing to subjugate a rebellious ethnic minority. It does not matter whether one is a good Rohingya or a bad Rohingya or involved in armed resistance or not. It is the mere fact of being a Rohingya that the state takes issue with. Elsewhere I have given a detailed account of this.

Moreover, this is the reason the state makes blurry distinctions between insurgents and civilians and why so many non-combatant Rohingya are killed with every military action. The enemy is never just the Mujahidin, RSO or the ARSA but always Rohingya people themselves. That anyone could be surprised at this in light of the 50-year military campaign that has sought to either drive Rohingya out of the country or kill them, is astounding. As Min Aung Hlaing himself has put it, the Rohingya ‘problem’ is a ‘long standing’ and ‘unfinished job’. The Tatmadaw has never seriously tried to conceal the fact that the Rohingya need to be violently excluded – it won’t even allow for the term ‘Rohingya’ to be uttered in the country. There is nothing more violent than preventing a people from denoting their own existence. With each wave of deadly state violence, journalists and analysts seem caught unaware – shocked and surprised, falling over one another to offer explanations – was it because of the ARSA? Was it communal violence? Was it the failures of the Kofi Annan commission? Was it that Rakhine felt excluded? Maybe the NGOs weren’t conflict sensitive enough?

The vulnerability of the Rohingya comes from the fact that in the eyes of the state, their identity has become separate from their bodies. The state has extinguished the legal ethnic identity of the Rohingya effectively, eliminating it from the political community. Yet the Rohingya as a people – as a collection of bodies – remain in Myanmar’s territory. It is this existence in the indeterminate zone of having a physical presence within the territory but without a corresponding political and legal presence that makes Rohingya so vulnerable to death. As philosophers like Agamben[vii] have been at pains to point out, it is this condition of being able to be killed without sanction that facilitates mass murder. For Rohingya in Myanmar, death could come at any time and from any angle with little or no legal retribution for the perpetrators. It is the deliberate production of vulnerability – the progressive stripping back of political rights of Rohingya, so they are merely bodies in the eyes of the state, that allows such systematic and unthinkable violence to be repeatedly cast upon them. And this is no doubt why people in Northern Rakhine have so desperately insisted on state recognition of the Rohingya ethnic category – a move that some liberal analysts have sought to undermine.

If the Rohingya have become merely bodies in the eyes of the state, it is the presence and even rise in the number of these bodies that the state takes issue with. Fertility and the concern that these bodies will multiply and even contaminate the Buddhist political community has been at the forefront of state and ultra-nationalist concerns. This is why the state is so heavily invested in measures to control birth, mobility and demographics in Rakhine state. This is why a ludicrous proposition in the lower house to protect racial purity was inspired by events in Rakhine. This is also why the state has for a long time invested in ‘model villages’ in northern Rakhine to counter ‘demographic pressure of the Rohingya’[viii] and why the state systematically deprives the Rohingya of the most basic elements to sustain life. The state has taken a multi-pronged approach to excluding, or at least reducing the expansion of these bodies which ranges from benign neglect, starvation, economic restrictions, mobility restrictions, ad hoc violence, rape and systematic exclusion. Here the state oscillates between begrudgingly tolerating the presence of these bodies on its territory, and engaging in sudden bouts of violence to clear them out. At times, it tolerates NGOs and the international development industry keeping these people alive, but never tolerates any action or program that would treat them as political subjects deserving of rights. Mob attacks on NGOs in Maungdaw and Sittwe sent a clear message; Rohingya who have been attacked by police and soldiers do not have a right to medical treatment. The state’s insistence that it has the right to take Rohingya life is absolute.

It is crucial to point out here that this does not represent a movement away from democracy or modernity. As Achille Mbembe states, ‘the sovereign right to kill and the mechanisms of biopower are inscribed in the way all modern states function indeed, they can be seen as constitutive elements of state power in modernity’ [ix]. Necropolitics or the production of death by the state, does not represent an aberration of democracy, it is a result of democracy. As the line between the inside political community and those who are outside it becomes increasingly rigid, it is no surprise that with the transition to democracy, violent exclusion of the latter group occurs. That the UN has been complicit in this arrangement where they have ultimately accepted the state’s sovereign right to kill the Rohingya at any moment, should in hindsight be seen as unforgivable.

In the 21st century, any state – and especially the Burmese state – faces great logistical, political and economic challenges in producing the same kind of systematic genocidal violence as say the Nazi state did in the 1930s. The Burmese state has simply never functioned along the same organisational lines of the Third Reich with its enormous and highly efficient bureaucracy. Even compared to say the Rwandan state, or Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, there are important differences with the current Burmese state that make genocide logistically challenging. The fragmented Burmese state is simultaneously fighting numerous insurgencies and has been deeply unpopular since independence. Furthermore, economically and politically, it is entering a phase where international acceptance and foreign investment are crucial. Yet these are not strong enough reasons to reject that genocide is occurring. At the domestic level, there have been important logistical steps towards genocide. For Michael Mann, one of the preconditions of murderous ethnic cleansing (which includes genocide) is that “ordinary people are brought by normal social structures into committing murderous ethnic cleansing, and their motives are mundane” [x]. The most remarkable thing about the politics of Rakhine state and anti-Muslim sentiment more generally is that the state has been able to very effectively channel localised discontent against the Burmese elite into rabid anti-Rohingya violence. The relationship between the Rakhine and the state has very rapidly evolved in this regard. From the state looking on as the Rakhine engaged in pogroms of deadly violence in 2012, the state now blatantly arms Rakhine and uses them in its program of systematic arson. In fact, the big lesson of the 2012 violence was that the state lost control of these violent populist movements as they spread like cancer across the country. Here is another one of Mann’s preconditions for murderous ethnic cleansing – that it typically occurs organically: ‘[M]urderous cleansing is rarely the initial intent of perpetrators” yet where “cleansing typically emerges as a kind of Plan C, developed only after the first two responses to a perceived ethnic threat fail. Plan A typically envisages a carefully planned solution in terms of either compromise or straightforward repression. Plan B is a more radically repressive adaptation to the failure of Plan A, more hastily conceived amid rising violence and some political destabilization.[xi]

At a discursive level, various elements have rapidly come together to premeditate murderous ethnic cleansing. The Rohingya have slowly transitioned from a marginalised ethnic group that was nonetheless tolerated by the state – which at times the state even used for electoral advantage – to enemies of the state. This has been facilitated by two uniquely Burmese concerns; the spread of Islam and its supposed deleterious impacts on the Burmese Buddhist political community and the uncontrollable flow of ethnic Bengali’s into Burmese territory. What is crucial from the perspective of genocidal ethnic cleansing is that these concerns are quite literally embodied by the Rohingya. If fertility, intermarriage and migration are the mechanisms of spreading the disease, the disease itself is Islam – or more specifically the variant of Islam held by “illegal Bengali immigrants”. It is here that Burmese genocide – like all modern genocide – takes on an undeniably biopolitical logic. That is that the disease can only be stopped by the physical expulsion or destruction of Rohingya bodies in which it dwells. Even sexual violence takes on a deeply disturbing biopolitical logic. More than just an excess of the machoism used to stoke state inflicted violence, systematic rape and mutilation is likely a strategy to replace Rohingya children with Burmese or prevent further children. On several occasions, Burmese military officials, when faced with the allegation of systematic rape have responded that no Burmese soldier would desire a Rohingya woman.

