World View: Burma’s Ethnic Cleansing of Rohingyas Witnessed by BBC Reporter

The Associated Press
JOHN J. XENAKIS

This morning’s key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi under fire for allowing Rohingya ethnic cleansing
  • BBC reporter Jonathan Head returns from Burma’s government-controlled visit
  • Generational explanation for Burma’s genocide and ethnic cleansing
  • The future of Burma and the Rohingyas

Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi under fire for allowing Rohingya ethnic cleansing

Since this photo was taken, Desmond Tutu has condemned Aung San Suu Kyi over the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in Burma (AP)
Since this photo was taken, Desmond Tutu has condemned Aung San Suu Kyi over the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in Burma (AP)

Aung San Suu Kyi, the de facto leader of Burma (Myanmar), and other Burmese government officials have been saying that the Rohingya Muslims in northern Rakhine State have been burning down their own villages and killing each other, presumably to embarrass the government. This claim by Aung San Suu Kyi is typical of the kind of garbage we hear from other international criminals and war criminals, such as Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, and China’s Xi Jinping.

Aung San Suu Kyi is a Nobel Peace Prize winner, and lately, other Nobel Peace Prize winners, including Desmond Tutu and Malala Yousafzai, have been demanding that Suu Kyi either stop lying or resign from the government. The Nobel Prize committee has announced that it is not their policy to take back a Nobel Prize, once it has been awarded.

Desmond Tutu wrote a letter to Suu Kyi, saying:

As we witness the unfolding horror we pray for you to be courageous and resilient again. We pray for you to speak out for justice, human rights and the unity of your people. We pray for you to intervene in the escalating crisis and guide your people back towards the path of righteousness again.

And “unfolding horror” is an apt description. Starting in 2011, Buddhists have been attacking Muslims in villages across Burma, particularly the 1.1 million ethnic Rohingyas in Rakhine State. Mobs of Buddhists have attacked Muslims, conducting atrocities including torture and rape, killing hundreds and forcing hundreds of thousands to leave their homes to flee from the attacks. Buddhist civilians have joined the Burmese army in burning down entire Rohingya villages to the ground.

In the last year, Rohingya activists have formed a separatist group called the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA). Last month, ARSA carried out coordinated attacks against 30 Burma police outposts.

This has triggered a new tsunami of violence by Buddhist civilians and Burma’s army against the Rohingyas. In the last two weeks, 270,000 refugees have been forced to flee across the Naf River into Bangladesh, joining the 400,000 refugees already there. They are living there in terrible conditions, may sleeping out in the open in the pouring rain, with shortages of food. BBC and Guardian (London)

BBC reporter Jonathan Head returns from Burma’s government-controlled visit

Foreign officials, including reporters and humanitarian organizations, have been requesting for years to visit Rakhine state, in order to determine what is really happening and whether the government is lying. Burma’s government has strictly forbidden such visits, which is all but a guarantee that Burma’s government is lying.

Jonathan Head is the South East Asia Correspondent for BBC News, and he was granted permission to visit Rakhine state under the control of Burmese army minders, who would control what he saw and who he spoke to. He gave a lengthy interview on the BBC World News. Interview does describe exactly what’s going on in Rakhine state, but only portions of what Head says are in BBC printed news stories.

Head’s interview contains a great deal of valuable information not available anywhere else. It is an absolutely fascinating as a piece of modern history and generational history, so I transcribed it and am posting most of it here.

The Burmese minders’ attempts to control what Head saw and here were a total farce. The minders were caught in obvious lies, including fabricating a photo with a Hindu actor and Hindu women wearing tea towels, pretending to be Muslims burning down the Muslim villages. Things like this prove the massive stupidity of Aung San Suu Kyi and other Burmese leaders.

Head was first asked what he saw on the trip:

A lot more than we were supposed to.

It was a government controlled trip, and I think the idea was to show us aspects of the conflict in northern Rakhine State that would reflect better on the government. And so initially we were shown displaced people who talked about how the Muslims had burned them out of house and home, and we were shown various photographs supposedly showing Muslims setting fire to their own homes, although those photographs have turned out to be fakes. A man who’s a Hindu in a display center has admitted acting, and a few women put tea towels on their heads.

It wasn’t a very convincing show. We found there was so much fear. We were surrounded by officials and armed police the whole time, that it was impossible for people to speak freely, and even then quietly on a few occasions when we could meet Muslims, they all expressed their deep fear of the government. The government was willing for us to be able to see destroyed villages. And I have to say I was staggered by the extent of it. You cover large distances, and there are whole areas that have been emptied out, where villages have been burned, but even where villages haven’t been burned, they’re empty.

One village we saw, dogs had killed a goat, because they were starving, they hadn’t been fed. Rice had been left untended. Boats abandoned. Really extraordinary scene of depopulation.

We were told by the remaining police and soldiers, who are the only people you’d meet there, that this is Muslims and Muslim militants destroying their own villages.

Head then described how his minders lost control of him when he ran across a rice field to a burning village that they didn’t want him to see:

Well, on the way back from one of those visits, we happened to see some smoke going up through the trees, and you could see it was fresh, the smoke and flames were just going up.

We managed to get the vans to stop, and before our minders could stop us, we dashed off through the rice field, they kind of lost control of us. And as we arrived in this village, you could see houses just beginning to go up, and there were young men, Rakhine Buddhists, and they identified themselves as such, very muscular, carrying swords and machetes, hanging around. There was nobody else there.

As we arrived, they departed, they didn’t want to talk, although one of them did admit to a colleague that they had set fire to the buildings, and he said he’d been helped by the police.

