Wednesday, 24 May 2023

UN not given access to Rohingya refugee camps after Cyclone Mocha

Source TheGuardian

UNHCR says it's awaiting permission from Myanmar government to distribute health supplies in Sittwe, where an estimated 90% of Rohingya homes have been destroyed

A Rohingya woman sits by what remains of her home at Basara refugee camp in Sittwe after Cyclone Mocha hit the region. Photograph: Sai Aung Main/AFP/Getty Images

UN staff say they have not been given permission to help thousands of Rohingya living in displacement camps in Myanmar who are in urgent need of food, medicine and shelter in the aftermath of Cyclone Mocha, which struck the west of the country on Sunday.

People living in Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine state, said they estimated that about 90% of homes of Rohingya people had been destroyed and more than 100 people killed when winds of more than 150 miles an hour hit the region. However, the refugee agency UNHCR said the Myanmar government had not yet granted access to the camps in Sittwe, home to about 100,000 people. "As yet, UNHCR has not been granted access to carry out needs assessments."

Bright Islam, a 28-year-old Rohingya activist, said: "The cyclone destroyed everything we had. We have nothing to eat, and people have to sleep on the road. Injured people don't have access to medical treatment."

It really is a nightmare scenario for this cyclone to hit areas with such deep pre-existing needs
Ramanathan Balakrishnan, UN humanitarian coordinator

He said he witnessed people drown in the flood water in Sittwe, "mostly children and older people", and counted about 110 dead bodies when the waters cleared. "I cried because I was afraid, I could also be dead," he said.

Habibullah, who only wanted to be known by one name, said his 55-year-old aunt died in the storm because she was too scared to leave her home in Dar Paing camp in Sittwe. "She didn't expect that it would be that bad," he said.

He said he had to leave her in her house while he helped others. After the cyclone, he found her body. "I am very sorry to leave her there. But I had no other choice. If we had early warning and precaution in time, she would still be alive."

Cyclone Mocha hit Myanmar on its journey across the Bay of Bengal. Sittwe was the worst affected area, but the category 5 storm also damaged towns further east in Chin, Sagaing and Magway regions.

The UN said on Thursday that 17 townships in Rakhine and four in Chin had been declared natural-disaster-affected areas by the government. Images on social media show trees, buildings, and electricity poles toppled, and debris piled on the ground. The UN said health supplies and water purification tablets for 200,000 people have been sent to Sittwe.

ThekayPyin camp in Sittwe, as Cyclone Mocha approaches.
ThekayPyin camp in Sittwe, as Cyclone Mocha approaches. Photograph: Screengrab/Obtained by Reuters

On Tuesday, Ramanathan Balakrishnan, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Myanmar, said 5.4 million people were thought to live in the cyclone's path. "Of these, we consider 3.1 million people to be most vulnerable to cyclone impacts by taking together indicators of shelter quality, food insecurity and poor coping capacity.

"It really is a nightmare scenario for this cyclone to hit areas with such deep pre-existing needs," Balakrishnan said.

The Rohingya live in internal displacement camps after being forced from their homes in Myanmar by numerous military attacks since the 1970s. A military "clearance" in 2017 pushed a million Rohingya to seek refuge in Bangladesh.

Reuben Lim, the chief communications officer for UNHCR Myanmar, confirmed that "deaths by drowning have been reported in displacement camps with many others missing".

Ro Nay San Lwin, a Rohingya activist in Europe, said he expected high casualties. He said early warning announcements of the cyclone made by the military through loudspeakers in the camps were "just for show" as no logistical support, shelters or transport, were provided and Rohingya were not allowed to leave the camps.

"People lost their lives because they had no freedom of movement. The junta has been committing serious international crimes against the Rohingya for many decades. Their aim is to eliminate the entire population from the country."

A Rohingya woman holds her baby next to her destroyed house at Basara refugee camp in Sittwe.
A Rohingya woman holds her baby next to her destroyed house at Basara refugee camp in Sittwe. Photograph: Sai Aung Main/AFP/Getty Images

Islam said they were "living in hell". "We got more affected by the cyclone because our camp is close to the sea and our movement is under control," he said. "If we could stay in our original homes, it wouldn't have been that bad."

In Bangladesh, about 60,000 people were displaced and 30,000 homes damaged or destroyed in Cox's Bazar district, where more than 1 million Rohingya live in refugee camps.

Rohingya Refugee Response, which coordinates humanitarian support for more than 900,000 refugees in Bangladesh, said 5,800 shelters were damaged and 400 destroyed. Health and education centres and water points were damaged by landslides. UNHCR said it has been providing emergency shelter and other services in Bangladesh.

The worst conditions were on the southern-most tip of mainland Bangladesh and in the Nayapara refugee camp, where refugees who lost their homes to a fire two years ago again saw homes damaged.