The timidity with which liberal analysts have approached the question of genocide is astounding. Relying upon an overly legalistic interpretation, many have not only failed to appreciate the biopolitical and political significance of genocide but even sought to undermine the use of the term by the Rohingya community. Raphael Lemkin’s original concept was specifically concerned with the Holocaust and thus the legal definition is limited to very specific circumstances comparable to the Holocaust (yet there is still a strong legal argument that what is happening in Myanmar now matches this limited legal definition). Maung Zarni amongst others has done much to popularise the concept of a ‘slow burning genocide’ which is tailored to the unique situation in Myanmar. Yet most liberal analysts have either ignored or looked on in disdain at both this concept as well as the use of the term by the Rohingya community.


Liberal analysts have similarly stumbled through the question of fascism. Ignoring the large list of very productive work that comes out of actually existing fascisms, liberal analysts have preferred terms like ‘inter-communal conflict’, ‘anti-Muslim sentiments’ and ‘xenophobia’. Like much of the analysis on Myanmar which cannot help take on an orientalist inflexion, analysis on anti-Islam and anti-Rohingya violence and discourse tend to be understood as a lingering primitivistic tendency that the transition to modernism has not yet managed to wipe out. In other instances, it is understood as an elite plot to exploit the masses for political gain. These explanations have always struggled to account for the increasingly populist nature of these sentiments and their coalescence with democratisation.

As Deleuze has famously pointed out, fascism is not confined to either the historical European forms it took with Italian fascism or Nazism, nor is it confined to totalitarian regimes. Fascism for Deleuze is a micro-political movement that inhabits the actions, thoughts, even habits of individuals, yet in distinct ways which reproduce state thinking. As opposed to totalitarianism which is disciplinary in nature, fascism is populist and expressed through flows of desire. Yet fascism does not represent any flow of desire. Fascism forms when the desire of individuals becomes infected with state categories; where individuals take it on themselves to rid the political body of all that threatens it – to sort the legitimate citizens from the illegitimate. Rather than citizens oppressed by soldiers and police, citizens take it on themselves to carry out the duties of police and soldiers – to violently root out all that is illegal and opposed to the state. Elsewhere I have analysed long running Burmese fascisms and their recent renewal.

What is remarkable about the Rohingya crisis and what makes it unique in comparison to the long list of historic ethnic insurgencies is the way in which the Bamar population has organically rallied around the government and military. From anti-government rallies, the last year has for the first time seen mass pro-government rallies. So too, large numbers of Bamar across many classes have been involved in online harassment campaigns of Rohingya activists and anyone who opposes the brutal treatment of the Rohingya.


In this time of suffering it is crucial to remain indefatigable to the political realities of a slow burning genocide. Rather than obscuring the forces and processes that allow large scale violence to occur, it is urgent to keep these forces and their effects at the centre of accounts of the unfolding tragedy. The way events are framed and talked about have important political ramifications at all levels. It is the political feebleness of liberal analysis that makes it ideal as a discursive tool on the part of so many states and actors that wish to remain apathetic towards the Rohingya cause.

Tim Frewer is an Australian geographer whose research focuses on Southeast Asia.

[i] For instance, within one analysis it is stated ‘[T]he genocide narrative has also become deeply embedded in the psyche of the Rohingya themselves, both in Myanmar and among the diaspora. As the accusation of terrorism from the other side, it makes any negotiated solution highly difficult.’ This statement is remarkable not only for the fact that it casually pathologizes the psychological impacts of deadly violence, but that it even blames the very people who are suffering from that violence for the political situation they find themselves in.
[ii] Numerous analyses have suggested that Aung Sun Suu Kyi is balancing her reluctance to speak out on the Rohingya issue against a potential military plot to seize power. Andrew Selth has helpfully deconstructed some of the ‘conspiracy theories’ of pundits who have suggested ‘that the generals always intended the fledgling administration to fail.’
[iii] See Dillon, M., & Reid, J. (2009). The liberal way of war: Killing to make life live. New York: Routledge.
[iv] Agamben, G. (2005). State of exception: University of Chicago Press.
[v] Esposito, R. (2004). Immunitas. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
[vi] See Wolfe, P. (2006). Settler Colonialism and the Elimination of the Native. Journal of Genocide Research, 8(4), 387-409.
[vii] Agamben, G. (1998). Homo sacer. Stanford: University Press Stanford.
[viii] See Wade, F. (2017). Myanmar’s Enemy Within: Zed Books.
[ix] Mbembé, J.-A. (2001). On the postcolony. London: Univ of California Press, p.17.
[x] Mann, M. (2005). The dark side of democracy: explaining ethnic cleansing: Cambridge University Press, p. 5
[xi] ibid, p.7.

Michael Charney's Public Talk on Rohingyas and Rakhines at Oxford Conference, May 2016

Maung Zarni: Military-Controlled Ethnocracy in Myanmar Causing Exodus of 100,000 Rohingyas Every Week

October 18, 2017

TEHRAN -- Activist and scholar Maung Zarni says that the plight of Muslim Rohingyas has gotten worse under the administration of Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and now there are about 100,000 Rohingyas fleeing their homeland every week.

The Burmese scholar in an exclusive interview with FNA said that Aung San SuuKyi’s leadership has been the direct product of the icon manufacturing by Western media and activists which was intended to give acceptability to what, he believes, is a “military-controlled ethnocracy, wrapped in Buddhism”.

According to the rights activist, Rohingyas in Myanmar live under restrictive measures of movement, marriage and child control in either open prisons or internally displaced persons camps (IDP camps). He also added that the Muslim minority’s access to food supplies and medical care is awfully limited.

Maung Zarni is a democracy advocate, Rohingya campaigner, and an adviser to European Centre for the Study of Extremism. He is also a research fellow at Genocide Documentation Centre and has been frequently interviewed by international media outlets such as BBC, Al Jazeera, Press TV and TRT World.

FNA has conducted an interview with Maung Zarni about the terrible living conditions of the Rohingya Muslims and the reasons behind the inaction by the so-called international community to stop what the United Nations calls "textbook ethnic cleansing" of Rohingya.

Below you will find the full text of the interview.

Q: Rohingya Muslims are not included in Myanmar’s list of 135 official minorities meaning they are deprived of the right to citizenship. Why do you think the Rohingyas have been left stateless by their own government in the first place?

Firstly, 135 official minorities are nothing but a fiction used by the Burmese military to justify their institutional narrative that Myanmar faces constant threat of Balkanization, if the military return to the barracks. So, I don’t and won’t repeat the regime’s self-serving propaganda. The military has since early 1960’s shifted its policy of the official embrace of Rohingyas as an ethnic community of the Union of Burma to a radical strategic perspective according to which a sizeable pocket of Muslims in a single geographic pocket next to a populous Muslim region of the then Pakistan was a threat to Burma’s national security. Every wave of expulsion, violence, death and destruction of Rohingyas over the last 40 years has been triggered by this dangerous strategic paradigm. 

Q: Aung San SuuKyi’s coming to power as the Nobel Peace laureate and first democratic government brought about major hopes to the Burmese including the Rohingya. In your opinion, has anything changed for the Muslim minority since she took office?