And as we walked further into the village, we just watched house after house going up in flames. We saw a madrassa go up in flames. Pages of Muslim textbooks had been torn out and left all over the park. There were women’s clothes, personal possessions everywhere. We’ve seen people walking out with trolleys full of looted stuff.

There was no sign at all of the inhabitants. It’s a Muslim village. We simply don’t know where the people who lived ther had gone.

Head was asked, Was this ethnic cleansing?

Absolutely. You can’t mistake it really. And when you actually go and talk to Rakhine Buddhists, the hatred you get from them is a horrible echo of other communal conflicts that we’ve seen and experienced.

I spoke to one man, and he was foaming up inside about the Muslims. They’re very fearful of them too. And of course, the new factor we have now, is that after decades of marginalization and discrimination, Rohingya men have now armed themselves. They’re not very well armed, but they’ve certainly armed themselves and large numbers even with just knives and machetes have joined the armed insurgents.

And they did launch very well coordinated attacks, although the authorities tell us they knew the attacks were coming or prepared, and it seems that most of the casualties in these attacks were on the militant side. But it’s made the Rakhine Buddhists even more angry and nervous towards them, and they said simply they can never live here again. They made no bones about it.

They want them out. They will do anything to get them out. They LOATHE them. They say that “We HATE them. We absolutely HATE them.”

And so it’s no surprise they’re joining in this destruction of villages. Once the Muslims have been chased out the destruction of villages is meant to make sure that they never come back.

Head was asked, Where does that hatred come from?

There’s a lot of history involved.

Rakhine itself has a sense of identity as an original Buddhist kingdom, which was then basically forcibly joined to Burma under British rule, but has always been cut off from the main economic heartland of Burma by a range of mountains and it’s very impoverished. The Rakhine Buddhists themselves had to put up with a great amount of Bengal migration into Rakhine State, under British rule, to serve the new market for labor, for rice fields, and that tension became particularly bitter during the Second World war when there was an active front line, and the Muslims by and large supported the British forces, and the Rakhine Buddhists supported the Japanese.

And every time the line shifted, there were massacres, mutual massacres of each community, and it was around that time Muslims became the majority in the very northern part of Rakhine state, which is where all
this trouble is happening now, and where in effect we’re seeing a rebalancing of the population going on, where Rakhine Buddhists after 70 years are redressing the balance, and pushing Muslims out.

And that hatred, it is mutual, but the Rakhine Buddhists enjoy a great deal of sympathy from other Burmese Buddhists, and even from the government. The local authorities make absolutely no bones about the fact that they dislike Rohingyas, that they don’t think belong there, that they’re illegal immigrants. It’s an absurd claim, as Bangladeshi officials said to me, in 70 years of history, the government of Myanmar has never once asked the Bangladesh to take back or repatriate anybody that could have come illegally into Myanmar.

But inside Myanmar, particularly in Rakhine state, there’s a deep-seated belief that the Rohingyas are illegal, they shouldn’t be there, and they should be wiped out.

BBC and BBC

Generational explanation for Burma’s genocide and ethnic cleansing

Burma’s genocide and ethnic cleansing follows a generational pattern that’s probably been repeated a million times throughout history. Jonathan Head’s interview provides a good deal of information about what happened.

In 1942, Japan invaded Burma to oppose the British. Burma sided with the Japanese, while the British actually pulled out, leaving behind a population of Muslims who had been performing services in the rice fields.

There was an extremely bloody generational crisis war between the Burmese Buddhists and Muslims, with huge atrocities on both sides. After the war ended, new generations of children on both sides grow up with no personal memory of the war. What they hear from their parents is stories about the bravery of their hero parents, and about the atrocities committed by the other side. Parents always forget to mention the atrocities that their side committed.

So the children learn to hate the other ethnic group. This is what always happens. As new generations grow up, there are riots, demonstrations, and sporadic violence, but the traumatized survivors of the war make sure that nothing like that happens again.

Today, all those traumatized survivors of the 1942 massacres and atrocities are all gone, but the hatred remains, as described by Jonathan Head. The younger generations are not traumatized, and have no personal memory of the massacres and atrocities 70 years ago, and have no fear of repeating those massacres and atrocities.

We see the same kinds of hatreds turn into violence in other situations, whether Jews versus Arabs in the Mideast, Sunnis versus Shias in the Mideast, Christians versus Muslims in Central African Republic, Tamils versus Buddhists in Sri Lanka, and so forth. This is how the world works.

The future of Burma and the Rohingyas

The Burma Rohingya situation is an absolute disaster. We know that World War III is coming soon, but we do not know how it will be triggered – whether in the South China Sea, North Korea, the Mideast, or elsewhere. But the rapidly escalating violence in Burma puts that situation near the top of the list.

As I understand the figures, there are (were) 1.1 million Rohingyas living in Rakhine State, and now almost half of them have fled into Bangladesh, where they are living in disgusting refugee camps or just in open fields. Now presumably the Burmese plan drive the rest of the Rohingyas out, and burn their villages down as well, so that they cannot return.

Then presumably the Burmese plan repopulate the area with Buddhists. So you are going to have a million Muslims just across the Naf River from a million Buddhists, living in the Muslims’ old places. Is there anyone who seriously believes that is a stable situation?

This has now caught the attention of Muslims in other countries. Muslims in the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia are talking about a “jihad” targeting the Buddhists in Burma.

Furthermore, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh), declared as early as 2014 that Burma is a place that’s ripe for infiltration of ISIS militants. RSIS (Singapore) and Rohingya.org (2006)

Related Articles

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Burma, Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi, Rohingyas, Buddhists, Muslims, Bangladesh, Desmond Tutu, Malala Yousafzai, Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, ARSA, BBC, Jonathan Head, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria/Sham/the Levant, IS, ISIS, ISIL, Daesh
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