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

Dhaka Conference on Ending the Slow Burning Genocide of Rohingyas by Myanmar, The University of Dhaka, Bangladesh, 29 Nov 2017

Dhaka Conference on Ending the Slow Burning Genocide of Rohingyas by Myanmar 
The University of Dhaka, Bangladesh, 29 Nov 2017

Over the last three months, the world has witnessed Myanmar’s full fledged genocidal campaign against the most vulnerable and unarmed Rohingya population in northern Arakan or Rakhine State across the borders from Chittagong, Bangladesh. As a significant and welcome departure from the past, Bangladesh society and the government have shown remarkable empathy towards Rohingya survivors, estimated to be 700,000, reaching the rate of 100,000 per week in the first six weeks. As a nation, Bangladesh has been praised worldwide as a humane country that has shown compassion, official and societal, in the face of this massive burden of feeding and sheltering Rohingya survivors of genocide from next door. 

Myanmar government led by Aung San Suu Kyi justifies the violence as a national self-defense against a small band of what they fallaciously call “Bengali extremist terrorists”, namely Arakan National Salvation Army (ARSA). 

Much of the world including governments that have waged the “war on terror” such as USA and UK do not accept the Burmese official narrative that the State of Myanmar is exercising its sovereign responsibility to defend itself. 

Instead, USA, UK, Canada and France have joined the chorus of credible UN officials and genocide scholars who apply the international state crimes perspective that Myanmar as a signatory to the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide is committing “ethnic cleansing”, a euphemism for genocide, as the renowned genocide expert Gregory Stanton put it. 

Whatever the name of the crime, Myanmar is emerging as a neighbour that has committed well-documented crime against Rohingya population, the world’s largest stateless people, who have been stripped of the right to citizenship, a nationality and the right to self-identity. 

This international conference is aimed at generating public discussions among relevant stakeholders, including Rohingya survivors themselves, in terms of the difficult road ahead. One of the objectives of the conference is to shed light on the root causes, behind the recurring waves of Rohingya exodus since 1978 which the Prime Minister from Bangladesh rightly pointed out, “lies in Myanmar”. 

In the light of the repatriation arrangement signed by Dhaka and Naypyidaw, the conference is perfectly set to mobilize ideas and energy among eminent genocide scholars, Dhaka-based Bangladeshi academics and public intellectuals, researchers in the region with relevant expertise, and prominent Burmese activists and scholars who have spoken out in support of the Rohingya people, in the face of scathing attacks on them by Myanmar as “traitors”, “enemies of the State” and so on. 

Finally, the conference intends to generate ideas and networks of individuals who can contribute to the efforts of Dhaka and other concerned international actors such as the UN who seek to find durable and viable end to both genocide and resultant displacement of up to 1 million Rohingya survivors on Bangladeshi soil.

Prime Time interview called Channel i X-clusive Interview with Dr Maung Zarni, Bangladesh, 26 Nov 2017

Prime Time interview called Channel i X-clusive Interview with Dr Maung Zarni, Bangladesh, 26 Nov 2017

Dr Zarni: "I had supported both Suu Kyi and the generals, in good faith. But they've crossed the line."

Separating Fact from Fiction about Myanmar’s Rohingya

By Gregory Poling
Center for Strategic and International Studies
February 13, 2014

Rakhine State in western Myanmar has been the site of repeated outbreaks of violence between the Buddhists majority and its Muslim Rohingya minority, most recently on January 13. The details of what happened remain unclear, but it seems that dozens were killed. This follows widespread violence in 2012 that left more than 200 dead and 140,000 displaced.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says it has credible evidence that at least 48 Rohingya were killed on January 13 during an attack by their Buddhist Rakhine neighbors and security forces. The non-governmental organization Doctors Without Borders said its personnel treated 22 Rohingya who were wounded during the attack. The government of Myanmar has denied any large-scale violence occurred, insists only one policeman died, and has refused calls for an international investigation.

All the details might never become known, but the incident in Du Chee Yar Tan, and the government’s angry and dismissive reaction, have refocused international attention on the larger plight of the Rohingya. Strangers in their own country, they are disenfranchised, discriminated against, and subject to unpredictable cycles of violence. Many in Myanmar, including prominent Buddhist monks and political leaders among the Buddhist Rakhine ethnic group, demand that they be driven from Myanmar by any means necessary.

Rohingya have few defenders within Myanmar, with hatred of them seeming to be one of the few issues that can bridge the country’s political divide. Any public figure who stands up for them can expect to be persona non grata. The narrative of the Rohingya has been overtaken by fiction, with their place in Myanmar’s history expunged by a succession of military governments looking for scapegoats and aided by the country’s already strong sense of Buddhist nationalism.

Q1: Who are the Rohingya?

A1: The Rohingya are a Muslim minority living in Myanmar’s Rakhine State and adjacent areas of neighboring Bangladesh. They are not recognized by the Myanmar government as an official ethnic group and are denied citizenship. Their population within Myanmar has been estimated at roughly 800,000. Most of this population lives in the townships of Maungdaw and Buthidaung, where Rohingya are the majority, as well as in neighboring towns and the state capital, Sittwe.

Myanmar’s government claims that the Rohingya are not eligible for citizenship under the country’s military-drafted 1982 Citizenship Law. That document defines full citizens as members of ethnic groups that had permanently settled within the boundaries of modern-day Myanmar prior to 1823, the year before the first Anglo-Burman War. The government of General Ne Win drew up a list of the 135 ethnic groups that supposedly meet this requirement. That list is still in use by Myanmar’s current civilian government.