Suu Kyi’s leadership, and Suu Kyi the person, have been the direct product of the icon manufacturing by Western media and activists. Her ascendency to de facto leadership has only lent the veneer of acceptability to what really is a military-controlled ethnocracy, wrapped in Buddhism. The plight of Muslim Rohingyas has gotten worse, with 100,000 fleeing every week. Mirroring the military’s Muslim-free armed forces, she presides over her party, National League for Democracy (NLD), and the NLD-controlled Parliament, with not a single Muslim representation. 

Q: There are reports about mosques across Burma being damaged or completely destroyed and authorities have been refusing to allow Muslims to repair their mosques. Why is the government refusing to allow the Muslim minority to access their place of worship which is considered to be a fundamental right to freedom of expression and religion?

Mosques – like any places of worship in any religion – serve as the anchor of Muslim communities throughout Burma. The severe restrictions on the repair, renovation, or expansion of mosques are motivated by the intent to prevent the growth of the community in spirit and strength. It is a part of the Buddhist ethnocratic state’s attempt to monitor, control and subjugate Muslim communities – although Islam in Burma has long been a peaceful religion for centuries since it arrived centuries ago.

Q: Could you please let us know about the conditions of displaced Rohingyas living both in and outside Myanmar’s borders?

Even seasoned humanitarian workers would tell you how shocked they are at the first sight of the conditions under which Rohingyas living in India and Bangladesh. Inside Myanmar, Rohingyas live in two different types of situation: open vast prisons and the internally displaced persons camps. They have no freedom of movement; all aspects of their lives are totally controlled by the Burmese military authorities at the top of the administrative structures and local Buddhist Rakhine who occupy the majority of the admin posts. Rohingyas’ access to food and food systems (such as streams and rivers, paddy fields, etc.) as well as opportunities to earn a living has been controlled and restricted. Doctor-patience ratio for the two major towns – Buthidaung and Maungdaw – are estimated to be 1: 150,000 – while the national average is 1: 1,000 – 2,000. Extreme malnutrition is prevalent with sub-Sahara-like conditions. Only Rohingyas are singled out for strict marriage control and child control. Rape and gang-rape of Rohingya women and even girls are rampant. Mass arrests of Rohingya males are routine. Summary execution, forced labour, extortions, etc. are routinely practised by the security troops that split Rohingya region into two dozen security grids. It is this kind of inhuman conditions under which Rohingyas are forced to exist – not live as humans – that has been a major push factor behind regular, if less dramatic and less reported than the most recent one, waves of fleeing Rohingyas. Emphatically, I must state that these conditions are maintained as a matter of policy by the central governments since the late 1970’s: to destroy life as we know it, for the entire Rohingya community as a distinct ethnic group, whether recognized by the State officially, as such or not. Precisely because of the policy of destroying Rohingya community as a group I have been calling this a genocide – a textbook genocidal act as defined by the Genocide Convention. 

Q: The state counsellor faces mounting criticism over what the United Nations calls "textbook ethnic cleansing" of Rohingya. This systematic persecution has been ongoing for years. Why do you think we do not see any strong reaction by international human rights organizations, namely the United Nations to stop all the injustice and atrocities?

To the UN and all the world powers, typically all genocides are inconveniences. The refusal to recognize the nature of the heinous crimes by its proper legal name, that is, genocide speaks volumes about the absence of collective will to end this international crime. I find it utterly disgusting that UN and even human rights agencies opting to call it by Milosevic’s original euphemism. The genocidal Serb was a clever bastard who knew ‘ethnic cleansing’ was not a crime under international law. If a crime is recognized as genocide that the UN system would be obliged to intervene to end it. Truth is international law is nothing without the political will to enforce it. Ending genocide has never been deemed strategically or commercially profitable. Hence, empty talks and outcome less meetings.

Q: On several occasions we have seen the western countries, namely the US and the UK, acting without a mandate from the United Nations Security Council. We have seen them imposing sanctions and even taking military action against countries solely based on their own political and geopolitical interests. But when it comes to Myanmar, they do not seem to be much concerned about the ongoing genocide and ethnic cleansing as we do not see any strong reaction. What do you think is the reason behind the double standard?

UK and USA are known to bypass the Security Council, in pursuing their strategic interests, however defined. They have launched invasions in countries throughout the world, from Korea and Vietnam to Africa and the Middle East. But ending genocides is viewed as part of their strategic interest. Additionally, they delude themselves into thinking that some semblance of democracy and human rights regime can still be salvaged with its Burmese proxy Aung San Suu Kyi, although she has lost the support and admiration of the world. The truth is UN and international law, as well as the institutions of global governance do not work for the oppressed majority of peoples around the world. Rohingyas are not an exception. 

Q: Aung SanSuu Kyi did not attend this year’s UN General Assembly session. She did so without providing any reason for the withdrawal. As we discussed, the United Nations so far has failed to act properly to stop the violence. Why do you think then she decided to cancel her trip to the UN?

It’s a clear sign that she now views the world as a hostile place for her to go. The world no longer sees her as “the hopes of Burma”, let alone “the voice of the voiceless”. She has become world-infamous for hiding her head in the sand when it comes to issues of crucial import to the country. Forget going to the UN where she expected strong criticism of her leadership failures. She has no moral or intellectual integrity to confront inconvenient realities of her country, particularly the issue of Rohingya genocide that concerns the world.

রোহিঙ্গা গণহত্যার নীলনকশা তৈরি হয় ১৯৬৬ সালে: মং জার্নি

ড. মং জার্নির জন্ম ১৯৬৩ সালে মিয়ানমারের মান্দালয়ে। তিনি মিয়ানমারের গণতন্ত্র ও মানবাধিকারের পক্ষে পাশ্চাত্যে সবচেয়ে সোচ্চার ব্যক্তিদের অন্যতম। যুক্তরাষ্ট্রের ক্যালিফোর্নিয়া বিশ্ববিদ্যালয় থেকে স্নাতকোত্তর এবং উইসকনসিন-মেডিসন বিশ্ববিদ্যালয় থেকে ১৯৯৮ সালে পিএইচডি ডিগ্রি নিয়েছেন। শিক্ষকতা করেছেন লন্ডন স্কুল অব ইকোনমিকস, অক্সফোর্ড ও হার্ভার্ডে। ১৯৯৫ সালে তিনি প্রবাসী বর্মি ভিন্নমতাবলম্বীদের নিয়ে প্রতিষ্ঠা করেন ফ্রি বার্মা কোয়ালিশন। ৩০ বছর ধরে মিয়ানমারের মানবাধিকারের প্রবক্তা হওয়ার কারণে বর্মি সরকার ও তাদের সমর্থক মিডিয়ার কাছে তিনি ‘রাষ্ট্রদ্রোহী’, এমনকি তাঁকে ‘জাতীয় বিশ্বাসঘাতক’ হিসেবেও চিহ্নিত করা হয়েছে।