"Our block was already burned down and so the shelters were only light plastic and bamboo," said Amir Hossain, whose shelter was damaged. "People were worried before the cyclone hit the camp. As soon as the strong winds started, most of the tarpaulin roofs were blown away and only the frames of the homes were left.

"People are struggling to rebuild again, we have not got the materials to rebuild the shelters. Some people are living in community centres and schools for now," he said.

Amid the destruction, seven babies were born in one of the refugee camps further north, on Sunday, according to the NGO Friendship.

OP-ED: Seven Points All Myanmar People Want ASEAN to Consider

Source DVB, 2 May

Indonesia is gearing up for the forthcoming ASEAN Summit. Its popular two-term, and hence outgoing, President Joko Widodo, and Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, have reportedly visited the site of the scheduled May 9-11 Summit in Labuan Bajo. One of the first things Indonesian leadership has embarked on is public diplomacy or strategic communications about what its leadership can and cannot do for the peoples of Myanmar through the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).   

Amidst grumbles from international policy and activist circles with Myanmar concerns worldwide, the Indonesian leadership has been tight-lipped about what it's doing to address one of the hottest – and so far intractable perennial issues. As outrageous as it is, not even a textbook, full-blown genocide of Rohingyas had, in the past, inconvenienced the regional bloc, largely indifferent to ideals of human rights, in spite of its Human Rights Charter. Lest we forget that ASEAN legitimized and promoted Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge at the United Nations even after the fact that one-third of the Cambodian population had perished in less than four years (1975-79). 

Two years before the coup, Malaysia's then Foreign Minister Saifuddin bin Abdullah said pointedly to a group of us visiting legal and genocide scholars with Rohingya concerns, in Putrajaya that he wanted today's ASEAN to do better than the original ASEAN of the 1970's. For the original ASEAN allowed the genocide in its own backyard and proceeded to protect the perpetrators as "representative" of Cambodia. Saifuddin's sentiment notwithstanding, objectively speaking, ASEAN has continued to fail Rohingya genocide victims, again, with ASEAN navies pushing away from their shores thousands of Rohingya boat people over the years, who are fleeing hell on the earth and risking life on the high seas in search of refuge in places like Aceh, Indonesia and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Be that as it may, the 2021 Myanmar military coup and resulting bloodbath, still ongoing, has unnerved the rest of the ASEAN member states, including the money-obsessed Singapore (Myanmar's largest investor). The bloodbath of civilians by the military, and the ensuing armed revolution, ASEAN under the two previous chairs – Brunei and Cambodia – did not accomplish much in terms of either stopping the killings or starting a mediation process. Both Brunei and Cambodia continued to treat the coup regime of Min Aung Hlaing, as if the killers in green uniform were the sole representatives and spokespersons of Myanmar as a member state. 

So, Indonesia under Jokowi's leadership this year has ignited a widespread, if limited optimism, among Myanmar people. We have thought that Jakarta will at least use its renewed leadership position globally.  This optimism is in significant part based on its successful role as the G-20 host that facilitated the first-ever substantive meeting in Bali of U.S. President Joe Biden and China's Xi Jinping, with their mutually hostile policies. A brief detour of Indonesia-Myanmar ties may be in order.

Throughout the last 70 years since Myanmar and Indonesia shook off the yoke of colonial subjugation by their respective European abusers – the Dutch and the British, both civilian and military leaderships of these post-colonial countries had retained close ties. As a matter of fact, Myanmar people under Prime Minister U Nu contributed to the national liberation struggle of Indonesians by providing the latter with "rice and guns" (India under Nehru also shipped weapons to Rangoon where our democratic government was under siege by the then secessionist Karen National Defence Organization That is just what good neighbors do: offer rice and guns as an act of solidarity).

President Sukarno and Prime Minister Nu were co-founders of the Non-aligned Movement, along with India's Nehru. Their non-aligned movement in the thick of the Cold War, was kicked off in the mountainous city of Bandung, Java. The likes of world revolutionaries – Che Guevara and Fidel Castro – were part of this movement. (The duo made a visit to Rangoon, staying at the colonial-era Strand Hotel, as part of their Asia-Africa tour, and told Rangoon's English language press that they were horrified to know that the Burmese elite learned about their Cuban Revolution from TIME magazine, which they apparently – and rightly – considered a U.S. imperialist propaganda publication on grocery check-out stands!)

When the initial flames of democracy were extinguished by the U.S.-backed bloody military coups, waged ostensibly against "the Communist threats" in Rangoon in 1962 and Jakarta in 1965, the two usurpers – Generals Ne Win and Suharto – forged their dictatorial ties, while the Myanmar military began modeling itself after Indonesia's "dual function" paradigm – as the sole national defender and national (political) guardian. Both Ne Win and Suharto were forced out of power and died in disgrace, although Suharto continues to be given respect among some quarters in Indonesia, Ne Win remains one of the most universally hated military figures in Myanmar.

