‘More democracy’ is no quick fix for Myanmar’s Rohingya crisis

October 7, 2017

‘More democracy’ is no quick fix for Myanmar’s Rohingya crisis

by Jonathan Bogais, University of Sydney and Thammasat University

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Tatamadaw soldiers patrol in Rohingya  areas

In recent weeks, extreme violence perpetrated by the armed forces of Myanmar (the Tatmadaw), Buddhist nationalist militias and Buddhists generally against Muslim Rohingya in the state of Rakhine has killed an estimated 1000 Rohingya and displaced 430,000. The UN has described the violence as ethnic cleansing.

Everything is taking place against a background of sectarian violence that started during World War II with Aung San Suu Kyi’s father Major General Aung San, before what was then Burma’s independence from the British in 1947. The former British colony claimed its independence following World War II, during which time a significant number of Burmese served in the Bamar/Patriotic Burmese Forces (PBF) in support of the Japanese. At the same time, other ethnic minorities — including the Muslim Rohingya — remained loyal to the British and were heavily persecuted by the PBF.

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Burmese Vice President Aung San (second from left) with his delegation at 10 Downing Street on 13 January 1947 (Photo: Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

READ: https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/myanmar-and-aung-san-resurrection-icon

Aung San, the father of Aung San Suu Kyi, had joined the Japanese before the war, forming the Burma Independence Army and later training in Hainan Island before returning to lead the renamed Burma National Army (BNA). Early in 1945, Aung San had met with Lieutenant General Bill Slim, Commander of the British Fourteenth Army. Slim insisted that the BNA submit to being disarmed by British forces. The BNA was then renamed the Patriotic Burmese Forces. In Aung San’s eyes, the Rohingya were the arch enemy of the PBF, and to make things worse, they were Muslims.

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Returning to the present, Aung San Suu Kyi would be conflicted by the dichotomy between the importance of her father’s legacy on Myanmar and her desire to bring Myanmar into a new age while facing the same actors and differences her father did 70 years ago. This significant conflict may explain — but not justify — her apparent lack of empathy for the Rohingya.

The success of Myanmar’s democratic transformation depends on economic conditions, the legal system, civil society, education, historical heritage and culture. It also depends on whether strong democratic actors can have an impact in the political power game against non-democratic players such as the military, militias and religious fundamentalists.

Since 1962, the Myanmar military has managed a parallel economy embedded in all aspects of business and social life. This is not a black economy. It is structural and cannot be changed unless a profound transformation occurs at all levels of Myanmar society.

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Hence, it was unrealistic to expect rapid transformation in Myanmar’s complex environment marked by decades of structural and political violence and more recently by rising ethno-nationalism amid a rapidly changing socioeconomic landscape. To expect the powerful Tatmadaw to surrender its political influence was equally unrealistic.

Proponents for democracy in Myanmar have failed to understand the connections between the drug/resource/human economy and the local political economy. These connections encompass politics, councils, licensing authorities, the judiciary, the police, the financial sector, the military, schools, local companies, the private sector and organisations enabling assurance and trusts. Understanding these complex dynamics would aid the development process.

The linear model of democratisation proposed by some advocates cannot address this complexity, which makes installing a Western-style representative democracy an impossible task. This is especially true in a region in which weak democracies and autocracies are common and where wide-scale military participation in politics and the economy is unexceptional.

When Myanmar ‘opened’ to the world in 2012, optimism in Western democracies knew no limits. They claimed the military junta, the last autocratic regime in Southeast Asia, would soon be overwhelmed by democratisation. Buoyed by their illusions and unbounded euphoria, political observers, democratisation experts, constitutional lawyers and many civil society actors imagined that the democratisation process would take only a few years. Fresh from years under house arrest, Aung San Suu Kyi was elevated to a symbol for democracy conquering a seemingly totalitarian space.

But Aung San Suu Kyi knows that only a transformation within this ecology and its parallel economies may effect change over time and that she must resist international pressures. This explains her silence on several issues — including the Rohingya.

There is significant indication that a number of young people, especially Rohingyas, are vulnerable to recruitment into parallel existences (such as in terrorist movements) and parallel economies (such as in drugs). This suggests that Myanmar is living through a period of Keynesian ‘radical uncertainty’, which if not revolution per se, is a critical juncture whose impact could reach well beyond its borders.

To prevent more tragedies, understanding these changes by being more sophisticated in the approach to conflict and development is essential. In the meantime, little to nothing will happen to help the Rohingya. Western democracies are unwilling to be involved beyond the usual rhetoric, Asian countries will not interfere and the UN remains toothless.

Jonathan Bogais is an Associate Professor at the School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Sydney and a senior fellow at the German–Southeast Asian Centre of Excellence for Public Policy and Good Governance in the Faculty of Law, Thammasat University. His website is www.jonathanbogais.net.

NY Times Book Review: “We Were 8 Years in Power”

October 6, 2017

NY Times Book Review: “We Were 8 Years in Power”


Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “We Were Eight Years in Power” has yet to come out, but it’s already generated a storm of discussion. The Atlantic ran an excerpt; conservatives went on the attack; George Packer, a highly-regarded and left-leaning journalist who got caught in Coates’s cross hairs, issued a rebuttal. A new book from Coates is not merely a literary event. It’s a launch from Cape Canaveral. There’s a lot of awe, heat, resistance.

The simplest way to describe “We Were Eight Years in Power” is as a selection of Coates’s most influential pieces from The Atlantic, organized chronologically. The book is actually far more than that, but for now let’s stick with those pieces, which have established Coates as the pre-eminent black public intellectual of his generation.

It’s not an accident that these reported essays span the years of Barack Obama’s presidency. “Obama’s presence opened a new field for writers,” Coates writes, “and what began as curiosity about the man himself eventually expanded into curiosity about the community he had so consciously made his home and all the old, fitfully slumbering questions he’d awakened about American identity.”