গত ২১ সেপ্টেম্বর কুয়ালালামপুরের পুলম্যান হোটেলে তাঁর সঙ্গে কথা বলা এবং পরে ই-মেইল যোগাযোগের ভিত্তিতে এই সাক্ষাৎকার তৈরি করা হলো। গত ১০ অক্টোবর এর প্রথম আলোর মুদ্রিত সংখ্যায় সাক্ষাৎকারটির সংক্ষেপিত অংশটি প্রকাশিত হয়। আজ বাকি অংশ প্রকাশিত হলো।
সাক্ষাৎকার নিয়েছেন মিজানুর রহমান খান
প্রথম আলো: সম্প্রতি রোহিঙ্গা প্রত্যাবাসন নিয়ে একজন বর্মি মন্ত্রী ঢাকা ঘুরে গেলেন। আপনি আশাবাদী?
মং জার্নি: ১৯৬২ সালে সামরিক বাহিনী ক্ষমতায় আসার পর মিয়ানমার তার বৃহত্তম জাতীয় সংকট মোকাবিলায় তিনজন বেসামরিক কূটনীতিককে নিয়োগ দিয়েছে। কিউতিন স অং সান সু চির নিজ দপ্তরের মন্ত্রী এবং তাঁর মূল অনুঘটক। আপনারা তাঁকে বিশ্বাস করলে ঠকবেন। ২০০৮ সালের মে মাসে বন্যাদুর্গত লোকজন যখন চরম সংকটে, তখন তাঁকে সরকারের পক্ষে ওকালতি করতেই শশব্যস্ত দেখা গেছে।
এরপর আছেন থং তুন, তিনি বর্তমানে সু চির জাতীয় নিরাপত্তা পরিষদের উপদেষ্টা। ইতিপূর্বে আধা অবসরে যাওয়া জেনারেল থান শয়ের দোভাষীর কাজ করেছেন। আর আছেন উইন ম্রা। তিনি মিয়ানমারের বর্তমান মানবাধিকার কমিশনের প্রধান। আনান কমিশনের অন্যতম সদস্য এই ভদ্রলোকের কর্ণকুহরে এখন পর্যন্ত রোহিঙ্গা শব্দটিই প্রবেশ করেনি। বিশ্বে বর্তমানে মিয়ানমারের যে ৩০ জনের বেশি রাষ্ট্রদূত কর্মরত রয়েছেন, তাঁরা কেউ সাবেক কর্নেল, কেউ সাবেক ব্রিগেডিয়ার। তাঁরা পরিস্থিতি সামলাতে হিমশিম খাচ্ছেন। গত সপ্তাহে থং তুনকে নিরাপত্তা পরিষদে পাঠানো হয়েছিল। নিউইয়র্কে তিনি কাউন্সিল অব ফরেন রিলেশনসের মতো মার্কিন স্টাবলিশমেন্ট কাজে লাগিয়ে অপপ্রচার চালিয়েছেন।
আমি মনে করি, ওই তিনজন বেসামরিক কূটনীতিকের সারা জীবন কেটেছে আন্তর্জাতিক ফোরামে সামরিক বাহিনীর পক্ষে নির্লজ্জ দালালি করে। তাঁরা প্রত্যেকে ধূর্ত এবং মুসলিমবিদ্বেষী বর্ণবাদী। তাঁদের কারও হৃদয়ে এক তোলা পরিমাণও নীতিবোধ কিংবা মানবিক অনুভূতি নেই। সু চি এসব ব্যক্তি দ্বারা পরিবেষ্টিত। তাঁদের আমি বিষাক্ত সাপ হিসেবে চিহ্নিত করতে দ্বিধাবোধ করি না। বাংলাদেশকে প্রত্যাবাসনের যে প্রস্তাব দেওয়া হয়েছে, তা একটি কৌশলগত পদক্ষেপ। মনে রাখতে হবে, তাঁদের চূড়ান্ত স্ট্র্যাটেজিক স্কিম হচ্ছে রোহিঙ্গাদের জাতিসত্তা, তার ইতিহাস, পরিচিতি ও আইনগত অবস্থান ধ্বংস করা। আপনাদের মনে যদি এ বিষয়ে কোনো সন্দেহ দানা বাঁধে, তাহলে গত ২৫ বছরের জাতিসংঘের ডকুমেন্টগুলো, মানবাধিকারের নথিপত্র এবং ১৯৭৮ সাল থেকে এ পর্যন্ত প্রেস ক্লিপিংগুলো পাঠ করুন। রোহিঙ্গারা বাড়ি ফিরতে চায় না।
প্রথম আলো: তাহলে সু চির প্রতি আমরা ভরসা করব না?
মং জার্নি: আমি বহু বছর আগে তাঁর সম্পর্কে যা লিখেছিলাম, তা তখন বিশ্বাস করতে অনেকেরই কষ্ট হতো। তাঁরা তাঁকে রোমান্টিসিজমের জায়গা থেকে প্রশ্রয় দিতেন। কিন্তু তাই বলে তাঁর সর্বাত্মক ও গভীর বর্ণবাদী মন একটুও বদলে যায়নি। আমি যখন তাঁর নৈতিক বুদ্ধিবৃত্তিক ও নেতৃত্বের যথাযথ সমালোচনা করেছি, তখন তাঁর সমর্থকেরা কষ্ট পেয়েছেন। একটি সামরিক পরিবারে আমার বেড়ে ওঠার সময় তাঁর বাবা ছিলেন আমার রোল মডেল। ১৯৮৮ সালের জুলাই মাসে আমি যখন আমার দেশ ত্যাগ করি, তখন আমার ওয়ালেটে তিনটি ছবি ছিল। একটি আমার পরিবারের, দ্বিতীয়টি মহামুনি বুদ্ধের এবং অপরটির অং সানের পরিবারের। এই ছবিতে সু চি ছিলেন দুই বছরের। মাঠের কর্মী হিসেবে আমি সু চির পক্ষে কথা বলেছি একটানা ১৫ বছর। তিনি যেভাবে স্বেচ্ছায় বিরোধী শিবিরে প্রবেশ করেছিলেন, তা তিন দশকের মধ্যে প্রথম গণ-অভ্যুত্থান এনেছিল। তাঁকে সমালোচনায় আমার কোনো ব্যক্তিগত বিদ্বেষ বা হিংসা নেই। আমি কোনো রাজনীতিবিদের আনুগত্যে বা অনুরাগী হতে বিশ্বাসী নই, কারণ তাঁরা প্রত্যেকেই খুব বেশি মনুষ্য প্রজাতির। আমি একজন কর্মী হিসেবে ‘আমার দেশ সেরা, সেটা ভুল বা শুদ্ধ যা-ই করুক’ ধরনের উগ্র জাতীয়তাবাদী ক্যানসারে আক্রান্ত হওয়াকে নাকচ করে দিই।
প্রথম আলো: বর্মি ভাষায় তিনি তাঁর জনগণকে কী বলে থাকেন, সেটা আমাদের জানার কৌতূহল আছে।