The top dishonor of the most reviled person goes to Min Aung Hlaing. Myanmar people will not accept that the man whom they consider not simply the deliverer of death and violence but the thief who has stolen their dreams of a better future. To remove this criminal and corrupt usurper from power is where some of us Myanmar activists look to Indonesia as a potential external actor.   

So far, Indonesia has not disappointed. For starters, Jakarta publicly  broke with the ASEAN customary behavior of only interacting with the ruling military and/or "political representatives" of the State in Myanmar since its admission into the bloc in 1997. During his state visit to Singapore, President Jokowi broke the news that his foreign policy team has been meeting with "all stakeholders" (including anti-coup ethnic revolutionary organizations, other ethnic armed organizations, the National Unity Government and the coup regime of Min Aung Hlaing).   

To be sure, Jakarta is still operating with the framework of the Five Point Consensus (5-PC for short), including the cessation of violence and the starting of "all inclusive dialogue" among "stakeholders" of Myanmar –  reached the Special Summit Jokowi hosted in Jakarta in April 2020, two months after the bloody coup in Myanmar. Significantly, Min Aung Hlaing was a key participant in that summit, not as Head of State of Myanmar, nonetheless as Commander-in-chief of the largest military force in the country.    

Two full years on, objectively speaking again, Min Aung Hlaing and his deputies have binned the 5-PC, whatever the rest of the ASEAN think of the virtues and potentials of it. If in doubt, one only has to take a cursory glance at the 24-months of incessant, excessive and unlawful use of violence against civilians by the Myanmar military under his command. After a long lull in global reportage about Myanmar's repression and resistance, long overshadowed by the U.S. proxy war in Ukraine, the military's precision airstrikes on April 11 targeting a large gathering of civilians, with 170 killed, including 40 children, has put Myanmar back in the media spotlight. 

To its credit, Indonesia officially issued a rather stinging response to the unacceptable use of airstrikes against civilians, in the form of Chair's Statement of "Strong Condemnation", which did not need ASEAN Consensus, but nonetheless reflects the widespread views throughout the ASEAN capitals. On his part, Min Aung Hlaing gave Jakarta a political equivalent of a fat finger by sending planes and gunship helicopters to strike civilian targets in Chin State, Karen State and Karenni State as recently as April 24. These bombing runs did not include a second airstrike at the same crime scene like in Pa Zi Gyi village on April 11. CNN framed the violence in its "killer always returns to the crime scene" television report.

At the forthcoming summit in Indonesia, the ASEAN heads of state and their teams are expected to review the implementation of their Myanmar template – the 5-PC. President Jokowi's Myanmar policy team headed by his Foreign Minister Marsudi, a career diplomat, has been holding consultation meetings with different "stakeholders." The Indonesians have amassed a wealth of raw intelligence, or "situation updates" about the violence, the civil war, the actors, the fighters, etc.They have for days listened to the concerns, the analyses, and the expectations of these Myanmar parties in conflict. It is worth sharing some of the common views and concerns which the Indonesians have been presented with. For it paints a general picture of what may be termed Myanmar's domestic consensus only on the basis of which a lasting solution for it can be found.

First, despite the typical framing of Myanmar resistance movements as simply "disunited," if not "in disarray," there has emerged a consensus that disparate groups and movements do share a unity of mission or purpose: every group and movement wants a federated democracy where basic human rights are guaranteed and protected, where the equality of ethnic groups is enshrined in the Constitution, and where the tyranny of ethnic majoritarian democracy such as the National League for Democracy (NLD) under Aung San Suu Kyi is prohibited by the electoral system.

Second, no civilian and political stakeholder will ever accept the 2008 Constitution which has in effect enshrined the eternal political role of Myanmar's military as if it were the sole guardian of the nation and the protector of the people. From this widely popular perspective, the 2008 Constitution with no sunset clause for the military to phase itself out of politics, cannot be revived under any circumstances. It goes without saying that the electoral legitimacy claimed through the elections held within this anti-democratic constitutional framework is no longer acceptable. This is a significant moral and intellectual challenge to the NLD old guards which are leading the Committee Representing People's Parliament (CRPH) and the National Unity Government (NUG). In addition to Aung San Suu Kyi, who at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) defended the military while discrediting Rohingya genocide rape victims. Many of them, these second and third line NLD leaders served as genocide cheerleaders, denialists, and supporters. This is something the Muslim-majority Indonesians have found extremely objectionable morally and spiritually. Certainly, the NUG will remain morally and intellectually damaged unless these old elements of criminality and racism are replaced by the younger more progressive representatives. 

Third, all the civilian and political actors that participated in Jakarta's extensive and intensive consultation process – over four months – agree that elections held without a political settlement or a blueprint for Myanmar as a federal democracy is not a solution or a step forward. Quite the contrary, the elections in the middle of intensifying and expanding civil war will only add more fuel to the violence conflict. This much, the leaked Ministry of Home Affairs intelligence chiefs' meeting minutes of December 2022 has been observed already. 