Coates was one of the first to show up to discuss all three of these themes: The man, the community, our national identity. He critiqued respectability politics. He wrote about mass incarceration. He wrote about Michelle Obama and Chicago’s South Side. He wrote about how Barack Obama was exceptional, in many senses, and about the paradoxical limits of the first black president’s power to address race and racism. He wrote about the qualitative difference between white economic prospects and black economic prospects, thanks to discriminatory policies promulgated by the government even during progressive times, and about how, in his view, reparations would be the only way to redress the problem.

Coates often discussed matters of race in a way that many African-Americans wished Obama could have.

One of the book’s most persistent, recurrent themes, a shuttle that flies through the loom, is that black progress is always met with a violent backlash — the modern apotheosis of which was the election of Donald J. Trump. Most of these pieces force a reckoning with ideas that people, mainly whites, avoid contemplating or reject or insist (sometimes rightly) are more complicated: That American democracy was predicated on an enslaved class of Africans; that most white Americans still can’t tolerate the idea of equality; that acknowledging the many legacies of slavery is too much to ask of most whites, because it would disrupt our conception of our country and ourselves.

Coates provokes and invites argument. He’s had a rich life as a blogger, and one of the ways he’s learned — he’s not shy about noting he’s an autodidact — has been through his many followers. It’s as if he’s still carrying on the conversation in his magazine stories.

As indispensable as his voice is, he might well have been crowned “America’s best writer on race,” as one newspaper put it, prematurely. Simply reading and name-checking him came to feel sufficient for some white readers, preventing them from consuming other African-American voices with different points of view and different readings of history.

But taking in Coates’s essays from start to finish is still a bracing thing, like drinking a triple scotch, neat.

Perhaps an even more compelling reason to read “We Were Eight Years in Power” is for the new material Coates has written. He introduces each magazine story with an essay that serves not just as connective tissue, binding one work to the next, but as meta-commentary, reminiscent of Mary McCarthy’s italicized re-reflections in “Memories of a Catholic Girlhood.” He calls each one “a kind of extended blog post,” offering a glimpse into what he was thinking and feeling when he wrote the article that follows it. You see in these mini-essays the same mixture of feelings that saturated his two previous works, “The Beautiful Struggle” and “Between the World and Me”: pessimism and vulnerability, mistrust and melancholy, anger and resignation. You realize they must inform, to some degree, his outlook and his journalism. “I had no expectations of white people at all,” he writes at one point.


Credit Sonny Figueroa/The New York Times

His disposition also informs his reaction to the experience of sudden celebrity. Coates was dogged by feelings of failure and inadequacy even after he published his first story for The Atlantic, which landed with a splash and a whorl. (“My chief identity, to my mind, was not writer but college dropout.”) As his fame grew, he started getting invited to the White House, and he would leave those visits in a fug of self-doubt. The first time, he thought he had “failed” to get his points across to Obama; the second, he feared he had argued with the president too theatrically. “I was trying to prove to myself that I would not be cowed or seduced by power,” he writes. “It was ridiculous.”

More confusingly to him, white liberals started to bathe him in praise. Throughout his career, Coates had strained against writing anodyne pieces that would soothe the white conscience. What was “The Case for Reparations” if not an argument that sorely tested the imaginations of whites, arguing for “ideas roundly dismissed as crazy”? Yet still he was anointed. It’s a position he finds uncomfortable, which may explain the weariness one periodically sees in Coates’s appearances before largely white audiences, when they come seeking assurance and he responds with all the encouragement of a slamming door. “What if there was no hope at all?” he asks. “Sometimes, I said as much and was often met with a kind of polite and stunned disappointment.”

This is where Coates obviously parts company with Obama, who campaigned on the very notion of hope and the perfectibility of America. Obama still seems to believe that the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice. With Obama’s election, Coates briefly allowed himself to entertain the same belief. He was quickly disenchanted. It’s clear he now believes this arc, at best, reaches an asymptote — that dastardly dotted line it can never quite touch. And even that’s probably too optimistic a reading.

One can understand this point of view and deeply sympathize with it. But there are times when Coates seems to unwittingly complicate it. When he writes that he realized, after living in France, that he was lucky not to have been born there — “It is, I think, the very chaos of America that allowed me to prosper” — one wishes he would reckon with this idea for more than a paragraph.

In the election of Trump, Coates sees an affirmation of his bleak worldview. “To Trump whiteness is neither notional nor symbolic but is the very core of his power,” he writes in the final essay here, recently published to much attention in The Atlantic. “Every Trump voter is most certainly not a white supremacist,” Coates writes. “But every Trump voter felt it acceptable to hand the fate of the country over to one.”

In their quest for affirmation, it’s true that human beings have a depressing capacity for selective listening. Some white voters without a college education, Trump’s most overwhelmingly enthusiastic constituency, took his racism far less seriously than they should have, or just overlooked it — and those are the best-case scenarios. Others privileged their anti-abortion beliefs above all else, or their fealty to the Republican Party, or (in a different vein entirely) their hatred of Washington, hoping to shake the Etch A Sketch and start anew. Or they thought Hillary Clinton was a criminal and moral degenerate.

But I would add that many of us can listen selectively — including Coates. In the first piece in this collection, he recalls the exhilaration of attending the Million Man March organized by Louis Farrakhan. “For us, Farrakhan’s opinions on the Jews mostly seemed beside the point,” he writes. “What stuck was the chance to assert our humanity and our manhood by marching on the Mall, and not acting like we were all fresh out of San Quentin.”

He had to hold contradictions in his head in order to allow himself to get swept up in a moment led by an inflammatory figure. Some Trump voters may have done the same.

