Zarni's Open Letter to Thitinan Pongsudhirak, the anti-Muslim racist Thai-American academic who came out to join the Rohingya Genocide Deniers' Club

My dear friend Thitinan,


​Re: ​Myanmar's moves against Rohingya a get-out campaign, not genocide


I am grateful that you were my host at Chula. But you crossed the line with your ill-informed and immoral genocide denial. 

I know Asia is a Dark Continent whose rise is only matched by its decline of intellectual and political world.

Given the fact that your own country of Thailand - and mine, not to mention Hunsan's Cambodia - are heading back to the Dark Ages, I didn't expect Cambodian, Thai or Burmese Establishment intellectuals to take a stance against my country's Buddhist genocide against Rohingyas.

I have studied this issue for much of the past decades, and I am competent to comb through the Burmese original, know the military leaders intimately, can read the Burmese military in ways you know your country's Thai military.

The difference between you and I is this: that you know and stay within the parameters which your protector (s) in the Royal Thai Armed Forces allow you to operate and I know well what those Burmese army-acceptable boundaries are, and I refuse to allow considerations of State Power and the self-censorship you practice as a civil servant of the military-controlled Thai State education system.

We make our own individual choices based on our circumstances, lived values and personalities. I don't judge you on what you write about your own country's sordid affairs under the military rule today. 

But your op-ed in the Straits Times, the official mouthpiece of Singapore which has long supplied Burmese military arms and trained the Burmese intelligence, is really pathetic beyond words. 

I wish that you do not join the club of Genocide Deniers - in Europe the genocide denial is a criminal offence. I am glad you don't live and work in Europe, or you would find yourself in the accused dock.  

I can prove in any court of opinions, or law, the INTENT of the Burmese military is nothing less than GENOCIDAL. My own late great-uncle was deputy commander of the predominantly Rohingya Mayu Distric, when Rohingyas were officially granted full citizenship and full official recognition of their identity, presence and history in Burma. I also know two generations of military leaders who implemented - and who are still implementing - the military's policy of destruction of Rohingyas, from the identity and history to the physical and biological destruction of the group as such, in whole or in part. 

I didn't formally train myself as a genocide scholar, and the study of genocides is not a rocket science. With a LSE PhD and US Santa Barbara undergraduate training, you could have easily done the background research on the original conceptual literature on genocide as a widespread historical and contemporary political process. You could also have engaged with the credible, academic and human rights research literature on the substantive issue of Rohingyas persecution across the borders from Thailand - and how the Thai military and authorities, as well as Thai trafficking mafia networks have profited from the Burmese Buddhist genocide. 

I can't explain your failure to come to grips with the genocidal nature of my country's persecution of the Rohingya: you have an impeccable academic training as a scholar.

The only thing I can think of - forgive me if I am wrong - that will explain your refusal to acknowledge what is widely viewed by world's leading scholars of genocide as a textbook example of a genocide must be your anti-Muslim racism.

Your piece reeks your disdain for what you falsely argues as "faith-based separatists".

I know hundreds of Rohingyas inside my country, and in diaspora. I am sure many of them are sympathetic to those who risk their lives trying to resist the power that is determined to destroy them all. 

I know of NOT A SINGLE ROHINGYA who say they want a separate Muslim state out of N. Rakhine. Not even those Rohingya militants who resort to violence say they want a separate state. Even if they did who are you to make the judgement as to what they - living the lives as the world's most wretched Muslim people - should aspire to or not, while you are living in extreme comfort of your affluent Thai Buddhist home, in the wealthy suburb of Bangkok, commuting to your work in your BMW? 

This passage is jaw-dropping as you apparently attempted to mis-characterise angry, desperate Rohingyas who feel they and their communities are sitting ducks waiting for the next large wave of genocidal killings at the hands of the trigger-happy Burmese military, which has used or invented various pretexts - immigration check, Rohingyas' support for NLD and Suu Kyi in 1989-92, a local criminal case of petty murder of a Rakhine Buddhist woman, to the social transition (social because power/democratic transition has taken place only in name) and now ARSA attack. 