Fourth, all the pro-democracy participants share the view that the political settlement must involve the establishment of a transitional body which includes civil society actors such as women's organizations, political parties and ethnic armed organizations. This body will be tasked with both transitional governance and drafting a new People's Constitution on the basis of which a new election may be held.

Fifth, based on this Constitution of, for and by the People, the new electoral system will need to be designed to give multiple ethnic nations or electorates proportional representations – as opposed to the "Winner-Takes-All" electoral design which propelled the Bamar and Buddhist-centric NLD to power, with not a single Muslim MP in the parliament from 2015-20. This will in turn prevent the repeat of the emergence of the ethnic majoritarian democracy, or mono-ethnic control of the state and its organ, Myanmar's cardinal problem since its independence from Britain in 1948. 

Sixth, no "stakeholder" from amongst Myanmar participants objects to the idea of "all inclusive dialogue" which ASEAN proposed as a step towards a peaceful resolution of Myanmar's violent crisis. However, the killings, including air strikes, legal murders, artillery fire, scorch-earth security operations, torture and jailing of civilians and activists, by the coup regime must stop, unconditionally, before any meaningful dialogue is morally acceptable and intellectually justifiable.  

Finally, all Myanmar people, especially the ethnic nationalities communities, demand the establishment of a process for transitional justice – along different models be they South Africa's post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission or proper tribunal for those who the highest command responsibility for the numerous and grave crimes in international and national laws which Myanmar's military has perpetrated since it usurped the state's power in a coup in 1962. For more than half a century, the non-Bamar ethnic communities, including Rohingyas, have been subjected to variously genocidal and semi-genocidal abuses by Myanmar's military. For no oppressed society can move forward from the dark past unless perpetrators and victims come together and process the vast store of their collective trauma in their respective search for peace and reconciliation. 

Maung Zarni is the co-author of Essays on Myanmar's Genocide of Rohingyas (2012-18). He is a UK-based Burmese exile with over 30-years of first-hand involvement and scholarship in Burma affairs. 

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Who will replace the military in Myanmar? The People’s Answer

Source Forsea, 23 April

"Who will replace the military to hold Myanmar together?" This is the paramount question which looms large among those who think, operate, and interact in "state spaces", that is, the international policy circles of diplomats, UN bureaucrats, think tankers, geo-strategists, and military planners, as well as business lobbyists.

Regarding Myanmar, the prevailing policy presumption seems to be as follows: in ethnically fractious states such as Myanmar where the state is violently contested by multiple populations or "stakeholders," the central military known as the Tatmadaw is stabilizer, the firm hand that keeps the country together. Whatever its crimes – including genocide and other atrocious crimes – all recurring and systemic, the military has been tolerated, within the ASEAN, for instance, at least until the coup two years ago.

For its systemic human rights and atrocity crimes are not seen as having any disruptive impact on international trade, commerce and strategic interests of neighbours and other powerful external actors.

This sadly reflects the rather regressive Westphalian thinking among those who speak on behalf of different external "state actors".

A cursory glance at the Wikipedia entry of the Westphalian ideology of the sacrosanct or absolutist sovereignty of the states, as opposed to the people, is in order. The introduction of the entry reads:

The Westphalian system, also known as Westphalian sovereignty, is a principle in international law that each state has exclusive sovereignty over its territory. The principle underlies the modern international system of sovereign states and is enshrined in the United Nations Charter, which states that "nothing … shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state.

According to the principle, every state, no matter how large or small, has an equal right to sovereignty.[2] Political scientists have traced the concept to the Peace of Westphalia (1648), which ended the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648) and Eighty Years' War (1568–1648).

Outside the neo-Westphalian state circles, the question of who will hold Myanmar together if the military are to be replaced confronts Myanmar's anti-dictatorship dissidents. They/we are envisaging and fighting for "another Myanmar" where what ASEAN leaders officially refer to as "the largest military force", no longer has monopoly grip over the country's politics, economy, and society.

The difference between those who are in the spaces of "state think" and the "another Myanmar is possible" revolutionaries on the ground is this: unlike the international policy makers who embrace the"stability, right or wrong" stance towards Myanmar's military, the instrument of genocide and terror, Myanmar, both the public and the dissidents, no longer believe and accept the military as their national armed forces.

There are many other viable "models" or scenarios between the disastrous extremes of, on one hand, the Washington-imposed regime change in Bagdad which involved dismantling the ruling Baathist party and the entire Iraqi armed forces and, ON THE OTHER HAND, continuing to want to keep Myanmar's genocidal military as "the Giver of Stability" (for the in-country foreign businesses and diplomatic missions in Yangon) and "the Holder of Myanmar State" (against the potential for Balkanization).

