What’s new in Dr.Mahathir’s UNGA 2018 Speech?


September 30, 2018

What’s new in Dr.Mahathir’s UNGA 2018 Speech?

Opinion  |  Azly Rahman
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COMMENT | Sharp as he was and is, Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad rattled off his speech to the international community at 11.40am EST in a shaky voice, befitting a 93-year-old man’s cranking of the vocal cords.

He spoke with a slight Kedah Malay twang, at times swallowing his words and mispronouncing a few. Perhaps the long trip to New York, jet lag, and age itself contributed to an unsmooth and forceless start. Behind the light golden frame of his glasses, his eyes look puffed, and heavy with bags. He looked tired and groggy. But he was making his comeback, and the global community to know it.

Five minutes into the speech, he went right into trumpeting the idea of a ‘new Malaysia’, a slogan more and more now picked up by many Malaysians in their emails and WhatsApp messages – replacing the old “Salam 1Malaysia” which recalls 1MDB, now synonymous with the mysterious and puzzling grand theft of the nation’s coffers, the people’s savings, by Malaysia’s crime ministers and their merry band of more than thieves, including those in turbans and green robes.

So, the grand old man – a veritable GOP of one, or the Vito Corleone of Malaysian politics – spoke at length about the new regime’s commitment to ensuring the country’s equitable share of the nation’s wealth.

“My last speech here was in 2003, and fifteen years later, the world has not changed much. In fact, it is worse now,” he lamented.

 

Against the jade-green UN General Assembly wall, he spoke of Malaysia’s foreign policy of “prosper thy neighbour.” He spoke with a heightened tone of how in May he overthrew race and religious bigotry to destroy the dominant 60-old party he led for 22-years, at a time when there was still no term limit. A time of consolidation of power, inspired by what Niccolò Machiavelli taught to the prince.

Seize power, consolidate power, and disperse it as hegemony, That is the lesson on the deep state of things. Love thy self, know thy enemies, one hundred battles, one hundred victories.

The New Malaysia is faced with the global issues of the effects of the US-China trade war, an attack to the institution of marriage, and the war on terrorism, he complained to the assembly.

But it was, in general, a good speech. Vintage Mahathir. Anti-imperialist, anti-hegemony, anti-oppression, and anti-US, primarily. I did not expect anything different in content, delivery and tonality from the Prime Minister.

He sounded as defiant as David throwing stones at Goliath or Hang Nadim warding off the swordfish with just a keris, as he did during the time of Fidel Castro, Yasser Arafat, Shimon Perez, George Bush, Bill Clinton, and Robert Mugabe – his peers in the general assembly, not all of whom lasted as long as he has.

This defiance is how Malaysia’s foreign policy was crafted and communicated to a world that continues to prioritise bombs over bread.

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Dr. Mahathir had a message for Myanmar’s Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi  

I used to like it when Mahathir spoke to the world. He, for lack of a better cliché, called a spade a spade. I just didn’t like what he did to the country in his 22 years of ‘solopreneurial’-political rule. While calling for world justice, he did several degrees of harm to the country’s economic, political, and educational culture, and ensured that almost all power is concentrated in the executive.

But at the UN General Assembly this year, Mahathir had nothing new to say: strive for peace in a world defined by, to use Willy Brandt’s term, “arms and hunger.”

I did, however, like Mahathir’s mention of the military-industrial complex, of the world arming itself, and the proliferation of conflicts in a paradigm governed by the all-too-familiar maxim “in order to have world peace, nations must prepare for war.”

 

It is a Bismarckian world the current president of the US would uphold, what with the “principled realism” undergirding the country’s foreign policy – a realism based on the might of the right, and the Pentagonian power of war-loving corporate America of defence contractors, bomb makers, Lockheed-Martin, Boeing, DuPont, and Raytheon; builders of warmongering tools of peace; speakers of the language of the war system, realpolitik and gunboat diplomacy.

Thank you, Mahathir, for pointing that out.

As the Malaysian ‘comeback kid’ left the podium, teleprompter and all, I did not feel anything except a sense of academic nostalgia – of ploughing through hundreds of pages of his speeches of the 1980s, as he spoke of world peace.

Same tone same message, perhaps taken from old files, but whose contents still work fine. Because the world is still the same. Sane and insane. Whether in the global arena, or at home, in Mahathir’s Malaysia.