The military has openly opposed Kofi Annan's involvement from the inception of its Rakhine Commission: it attempted unsuccessfully to table the motion in the NLD-controlled parliament - 10 months before the Commission's report was due out; it had used it proxy monks and "civil society' groups to openly stage protests against Kofi Annan's involvement; it has successfully persuaded Rakhine state officials and Rakhine leaders to refuse to meet or cooperate with the Commission and its military leadership of Min Aung Hlaing told Kofi Annan face to face the military didn't accept the main thrust of his commission's report - even in the morning of the report's release.

And you blatantly chose to ignore all evidence that would weaken or demolish your argument that Rohingya militants - whom you were at pain to paint as Saudi- and Pakistan-linked Muslim separatists - were the one to blame for the recent "disproportionate and heavy-handed reaction" by the Burmese military.

Aside from the issue of your own closeted racism towards Muslims, your argument that the Rohingya militants provoked the military to nip the Annan report in the bud a complete while arguing that the military was using that as the pretext for its "get-out' (Rohingya) campaign would get F - (FAILURE) were I to grade it as an undergraduate essay.

You can't call an event which the Burmese military had jumped on as the "perfect pretext" as a trigger. It was the State that had been making operational preparations, for instance, air-lifting of hundreds of its most notorious special commando units, a few weeks before the Rohingya stormed border guard posts with machetes, spears and sticks - for the large scale genocidal killings and expulsion. 

Here is a sample of your tortured logic and anti-Muslim racist passage (all Rohingyas have relatives and friends in both Saudi Arabia and Pakistan - hundreds of thousands as those are the countries where they could at least live not as hunted fugitives but in relative safety. does that make all Rohingyas potential terrorists, in your eyes?)

"Coalescing in mid-2016 from Harakah al-Yaqin (or "Faith Movement"), and led by Ata Ullah, a Rohingya who was born in Pakistan but grew up in Saudi Arabia, Arsa deliberately provoked the Tatmadaw into overreacting in order to alienate Muslims and gain recruits to its separatist cause. Prior to its Aug 25 attacks, Arsa's first salvo took place in October last year under similar circumstances but on a smaller scale. This time, the confrontation may have reached a point of no return.

Arsa now has the full-blown insurgency it wants, with support from Pakistani and Middle Eastern sources and an ample pool of recruits from disaffected young Rohingya Muslims who have no prospect of a better life in northern Rakhine's hilly shacks and poverty-stricken towns."

This anti-Muslim pervades Thai Buddhist society, from your Royal family, with the late God-king known to be an anti-Muslim racist - down to the Chinese-dominated Bangkok's elites, just as it pervades my Buddhist society and that of another Theravada country, namely Sri Lanka.

As intellectuals and scholars, we are supposed to rise above our societal racist boundaries of thought and feelings, and NOT to succumb to the ingrained and inter-generationally reproduced new Fascism - called Islamophobia. 

I am pained to call you out on your ugly racism on the genocide of Rohingyas as you were my host at Chula when I was doing research on this issue and how the Thai state was mistreating the Rohingyas desperate to be smuggled into Malaysia. 

We have not been in touch, and I don't intend to engage with you on this issue. I just want to openly put it in writing, and publicly at that, that I find your cleverly concealed Islamophobia and sub-stanceless arrogance about what you think you know about my country's affairs intellectually and morally repugnant.

ZARNI

P.S. Here is the analysis of what counts as genocide, ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity by two people who know what they are talking about. I think you should shut your racist mouth, instead of weighing in on the side of my genocidal nation where my own former personal friends and colleagues, in the military and in the NLD, are leading this campaign of genocide. . 


Confronting genocide in Myanmar, Katherine Southwick, Asia and the Pacific Policy Forum, ​2 Dec 2016


Genocide in the Making, Foreign Policy, Sir Geoffrey Nice and Francis Wade, 13 Nov 2016​



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