Blood-soaked post-genocidal and post-civil war Cambodia is a pertinent case study for all Myanmar. Whatever the form of the Hun Sen government today, the Cambodian strategy – called Win-Win – of replacing the Pol Pot's genocidal troops with the Hun Sen-led new Cambodian people's army while integrating all those rank and file, including Khmer Rouge officers, might offer a promising model.

Last year, during Cambodia's ASEAN Chairship, (Sao) Harn Yawnghwe, the founding director of the Associates to Develop Democratic Burma, better known as the Euro-Burma Office, and I travelled to Cambodia to learn how Cambodians and their international friends brought the bloody civil war to a close in their post-genocide society.   We studied their "Win-Win Strategy" by which Vietnam-backed and Hun Sen-led anti-genocidal forces and Khmer Rouge genocidal military forces, supported by US, China and ASEAN, were integrated into a single national armed forces, something  most relevant to our country with two dozen ethnic and pro-democracy armed forces.

We are grateful to our Cambodian friends who made serious efforts to help with finding a peaceful Win-Win in a post-genocidal, civil war-torn Myanmar.

The gathering of the two generation of exiles and revolutionaries at Harpers' Ferry, West Virginia, USA, February 1999. (Professor Kyaw Win, the late Dr Vun Sum, Naw May Oo Mutraw, Shan State Army commander and Shan scholar the late Dr Chao Tzang Yawnghwe, the exiled Prime Minister of the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma Dr Sein Win, the late Dr Marjolaine Law-Yone (Tin Nyo), Dr Maran Laraw, Dr and ex-Captain Thaung Tun, Zaw Oo, Dr Kyi May Kaung, Harn Yawnghwe and Maung Zarni, with an American dialogue facilitator.)

We know full-well what happened in Iraq when the entire national armed forces were dismantled – ala Saddam's armed forces in the name of "regime change". As Myanmar we have the greatest concerns for anarchy, chaos and more violence that may befall our people in transitional periods.

Despite our different ethnic and religious backgrounds, and political choices, (Harn Yawnghwe and) I have worked closely over the last 25 years, and seen mutual appreciation and respect. Besides our circles, there are other dissidents and revolutionaries who have studied other transitional societies and systems.

What Myanmar lack is not human talents or revolutionary experiences, but the international solidarity, especially solidarity from across different neighbours.

One step towards, or one concrete form, offering Myanmar resistance its due solidarity is to re-assess this pervasive regressively Westphalian view that Myanmar military is the only organization capable of holding the country together, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

The military under Min Aung Hlaing is proven to be the main de-stabilizer. It has violently deported nearly 1 million Muslim Rohingyas across the border onto Bangladeshi soil. In 24 months since the coup, its scorched-earth military operations have resulted in nearly 2 million war-fleeing refugees – called Internally Displaced Persons – in many regions of the country. It has caused the collapse of the country's informal economy which provided the majority of the people with livelihoods. It is the main cause of shame for ASEAN as its credibility has become the butt of international jokes.

To be sure, today's geopolitical situation around Myanmar which favours the status quo.   China, India, Thailand and ASEAN, as well as EU view the genocidal military as the "country holder" and formulate their policies accordingly.   Let's not be oblivious to the fact that no resistance or revolution is ever waged in ideal or favourable geopolitical and economic conditions.

Have a glance at the history of Khmer Rouge and see how it came about, who and how it was sustained and supported in the 1970's , and how it was treated as the legitimate representative of Cambodia even after the facts of genocide came to light, well into the 1980's.  It swept into power amidst the carpet-bombing of Northern Vietnam and parts of Cambodia. It was financially sustained by China. And Singapore provided the genocidal regime with fuel and helped generate foreign income by purchasing Cambodia fish wholesale. The United States and the United Kingdom gave blanket veto protection at the UN in New York. Thailand gave sanctuary to Pol Pot and his deputies to fight back the anti-genocidal forces of Hun Sen from their Thai-Khmer border based. ASEAN served as the genocidal regime's lobbyist in the international circles of state actors.

As my Khmer brother Youk Chhang who directs the Documentation Center – Cambodia, put it, "although 2 million Cambodians were killed, 5 million of us survived and live to rebuild Cambodia."

Yes, Myanmar people are certainly victims of our own internal colonial regime that has turned genocidal towards different communities. As is typically the case with all genocidal regimes, there are also more than one group that suffered Myanmar military's crimes.

Additionally, we are also the victims of the emerging geopolitics. But Myanmar people of all classes and ethnicities deserve a lot more credit to their resilience than they are given. We have preserved, against all odds, for six decades. We resent being seen and treated as mere subject of pity of sympathy.