It is to Coates’s credit, though, that by the time you’re done reading “We Were Eight Years in Power,” you also see what he does — namely, that far too many whites are overlooking what is so plainly staring them in the face, and that America couldn’t have a black president without boomeranging back to its ugliest self.

Hence Coates’s subtitle: An American tragedy.

Daw Suu and Ibu Mega

September 23, 2017

Daw Suu and Ibu Mega


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EDITOR’S NOTE: the following opinion piece by Indonesian journalist and filmmaker Dandhy Laksono made headlines after he was reported to police under Indonesia’s controversial online defamation laws for comparing Megawati Soekarnoputri to Aung San Suu Kyi. For readers’ interest we are pleased to share a translation of his post prepared by Hellena Souisa.

It’s hard not to join the crowd of those furious with the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi, for what has happened to the Rohingya. A former political prisoner of 15 years, Suu Kyi is now considered to have power and influence after her party (NLD) won national elections in November 2015. However, she has been seen as inadequate in preventing the slaughter of ethnic Rohingya Muslims by Myanmar’s army and Buddhist hardliners.

In addition to being the leader of the winning party of the election, she is also the State Counsellor and Minister of Foreign Affairs. The office of Counsellor is equivalent to Prime Minister and has a 5 year term. Of course, in a country that has a number of powerful generals, I think political assessments cannot be naive. Often military members have their own agenda that is not always in line with the civilian government in power.

President John F Kennedy was feeling overwhelmed with the agenda of his generals at the Pentagon and the CIA amid the Cuban missile crisis and the Bay of Pigs invasion (1961), which brought him to the brink of starting a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. Likewise, Suharto and his comrade generals built contacts discreetly with Allied parties in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, when then President Sukarno was promoting a ‘Ganyang Malaysia’ (‘crush Malaysia’) campaign in 1963.

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Our judgement of Suu Kyi in the case of the Rohingya should therefore always consider this delicate balance of power within the country, especially as Myanmar has been under the power of a military regime for more than 50 years, one which also had a record of killing civilians: for example, the bloody 8888 uprising in which 3,000 to 10,000 people died. (The number of 8888 is taken from the date of the event, 8 August 1988, while the resistance movement also has the other “magic number” of 7777, from the series of protests started on 7 July 1977).

Nevertheless, it seems that Suu Kyi did not push back in the same way that Kennedy did when he felt he was being harassed by the hardline generals. Instead, there is an impression that Suu Kyi is part of the problem. She always mentions that the case of the Rohingya is another example of violence that also occurs among other ethnic groups, such as the Karen.

The disappointment in Suu Kyi was further evident in May 2017, when the Myanmar Government refused and denied UN reports of what was happening to the Rohingya in Rakhine State. In June 2017, the Myanmar government shut down access to UN investigators.

In 2013 Suu Kyi even made a comment that was considered racist, when being interviewed by the BBC reporter, Mishal Husain. After the interviewer bombarded her with questions about the Rohingya case, Suu Kyi said “no-one told me I was going to be interviewed by a Muslim”, according to a biography written by Peter Popham. Moreover, there is an excerpt of Suu Kyi’s interview which showed her determination to accumulate power after she won the election: she said she would be “above the president, I will make all the decisions because I am the leader of the winning party.” The context of the statement was an affirmation of Suu Kyi that although the military group challenged her with a constitution that made her ineligible to be president (because both of her children hold a British passport) she considers herself more powerful than the head of state.

So, how does this have anything to do with Megawati? In a different context and with different details, Indonesians also have experienced a situation where an icon of the struggle for democracy—one who was once repressed by the New Order regime (such repression meeting its peak in the events of 27 July 1996)—turned out to be unreliable, and did not fulfil their promise of being an agent of nonviolent problem solving.

Even though her party won national elections in June 1999 with about 34% of the vote, the Chairperson of PDI-P (Indonesian Democratic Party of Stuggle), Megawati Soekarnoputri, was aware that it did not automatically make her president, since at that moment the president was still elected by the People’s Consultative Assembly.

In her post-election victory speech at Lenteng Agung on 29 July 1999, she continued her campaign and burst into tears:

“For the people of Aceh, if I am trusted to lead the country, believe me, Cut Nyak [comparing herself to the Acehnese anticolonial fighter] will not allow a single drop of blood to hit the land of Rencong, which has great merit in promising the independence of Indonesia. For you all, I will give my love. I will give the outcome of your Arun [natural gas field] so that the people can enjoy how the beautiful Porch of Mecca is if built with love and responsibility for our fellow citizens of Indonesia.”

Not only addressing the Acehnese, who had experienced the bloody operation under the code name of ‘Red Net’ from 1988 to 1998, Megawati also had some words for Papua:

“This is also what I am going to do to my brothers and sisters in Irian Jaya and beloved Ambon. The day of victory is not far away, brothers and sisters.”

But we all know what happened later, as has been written in our history. After she replaced President Abdurrahman Wahid, who took the road of peace and cultural diplomacy in handling Aceh, President Megawati sent 40,000 soldiers to Aceh on 19 May 2003 and declared martial law. Much more than “one single drop” of blood was spilt there.

Most likely, she followed the beat of the drum played by generals and diplomats who engineered the war in Aceh by leaving series of international negotiations deadlocked, even capturing the Free Aceh Movement (GAM)’s negotiator. (This is particularly reminiscent of what the Dutch General de Kock did when he caught Diponegoro during the negotiation process in the Java War in colonial times.)

As a producer of the Liputan6 SCTV news program at that time, the footage of Megawati’s speech in Lenteng Agung on 29 July 1999 was one that I looked for when I made a review of the martial law in Aceh.