মং জার্নি: ৬ অক্টোবর সু চি ব্রুনাইয়ে বর্মি বিশেষজ্ঞদের কাছে তাঁর সরকারকে ‘নিষ্পাপ’ বলেছেন। তাঁর কথায়, ‘আমাদের বিবেক পরিষ্কার। কিন্তু আমি বলব না যে আমরা কোনো ভুল করিনি। তবে আমরা অবশ্যই কোনো অন্যায্য কিছু করিনি। আমরা যদি অজান্তে কোনো অন্যায় করে থাকি, তাহলে প্রচলিত আইনমতে তা শুধরে নেব।’ অথচ তিনি একটিবারের জন্য বাস্তুচ্যুত কাউকে দেখতে রাখাইন সফরে যাননি। এই নারীর ঔদাসীন্য ও অমানবিকতা কী হতে পারে, তা কারও ধারণার বাইরে।
প্রথম আলো: চীন, রাশিয়া ও ভারতের ভূমিকা কি সংকট নিরসনে বড় বাধা?
মং জার্নি: অবশ্যই। চীন ও রাশিয়া এমনকি উদ্বেগ জানিয়ে নিরাপত্তা পরিষদে বিবৃতি দিতে রাজি হয়নি। ভারতে উগ্র বর্ণবাদী দল ক্ষমতায়। তারা হিন্দু মৌলবাদী জাতীয়তাবাদকে উসকে দিতে চাইছে। সু চি-মোদির যৌথ ঘোষণা বলছে, তারা নাকি সন্ত্রাসবাদ মোকাবিলায় লড়াই করতে একমত। এর মাধ্যমে ভারত কার্যত সু চির বর্ণবাদী গণহত্যার পক্ষে দাঁড়িয়েছে। আবার পশ্চিমা কোনো প্রভাবশালী দেশই কিন্তু এই তিন দেশের সমালোচনা করছে না। পাশ্চাত্য যারা মানবাধিকার, বিশ্বশান্তি ও নাগরিক স্বাধীনতার কথা বলে, তারাই তেলের জন্য অন্যের ভূখণ্ড দখল করতে পারে। রোহিঙ্গা প্রশ্নে আমি পশ্চিম ও পূর্ব ব্লকের মধ্যে কোনো ফারাক দেখি না। তাই রাশিয়া, চীন ও ভারত নয়, পাশ্চাত্যও একইভাবে ভণ্ড। পাশ্চাত্য সার্বিয়া ও বেলগ্রেডে বোমা ফেলেছে। মিলেসোভিচের প্যালেসেও বোমা ছুড়েছে। মিলেসোভিচ সার্বিয়া ও বসনিয়ার মুসলমানদের ওপর গণহত্যা চালিয়েছিল। ইসরায়েলের বিষয়ে নিরাপত্তা পরিষদ ২৩০টির বেশি প্রস্তাব পাস করেছে। কিন্তু তারা বুড়ো আঙুল দেখিয়ে চলেছে। তাই আমি এটা বলব না, এই তিন দেশই মিয়ানমারের গণহত্যা বন্ধে বাধা তৈরি করেছে। তবে আমরা মনে রাখব, নিরাপত্তা পরিষদই জীবন ও ইতিহাসের যবনিকা নয়।
প্রথম আলো: আন্তর্জাতিক ফৌজদারি আদালতে (আইসিসি) এর বিচার হতে পারে? আশাবাদী?
মং জার্নি: না। আমি আশাবাদী নই। কিছু আন্তর্জাতিক আইনি সংগঠন রোহিঙ্গাদের বিষয়টি বিবেচনায় নিতে দরখাস্ত করেছিল। তারা দুই বছর পর উত্তর দিয়েছে যে মিয়ানমারের ওপর তাদের বিচারিক এখতিয়ার নেই। ১৯৪৯ সালে বার্মা জেনোসাইড কনভেনশনে সই করেছিল, যা ১৯৫০ সালে কার্যকর হয়। কিন্তু যেটা ঘটেছে, সেটা হলো তারা তাতে শর্ত সাপে‌ক্ষেÿসই করেছিল। ওই শর্তে বলা আছে, জেনোসাইডের অভিযোগে দেশটির নেতাদের বিচার করা যাবে না। জেনোসাইড কনভেনশন বা আন্তর্জাতিক আইন কোনো রকেটবিজ্ঞান নয়।
প্রথম আলো: আইসিসি সংবিধিতে তারা সই করেনি।
মং জার্নি: সই করাটাই অপরিহার্য নয়। জাতিসংঘের কোনো সদস্য রাষ্ট্র যদি গণহত্যা করে, তাহলে তাকে জবাবদিহির আওতায় আনা যাবে।
প্রথম আলো: নোবেলজয়ী অমর্ত্য সেনের সঙ্গে আপনার ব্যক্তিগত যোগাযোগের কথা আমরা জানি। রোহিঙ্গাদের বিষয়ে তাঁর দৃষ্টিভঙ্গি কী?
মং জার্নি: অমর্ত্য সেনের সঙ্গে অং সান সু চির প্রয়াত স্বামী মাইকেল অ্যারিসের ঘনিষ্ঠ বন্ধুত্ব ছিল। তা ছাড়া অক্সফোর্ডে যাওয়ার আগে দিল্লি বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়ে অধ্যয়নকালে সু চিকে অর্থনীতি পড়াতেন অমর্ত্য। সুতরাং, সু চির প্রতি অমর্ত্যের একটা অনুরাগ রয়েছে। যদিও আজকের বার্মায় অমর্ত্যকে কেউ হয়তো বাঙালি বিবেচনায় হত্যা করতে পারে! ২০১৩ সালে সু চি যখন প্রথম হার্ভার্ডে এলেন, তখন তাঁর সম্মানে দেওয়া নৈশভোজে সু চি-অমর্ত্য পাশাপাশি বসেছিলেন। অমর্ত্যকে আমি রোহিঙ্গা পরিস্থিতি সম্পর্কে বলেছিলাম। পরে অমর্ত্য আমাকে বলেছেন, ‘আমি তাকে বলেছি, তুমি জাতির নেত্রী। তোমাকে মিয়ানমারের প্রতিটি জাতিগোষ্ঠীর নেতৃত্ব দিতে হবে। তোমার সবাইকে সমভাবে রক্ষা করতে হবে।’ উত্তরে সু চি বলেছিলেন, তিনি সেই চেষ্টাই করছেন। দু-তিন মাস আগে অমর্ত্যর সঙ্গে আমার দেখা হয়। তিনি আমার কাছে জানতে চেয়েছিলেন, সু চি কেন এমনটা করছেন? আমি বললাম, দুঃখজনক হলেও সত্যি যে তিনি (সু চি) একজন বর্ণবাদী। তবে নোবেল বিজয়ীদের সাম্প্রতিক বিবৃতির প্রশ্নে অমর্ত্য কিন্তু ড. মুহাম্মদ ইউনূসের সঙ্গে যোগাযোগ করেছিলেন। অন্যদের সঙ্গে তাঁরাও রোহিঙ্গা-সংক্রান্ত একটি বিবৃতিতে সই দেন। সাধারণত, অমর্ত্য কোনো বিবৃতিতে সই দেন না। সু চির তৎপরতায় অমর্ত্য সত্যিই হতাশ।