No other Asian society has lived 70+ years of civil war and state-directed repression. The three generations of Myanmar of all ethnic backgrounds – not just the Karens or Shan or Rakhine but the Bama Buddhists and communists alike – continue to struggle for another better Myanmar. We are not the people that ASEAN or the world should offer platitudes of sympathy. We don't want your sympathy. We demand solidarity as we have given our neighbours, far and near, a hand of solidarity, be they Indonesians seeking to expel their Dutch colonizers in the late 1940's or the East Pakistanis – now Bengali – in their War of Liberation in 1971. (Ask the Rohingyas about the solidarity and refuge they offered their anthropological kin across the border in Tek Naf and Cox's Bazaar.)

In the face of the dissolution of political parties, birthing and deaths of armed organisations, or wholesale purges of dreaded military intelligence services, scorched-earth operations – known as the Four Cuts – and airstrikes, both the Myanmar resistance and the public at large remain defiant and determined to create a better future for themselves and the generations to come.

They/we will survive even if the military and its structures are radically overhauled to reinvent this institution as a force that protects its peoples, not perpetrate heinous crimes against the people in whose name it justifies its existence.

This unacceptability of the military as it has existed in this repressive, predatory form, permeates the public thinking, irrespective of class, race/ethnicity, age group, gender, or religion. It is based on their decades-old painful experience of life under the boot.

There is also another irreconcilable difference in Myanmar public's consensus view and the general consensus among external actors who typically operate in the state spaces – ASEAN, UN, EU, and so forth.

Despite its genocides – note the plural, judicially recognized or not – war crimes, and crimes against humanity, external actors continue to view the military as a legitimate stakeholder of Myanmar. They are still doing business with the military, albeit with a bit more public relations sensitivity: for regional stability; for military and intelligence cooperation; for trade and commerce; for geopolitical equations.

Monday, 3 April 2023


Source DVB, 31 Mar

Guest contributor, Dr. Maung Zarni

For my fellow democrats from Myanmar, wherever they are, I have bad news. It is this: the United States (that is, the U.S. government) is not our friend in our uphill struggle for our basic human rights and democratic freedoms. As someone who was educated in the U.S., cut my political teeth as a grassroots activist and lived and worked there for 17 years, I have known this ugly fact for several decades. Washington talks the talk of democracy, human rights and freedom, but it typically fails to walk the talk. 

This absence of genuine support and solidarity for our pro-democracy Burmese opposition on the part of U.S. policymakers – not simply the hypocrisy of their government as a whole  – was one of the principal reasons I ended my exile in the U.S. after 17 years (the other is its illegal and immoral second invasion of Iraq, accompanied by numerous war crimes during the U.S. occupation of that devastated society, on the bogus twin-pretext of Saddam's non-existent WMD and advancing "freedom and democracy" for Iraqi people).

Completely enamoured with the rhetoric of the U.S. as "the land of the free," I went to there as a young student in my twenties, one month before the '8888 Uprising'.  But by the second invasion of Iraq, my youthful illusions of "democracy in America" (and by extension) its support for global democratic movement were irreversibly shattered. As a matter of fact, I was cautioned against my rose-tinted view of the U.S. as a bastion of global democracy by my close friend's father the late Dr. Tin Maung Aye. In his capacity as the Superintendent of Rangoon General Hospital, he buried the fourth year Engineering student Ko Phone Maw, the first casualty of the 1988 pro-democracy uprising. 

"You need to get rid of your jaundiced view of the USA and the West", were his perceptive words he uttered when I paid him a goodbye visit to his official residence in Rangoon a few days before I flew out to San Francisco. During my years as a grassroots organizer, first as a student activist and later as a start-up academic, I was intimately involved in and interacted with so many different American institutions and individuals who led or staffed them, from city councils, state legislatures, churches and student organizations all across the vast sub-continental country to the White House, U.S. State Department, Congress, U.S. government funding agencies (such as the U.S. Institute for Peace and the National Endowment for Democracy), and numerous think tanks of all ideological stripes and colours. There were so many wonderful Americans who cared, and who wanted to do the right thing – support democratic movements around the world. 

My old Free Burma Coalition colleague Naw May Oo, another American-educated refugee who now advises the Karen National Union (KNU) and I were fortunate enough to have met some of the straight-talking Americans who were part of Washington's Burma policy circles. They gave us an equivalent of a shock therapy when they told us very bluntly, out of appreciation for our committed activism. A few individuals deserve a mention for their honesty. Right after the infamous 2003 Depayin massacre during which the NLD leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her deputy U Tin Oo escaped the botched assassination, we met at a Senate office with the two key aides to the Chair and Ranking member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Senators Richard Lugar (Republican, Indiana) and John Kerry (Democrat, Massachusetts) to see if there could be stronger support for the flagship NLD opposition in the heartlands and the ethnic armed organizations in the conflict zones.    