The British colonial government encouraged immigration to Myanmar from modern-day India and Bangladesh. This is a source of continued resentment within Myanmar, which is why 1823 was used as a cut-off for citizenship. The dominant narrative within the country is that the term “Rohingya” is a recent invention, and those who claim to belong to the group are actually the descendants of these colonial-era immigrants from Bangladesh.

But this narrative is demonstrably false. In 1799, Francis Buchanan, a surgeon with the British East India Company, traveled to Myanmar and met members of a Muslim ethnic group “who have long settled in Arakan [Rakhine], and who call themselves Rooinga, or natives of Arakan.” That would indicate there were self-identified Rohingya living in Rakhine at least 25 years before the 1823 cut-off for citizenship.

Even if the name “Rohingya” is too taboo to be accepted inside Myanmar, the historical record is clear that the ethnic group itself has existed in Arakan, or Rakhine State, for centuries. A significant Muslim population lived in the independent Kingdom of Mrauk-U that ruled modern-day Rakhine State from the mid-fifteenth to late eighteenth centuries. Many of the Buddhist kings of Mrauk-U even took Muslim honorifics. The evidence suggests that this community is the origin of today’s Rohingya. The group likely assimilated later waves of immigrants from Bangladesh during and after British rule, but it did not begin with them.

Q2: How have previous governments viewed the Rohingya?

A2: Following independence from the United Kingdom, Myanmar’s 1948-1962 parliamentary government recognized the Rohingya as citizens. Prime Minister U Nu referred to the group by the name “Rohingya,” undermining the current narrative that the term is a recent invention. They were issued government identification cards and official documents, enjoyed all the benefits of citizenship, and the national public radio even broadcast several segments a week in the Rohingya language.

Maung Zarni, most recently a fellow at the London School of Economics, has uploaded several Burmese-language documents showing government recognition of the Rohingya during the government of U Nu and the early years of military dictator Ne Win’s reign. These include public statements, official radio broadcasts, government-printed books, and government-issued licenses.

Several members of Myanmar’s post-independence parliament publicly identified themselves as Rohingya. They opposed the inclusion of Rohingya-majority areas in a proposed Arakan State, which would later become Rakhine. As a result, U Nu in 1961 decided to carve out Buthidaung, Maungdaw, and part of nearby Rathedaung townships as the Mayu Frontier Administration, named after the river that runs through the area. It was administered separately from Buddhist-majority Arakan.

Life changed dramatically for the Rohingya under the military government of Ne Win. Benedict Rogers, in his Burma: A Nation at the Crossroads, cites a former minister in Ne Win’s government saying that the dictator “had ‘an unwritten policy’ to get rid of Muslims, Christians, Karens and other ethnic peoples, in that order.” Ne Win’s government systematically stripped citizenship from the Rohingya, starting with the 1974 Emergency Immigration Act and culminating with the 1982 Citizenship Law. The Rohingya-majority Mayu Frontier Administration was folded into Arakan State, and hundreds of thousands of them fled to Bangladesh during brutal crackdowns in 1978 and 1991.

Since then, the Rohingya have been systematically stripped of the rights of citizens. They have been blocked from travel, education, government assistance, land ownership, and even marriage and the right to have more than two children. They have been scrubbed from the national consciousness, and several generations in Myanmar have grown up being told by their government that the Rohingya are interlopers, stealing land and economic opportunities, with the eventual goal of overthrowing Buddhism as the country’s majority religion.

Q3: What comes next?

A3: In late March, the government of Myanmar will launch its first nationwide census in three decades. The Rohingya and many of their international defenders are concerned that the census will mark the first step in a campaign to cement their status as non-citizens. They will not be listed as one of the country’s 135 ethnic groups, and many Rohingya communities have so far resisted efforts by government officials to force them to register as “Bengalis.”

There appears to be some hope, as central government officials have recently affirmed that Rohingya may self-identify as such by marking “other” and writing in their ethnicity. Whether or not they will really be free to do so remains to be seen, as local and federal officials have a history of intimidation and violence against Rohingya during previous registration and census drives.

In the long-term, the census will not end the Rohingya’s quest to be accepted as a national ethnic group. Officials assert that it will only be a statistical exercise, and that any redefinition of the country’s ethnic groups will be decided by the parliament. All the momentum in the treatment of the Rohingya seems to be moving in the wrong direction, with legislative efforts underway to cement their status as illegal immigrants.

The outcry from the international community is likely the only reason that this has not yet happened. The U.S. and UK embassies in Myanmar issued a joint statement following the violence in Du Chee Yar Tan expressing concern and calling on the government to investigate. U.S. and European officials have repeatedly raised their concerns about the Rohingya during official visits to Myanmar. And even Indonesian foreign minister Marty Natalegawa raised the issue on the sidelines of an ASEAN foreign ministers meeting in January—the first meeting Myanmar hosted as ASEAN chair this year.

All of this international opprobrium has not led to an improvement in the lives of the Rohingya, but it has helped prevent further deterioration. Myanmar officials have asked foreign counterparts stop meddling in the country’s internal affairs and have angrily demanded that foreign officials and media only rely on Myanmar government spokespersons for information on the Rohingya. These reactions show just how explosive the issue has become within Myanmar. But it also shows that the government is discomfited by the international criticism.

Continued attention from abroad, and explicit promises that Myanmar’s good relations with foreign countries will be damaged by continued abuses against the Rohingya, are essential. It is also important that international actors not accept double-speak and falsifications regarding the Rohingya and their history.

Gregory Poling is a fellow with the Sumitro Chair for Southeast Asia Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C. 