According to the digital catalogue, the recording was on one of the Betacam cassettes in the library. I sought for it in racks of tapes, and yet I could not find it. The librarian was also confused because that tape was not on the lending list. I insisted the tape be found immediately.

Senior journalists tipped me off that tapes containing sensitive material have always ended up “missing” in Indonesian televisions stations’ libraries, let alone recordings of the speeches of a politician who becomes president. Hearing that, the librarians and I became even more active in looking for it. We looked in every corner of the library and the editing room, with faith that it was unlikely that the tape was smuggled out. Martial Law was announced early that morning and I only mentioned the tape in the afternoon editorial meeting.

After hours of searching, the tape was finally found on top of a shelf. We could only see the tape after the librarian climbed up a chair. There were no other tapes in there, only that one. When we played it back, it was exactly in the middle of Megawati’s speech. (One tape lasted up to 90 minutes, and usually consisted of a variety of events). Luckily, someone uploaded that historic speech to YouTube, although it is incomplete. (The speech about Aceh can be viewed here from minute 03:00.)

Arun gas field revenue sharing, which she mentioned, was only included in the Aceh Government Law after the Helsinki peace talks in August 2005. Even these negotiations were forced by the tsunami, and not based on political will.

As for Papua, Abdurrahman Wahid, who had never campaigned for President nor wept in front of cameras, in fact implemented humanitarian diplomacy in Papua. The Morning Star flag could be raised as a cultural symbol, and he permitted the Papuans to hold the Papuan People’s Congress.

But when replaced by Megawati, the approach to Papua suddenly changed. The generals who complained during the time of Gus Dur were again given an opportunity to discharge their libido of “nationalism and patriotism”. In November 2001, during Megawati’s presidency, the assassination of Theys Hiyo Eluay occurred. Theys was the leader of a transformation in Papua from physical resistance to political diplomacy.

So until now, the supposedly imminent “day of victory” has taken the shape of a massive and historically unprecedented capture. Right after Megawati’s party returned to power through PDI-P’s legislative victory in 2014, and the election of President Joko Widodo (whom she called a “party functionary”, just as Suu Kyi asserted her power), the number of arrests of citizens in Papua has rocketed to 1,083 people, higher than the number arrested by President SBY. Even according to the records of LBH Jakarta and Tapol, between April and June 2016 alone, there were 4,198 Papuans arrested in various places in Indonesia for expressing their political aspirations.

Dandhy Dwi Laksono is a documentarian, and journalist. He is a founder of WatchdoC Documentary, and co-founder of acehkita.com, where this article first appeared in Bahasa Indonesia. You can follow him on Twitter at @dandhy_laksono.

Hellena Souisa is a PhD Candidate at the Asia Institute at the University of Melbourne. You can follow her on Twitter at @sweethellena.


Myanmar: The Rohingya, Saudi Backed ISIS Militants, Aung San Suu Kyi is a US Proxy

September 10, 2017

Myanmar: The Rohingya, Saudi Backed ISIS Militants, Aung San Suu Kyi is a US Proxy

The unfolding crisis in Southeast Asia’s state of Myanmar has confounded many geopolitical analysts due to its complex history and the intentionally deceptive and now contradictory coverage provided by the Western media.

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Aung San Suu Kyi is a Creation and Proxy of US and European Interests

The current government of Myanmar is headed by Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD). It has ascended into power after a decades-long struggle against the nation’s military who ruled the nation for decades.

Aung San Suu Kyi is a Creation and Proxy of US and European Interests

Suu Kyi and her NLD are the recipients of tens of millions of dollars in US, British, and European aid. Entire networks of fronts posing as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have been created to undermine and overwrite Myanmar’s sovereign institutions.

The extent of this support and funding is covered by many of the Western organizations themselves, including the Burma Campaign UK, who in its 36 page 2006 report, “Failing the People of Burma?” (.pdf) details extensively how it and its American counterparts have built up Suu Kyi’s now impressive political domination of Myanmar.

The report states explicitly:

The National Endowment for Democracy (NED – see Appendix 1, page 27) has been at the forefront of our program efforts to promote democracy and improved human rights in Burma since 1996. We are providing $2,500,000 in FY 2003 funding from the Burma earmark in the Foreign Operations legislation. The NED will use these funds to support Burmese and ethnic minority democracy-promoting organizations through a sub-grant program. The projects funded are designed to disseminate information inside Burma supportive of Burma’s democratic development, to create democratic infrastructures and institutions, to improve the collection of information on human rights abuses by the Burmese military and to build capacity to support the restoration of democracy when the appropriate political openings occur and the exiles/refugees return.

It also reports:

Both Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Asia (RFA) have Burmese services. VOA broadcasts a 30-minute mix of international news and information three times a day. RFA broadcasts news and information about Burma two hours a day. VOA and RFA websites also contain audio and text material in Burmese and English. For example, VOA’s October 10, 2003 editorial, “Release Aung San Suu Kyi” is prominently featured in the Burmese section of VOAnews.com. RFA’s website makes available audio versions of 16 Aung San Suu Kyi’s speeches from May 27 and 29, 2003. U.S. international broadcasting provides crucial information to a population denied the benefits of freedom of information by its government.

Regarding the indoctrination and education of future leaders of this Western proxy political bloc, it states:

The State Department provided $150,000 in FY 2001/02 funds to provide scholarships to young Burmese through Prospect Burma, a partner organization with close ties to Aung San Suu Kyi. With FY 2003/04 funds, we plan to support Prospect Burma’s work given the organization’s proven competence in managing scholarships for individuals denied educational opportunities by the continued repression of the military junta, but committed to a return to democracy in Burma.