প্রথম আলো: অমর্ত্য সেন কি মিয়ানমার সফর করতে পারেন না?
মং জার্নি: সেই অনুরোধ আমি তাঁর কাছে রেখেছিলাম। কিন্তু তিনি ‘কালা’ (রোহিঙ্গা) বিরোধিতার সবটাই অবগত আছেন। তিনি তাঁর শৈশব কাটান ঢাকা ও মান্দেলেতে। মান্দেলের একটি কৃষি বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়ে তাঁর বাবা অধ্যাপনা করতেন। অমর্ত্য আমাকে বলেছেন, তিনি এখন মিয়ানমার সফরে গিয়ে তাঁর শৈশবের মধুর স্মৃতি ধ্বংস হতে দিতে চান না। তিনি এখন গিয়ে দেখবেন, মানুষ কতটা বর্ণবাদী ও ঘৃণাবিদ্বিষ্ট।
রোহিঙ্গা গণহত্যার প্রতিবাদে ভিন্নমতাবলম্বী বর্মী প্রতিবাদী শিক্ষক মং জার্নি

প্রথম আলো: বর্মিরা রোহিঙ্গাদের কেন ‘কালা’ বলে আমরা তা জানি না।
মং জার্নি: কুলা বা কালা। কালা মানে ধর্ম-গোত্রনির্বিশেষে ভারতীয় সভ্যতার মানুষ। বুদ্ধ কালা, ব্রাহ্মণ সম্প্রদায়ের মানুষও কালা বলে পরিচিত। বুদ্ধ কিন্তু বর্মি নন।
প্রথম আলো: প্রভাবশালী স্বাধীন পশ্চিমা মিডিয়া কেন সরকারি সুরে এথনিক ক্লিনজিং ব্যবহারের প্রবণতা দেখাচ্ছে? এটা উদ্দেশ্যমূলক?
মং জার্নি: আমি মনে করি, অনেক সাংবাদিক জেনোসাইড লিখেছেন, তার মধ্যে জেনে বা না জেনেও করছেন। কারণ, তাঁদের সময় নেই এ নিয়ে অধ্যয়ন করার। কিন্তু জাতিসংঘ সুচিন্তিতভাবে নীতি হিসেবে নিয়েই জেনোসাইডকে জেনোসাইড বলছে না। এ জন্য তারা বিশ্বাসযোগ্যতা হারাচ্ছে। এমনকি জাতিসংঘের শীর্ষ মানবাধিকার-প্রধান এথনিক ক্লিনজিং কথাটি ব্যবহার করছেন। এটা অসততা। তাঁরা রাজনীতির খেলা খেলছেন। তাঁরা জানেন, জেনোসাইড শব্দ উচ্চারণ করা মাত্রই জাতিসংঘের ১৯০টি সদস্য রাষ্ট্র এবং তাঁদের পক্ষে মিয়ানমারের বিচার করা বাধ্যতামূলক হয়ে পড়বে। তাঁরা তখন মিয়ানমারের বিরুদ্ধে সামরিক শক্তি প্রয়োগে দায়বদ্ধ হয়ে পড়বেন। ভারত ১৯৭১ সালে পশ্চিম পাকিস্তানি জেনোসাইড বন্ধে সশস্ত্র সহায়তা দিয়েছিল। জাতিসংঘ রোহিঙ্গা জেনোসাইড বন্ধে কিছু করবে, তা আমি বিশ্বাস করি না। তারা সেই সামর্থ্যও রাখে না। পলপট কম্বোডিয়ার এক-তৃতীয়াংশ মানুষ চার বছরের কম সময়ের ব্যবধানে নিশ্চিহ্ন করেছিল। এর ৪০ বছর পরে জাতিসংঘ একটি হাইব্রিড ট্রাইব্যুনাল করেছিল। তাতে দেশটির সরকার ও জাতিসংঘ যৌথভাবে অংশ নিয়েছিল। দাতারা সেই বিচারের জন্য ১০ বছরে ৩০০ মিলিয়ন ডলার খরচ করেছিল। তিন শীর্ষ খেমারুজ যুদ্ধাপরাধীর বিচারও হয়েছিল। কিন্তু জাতিসংঘ সেখানেও জেনোসাইড শব্দটি ব্যবহার করেনি। তাই আমি মনে করি, জাতিসংঘ বা নিরাপত্তা পরিষদ কারও ওপরই ভরসা নেই। কারণ, তারা বিশ্বের জনগণের প্রতিনিধিত্ব করে না। বিশ্ব যদি জনগণের আইনে চলত, তাহলে বিশ্ব আরও শান্তিপূর্ণ হতো।
প্রথম আলো: অনেক পশ্চিমা মিডিয়া এথনিক ক্লিনজিং কথাটি বেশি ব্যবহার করছে কেন?
মং জার্নি: এটা অপসাংবাদিকতা। সত্যি তারা অন্ধের মতো জাতিসংঘের সুরে কথা বলে। আল-জাজিরার সংবাদদাতা জেমস জাতিসংঘের মহাসচিবকে প্রশ্ন করেছিলেন, ‘আপনি কি এটাকে এথনিক ক্লিনজিং বলবেন?’ জবাবে আন্তোনিও গুতেরেস প্রশ্ন আকারে বলেন, সেখানে যা ঘটছে, তাকে বর্ণনা করতে এর চেয়ে শক্তিশালী আর কী পরিভাষা আমি ব্যবহার করব? তখন জেমসের বলা উচিত ছিল, কেন, এর থেকে কার্যকর ও জোরালো পরিভাষা হলো জেনোসাইড।
প্রথম আলো: মিয়ানমারের সঙ্গে বাংলাদেশ চুক্তি করেছে যে তারা রোহিঙ্গা শব্দ ব্যবহার করবে না, সেটা ভুল ছিল?
মং জার্নি: অবশ্যই ভুল ছিল। কোনো একটি জাতিগোষ্ঠীর জাতিসত্তার পরিচয় কী হবে বা হবে না, সে বিষয়ে কোনো সরকারের কোনো চুক্তি করার কোনো এখতিয়ার নেই। কারণ, আন্তর্জাতিক কোনো আইন এটা সমর্থন করবে না। জাতিগত সংখ্যালঘুরাই ঠিক করবে কী নামে তাদের ডাকা হবে। আপনার নাম মিজান, আমি আপনাকে মাইকেল বলতে পারি না। আপনি বাঙালি, আমি পূর্ব পাকিস্তানি বলতে পারি না। কেউ এ নিয়ে কোনো চুক্তি করতে পারে না। স্কুলগামী শিশু-কিশোরদের মিলিটারি ধরে নিয়ে যায়, এরপর জিজ্ঞেস করে তোমার পরিচয় কী? তারা রোহিঙ্গা বলামাত্রই কিল-ঘুষি শুরু করে দেয়। তখন নাকমুখ থেকে রক্তঝরা অবস্থায় তারা বলে, আমি বাঙালি।
প্রথম আলো: বাংলাদেশ রোহিঙ্গাদের উদ্বাস্তু (Refugee) হিসেবে দেখতে অপারগ। আপনি কীভাবে দেখেন?
মং জার্নি: বাংলাদেশ সরকারের উচিত একটি নীতি ও কৌশলসংক্রান্ত ব্যাপকভিত্তিক আলোচনা। নাগরিক সমাজ, নীতিসংক্রান্ত উপদেষ্টা সবারই এতে অংশ নেওয়া উচিত।
প্রথম আলো: ১৯৭৮ সালে কী ঘটেছিল?
মং জার্নি: নে উইন প্রশাসন তত দিনে রোহিঙ্গা শব্দ মুছে দিয়েছে। পাঠ্যপুস্তকে, রেডিওতে মিডিয়ার কোথাও আর রোহিঙ্গা শব্দ শোনা যায়নি। তিনি একটি সন্ত্রাসী অভিযান চালালেন। ১৯৭৮ সালের জুলাইয়ে ব্যাংকক পোস্টে খবর বেরিয়েছিল, জিয়া-নে উইন সভার সাইডলাইনে জিয়া হুমকি দিয়েছিলেন রোহিঙ্গাদের অস্ত্র দেওয়ার। তখন অস্ত্র দিলে বার্মার ওই অংশ যুদ্ধ এলাকায় পরিণত হতো। পরে সেই সময়ে কুয়ালালামপুরে আশ্রয় নেওয়া শিক্ষিত ও ধনাঢ্য রোহিঙ্গাদের কেউ কেউ এই তথ্যের সত্যতা নিশ্চিত করেছিলেন।
প্রথম আলো: কুয়ালালামপুরের গণ-আদালতে সাক্ষ্য দিতে আসা নারীরা তাঁদের গোপন জবানবন্দিতে কী বলেছেন?
মং জার্নি: চোখের জলে ভেসে গোপন জবানবন্দি দিয়েছেন ২০১২ সালে দেশত্যাগী এক নারী। বিচারকেরাও কেঁদেছেন। তখন ১৭ বছর বয়স ছিল। এখন ২৩। তিনি প্রথমে বাংলাদেশি একটি শরণার্থীশিবিরে ধর্ষণের শিকার হন। অন্য নারীদের সঙ্গে নৌকায় থাইল্যান্ড হয়ে মালয়েশিয়ায় পালান। টানা তিন মাস তিনি নৌকায় ধর্ষণের শিকার হন।
প্রথম আলো: আপনি কি মনে করেন, সেই হুমকির কারণে এবার আমরা অধিকতর পুরুষশূন্য উদ্বাস্তু স্রোত দেখছি?
মং জার্নি: আমি তা-ই মনে করি। সেই হুমকির কথা তারা নিশ্চয় মনে রেখেছিল। আজ যারা বাংলাদেশে এসেছে, তাদের ৩০ শতাংশ শিশু, যাদের অধিকাংশই এতিম। বাকিদের বড় অংশ নারী। এবারের হত্যাকাণ্ডের সঙ্গে সার্ব্রিনিৎসার গণহত্যার মিল রয়েছে। সেখানেও একই ধরনের গণহত্যার পর মানুষ সব ফেলে পালিয়ে গিয়েছিল। নারী ও শিশুদের থেকে পৃথক করে পুরুষদের ঠান্ডা মাথায় লাইন ধরে তারা পাইকারি হত্যা করেছে। নাৎসি জার্মানিও তাই প্রত্যক্ষ করেছে। নারী ও শিশুদের থেকে পুরুষদের আলাদা করা গণহত্যাজনিত আচরণের একটি ধ্রুপদি দৃষ্টান্ত।
প্রথম আলো: রোহিঙ্গাদের বিরুদ্ধে আপনি ও ড. অ্যালিস কাউলি যৌথভাবে যাকে ‘স্লো বার্নিং জেনোসাইড’ চলছে বলে দাবি করেছেন, তার প্রক্রিয়া মিয়ানমারে কখন, কীভাবে শুরু হয়েছিল?
মং জার্নি: ১৯৬৬ সালে। আমি আমার লেখায় বলেছি, ১৯৭৮ সালেই ব্যাপকভিত্তিক নির্যাতন করে রোহিঙ্গাবিরোধী গণহত্যার প্রথম বছরটি শুরু হয়। কিন্তু এর ১২ বছর আগে গণহত্যার নীলনকশা তৈরি করা হয়। সেই বছরে সামরিক বাহিনী উত্তর আরাকানে দেশের বিভিন্ন স্থান থেকে সংগ্রহ করে কৃত্রিমভাবে বৌদ্ধ জনসংখ্যা বাড়িয়ে রোহিঙ্গাদের সংখ্যালঘুতে পরিণত করার উদ্যোগ নেয়। কারাগারে থাকা দুর্বৃত্তদের সাজা অর্ধেক কমানোর মুলা ঝুলিয়ে আরাকানে বসতি গড়ার জন্য প্রলুব্ধ করা হয়। আর এটাই কালক্রমে গণহত্যার পটভূমি তৈরি করে। তাই আমি ১৯৬৬-কে জেনোসাইডের জেনেসিস বলি। ২০১২ সালে আমি প্রথম এক নিবন্ধে এটা লিখি। ব্রিটিশ শিক্ষিত রোহিঙ্গারা জেনোসাইড কথাটি ৭৮ সালেই ব্যবহার করা শুরু করেছিল।
বাষট্টিতে নে উইন ক্ষমতায় এলেন। সেটা বহু সংস্কৃতিগত বর্মি সমাজের যবনিকা টেনেছে। ১৯৪৮ সালে প্রথম নাগরিকত্ব আইনে কোনো জাতিগত সংখ্যালঘু স্বীকৃত হয়নি। কিন্তু পরে কয়েক মাসের মধ্যে আইন সংশোধন করে ১৯৪২ সালে জাপানি আগ্রাসনের আগে যারা বার্মায় ছিল, তাদের সবাইকে আপনা-আপনি নাগরিকত্ব দেওয়া হয়। আরাকানি জাতিগত সংখ্যালঘু, যার মধ্যে রোহিঙ্গা, মগ, বর্মিজ, শান, কাইয়া, কাচিনসহ আটটি গোষ্ঠী ছিল। তখন রোহিঙ্গারা আরাকানের নেটিভ হিসেবে গণ্য হয়। তাদের পরিচয় ছিল আরাকানি। এখনো তাঁদের নাগরিক পরিচয় সেটাই থাকা উচিত।
প্রথম আলো: আপনাকে ধন্যবাদ।
মং জার্নি: ধন্যবাদ।