Critical Questions is produced by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a private, tax-exempt institution focusing on international public policy issues. Its research is nonpartisan and nonproprietary. CSIS does not take specific policy positions. Accordingly, all views, positions, and conclusions expressed in this publication should be understood to be solely those of the author(s).

‘Ethnic cleansing’ against Rohingya in Myanmar should be classified genocide: scholar

A Rohingya Muslim girl carries a vegetable from the market on the outskirts of Kutupalong refugee camp on Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017, in Bangladesh. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

By Rachel Lau
November 21, 2017

Since August, more than 620,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar‘s Rakhine state to Bangladesh, in search of safety against what the country’s military describes as “clearance operations.”

Maung Zarni, a Buddhist native of Burma, genocide scholar and human rights activist, explains the crisis started as an insurgent rising up of the Rohingya people against an oppressive regime — contrary to the belief that the state is defending itself against a rebellious population.

“‘The problem is the international community, including the UN and national governments, are buying into this,” he told Global News.

“No, no, no. We are looking at a situation where the population is essentially held prisoners for 40 years.”

In 2013, the United Nations (UN) declared Myanmar’s Rohingya population one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.

Over the last 39 years, the Rohingyas, indigenous to western Myanmar, have faced several military crackdowns — most recently in 2016 to 2017.

Zarni insists that this is genocide — contrary to UN officials and Human Rights Watch (HRW), who have described Myanmar’s persecution of the Rohingya as an “ethnic cleansing.”

“If there is a genocide happening, member states have the obligation to use force to end it, but because there is no political will within the security council who can make the decision, senior officials are not prepared to call it genocide,” he told Global News.

“The UN has been a failure since the end of the Second World War. Every case of genocide, the UN has failed.”

Zarni points out Rohingya have no legal rights in Myanmar.

In fact, the country’s 1982 Citizenship Act denies citizenship to Rohingya people on the basis of ethnicity.

“The Burmese government has imposed conditions that have been designed to make life unsustainable, intentionally,” Zarni told Global News.

“Why is the UN still sitting on its hands? By the time the UN comes out and says this is genocide, there will be not one Rohingya left in the country.”

Amnesty International said Tuesday that the “Rohingya people in Myanmar are trapped in a vicious system of state-sponsored, institutionalized discrimination that amounts to apartheid.”

“Their rights are violated daily and the repression has only intensified in recent years,” said Anna Neistat, Amnesty International’s senior director for research.

“This system appears designed to make Rohingyas’ lives as hopeless and humiliating as possible.”

“The security forces’ brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing in the past three months is just another extreme manifestation of this appalling attitude.”

Unlike previous years, the international outcry has accelerated in recent weeks with public figures, including Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, whom the Taliban attempted to kill, condemning the actions of the Burmese government.

“This the very first genocide that has been witnessed on Facebook and Twitter — think about it,” Zarni said.

“The staggering number — 100,000 women and children, elderly people — filing out every week consecutively for six weeks has to hit international headlines.”

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi (who has honorary Canadian citizenship) in Danang, Vietnam to discuss evidence of the state-led violence that set off an international refugee crisis.

Kyle Matthews, executive director of the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (MIGS) at Concordia University argues Canadians should care about what’s happening in Myanmar.

“There’s still at least half a million people that are still facing danger by the Myanmar military,” he told Global News.

“That’s where Canada can stand up and try to be more forceful and not just hope that Aung San Suu Kyi will take action, by forcing her to take action or at least push her to be stronger, otherwise it’ll make the promise of ‘never again’ another unfulfilled promise.”

Since Trudeau’s meeting with Suu Kyi in Vietnam, Canadian government officials say they have committed to help refugees safely return home.

“The most disappointing thing to me is not the western disappointment that Buddhist are killing,” Zarni said.

“The most painful thing [is] that, to me, the society that I was raised in has grown totalitarian and fascist.”

Rohingya Crisis in Myanmar, with Maung Zarni

Rohingya Crisis in Myanmar, with Maung Zarni

By Asia Pacific Forum

The humanitarian crisis at the border of Myanmar and Bangladesh has become a global political flashpoint lately, as hundreds of thousands of Rohingya ethnic Muslim refugees have fled across the border to escape mass violence by the state and by hostile Buddhist factions. It’s a horror that many describe as genocide, but which has been met by stunning indifference and cover-ups by Myanmar’s supposed reform government. Human rights scholar Maung Zarni recently spoke about the crisis of the Rohingyas at a talk at Columbia University sponsored by Students for Justice in Palestine. He was joined by social theorist Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak to discuss the path forward for the refugees to provide safety, basic rights and an opportunity for full and equal citizenship.

"International community must boycott Bama artists who are in solidarity with their genocidal government."

"International community must boycott Bama artists who are in solidarity with their genocidal government."

Sawangwongse Yawnghwe, 
a Shan-Canadian painter

This one was by the Irrawaddy cartoonist Han Lay.

This one is by Au Pi Kyae, independent cartoonist with a Harvard Kennedy School Education, depicting Rohingyas as crocodiles lying and shedding tears.

A CARTOON (below) published by Burmese magazine The Irrawaddy has been slammed by critics as “disgusting”, “xenophobic” and “dangerous”.

NO DELUSIONS: A conversation with Dr. Maung Zarni on the Rohingya genocide


A conversation with Dr. Maung Zarni on the Rohingya genocide

Illustration by Eve O'Shea

published November 17, 2017

content warning: state violence, sexual violence, genocide, Islamophobia, graphic bodily mutilation

This fall, the persecution of Rohingya people overwhelmed global media in the wake of renewed waves of military violence. Yet the uptick in brutality against Myanmar’s Muslim minority does not represent a rupture in the history of ethnic violence—rather a continuation of a genocide lasting over four decades. Since the late 1970s, Myanmar’s Buddhist government has systematically disenfranched and persecuted its minority Rohingya Muslim population in the Rakhine state. Over one million Rohingyas have fled their historic homeland to harsh camp conditions in Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, and Malaysia, among other countries. Hundreds of villages have burned and thousands have been killed. Meanwhile, the Burmese government conceals precise numbers, circulates false narratives, and denies accusations that it is initiating a genocide. 