In regards to the Open Society and its role in interfering with Myanmar’s internal politics, the report states:

Our assistance to the Open Society Institute (OSI) (until 2004) provides partial support for a program to grant scholarships to Burmese refugee students who have fled Burma and wish to continue their studies at the undergraduate, or post-graduate level. Students typically pursue degrees in social sciences, public health, medicine, anthropology, and political science. Priority is given to students who express a willingness to return to Burma or work in their refugee communities for the democratic and economic reform of the country. 

The report, written in 2006 when another US proxy – Thaksin Shinawatra – presided over Thailand as Prime Minister until his ouster later that year, would detail the role Thailand was then playing to undermine and overthrow Myanmar’s political order:

Last year the U.S. government began funding a new program of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to provide basic health services to Burmese migrants outside the official refugee camps in cooperation with the Thai Ministry of Public Health. This project has been supported by the Thai government and has received favorable coverage in the local press. Efforts such as this that endeavor to find positive ways to work with the Thai government in areas of common interest help build support for U.S.-funded programs that support Burmese pro-democracy groups.

Myanmar’s current minister of information, Pe Myint – for example – underwent training at the NED and Open Society-funded Indochina Media Memorial Foundation in Bangkok.

A US diplomatic cable made available via Wikileaks would reveal just how integral such training was in building up the US client state that now rules Myanmar.

Titled, “An Overview of Northern Thailand-Based Burmese Media Organizations,” the 2007 cable states (emphasis added):

Other organizations, some with a scope beyond Burma, also add to the educational opportunities for Burmese journalists. The Chiang Mai-based Indochina Media Memorial Foundation, for instance, last year completed training courses for Southeast Asian reporters that included Burmese participants. Major funders for journalism training programs in the region include the NED, Open Society Institute (OSI), and several European governments and charities….

…A number of active media training programs attract exiles and those from inside Burma to Chiang Mai for journalism courses ranging from one week to one year. These training programs identify would-be journalists who are active in communities inside Burma, as well as NGOs in Thailand, and help them secure reporting positions with Burmese media outfits in the region. The training programs help ensure that future generations will be able to succeed the founders of the current organizations.

The cable also links US funding to the very predictable “pro-American” attitude adopted by those receiving the benefits of such funding:

In a refreshing take for U.S. diplomats interacting with foreign media, the exile journalist community here remains steadfastly pro-American. Groups such as DVB and The Irrawaddy continually seek more input from U.S. officials and make frequent use of interviews, press releases and audio clips posted on USG websites. A live interview with a U.S. diplomat is a prized commodity, one even capable of stoking a healthy competition among rival news organizations to land a scoop. A 2006 Irrawaddy interview with EAP DAS Eric John multiplied into several articles and circulated widely throughout the exile community and mainstream media. 

USG funding plays some role in this goodwill…

Without doubt, Suu Kyi and those occupying top positions within her government, are the product of decades of US-UK and European backing, training, and indoctrination.

Saudi-backed “Rohingya Militants” No More Represent All Rohingya than ISIS Represents All Sunnis 

An unfortunate narrative is taking shape across the alternative media, portraying Myanmar’s Rohingya minority as “Islamists” taking up “jihad.”

In reality, Myanmar’s Rohingya minority have lived in Myanmar for generations. Until recently, they have lived in harmony with their Buddhist-majority neighbors across the country, including in Rakhine state.

Many of the talking points now being adopted against the Rohingya are quite literally copied and pasted from US-backed extremist groups in Myanmar. Claims that the term “Rohingya” is simply made-up, that the Rohingya are actually illegal Bengalis, and that they should be expelled by force from Myanmar have been the key points of Suu Kyi’s violent “Saffron monk” supporters for years.

The increasingly empowered supporters of Aung San Suu Kyi – many of whom were present during the 2007 “Saffron Revolution” – are the primary agitators of the Rohingya crisis. While the Western media has attempted to portray the military as being behind the violence, it is often the military that intervenes to separate attacking extremists from the Rohingya villages and refugee camps they seek to slash and burn.

It was the military-led government that attempted to move forward the process of granting the Rohingya citizenship, opposed vehemently by Suu Kyi’s political party and her supporters, and ended entirely once Suu Kyi came to power.

More recently, the Western media has noted the emergence of Rohingya-aligned militants who have reportedly carried out several large-scale attacks on police and military units across Rakhine state.

Of course, no militant group exists without substantial political, financial, and material support. And just as other politically-convenient conflicts have erupted in Libya, Syria, Yemen, and the Philippines, US-Saudi funding is evident among the latest outbreak of violence in Myanmar as well.

It is a combination of gasoline and fire – the tools of a single arsonist intentionally put into place to create a geopolitically convenient conflagration. 

The Wall Street Journal in a recent article titled, “Asia’s New Insurgency Burma’s abuse of the Rohingya Muslims creates violent backlash.” claims:

Now this immoral policy has created a violent backlash. The world’s newest Muslim insurgency pits Saudi-backed Rohingya militants against Burmese security forces. As government troops take revenge on civilians, they risk inspiring more Rohingya to join the fight.

The article also claims:

Called Harakah al-Yaqin, Arabic for “the Faith Movement,” the group answers to a committee of Rohingya emigres in Mecca and a cadre of local commanders with experience fighting as guerrillas overseas. Its recent campaign—which continued into November with IED attacks and raids that killed several more security agents—has been endorsed by fatwas from clerics in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, the Emirates and elsewhere. 

Rohingyas have “never been a radicalized population,” ICG notes, “and the majority of the community, its elders and religious leaders have previously eschewed violence as counterproductive.” But that is changing fast. Harakah al-Yaqin was established in 2012 after ethnic riots in Rakhine killed some 200 Rohingyas and is now estimated to have hundreds of trained fighters.

While many causal observers note that the violence the Rohingya have been subjected to was bound to provoke a violent reaction, armed insurgencies do not spontaneously emerge. Isolated acts of violence, organized gangs with very limited capacity are possible, but the violence the Wall Street Journal is describing is not “backlash,” it is foreign-funded politically-motivated militancy operating under the cover of “backlash.”