AZLY RAHMAN is an educator, academic, international columnist, and author of seven books. He grew up in Johor Bahru, and holds a Columbia University doctorate in international education development and Master’s degrees in five areas: education, international affairs, peace studies communication, and creative writing.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s Burden: The Plight of The Rohingyas


September 18, 2018

Aung San Suu Kyi’s Burden: The Plight of The Rohingyas                           

by Bunn Nagara

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The problem with tracing the origins of Myanmar’s current massacres of its Rohingya people is that the starting point goes back many years.

Myanmar’s campaign of genocide has been consistent albeit punctuated by peaks and troughs, with violent discrimination against Muslim Burmese people in Arakan (later renamed Rakhine) state dating to at least 1930. It is easy to forget that until 1982 Rohingyas were still accorded Burmese citizenship, but their treatment by the military government and the general public soon deteriorated sharply. For many observers, the “current round” of mass killings and rapes of Rohingya villagers with looting and burning of their homes began in August last year. There have been many horrendous rounds, with each merging into the next.

More limited and stilted have been international campaigns against Myanmar’s government for allowing, aiding, abetting and participating in the crimes. Even so, the current international campaign reaches back to at least December 2016 when fourteen Nobel laureates including 12 Nobel Peace Prize laureates, with other public figures, urged the UN Security Council to halt the humanitarian crisis confronting the Rohingyas.

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International opinion has grown steadily against Myanmar State Councillor Aung San Suu Kyi, a once-respected leader in her people’s struggle for democracy. In the 2015 election campaign she boasted that she would be “more powerful than the President,” even though the army-friendly Constitution barred her from running for the presidency. She won the election but has since been less powerful than a presidential poodle. Worse, she has served to deny all the atrocities committed by state forces and reported by credible international monitors, instead condemning Myanmar’s accusers for spreading false news.

Questions about possibly recalling her Nobel Peace Prize arose, then faded away. If the Nobel Committee knew as much about her in 1991 when they presented it as they do now, she might never have received it.

Other awards she received as figurehead of Myanmar’s struggle for democracy have been withdrawn. Oxford University and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum have revoked the prestigious honours they had bestowed on her earlier.

In 2015 the US Holocaust Memorial Museum sent a fact-finding team to Myanmar to observe conditions of the Rohingya community on the ground. They came away horrified that the conditions for genocide were already in place.

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More critical voices from concerned distinguished persons were heard from around the world. The Dalai Lama reproached Myanmar’s mostly “Buddhist” mass murderers, saying that Buddha himself would have helped the Rohingyas.

The spotlight remained on Suu Kyi as the country’s (nominal) leader. Last year Yanghee Lee, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights, called on Suu Kyi to issue a statement but she remained silent.

Increasingly, Suu Kyi’s stubbornness has made her criticise the critics of Myanmar’s genocide while denying any crimes had taken place. This month, Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said Suu Kyi should have resigned if she could do or say nothing against the military’s crimes against humanity.

The UN Security Council visited Myanmar in March, with plans for a fact-finding mission to investigate the situation. Myanmar banned the mission, which then had to interview hundreds of Rohingya refugees fleeing to neighbouring Bangladesh.

The report of the mission names six senior military officers who should be put on trial at the International Criminal Court. It also blames Suu Kyi for doing nothing to stop the mass atrocities.

In turning things around by inverting the truth, Myanmar’s government rejected the report outright. Instead it blames those responsible for producing what amounted to a pack of lies.

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Myanmar officials should know about telling lies. The army’s public relations unit called True News produced a book with photos allegedly showing Rohingyas attacking other locals. Reuters examined the photos and found that they came from somewhere else – Bangladesh’s 1971 independence war, when Pakistani troops attacked Bangladeshis.

Government and military spokesmen could not be reached for comment. An Information Ministry official declined comment by saying that he had not seen the book, which is on sale publicly.

After the international community had pressured Myanmar to take back the hundreds of thousands of refugees it had expelled, it announced the return of a family of five Rohingyas from Bangladesh in April.

Bangladesh immediately denied that had happened. An independent refugee expert agreed with Bangladesh, saying that Myanmar’s claim of repatriation was yet another publicity stunt.