As these atrocities escalate, the Independent Skyped with Dr. Maung Zarni, a longtime Burmese human rights activist and a research fellow with the Genocide Documentation Center of Cambodia. Merging scholarship with activism, Dr. Zarni has organized numerous international conferences on the Rohingya crisis, published extensively on Burmese politics and peace processes, initiated the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal on Myanmar in 2013, and founded the Free Burma Coalition in 1995. 

When we spoke this November, Dr. Zarni had just returned from Bangladesh, where he worked with international investigators to gather testimony from interviews with Rohingya refugees. 

The College Hill Independent: Can you tell us about your work in Bangladesh? What did you discover from talking to survivors? 

Dr. Maung Zarni: The stories survivors told me were unimaginable. We’re looking at over a million stories right now, each usually including one death. That is a staggering number. And this is not just overnight; it has been occurring for over 40 years. In last year’s wave, close to 90,000 Rohingyas fled across the border to Bangladesh. I interviewed children, rape victims, young mothers, and older men who had survived previous waves of attacks and have been living at the refugee camps for decades. 

One girl told me about how she watched from the window as her father ran into the house where her sister was about to be gang-raped by Burmese soldiers. A soldier shot her father in the head, stuck his hand into his skull to show the remnants of his brain in the village yard. I’ve visited Auschwitz—we’re talking about a situation in that league. This is systematic and sadistic killing, mass executions, based on racial, religious, and ethnic hatred. These people are not raped or burned alive as individuals; they are members of a group singled out for extermination. 

I’m starting a long-term project that involves collecting these stories to preserve the memories of this genocide. It’s one thing to lose your family, but another thing to forget what happened to them. That’s the least those of us privileged to live through this crisis can do, despite the overwhelming power of my country’s fascist state. If their identity is recognized and they are given a home, perhaps not all is lost. In the long run it is the perpetrators that lose, not the survivors.

The Indy: What accounts for the recent surge in global attention? 

MZ: The issue first hit the headlines around 2012, which coincided with media reforms in Burma that enabled foreign reporters to open offices in Burma (of course in conjunction with government-controlled media organizations). This liberalization of the media—a way to placate the international community, occurring coincidentally as Western commercial interest in the country grew—was the only positive thing to come out of the government’s military-led, top-down reform process. For the past four years, the formerly inaccessible areas of the Rakhine state became accessible, and their stories began to find the spotlight. 

More recently, Western media coverage has surged largely due to social media—much more so than mainstream media (since banned from the Rakhine state). Social media has enabled Rohingya activists to set up the information infrastructure. This is the first ever Facebooked genocide in the 21st century. It’s a genocide brought to you by your service provider on your mobile phone. You can see footage of women and children running for their lives while you wait for the train. 

The Burmese military made a mistake in not considering the power of social media when it turned the Rakhine state into an informational black hole. Now, the government is scrambling, accusing humanitarian NGOs and UN agencies of aiding and abetting Rohingya militant groups.

The Indy: What is your view on the way Western media has covered the crisis so far? 

MZ: The first major problematic aspect of the media coverage is that mainstream news outlets have long adopted the spin that Burma’s quasi-civilian government feeds it. This is that the military are just attempting to maintain social order in a Balkans-like scenario, where animosities have erupted into mass violence after the democratic transition. In the midst of the chaos, the military (the institution initiating genocide), peddles the view it is just playing referee. The media fell for it. 

Second, the fact that the Buddhist military is persecuting Muslims plays into these meta-templates of stories that the West knows how to consume. It’s Muslims versus Buddhists; two religious civilizations fighting head-to-head as the military is trying to sort things out. As a result, the segregation and ghettoization of Rohingyas becomes normalized, because the logic goes that if these communities are not separated by the state, they will just kill each other. In other words, the Burmese military plays up the local conflicts between Buddhists and Rohingyas in their shared Rakhine state, and doesn’t talk about the fact that its pitting these groups against each other. So the media looks at these non-Western civilizations as still premodern and fighting based on primordialist emotions, instead of understanding the ways in which the Burmese military has fabricated a divide-and-rule strategy, playing the race and religion cards which were never front-loaded historically. 

Lastly, two different orientalisms play into Western coverage of this conflict. There’s negative orientalism in that there’s the problematic association of Islam with violence. Some of my old fellow dissidents now openly say that human rights don’t apply to Rohingyas because they are a threat to national security. And then in the case of Burma and Buddhism, there’s positive orientalism. The West romanticizes the Buddhists as peaceful, meditating people who wouldn’t kill a fly. But the reality is that Buddhism can be violent, vile, and hateful like any other religious community—it has nothing to do with the religion.

All of these discursive problems make Western media much more susceptible to accepting government lies that Rohingyas are not among the indigenous national races of Burma—which I keep hearing reporters say. All it takes is a Google search to understand Rohingyas are from Burma, but no—the media continues to go with the state narrative. The society—from Suu Kyi to the ex-generals to the vile racists on the street of Yangon to the racist Burmese journalists—unanimously says that Rohingyas are Bengali and don’t belong to Burma. It’s like saying Mexicans don’t belong in California; they were there before the others arrived. 