Aung San Suu Kyi and “Rohingya” Militants: Gasoline and Fire, Not Good vs. Evil  

The current client regime presiding over Myanmar – created and perpetuated by American cash and support – is being intentionally pitted against a militancy funded and organized by America’s closest ally in the Middle East – Saudi Arabia.

It is a combination of gasoline and fire – the tools of a single arsonist intentionally put into place to create a geopolitically convenient conflagration.

It should be noted that Rakhine state is the starting point of one of several of China’s One Belt One Road projects – connecting Sittwe Port located there to infrastructure that leads across Myanmar to China’s southern city of Kunming.


This map provided by VOA accompanies stories by the US State Department-funded media platform eagerly reporting how violence is disrupting China’s OBOR projects.

Not only does the violence in Rakhine state threaten Chinese interests, it also helps set a pretext for direct US military involvement – either in the form of “counter-terror assistance” as is being offered to the Philippines to fight US-Saudi-backed militants from the Islamic State, or in the form of a “humanitarian intervention.”

In either case, the result will be US military assets placed in a nation directly on China’s border – in Southeast Asia, just as US policymakers have sought to do for decades.

For example, The Project for a New American Century (PNAC) in a 2000 paper titled “Rebuilding America’s Defenses” (PDF) would unabashedly declare its intentions to establish a wider, permanent military presence in Southeast Asia.

The report would state explicitly that: 

…it is time to increase the presence of American forces in Southeast Asia.

It would elaborate in detail, stating:

In Southeast Asia, American forces are too sparse to adequately address rising security requirements. Since its withdrawal from the Philippines in 1992, the United States has not had a significant permanent military presence in Southeast Asia. Nor can U.S. forces in Northeast Asia easily operate in or rapidly deploy to Southeast Asia – and certainly not without placing their commitments in Korea at risk. Except for routine patrols by naval and Marine forces, the security of this strategically significant and increasingly tumultuous region has suffered from American neglect. 

Noting the difficultly of placing US troops where they are not wanted, the PNAC paper notes:

This will be a difficult task requiring sensitivity to diverse national sentiments, but it is made all the more compelling by the emergence of new democratic governments in the region. By guaranteeing the security of our current allies and newly democratic nations in East Asia, the United States can help ensure that the rise of China is a peaceful one. Indeed, in time, American and allied power in the region may provide a spur to the process of democratization inside China itself.

It should be noted that the paper’s reference to “the emergence of new democratic governments in the region” is a reference to client states created by the United States on behalf of its own interests and in no way constituted actual “democratic governments” which would otherwise infer they represented the interests of the very people possessing the “national sentiments” that opposed US military presence in the region in the first place.

In 2000, the US had several prospective client regimes emerging – including Suu Kyi in Myanmar, Thaksin Shinawatra in Thailand, and Anwar Ibrahim in Malaysia. Since then, only Suu Kyi remains – while Shinawatra and his sister have fled abroad and Anwar Ibrahim resides in prison.


It is important that readers and analysts alike understand several key points regarding the crisis in Myanmar:

  1. Aung San Suu Kyi and her political party are whole-cloth creations of US and European interests;
  2. The Rohingya have lived in Myanmar for generations; 
  3. Saudi-backed “Rohingya militants” no more represent the Rohingya people than the Islamic State represents the Sunnis of Syria and Iraq; 
  4. These “militants” are admittedly supported and directed from Saudi Arabia and do not represent a legitimate “backlash” against anti-Rohingya violence and; 
  5. The US does not seek “regime change” in Myanmar, it seeks to disrupt Chinese interests, undo Chinese-Myanmar ties, and if possible, place US military assets on China’s border. 

The further from these facts analysts start out with, the further from the truth they will find themselves as the conflict in Myanmar continues to unfold. Readers and analysts should hold in suspicion narratives based on ideological rhetoric or built upon geopolitical analogy rather than actual evidence regarding finances, logistics, and socioeconomic motivations.

In Myanmar, Suu Kyi’s movement, anti-Rohingya violence, and alleged “backlash” all come accompanied with very obvious and significant foreign-footprints. It is a testament to the scale and complexity of manipulation the West is still capable of undertaking and places in jeopardy not only the majority of the people in Myanmar – Buddhist and Rohingya alike – who wish to live in peace, but the entire region as the US attempts to continue its pursuit of regional hegemony.

This article was originally published by Land Destroyer Report.

All images in this article are from the author.

Merdeka Message to UMNO Leaders and Malay Ultras

August 29, 2017

Merdeka Message  to UMNO Leaders and Malay Ultras

by Dr Azly Rahman

Image result for Message to UMNO and Malay Ultras

The Bugis Leader–1Malaysia for the Malays  only

In conjunction with Independence/Merdeka Day on August 31, 2017, I have these brief messages of peace to both the next leader and the people led. We cannot know who will be the next prime minister, and which coalition or party will help us through this mess, but I hope this message is clear and simple: we hope for an election as clean as a sarong pelikat washed with Clorox.

Mr or Ms Prime Minister (who doesn’t have to be a Malay-Muslim, only a good man or woman), help all Malaysians, not just Malays or your own people, if you and your coalition are going to redesign strategies for peace, equality, and social justice.

We are all bumiputeras now; today’s generation of Malaysians, be they from Chinese, Indian, Malay, Kadazan-Dusun, Iban, Orang Asal, ‘orang hybrid’ or this or that heritage. Those have been here long enough to no longer call this land Tanah Melayu, but Bumi Bangsa Malaysia. We have toiled for the soil.

And you must remind yourself that you are Prime Minister for all. Not just for you, your family, and members of your family.