Myanmar journalists 'harassed' for reporting on Rohingya crisis

October 17, 2017

Sitting in a Yangon cafe, Min Min scrolls through old photos of a bombing attack on his house in Myanmar's northern Rakhine state.

The 28-year-old journalist told Al Jazeera that he was targeted last year due to his reporting of the Rohingya crisis.

It is a risky business, he said.

"If I keep trying to investigate the truth about issues in Rakhine state, my life could be in danger," Min, the editor of the Rakhine Investigative Agency, said.

The young journalist revealed that his monthly political magazine had to reduce its coverage of the mainly-Muslim minority group during the recent incidents in the western town of Maungdaw.

"We had to be silent, we almost don't cover it because we have to be very careful," Min said.

Since August 25, the Myanmar army has waged a brutal military campaign in Rakhine against the Rohingya, who have been denied citizenship and basic rights by the Myanmar government.

More than 500,000 Rohingya have fled the country, most arriving in Bangladesh by foot or by boat, with aid agencies struggling to cope with the influx.

The UN has denounced the situation as a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing".

'You feel cramped'

Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her government have criticised international media coverage of the crisis and the UN workers documenting the Rohingya plight, dismissing their reports as fake news.

"Dismissal and denial of well-documented accusations, allegations and evidence is part of genocide," Maung Zarni, a Burmese human rights activists, told Al Jazeera's The Listening Post.