The Indy: International critics have been talking a lot about the silent complicity of Nobel Prize-winning activist and Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi. Can you talk a bit about the paradox between what she symbolizes—Burma’s supposed democratization of its recently-installed civilian government—and the state’s heightened militarism? 

MZ: Something seriously flawed is going on in the Western thinking if people think that out of a genocidal process there still is a possibility of a liberal democracy and human rights regime rising from Burma’s civilian government. The US government, EU, UK, and others assumed Suu Kyi, a presentable media-genic woman who speaks English with a posher accent than the Queen of England, would invest in democracy when she came to power. This delusion continues to be entertained despite overwhelming evidence that Burmese society has turned fascist. 

We cannot separate Suu Kyi and her civilian government from the actions of the military. It is true that Suu Kyi and the military leadership do not see eye-to-eye on democratization, and Suu Kyi would ideally like a liberal regime with more human rights and faster implementation of reform. But on the question of the Rohingyas, these historical antagonists are on exactly the same page. Suu Kyi has dismissed allegations of ethnic cleansing as an exaggeration. 

In my country, human rights activists like Suu Kyi speak the language of their former jailers [the socialist military government that the West so opposed], which is national security and defense. In a society supposedly undergoing a democratic transition, we’re seeing a surge in vulgar nationalism and deep Islamophobia—an essentially totalitarian ethos. History has reversed: the regime, society, spiritual leaders, and the Burmese media, who fought so long for press freedom and called for solidarity with imprisoned activists, now work to justify genocide.

The Indy: The international community has so far failed to act, raising the specter of another Rwanda. What would a responsible humanitarian response look like? How should foreign governments negotiate between immediate aid and long-term intervention, given the risks of the latter? 

MZ: The UN and Human Rights Council in Geneva have both officially described this crisis as ethnic cleansing. But I object to that word. Ethnic cleansing is a euphemism [infamously used by former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milošević to conceal the genocide in Bosnia]. As murderous as Milošević was, he was smart enough to know that there was no international law that would indict him at the International Criminal Court if his crimes were just called ethnic cleansing, a word that carries something positive with it, as though it’s merely preventing future violence between ethnic groups. 

For me, the best scenario would be what was implemented in Kosovo. Rohingyas would return to their birthplace under UN protection in a completely demilitarized zone. Bangladesh should open the border and allow the Rohingyas to participate in the economy. Of course, you can’t simply repatriate people and allow them to languish as Burmese society neglects them. Perhaps it will take a generation or more to reverse the psychological effects of the past 40 years of Burmese state propaganda and to convince society that Rohingyas belong in their homes and are not illegal. 

But before we can change the social psychology of the nation, we have to make sure Rohingyas have access to livelihoods. We have to staff the clinics, give them access to health care (currently there is one doctor for every 150,000 Rohingya patients), provide nutrition (80,000 children under the age of five are living in a famine), build schools (80 percent of Rohingya adults are illiterate). If Burmese society neglects them, let the Rohingyas interact with the larger world. This to me is the only viable solution, provided that there is the political will, which is a different story. 

At the moment, UN military intervention is unlikely because it requires Security Council authorization. Even the ICC requires Security Council authorization. And because China and Russia have made it clear that they consider this a Burmese internal affair and a complex humanitarian situation (Russia even considers it an issue of rebel terrorism), any intervention would likely face a veto from either of these countries. 

It’s a trope at this point—every genocide requires the paralysis of the Security Council. The difficult situation here is that there is no regional or world power that will put its foot down and say we must stop this genocide. That is why the Burmese military is so confident that there will be such few consequences. 

If you look at international involvement in economic and strategic projects within Rakhine state itself, humanitarian intervention becomes even less likely. In this small strip of the state, you have China exploring titanium deposits and building a deep-sea port, India building a deep-sea port, and a massive special economic zone designed for corporate tax-havens. Japan, South Korea, Vietnam—everyone’s invested. And offshore, you have gas deposits where over 30 countries have a stake.

The current killing fields, 100 kilometers long, are going to be turned into a special economic zone. The Burmese government has already said that if the Rohingyas return, they would not be going back to where they have lived for generations, they will be quarantined in an apartheid-like situation. It doesn’t pay to end genocide, and the Rohingyas control nothing that is valuable to these powerful countries. Only concerted international effort could make a difference. If Russia and China don’t get on board, there are still 180+ member states of the UN that can exert pressure. 

The Indy: As we continue to see this genocide streamed live, along with all the other violence in the world, how might we break out of what some call ‘compassion fatigue,’ paralysis in the face of this horror, and toward deep solidarity, engagement, and direct action? 

MZ: You can never be fatigued if you know that there’s a genocide going on. Genocide is not war. The only way we can honor Jewish victims who walked to the gas chambers, and all those killed in past genocides, is to speak out. ‘Never again’ is not just a bumper sticker. It has to mean something. It has to be sacred. 

Yes, we’re just individuals, but there is strength in numbers. We need to keep screaming, saying that this is unacceptable, that this is not in our name. It’s not just about Muslims or Rohingyas, but about a human community being slaughtered. After watching on your cell phone, what are you going to tell your children? ‘Oh, I watched a genocide on Facebook when I was 20, but I was powerless’? 

I was the only Burmese five years ago to blow the whistle and say, look, this is genocide. I was called all kinds of names, portrayed as a mad-activist exaggerating things. My job is to tell it like it is, and that’s what I’m doing still. 

I think we’re not as powerless as we often feel. Whether the world listens is separate from whether we do what is right. 

Dr. Zarni will be speaking at the Watson Institute (Joukowsky Forum) at Brown University on Monday, November 20, at 12 PM.