Poverty now cuts across racial lines, with an increasing number of those in the middle class now falling into the trap. Even the middle class are struggling to put food on their table.

There is no strong rationale any more, after 60 years of independence and being a country called Malaysia, to continue policies based on racial lines. Continuing these policies will guarantee another 50 years of race and class antagonism.

In the field of education especially, scholarships need to be given based on merit, talent, and needs, not because one is a bumiputera or a Malay, or because of birthright. If you are a Malaysian citizen, you ought to be enjoying the rights and privileges as well as the responsibilities that come with being a citizen. It’s that simple.

Image result for Extremist Zahid Hamidi

A  lot of bull

Let us not continue our policy of educational apartheid, Mr or Ms Prime Minister, if you and your party are to enjoy the support of all Malaysians. One crucial aspect of change is to dismantle the all-Malay, all-bumiputera, all-privileged school, and use its philosophy, paradigm, and pedagogical process to democratise education for all races.

Many of those in the elite and privileged boarding or residential schools, such as in Maktab Rendah Sains Mara (MRSM), are not from families that cannot afford a good education. Many are from wealthy families.

There are deserving children from all races that must be given every opportunity to excel, just like abject poor Malays were given the chance to back in the early 1970s, when the MRSM system was first introduced.

Mr or Ms Prime Minister, you must be fair and just to people of all races. For example, open up privileged schools such as MRSM to children of all races. Open all mono-cultural educational institutions, such as Universiti Teknologi Mara, to Malaysians of all races. It will be better for the nation.

Look at the plight of other Malaysians. Promising billions of ringgit in educational, entrepreneurial, and economic aid to only one race defined by a one-dimensional construct is a political act with ill intent. Be wise in the political time you and your party have been given.

Again, reverse the apartheidisation trend in education – for the sake of our children’s future. Education is one of the best means of social reproduction to ensure the evolution of a just and progressive nation.

The New Economic Policy has been replaced with the New Economic Agenda, which promises fairness for all, not just for Malays and bumiputeras. Honour that.

In concluding this part of my plea I say this: in our country, there is enough to go around for everybody, not just to feed the greed of the few.

To the ultras

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The UMNO-sponsored Racist Leader

I also have a message for the ultra-Malays misrepresenting their race, showing the world that Malays are amok-loving and buffoonish, allergic to reason and good dialogue, always ready to wield the parang andkeris even if not challenged, and love to perform theatrics in public to scare the hell out of other races and even their own race. And most of the time, for lousy reasons.

Leave this drama. Malays are not like that. We have more class than Hang Tuah or Hang Jebat, the two historical fools we read about in textbooks – fools who served the sex-crazed, women-snatching, human-trafficking, drunkard sultan who thought he owned the world with control over a river only big enough for Donald Trump’s yacht.

To the red shirts, who do not represent the Malays, here is my message:

I can understand what has happened and how this is an unhealthy development that goes against the hopes and aspirations of a nation wishing to move forward. But here is my advice, especially to those who have children.

It is better to focus on raising your children well to adjust to an ever-changing and increasingly globalised and diversified society. Raising your children to be good citizens able to realise their limitless potential in a multicultural and liberal world. There is so much to gain from networking with others.

Teach them to understand others, improve their English, steady their moral compass, encourage them to think well of and befriend those of other races and religions, and be grateful that schools offer a great opportunity to love and respect friends and teachers of different races.

Teach them of the dangers of generalising, stereotyping, and projecting hate that leads to mass deception, encourage them to learn about other cultures and religions, and teach them that all of us in Malaysia are now Malaysians, not this or that group of immigrants.

Teach them that we all are migrants in time and space and in history, and all humans with emotions, struggles, challenges, histories of joy and despair, memories of pain and pleasure.

Teach them that all of us merely differ in skin tone, born to speak different languages, believe in different things about salvation, all of us travellers in this life.

Image result for Najib and Rani KulupTwo of a Kind–Rani Kulup and Najib Razak

Image result for David Duke and Donald Trump David Duke and Donald Trump

This is what we are, and have no need for moments of history where hate is cultivated, for there is a bigger picture of oppression that we may not understand. We may all be mere pawns in this great political game of big-time plunderers and multiethnic robber barons skilled at mass deception and distraction.

We should be grateful that we are still alive, and we must think of ourselves as Malaysians for each and every one of us to prosper in peace.

Come back to our senses. Our strength as Malaysians will still come from diversity and the cultivation of talent. On Merdeka Day, we should rejoice and celebrate the achievements of this nation for that beautiful concept of unity in diversity, not rally to spew hatred and invoke the horrors of May 13.

Let us design a safer journey towards a more progressive and harmonious Malaysia, beyond this red-shirted river of blood that marches through the city because of some mangled, manufactured propaganda of ‘Malay dignity’.

What laaahhh you, Malay dignity gang

Malu lah kita majoriti orang Melayu

Kita tarak macam tu lor

Lu, gua, kita semua sama, tapi manyak lain-lain lor

Kita manyak hormat sama semua-semua bangsa lor

Seriously folks, chill, we are a great nation of different peoples, unity in diversity

Our strength is drawn from the creativity of many

Let’s have a party

Not just a party but a nasi lemak and teh tarik kaw kaw party

A truly Malaysian party

Muhibbah late night party

Because we love our country

We just don’t want it to turn into a Zimbab-wee!

But first, dismantle all race-based and racist parties, can we?

Now that rhymes, wouldn’t you agree?


Merdeka 2017– Topple our Coconut Shell or Be thrown out of the Global Bus

August 28, 2017

Merdeka 2017– Topple our Coconut Shell or Be thrown out of the Global Bus

by Dr.M. Bakri Musa, Morgan-Hill, California

Much has changed in the world since 1957 when Malaysia achieved its Merdeka (Independence), with the pace ever accelerating. Great Britain is no longer great, and the Austins and Morris Minors that used to ply Malaysian roads are today found if at all only in the junkyards and collectors’ garages.