Their response? One said to us, "If Aung San Suu Kyi were assassinated by the junta [Burmese democrats] would get a statement of condemnation from the United States government."  Another chimed in, "You might also get a memorial service at the National Cathedral."   [Given Aung San Suu Kyi's moral standing in the world today – because of her ignominious defence of the indefensible (the Rohingya genocide) at the International Court of Justice, even a memorial service in honour of the 77-year old Lady in captivity seems inconceivable.] Matthew P. Daley, a former Korean War vet who was then Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the East Asia Bureau within the State Department was far more specific and blunt. In our one-on-one conversation, he said, "I can't conscience my government's empty pro-democracy rhetoric. But in reality, we let pro-democracy dissidents mowed down by authoritarian regimes." 

He gave an example of the crushed Hungarian uprisings against the Soviet-backed regime in Budapest during the Eisenhower presidency in 1956. Over 20,000 Hungarian democratic activists were slaughtered, and Washington's support, which was never intended to be real, well, never came. He recounted in his meetings with the Chinese counterparts in Beijing, how he dropped the official script of Washington's pro-democracy concerns for Burma, in hopes that the Chinese Communist Party leadership may get the message that the giant neighbour had nothing to fear of U.S. backing for the Burmese democratic opposition. For there was no such thing! Since the Hungarian uprisings, there have been too many cases of pro-democratic and pro-Western movements and governments, that Washington has abandoned. Among them were Burma's neighbours, namely South Vietnam and Cambodia. The latest was Afghanistan falling back under the Taliban. Abandoned by their American allies in power, pro-American democrats in Saigon in the 1970's and Kabul in 2020, desperately trying to get on the last U.S. transport aircrafts, has now become a gut-wrenching iconic image in 'socio' media and on TV screens.

Alas, such warmth, honesty and solidarity don't extend beyond individual officials. You may be friends with U.S. officials. But their government is not a friend of your struggle. That is, unless supporting your resistance advances America's core interests, ala Ukraine. This was a rude awakening for me personally, which in turn compelled me to seek an alternative of finding ways to reconcile with the oppressive military leadership. In the absence of real support from the U.S. in particular and the liberal West in general, I sought to explore ways to help end the country's vicious cycle of violence and counter-violence, repression and resistance. My efforts came to nothing. Now I feel I am back to where I started some 20 years ago when I split with Aung San Suu Kyi-led flagship opposition movement and advocated the stance, "we must talk to the generals".

I knew that Washington would sell us, democrats, down the river. Then President Barack Obama and his Secretary of State Hilary Clinton went to Aung San Suu Kyi's fabled colonial mansion in Rangoon, with global publicity and fanfare, but they removed her only leverage, namely financial sanctions against her military captors. According to Obama's National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes, in her meeting with the U.S. President at the Oval Office in 2013, the Burmese opposition leader did ask Obama to retain financial sanctions. She wanted to use them as bargaining chips in her dealings with the generals. But beholden to the interests of American corporations, Obama offered Suu Kyi an all-or-nothing option. U.S. businesses could not wait to enter Burma as the virgin economy where the Chinese, Singaporean, Thais, Malaysians, South Koreans and Taiwanese had already built toeholds during the years of sanctions.

To labour the obvious, the world's most powerful government would do anything to pursue its core interests – not values.  Since its founding as a white settler colony, the U.S. has, according to the Congressional Research Services studies, waged over 300 wars and invasions, declared and undeclared wars, "legal" (that is, UN Security Council-authorized) and illegal invasions, covert and overt, sanctions or lifting them, at their convenience. There just isn't significant enough U.S. interests insofar as Myanmar for Washington to really support the Burmese democratic resistance – most violent, widespread and unprecedented in history – which sprang up organically in virtually all ethnic communities and in different social classes.  

Two years since the universally opposed military coup of February 2021, the U.S. has only offered the nationwide democratic resistance, made up of Generation Z fighters and several major ethnic resistance organizations (for instance, the Karen National Union, Chin National Front, and Karenni Progressive People's Party) "notional" support, to use former U.S. Ambassador to Burma Scot Marciel's adjective. In the face of 3,000 deaths and 20,000 arrests of Burmese resisters since the violent crackdown of nationwide peaceful protests began, all that the U.S., both Congress and the Biden Administration could do is the provision of "non-lethal assistance" and humanitarian assistance, in addition to a mix of empty statements of condemnation of this or that misdeed by the junta, and dribble of economic sanctions against a handful of Burmese businessmen and entities tied to the junta. 

Typically, U.S. officials such as Derek Cholet holds up photo ops with the leaders of the National Unity Government (NUG) and well-timed and well-publicized visits to its "Information Office" in Washington as Exhibit A of the American support. The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the reactive "unity of the West" in support of Ukrainian people's defence for their democratic rights have stripped bare Washington's pro-democracy rhetoric. The day NUG "Foreign Minister" Zin Mar Aung had a photo-op with British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly at the British Foreign Ministry in London, Washington's proxy-in-chief Zalensky addressed the British Parliament and openly demanded  – I repeat demanded, not requested – fighter jets and more weapons.