"Dismissing the reports of hundreds of women who have been wronged and violated and Suu Kyi dismissing them as fake news, fake rape. That was what you read on Aung San Suu Kyi's official Facebook page: fake rape," he added. 

Al Jazeera has spoken to half a dozen journalists from Myanmar who say they are facing some form of harassment, even death threats, for not toeing the government line on the Rohingya issue.

Local journalists say the censorship and harassment are affecting their jobs. 

"You feel more cramped, you feel trapped, when you're writing the news before it's published," said one Myanmar journalist.

He does not want to reveal his identity because he fears further public backlash.

"You have this fear what would be the public response, will they be swearing at me again online. This is directly affecting the journalists' work," the reporter added. 

'Dreadful PR machine'

Al Jazeera's Yaara Bou Melhem, reporting from Yangon, said the pro-government narrative is evident in the daily newspaper headlines.

One was about authorities saying they will continue to fight what they call "Islamic terrorism" in Rakhine state, she reported.

The government has classified the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), which launched attacks on hundreds of police posts and an army base in August, a "terrorist group". 

Government social media accounts also say that Rohingya are burning their homes. 

A UN report recently cited the burning of Rohingya homes by Myanmar's military as part of campaign to expel and prevent the return of Rohingya to Myanmar, an allegation the government has rejected as false. 

"These kind of attacks are not happening," Wyn Myat Aye, minister for social welfare and resettlement, said.

"These accusations are spreading throughout the world even though there has been no attack after September 5 and this is due to the media's role. This is the very bad performance of the media. I can say that the media is bullying us."

Meanwhile, analysts have criticised the government's role in pushing its agenda.

"The government PR machine on this entire issue has been absolutely dreadful," Davis Mathieson, an independent Myanmar analyst, told Al Jazeera. 

"It's been something almost Orwellian, dystopian and incredibly cheap and nasty." 

The Rakhine Investigative Agency's Min Min worries not just for his country's future, but for his magazine.

He said two of his six-member staff quit this month because he would not let them use the words "Bengali terrorist" in their reports.

He remains afraid of what else he could lose if he continues to search for the truth in Myanmar.

The UN has been informed, just as "London had been informed"​ back in the Days of the Nazis

More Rohingyas outside, than inside Myanmar. 

Drone images show thousands of Rohingya fleeing

New images show thousands more Rohingya Muslims fleeing large-scale violence in Myanmar. Drone footage issued by the UNHCR show people are traveling in very difficult conditions.


Nearly 40-years of patterns of genocidal destruction of Rohingyas. 

The Complicity of the (mythical) International Community, starting with the United Nations 
We do live in a fundamentally sick and non-functional global governance structure. 

One would have thought that after the Holocaust, Indonesia, West Pakistan, Sudan, Rwanda, Bosnia, etc. we live in a qualitatively different world. 

Hell, no! 

Never again! is made a poor-taste joke, an insult to the injury of the Rohingyas.

We are witnessing the 21st century's FIRST full-blown genocide. We are witnessing this on our mobile phones. Images and cries of genocidal victims brought to you by our service providers. You can watch genocide on a train ride, during long haul flights - if you have WiFi on board; or bus ride, or simply from our garden, or during your dog walks.

(Forget this formulaic phrase "judicial review". But the time the court is set up most Rohingyas would be either dead and destroyed. And lawyers are the last group to be trusted with Truth and Justice. It is not in their intellectual or ideological orientation: neither truth nor justice is their ultimate goal. That's why renowned Law Professor Philippe Sand at the University College of London (UCL), the author of "East West Street". firmly wrote something akin to "lawyers are least qualified to have the last word on crimes against humanity and genocides". )

Kofi Annan, the man who only last year spitted out the usual excuse - 'judicial review' - before the G word should be used as if those of us who have studied this issue for years, threw it around frivolously, and as a matter of a campaign slogan. Yes, that Dr Annan, who saved his bureaucratic career by shelving the now infamous "Genocide telegram" from Rwanda: like a good servant, Annan knew the Masters' mood. Bill Clinton and Madeline Albright were in no mood for stopping the imminent genocide. Never mind Slick Willy, but Madame Albright who escaped Nazi-occupied Hungary as a "Catholic" girl and raised as such in the new country of USA didn't think genocides were bad for everyone - not just for those who lived under Nazi occupation. 

Knowledge IS not the issue. Perhaps after the Pentagon and USG - the United Nations is a massive clearing house of information. UN may be underfunded. But there is a constant flow of information.

The problem is what flows upward or horizontally (among We the World's People) is determined by the needs and interests of Power and Bureaucracy - not human well-being. 

The UNITED NATIONS have indeed ​known the nature of the persecution since July 1978 since the UNHCR from Geneva first got involved. 

In 1993, UN created the mandate for Special Rapporteur on human rights situation in Myanmar on the basis of its grave concerns, among other things, for Myanmar army's systematic rights violation against Rohingyas. 

As a matter of fact, UNHCR had been a "Bystander" in the genocide, until its local official in Bangladesh blew the "ethnic cleansing" whistle a year go.

As I have always insisted POWER KNOWS TRUTH. When it isn't not in the interests of the powerful and of the organisations, it pretends NOT to know. 

UNHCR had pussyfooted around this issue of Rohingyas. starting with compliance to Myanmar authorities' insistence that the word Rohingyas be not used. 

In the midst of the "Rohingya boat people's crisis" those UN and gov officials from various countries who were gathered there adopted this typical Genocide Appeasement policy.

Visiting Auschwitz 6 months ago, I picked up this famous (or infamous) book entitled 'London has been informed" - published by the Auschwitz National Polish Museum: about how the Polish Resistance did all the research about what was going in concentration camps in Poland. London was informed, and it didn't give a damn - because the British Gov was more concerned about securing Hitler's cooperation to flush out the Soviet moles in UK whom the British military intelligence was more paranoid about (they would overthrow the feudal class system of Britain, It was feared) than hundreds of thousands of Jewish prisoners from around Europe being transported in cattle cars to Auschwitz.

Alas, never again! What a poor taste joke! 

​Myanmar Genocide is the first ever Facebooked genocide of this century. The way things are going Rohingyas will NOT be the last victim of the systematic crime of Barbarity. Not for this century. 

Nor for the next one (hopefully, there will be no next year as We the humans, especially Humans in charge of powerful institutions, never learn from history.​

​​Again all this rant is immaterial for the Rohingyas, hundreds of thousands of whom are being starved out in my country or languishing in Bangladesh as aid is not really coming in. 

God, what kind of God are you that created this world where genocides are so routine and so recurring a pattern. What kind of Karma? 

What have the Rohingyas done wrong other than being who they are and where they happen to be? 

I guess that is a big enough crime in the Burmese eyes! 

How sad that I am a human, instead of a dog, or a fox! 


UN report on Rohingya hunger is shelved at Myanmar's request

Exclusive: Document warned of spiralling food crisis among Rohingya population


No more excuses — the Rohingya need our help

The US and China must use their influence to stop the killing and ensure the safe return of Myanmar refugees

By Eric P. Schwartz (President of Refugees International and former US Assistant Secretary of State for Asia and Pacfic Affairs)