Meanwhile Myanmar’s verification process for Rohingya returnees remains obstructive. Among the requirements is that the Rohingyas must renounce their claim to ever being a citizen of Myanmar, placing them officially as illegal migrants liable for deportation. Rohingyas want to return home to rebuild, so long as they can enjoy basic human rights and freedom from persecution. Myanmar only has to agree to this.

It is difficult to see how Myanmar can agree to anything decent given all that has happened and continues to happen. Rohingya men, women and children have been slaughtered or otherwise terrorised and their homes razed in driving them from their land.

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There may be valuable minerals in the ground in Rakhine state, and politicians, business people and the military may exploit them better if the population was cleared or reduced. Hence, “ethnic cleansing.”

The Myanmar military or Tatmadaw has fought internal wars with dozens of ethnic minority groups, some of which have become defunct or which have been engaged in talks with the government.

At least nine militant ethnic groups remain. Yet the Rohingyas are not among them, since they are not even recognised as an ethnic minority. Rohingyas are the most persecuted of all the minority communities also because they have fought back the least. The Tatmadaw’s bullying style is to target the weakest the most.

The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (Arsa) has conducted some sporadic operations against the army, but nothing like the other ethnic minority armies. The Tatmadaw then exploits Arsa’s resistance efforts as a pretext to persecute Rohingyas further.

Even as Suu Kyi joins her generals as international pariahs, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull feted her in Sydney in March. Within 23 weeks Turnbull was removed as Prime Minister, and in another week he had left Parliament altogether. Would Suu Kyi go down a similar road?

It is no longer a secret that the real power in Myanmar still lies with the military. Suu Kyi may be afraid that if she did anything decent about the Rohingyas she may be out of a job.

She is known to have said: “It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it”. Has she been corrupted by power? She may say no, if only because she never had it. Then she should have no fear of losing what she never had.

She has also said: “The only real prison is fear, and the only real freedom is freedom from fear.” The Myanmar military has allowed her outside her house for some time now. But will she allow herself to enjoy real freedom?

She may have no power over the Tatmadaw, but she has power over her own actions. Rohingyas hope their leader will let them enjoy freedom too.

Bunn Nagara is a Senior Fellow at ISIS Malaysia.
http://www.thestar.com.

Aung San Suu Kyi was never the Heroine of Human Rights Community


July 21, 2018

Aung San Suu Kyi was never the Heroine of Human Rights Community

by Napat Rungsrithananaon

http://www.asiasentinel.com

Image result for aung san suu kyi from human rights activist to a racist

Talk is cheap; Action demands Courage and Compassion, Madam

Before coming to power in a landslide victory for her party, the National League for Democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi was widely perceived as the embodiment of hope, a brave symbol of defiance against the Myanmar military dictatorship and a heroine of the human rights community.  It is a perception that has sadly collapsed, having foundered on the treatment of the country’s Muslim Rohingya population, who make up just 4 percent of the country’s 53 million population.

This week, Suu Kyi and Senior General Min Aung Hliang have convened a five-day conference in Naypyidaw, the country’s administrative capital, meeting with representatives of the country’s long-oppressed ethnic minorities in an effort to reach a lasting peace. The off-delayed 21st Century Panglong Conference is given little prospect of success by analysts. But for the country’s Muslim Rohingya minority, the chances for success are even less.

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Aung San Suu Kyi, look yourself in the mirror, instead of pointing fingers at genocide victims

Among the Oxford-educated Suu Kyi’s many honors is the Nobel Peace Prize, awarded in 1991 for her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights, having spent 15 of her 21 years in the country under house arrest. In her 2012 acceptance speech more than 20 years after being awarded the prize, Suu Kyi reaffirmed her values. She spoke about creating “a world free from the displaced, the homeless and the hopeless” and “a world of which each and every corner is a true sanctuary where the inhabitants will have the freedom and the capacity to live in peace.”

That same year, however, saw an outbreak of communal violence in Myanmar that resulted in the displacement of more than 100,000 Rohingya people who were forced into makeshift refugee camps. At least 200 people were killed in clashes between Buddhist and Muslim communities in Rakhine state, a territory of 3.1 million people on Myanmar’s west coast.

Although Muslims have been in Myanmar since at least the 9th century, their numbers increased markedly during British imperial rule. Nonetheless, the majority Buddhists, who make up 90 percent of the country’s population regard them as interlopers.  The violent blow-up generated by ethnic differences has largely discredited the country’s heralded transition to democracy, which began in 2010.