Some 25 years ago, I met James Woosley, former CIA director and a staunch proponent of the regime change in Bagdad, at a close American friend's book launch party in Washington, DC. I asked the spook for his advice on the subject of removing the Burmese dictatorship "back home."  He exclaimed, "you need a lot of money!".  And the man knew what he was talking about. No resistance or regime change could be undertaken on empty stomach or with poor arms. Within seven days of Myanmar coup two years ago, President Joe Biden was seen on live TV news, talking tough against the Burmese coup regime while proceeding to announce his executive decision to freeze US$1 billion that belongs to Myanmar state (that is, people) as a first step towards supporting Myanmar's pro-democracy movement. Like Woosley, Biden, who routinely voted funding Israel, the largest recipient of U.S. military assistance, for 30 years and supported the invasions of Iraq by the two Bush presidencies, too knows very well how costly war and resistance financing is. 

And yet Biden refuses to release that $1 billion to be used for the resistance. The lame excuse from the Americans was that they were safekeeping the money for rebuilding Burma as a federal democracy. But without removing the dictatorship no possibility exists for any reconstruction of Burma. Biden's silence and omission of the Burmese resistance speaks volumes. In Biden's remarks at the Summit for Democracy Virtual Plenary on Democracy Delivering on Global Challenges" delivered in Washington on March 29, Biden singled out "the unprecedented unity we've seen from democracies condemning Russia's brutal war of aggression against Ukraine and standing in solidarity with the brave Ukrainian people as they defend their democracy". And yet the man who froze $1 billion USD and, only two years ago, promised more in action to support the Burmese people who too defend their democracy, however flawed, chose not to even make an obligatory mention.

For revolutionary movements to succeed they need friends, particularly "frontline states", that is, neighbours adjacent to the theatres of resistance. To gain support and solidarity from neighbours is of paramount importance, particularly in light of the complete absence of real support from "democracies of the world". Admittedly, none of Burma's neighbours has shown any interest in or will to partner with or recognize the NUG, or support the broader resistance of ethnic resistance organizations and democratic resisters. As democrats we are in-between rock and the hard place. Beijing considers the Burmese resistance – in particular the NUG – as nothing but a semi-proxy propped up by Washington. As democrats and resisters against six decades of a mass-murderous military, we must bang our heads together and rethink the leadership, their orientation, capacities and achievements, against hard, cold odds. 

Maung Zarni is the co-author of Essays on Myanmar's Genocide of Rohingyas (2012-18). He is a UK-based Burmese exile with over 30-years of first-hand involvement and scholarship in Burma affairs. 

The Anatomy of the Political Economy of Slow Genocide, and Organising of Racial Capitalism– A Tale of the Making of De Facto Stateless Rohingya

Source Foresea, 30 March

The paper discusses the political economy of genocide by exploring the organising of genocide against the world's largest de facto stateless community – the Rohingya community of Myanmar – over the past forty years.

Amartya Sen categorises Rohingyas' experience of genocide as a slow genocide. His categorisation is borne out in our experience. To situate our understandings, we draw from Sanayal's arguments on the developmental state and the organisation of postcolonial capitalism. We argue that the core understanding of the political economy of slow genocide calls for the characterisation of genocide in relation to the capitalist formation of a developmental state and of particular social relations; this was conducted by organising the hierarchies of both civil and political societies as dominant and dominated factions within the project of the nation-state and nation-building. Examining the management of de facto stateless people reveals how substitutability evolves as a management strategy by the militarised form of the nation-state project. This strategy also characterises the politics of institutionalising and legitimising violence in the forms of expulsion, displacement, and death. Hence, we argue that the substitutability strategy is underpinned by the logic of extinction; thereby, this strategy institutionalises and legitimises violence in the forms of genocide. Thus, racial capitalism is organised and reconfigures the lives of minority communities in the context of the developmental states. Finally, we extend our debate by asking what role business academics should undertake in an increasingly corporatised academy in contemporary global capitalism.

Keywords: slow genocide, Rohingya, stateless people, Myanmar, substitution, racial capitalism

Read/download the full paper below.

Author information:

Habiburahman ("Habib") is Rohingya. Born in 1979 in Burma, he escaped torture, persecution, and detention by fleeing to neighbouring countries, where he faced further discrimination and violence. In 2009 he came to Australia by boat, spending 32 months in various detention centres. Now in Melbourne, he remains passportless and stateless. He is the founder and secretary of the Australian Burmese Rohingya Organization (ABRO).

Fahreen Alamgir received her Master's in Management from the University of Dhaka and her PhD from the School of Management of RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia. Her research focuses on inequity, inequality, and violence, focusing on precariat migrant workers, the feminised workforce, refugees, and the stateless people.

Posted by Habiburahman, & Fahreen Alamgir