Justice for the Rohingyas: The World Must Act (A Panel Discussion)

For the last 40 years, Rohingyas of Northern Arakan/Rakhine State of Myanmar (formerly Burma), have been subjected to what Amartya Sen called a "slow genocide." Since August 26, over 607,000 Rohingyas have sought refuge in Bangladesh after having fled Myanmar’s campaign of murder, arson and sexual violence, the latest of 5 waves of state-sponsored terror in the region. Today there are more Rohingyas outside of their birthplace than inside it. Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine is honored to host a panel discussion on the topic of the Rohingya crisis and its global context with Maung Zarni, a Buddhist native of Burma and genocide scholar and human rights activist, and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, University Professor in the Humanities (Columbia) and luminary in the field of postcolonial and feminist studies.

The Slow Burning Genocide of Myanmar Rohingya People: Presentation

Cogitatum on Understanding Rohingya Crisis and India’s Migration Policy

More than 500,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar since 25 August as the fresh wave of violence sweeps the north western Rakhine state. Most of them are currently seeking refuge at Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh.

On the other hand, the Government of India has shown concern regarding the 40,000 Rohingya Muslims living in India and has categorically stated its plans to deport those living illegally. While India hosts a large number of refugees within the subcontinent, there is no specific policy regarding that.

In this Cogitatum, we will be discussing the context of Rohingyas in India. The series will focus on humanitarian crisis faced by Rohingyas, India’s existing perspective towards refugee policy, and the future of Rohingyas in the country.

Faculty: Dr. D. Suba Chandran, Ambassador U Nyunt Maung Shein, Major General A K M Abdur Rahman, Dr Maung Zarni, Mr. Pratap Heblikar, Lt Gen (Dr) Prakash Menon, and Ms Priyadarshini Hariharan

The second Cogitatum commences on November 18, 2017.

Series Schedule
  • Context of Rohingyas for India- The Story So Far: Saturday, November 18, 9:00 am IST
  • Conflict in the Rakhine State: Wednesday, November 22, 8:00 pm IST
  • India's Response to the Rakhine Conflict: Saturday, November 25, 9:00 am IST
  • Cogitation amongst Discussants: Wednesday, November 28, 8:00 pm IST

Any change in the above schedule will be informed in advance.

Programme Features

Four-week fully online series focused on one policy issue at a time.
A joint brainstorm and solutioning series that allows you to deep-dive into a current topic through live webinars with experts and comprehensive readings on the topic.

Programme Structure

Students will be eligible for the certificate if they complete an online assignment.

Original here.

The Holocaust Museum Says There Is 'Mounting Evidence' of Genocide in Myanmar

By Laignee Barron
November 15, 2017

Experts warned Wednesday of “mounting evidence” that genocide is being committed against Myanmar’s stateless Rohingya minority, citing new testimony from witnesses to recent military violence that has sent more than half a million people pouring over the border into neighboring Bangladesh.

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and Fortify Rights, an NGO that investigates human rights violations in Southeast Asia, said in a report that Myanmar’s state security forces appear to have “targeted the Rohingya group with several of the enumerated acts in the law of genocide.” The U.N. has previously said recent violence in the country amounts to ethnic cleansing.

“The Government of Myanmar not only ignored warning signs… but also created and perpetuated an environment for mass violence and atrocities,” reads the report, which was based on more than 200 in-depth interviews and other research carried out over the past year.

The warning comes as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrived in Myanmar where he will meet with the country’s de facto leader, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who has come under criticism for failing to stop or condemn or the violence. State Department officials told The Washington Post that Tillerson will press for a credible investigation of alleged abuses and could raise the threat of targeted sanctions.

Beginning with an initial wave of violence in Oct. 2016, soldiers and civilian mobs have been accused of brutal rampages through Rohingya villages, shooting, stabbing and raping before razing homes and property. A second, larger campaign began in late August and triggered a massive exodus, sending more than 615,000 Rohingya over the border to Bangladesh – more than half the entire Rohingya population. Most of those who fled were children.

The Myanmar government has denied the atrocities, and the military this week attempted to exonerate itself through an internal investigation dismissed as a farce.

Both waves of the military-led operations followed fatal attacks by Rohingya militants on security outposts. But the report says these attacks were used as a pretext to carry out a campaign of ethnic cleansing. Military-led violence against Rohingya men, women and girls has since created what the U.N. called the world’s fastest-growing refugee crisis as Bangladesh struggles to provide aid to the sudden influx of traumatized, desperate and severely malnourished refugees.

“The Rohingya have suffered attacks and systematic violations for decades, and the international community must not fail them now when their very existence in Myanmar is threatened,” Cameron Hudson, director of the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, said in a statement.

Ye Ni: Myanmar editor of Irrawaddy lashes out at the anti-genocide campaigners

Ye Ni: Myanmar editor of Irrawaddy lashes out at the anti-genocide campaigners

In Myanmar, The Persecution Of the Muslim Minority, The Rohingya Continues

November 15, 2017

On Wednesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with senior government officials in Myanmar about the violent and ongoing persecution of the country's Rohingya minority, which has fueled a massive refugee exodus in recent months. NPR's Kelly McEvers speaks with Maung Zarni, fellow with the Cambodian Documentation Center, specializing in genocide in Buddhist countries, about how the Burmese justify their actions and what it would take to broker a resolution to the current crisis.


Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was in Myanmar today to urge the government there to stop the persecution of a Muslim minority called the Rohingya. Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have fled Myanmar since August. They now live in squalid conditions across the border in Bangladesh. The U.N. has called the crisis a textbook example of ethnic cleansing. Rex Tillerson did not go that far. He said what happened, quote, "has a number of characteristics of crimes against humanity," and he called for an independent investigation.

