Three Types of Systematic Repression by Myanmar Military

(Photo: MP Hossain/Reuters)

Three Types of Systematic Repression by Myanmar Military

I have heard public complaints from non-Rohingya ethic communities such as Kachins, Karens, etc. that the world only pay attention the Rohingya issue - some might even say "Bengali" issue, whereas the non-Bama ethnic communities, as well as Bama Buddhist themselves have suffered repression and violence by the Tatmadaw.

Yes & No.

Yes, the world picks up on the worst case of repression - "the crime of crimes" (or mother of all crimes), namely GENOCIDE.

No, the world is aware of one of the longest civil war - really an internal colonial war against non-Bama ethnic communities - but respective diaspora communities have not really been able to organize and mobilize the world's opinion to call attention to the war crimes against their communities - save the Shan Women's human rights group with their License To Rape report some 10 years ago.

That said, we need to understand why genocide attracts such acute and sustained attention:

1) Rohingya case

Rohingyas are attacked because of their identity and identity-related historical claim over N. Rakhine or Arakan, both of which have been perceived by the Burmese military as a "threat to national security", in addition to the army operating with the unwritten policy of anti-Muslim racism and hatred since 1962's military coup by General Ne Win, who effectively launched an expulsion of people of Indian origin with its economic nationalization in 1964/65.

When the State attacks you because of who you are, there is nothing Rohingyas can do to stop it. Being Rohingyas and being where they are framed as the THREAT. So, they must be exterminated, by any means and however long it takes.

That's what has been going on since 1978. Forget the history of precolonial root, colonial era migration from East Bengal (Chittagong), Buddhist-Muslim tensions, Rakhine-Rohingya mutual bloodbaths, transitional violence, 'international terrorism', etc. They are all convenient excuses, often heard from anti-Muslim racists, or half-baked experts, diplomats with their rotating assignments to Burma, or some ill-informed media personnel.

2) non-Rohingya ethnic groups in political and military conflict with the Bama central military

The Burmese military attacks them (Kachin, Karen, etc.) because the latter will not submit, surrender or modify their political behaviour: to accept their second class ethnic groups, to allow the military to subjugate them, to let the military control land, population, and resources at will.

Their identities and presence are not questioned, much less attacked as the crime or a threat towards the centralizing/colonizing state.

Submit to the central government/military, these "indigenous" ethnic communities will be allowed to live in peace, although the land and the natural resources will be vacuumed by the generals and the cronies, and international investors.

3) the Bama Buddhist majority public too have suffered under the military rule for 50+ years.

It is true that we the majority too have been pauperized, compelled by ruinous economic conditions in the country to go and work as prostitutes, bondage labourers on Thai and Indonesian fisheries and plantations, migrants labourers , skilled and semi-skilled labourers, and "coolies" in ASEAN countries such as Singapore and Malaysia as well as the wealthy emirates of the Gulf in the Middle East.

But our oppression is NOT ethnic or identity- or culture-based. It is along the lines of the ruling class generals/upper and middle-level military echelons versus the ruled majority masses.

Often we close ranks with our oppressor the ruling Tatmadaw when the institution throws at us, the Bama, the bones of Bama racism and ethno-nationalism of the worst kind.

We bark alongside the generals.

This is precisely what is happening in today's Myanmar in the case of the genocide against the Rohingyas.

Myanmar journalists, former dissidents, academics, diplomats, businessmen, technocrats, writers, MPs, bureaucrats, the city people, "the great unwashed" of the rural communities, the monks, the soldiers, the police - all bark in unison.

Genocide has become a national anthem, popular pastime. Mass slaughter and mass extermination (expelling a population from their land) becomes "national defence".


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