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The Place Post Independence Malaysian Elites meet

The social landscape too has changed. The Lake Club, a cool oasis in the heart of humid bustling Kuala Lumpur, was once the bastion of colonial privilege where British miners, planters and civil servants retired during the heat of the day to enjoy their stengahs (stouts) and steak, uninterrupted by the offensive sights of the natives spitting on the ground, Chinese maids grunting to clear their throats, and Indian laborers incessantly squirting blood-like betel nut juice through their rotten teeth. Those disgusting and unsanitary habits of the non-colonials could spoil one’s appetite in very short order regardless of the physical ambience.

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The staid upscale Robinson Department Store in Mounbatten, Kuala Lumpur was then thriving despite its lack of customers, at least the native variety. Exclusiveness equaled profitability, a concept that is still being aggressively pursued by today’s advertisers in their endless search for lucrative niches. For Robinson, there was little need to cater to the natives; they did not have the money anyway. The few wealthy ones spotted inspecting the store’s merchandise were only too happy to pay the exorbitant prices for the privilege of rubbing shoulders however briefly with their colonial counterparts. For the store, that was an opportunity to jack up the prices and rake in the profits. Then, as now, there was always money to be made catering to people’s vanity, up to a point.

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Robinsons today. It is located in The Gardens Mall Lot G-211, Mid Valley City, Lingkaran Syed Putra
55100 Kuala Lumpur

During a recent visit to Malaysia, I had difficulty finding the old Robinson store. I mean of course the building, as the company itself had long ago disappeared, a casualty of Schumpeter’s creative destruction. As for an evening at the Lake Club, the food–even the Malay cuisines–was way below par compared to those found at the many luxury hotels now in KL. As in those hotels, the Malay food at Lake Club was prepared and served by non-Malays or even non-Malaysians. As for ambience, those foreign hotels are much more luxurious or “exclusive.”

Tourists cannot be faulted for being impressed with Malaysia, especially upon arrival at its gleaming Sepang International Airport. At Customs and Immigration, polite English-speaking officials would be there to greet them.

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Kuala Lumpur International Airport @Sepang, Malaysia

That was not always the case. There was a time when the two departments would, to put it kindly, serve as a good introduction to the country. The negligent services were matched only by the tidak apa (lackadaisical) personnel. Since then, frequent comparisons with the efficient operation at the neighboring Singapore airport, only 45 minutes flying time away, had embarrassed the officials sufficiently into making the necessary improvements.

That is the good news; Malaysians are capable of learning when sufficiently shamed. The bad news is that comparisons with the definitely First World Singapore would rattle most Malaysians, especially the UMNO leaders.

When visiting Malaysia, I too like to play tourist, at least for the first few days to ease my transition. There is no point complicating the inevitable jet lag with routines that I have long forgotten, or giving up comforts I have grown accustomed. Once I have recovered, and with the old Malaysian smell and ambience slowly creeping back to re-excite the neurons in the deep recesses of my memory, I yearn to return to the familiar Malaysian ways.

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Then I would return to my old village. There, time seems to have remained frozen. This is true of rural Malaysia generally. If there is any change, it is for the worse. Whereas in my youth I had to wait listlessly under the blazing sun for the erratic village bus, today even that service is gone. As for schools, in my time teachers were highly regarded and more than adequately compensated; today the profession is inundated by the bonded and unemployable.

True, during my youth education was a privilege enjoyed by far too few. However, why do we always have to choose between quantity and quality? Strive for both!

Thomas Wolfe’s “you can’t go home again” obviously does not apply to me. When I go back to my village I am indeed returning home and to the time of my youth. Chatting with the old villagers immediately confirms that. It can be unnerving. Sometimes I wonder whether the time I was in medical school and living in North America had just been a dream; awakened, I am back in the drudgery of my kampong life. Only the presence of my wife beside me reassures me otherwise.

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In many respects life is now worse for today’s kampong youngsters. At least when I was young I could dream that if I did well in my studies I could escape. Today, even that aspiration is beyond contemplation for most. They may excel in school, but their limited English skills would confine their opportunities and any chance at upward mobility.

There have been many development initiatives introduced over the years, as our politicians constantly remind us, and they all carry exorbitant price tags. Yet for far too many of the villagers and their children–the next generation–life remains unchanged.

It is time for a radical change in approach. Instead of emphasizing the physical aspects of development–freeways, gleaming skyscrapers, and billion-ringgit GLCs–we should focus on changing mindsets, on liberating them. Malays have been longing for a free mind for far too long.

Consider that we had to agitate and at times resort to violence to get our political merdeka; the British did not acquiesce readily or enthusiastically. As for our minda merdeka (free mind), expect even greater obstacles. No one can grant us that; we have to strive for it ourselves, collectively and individually.

It is not in the nature of humans to be cooped under the coconut shell. That is not Allah’s grand design; He wants us to be free so we can undertake our responsibilities as His viceregents in this universe.

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There are some worrying trends in Modern Malaysia–Islamisation and Malayness, no longer Unity in Diversity

There are only two options. One is the default setting, meaning, we do nothing but wait passively. If we were to do that, we would reduce ourselves to being victims of circumstances. Rest assured, eventually outside events will topple our shell, as has happened before with the Japanese Occupation. Then ready or not, we were flung out onto the outside world. Though we benefited from the change, the collateral damage was unpredictable and at times unbearable.

The better alternative is to topple our coconut shell on our own. That way we could choose the timing and method, thus minimizing possible collateral damages. Doing so would also empower our people and help create the results we desire.