To talk about this more, we're going to Maung Zarni. He is a fellow with the Cambodian Documentation Center, specializing in genocide in Buddhist countries. Welcome to the show.

MAUNG ZARNI: Thank you.

MCEVERS: Can you just take us back a little bit and help us understand why the Rohingya are persecuted in Myanmar?

ZARNI: Well, for two reasons. They are Muslims. And the other reason is because they are Muslim with their own claim on this strategic piece of borderland next to Bangladesh, the Burmese army starting in the 1960s perceive them as a threat to national security.

MCEVERS: Burma of course being the former name of Myanmar. Much of the violence in Myanmar against the Rohingya people has been carried out by the military. Human rights groups have documented mass rape. They say thousands of people have been killed. How does the military in Myanmar justify this violence to the people of the country?

ZARNI: Simply put, the military in Burma today uses what the Nazis used in the 1930s - that they have misframed the Rohingyas the way the Nazis blamed the Jewish people for everything that was wrong with the society, all the frustration and anger. So I think the military has cleverly diverted public frustration towards the Rohingya, who are completely unarmed and helpless. And they've been sitting ducks for the last 40 years.

MCEVERS: And human rights groups have said that Aung San Suu Kyi, the de facto leader of Myanmar, is part of the problem here. This is a woman who of course won the Nobel Peace Prize. She's considered a champion of human rights. Yet she will not say that what's happening to the Rohingya is ethnic cleansing. Why? Why is she not getting more involved in their case?

ZARNI: Well, you know, I've known her personally, and I've supported her for the first 15 years of my activism. And simply put, she is anti-Muslim races. She is Islamophobe. I mean, she is a big part of the problem.

MCEVERS: U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with her today. We know that. I mean, is she part of the solution, or is it going to have to be someone else who could turn the tide here and change what's happening to these people?

ZARNI: Well, there is no someone else inside the country. Even Buddhist monks justify openly to the military, to the public that killing the nonbelievers, non-Buddhists, the Rohingyas does not amount to bad karma. It is not a crime. And the public is fully behind the army and Aung San Suu Kyi because they believe that those two entities are defending the nation.

MCEVERS: If she's not the person to solve this, what will solve this problem?

ZARNI: Well, the solution lies outside. And there has to be an international coalition outside the Security Council that is prepared to make a concerted effort to bear serious pressure on both Aung San Suu Kyi and the military.

MCEVERS: Do you think Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's visit will provide that outside pressure that you think is needed for things to change?

ZARNI: You know, yes or no. Yes, it would put the Burmese military on notice, but no because they have not put their foot down saying that this is international crime and you stop this immediately, or there will be consequences. So that message is not being delivered by Tillerson.

MCEVERS: Maung Zarni specializes in genocide in Buddhist countries. He joined us from the U.K. on Skype. Thank you so much.

ZARNI: Thank you.

Sharing first-hand Rohingya survivors' stories on tbs eFM This Morning

Myanmar Tatmadaw troops killed a Rohingya father and fed his brains to the chickens in the village yard while gang-raping his younger daughter, only 16.

I heard first-hand Rohingya female survivor's story of witnessing soldiers shot her father in the head & feeding the scattered brains fed to the free range chicken.

Maung Zarni

A brief note from Bangladesh: Bearing witness to my country's genocide and meeting the Survivors.

My family and I excluding my old girl in college in US spent a week in Bangladesh visiting Rohingya survivors of Myanmar genocide.

We just got home in UK last night. This is my litle reflection on what we witnessed. I came home with a long list of "To-Do's".

Natalie, my wife, and I work as a two-person team of researchers and writers. We use each other as a sounding board and we teach each other on the Rohingya. She is the one who initially helped me overcome my own anti-Muslim racism and my own ignorance about Rohingyas. 

So naturally, I wanted Natalie and Nilah to bear witness to my country's Buddhist genocide - note no quotations marks - of the most vulnerable segment of our society, the Rohingyas.

Here is my 8-year-old Nilah and Nat meeting with Rohingya children and moms. 

​I interviewed 2-dozen survivors, the majority of whom were mothers between the ages of 18 and 35. The youngest survivor I interviewed was a 10-year old Rohingya boy who was shot in the leg. 

The most sadistic tale I heard a survivor recount was this:

her father was shot in the head in front of their house as he ran to the house where her daughter , 16, was tied up and gang-raped by a group of Burmese government troops, wearing red scarfs (light infantry unit commandos, as far as I know).

the father's head got blew open, and one soldier picked up bits of his brain and fed them to the chickens.

this IS an act of genocidal and sadistic killing, seen against the backdrop of what else has been done to the Rohingyas as a group by Myanmar over the last 40 years. 

The Burmese society is brainwashed to hate the Rohingyas for no real reason: the Tatmadaw's racist, pathetic generals have adopted the institutionalized threat perception - that they are a a threat to national security and that their presence is a part of Bangladesh's cold war of population transfer from Chittagong to N. Rakhine. 

The Burmese military (Tatmadaw) have accordingly manufactured and propagated lies after lies over 40-years. 

I know every other influential figure personally who has been involved in this genocide. 

I view them as evil as the Nazis. They consider me a "national traitor" and "enemy of the state". 

I identify with the survivors of my country's genocide despite our differences in ethnicity and faith background.

So, I said, "Sorry", to this Rohingya brother who broke into tears at the site of a "good Burmese" at Kutupalong camp. 

We held each other for about 5 minutes. No conversation as he did not speak Burmese. But no conversation was needed either. 

Compassion and pain are universal. 

A young Rohingya mother and widow (18) recounted to me how she was gang-raped by Myanmar soldiers. They handcuffed her with a small rope, and she tried to untie the rope with her teeth, and they put her hands on the table and chopped off a finger, with the hand still tied, for resisting the rape!

This Rohingya gentleman (pix below) has something dignified about him. He is 67 years old, from Maungdaw, and was a Class Cell leader at a township level in the Ruling Burma Socialist Party during General Ne Win's early days when Rohingyas continued to be recognized as an ethnic community of Burma with full citizenship rights.

This grandfather Rohingya man (76) was a former teacher and agricultural technician, who heard Prime Minister U Nu speak in his hometown of Maungdaw in the 1950's when Rohingyas were full citizens, and carried an original National Registration Card first issued in mid-1950's (the first of its kind in the history of ID in Burma's recorded history).

He spoke about his life-long desire to return to Burma, his birthplace, although he has been in the Registered Refugee camp at Kutupalong in the last 20 years. 

He showed me his family IDs and pictures of the mosque he said his well-to-do family built in Maungdaw in 1895.

The typically repeated media and official narrative that Rohingyas were not citizens or an ethnic group of Burma is a verifiable lie on which rests the genocidal policies. 

The mosque this Rohingya gentleman's foreparents built in 1895. 

Finally, this is my Bangladeshi host (HFM Mr Ali) (pix below), who made it possible for our family to bear witness to the inter-generational impact of my own country's genocide and hear first hand the harrowing tales from Rohingya survivors.

They ARE survivors, not simply IDPs or refugees. They have survived the genocide across the borders in N. Rakhine State. 

We are extremely grateful to the Honourable Foreign Minister and his MOFA staff who enabled us to get the most out of our week-long visit to Dhaka and Cox's Bazaar.

Based on what we have learned on this trip I will soon be hitting the speaking trail in UK, USA, Canada, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Bangladesh the rest of this year and early Jan. Nat will continue to write critical pieces that challenge conventional but flawed ideas about the survivors 'return/repatriation' 'statelessness' and all those policy non-senses. 

Meanwhile 1 million Rohingya survivors await anxiously - and in inhuman conditions - what the mythical international community will do to help secure a normal human future. 

This little Rohingya survivor girl waited for her family's turn for food ration at Kutupalong registered camp under the scorching sun, taking advantage of the little shade from the two standing men's longis.

As a father, I ask myself, naturally, what I would do or how I would feel if my 8-year old were in this Rohingya girl's shoes, and so should every decent human.

Event: Rohingya in Peril: Crisis in Myanmar by The Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies


Tue, 21 November 2017
12:30 PM – 2:00 PM CET


John Molson School of Business, Concordia
MB 9 CD (9th floor)
1450 Guy St.
Montreal, QC H3H 0A1


The Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (MIGS) at Concordia University, in partnership with the Burma Task Force Canada, are organizing an event to explore the ongoing crisis in Myanmar/Burma. Since August over a half a million Rohingya people have been forced to flee violence and seek protection in Bangladesh. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has called it a “textbook case of ethnic cleansing”.

Guest Speaker, Dr. Maung Zarni

Dr. Zarni has been a human rights activist for nearly 30 years and is a regular commentator on BBC News and Al-Jazeera on the Myanmar Crisis. He is a non-resident fellow with the (Genocide) Documentation Center - Cambodia, The Sleuk Rith Institute, specializing in racism and genocides. He has written extensively on democratization, Islamophobia and Rohingya genocide in his native country of Burma, and served as a member of the Panel of Judges at the Permanent Peoples Tribunal on Sri Lanka (2013) & initiated the PPT on Myanmar the same year. He was educated at the University of Mandalay (Burma), the University of California-Davis, the University of Washington and holds a PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He taught at National-Louis University in Chicago, and has held teaching, research, leadership or visiting fellowships at the London School of Economics, Oxford University, Harvard University, UCL-Institute of Education, Georgetown University, and the Rockefeller Foundation.

He founded the internet-based Free Burma Coalition in 1995, and led the grassroots campaign until 2004. For his contributions to the interfaith human rights activism worldwide the Parliament of the World's Religions honoured him with its bi-annual "Cultivation of Harmony Award" in 2015. For his opposition to Myanmar genocide, the Burmese government has denounced him as "national traitor" and "enemy of the State".

Event: The Plight of the Rohingya: Response to a Genocide

The Plight of the Rohingya: Response to a Genocide

November 15th, 2017

Policy to resolve crisis bilaterally a total failure

Event: Myanmar's Slow-Burning Genocide of the Rohingya People

Monday, November 20, 2017
12 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Joukowsky Forum

Maung Zarni will discuss the ongoing state-sanctioned violence against Rohingya people in Burma, which he argues has been facilitated by the complicity of the international community. 

Maung Zarni, a longtime Burmese human rights activist, is a non-resident research fellow with the Documentation Center of Cambodia. He has written extensively on Burmese affairs, including democratic transition, peace processes, transnational activism, Islamophobia, and Rohingya genocide. Dr. Zarni has organized numerous international conferences on the plight of Rohingyas, and he initiated the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal on Myanmar in 2013. As a PhD student, he founded the pioneering internet-based Free Burma Coalition in 1995.

Organized by the Brown Journal of World Affairs. Co-sponsored by the International Relations DUG, Development Studies DUG, the Bengali Students Club, the Southeast Asian Studies Initiative, South Asian Students Association, Amnesty International at Brown, and the Watson Institute

Justice for the Rohingyas: The World Must Act

Justice for the Rohingyas: The World Must Act

A Panel Discussion on 17th November 2017