As the leader of the opposition at the time, Suu Kyi at first deflected the blame and responsibility to the government, claiming that the crisis was “the result of our sufferings under a dictatorial regime” which in turn created a “climate of mistrust.” Once in power as State Councillor, the equivalent of Prime Minister, she pledged to “abide by our commitment to human rights and democratic values.”

Fast forward six years, the crisis shows no sign of abating. In fact, it escalated further when government troops launched a massive security operation in response to coordinated attacks in October 2106 by the militant Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, resulting in the deaths of nine police.  A second attack occurred in August 2017, with more than 30 onslaughts against police posts in northern Rakhine state.

Since the onset of the crisis, outside observers have continued to document numerous mass atrocities including widespread killings, torture and rape committed by Myanmar’s army and other state security forces. As widely reported, more than 717,000 people have fled to Bangladesh since August 2017. Zeid Raad Al Hussein, the UN Human rights chief, has called the security operation in Myanmar “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

Having joined the government, Suu Kyi could no longer deflect the blame and responsibility. Unfortunately, her response has not been any more commendable. She has repeatedly failed to speak out against the violence inflicted on the Rohingya or address the allegation of ethnic cleansing, insisting that the crisis was instigated by “terrorists” and distorted by a “huge iceberg of misinformation” – something her government has bizarrely continued to maintain by obstructing independent investigations into the crisis.

Barring the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar from entering the country, the government has offered a further indication that whatever is being concealed in the Rakhine state must be something terrible.

Suu Kyi’s refusal to condemn the violence or attempt to lead her government away from it has made her the target of worldwide criticism as her country’s military wages its campaign of ethnic cleansing.

Image result for aung san suu kyi from human rights activist to a racist

Her defenders argue that while she makes the majority of important decisions, the military retains control of three crucial ministries – home affairs, defense and border affairs – and is hence the real power in northern Rakhine state and along the border with Bangladesh. There is therefore an argument that Suu Kyi is in fact powerless – that she is not in charge of decisions capable of alleviating the suffering of Rohingya or that she cannot do so without risking the stability of the whole country. While that argument is popular among her supporters, it doesn’t explain her failure to at least speak up for the Rohingya.

But it is more likely that the world got Suu Kyi wrong from the beginning, that she was never really truly a political saint. Western leaders have a tendency to champion individuals – often activists who have made high-profile heroic sacrifices – as one-stop solutions to the problems of dictatorship or shaky new democracy. Then, in their zeal to find simple solutions to complex situations, they overlook their champions’ flaws, fail to see the fundamental challenges of being in power and assume that countries are the products of their leaders – when it is almost always the other way around.

Looking back, there were early signs that Suu Kyi might not after all be a determinedly unquestioned champion of human rights. In a 2013 interview with the BBC, for instance, she refused to acknowledge the rising violence directed at the Rohingya and pointed out that Buddhists had also been displaced from their homes and similarly subject to violence.

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Then she went on to claim that Myanmar as a whole – as do many other parts of the world – live in fear of “global Muslim power.” Instead of raising eyebrows, this Islamophobic remark went largely unnoticed, with Western leaders continuing to embrace her advancement.

Leaving aside her more recent effort to consolidate and centralize her authority – she also serves as foreign minister and the chair of various committees – it should still be reasonably clear that the world might have really got her wrong from the beginning. A champion of human rights and democracy could not have possibly made such an Islamophobic remark.

Andrew Selth, a professor at the Griffith Asia Institute, sums up the issue very neatly when he writes: “If Suu Kyi had so far to fall, it is because the international community raised her so high.”

Napat Rungsrithananaon is an intern at Free the Slaves. 

India’s Responses to the Complex Rohingya Crisis in Myanmar


November 12, 2017

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Number 404 | November 9, 2017
ANALYSIS

India’s Responses to the Complex Rohingya Crisis in Myanmar

By Baladas Ghoshal

The recent massive refugee outflow of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar into Bangladesh has created a humanitarian crisis and international outrage. United Nations human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, accused Myanmar of carrying out “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing” against the Rohingya. Myanmar rejects the accusation,  saying its military was engaged in counter-insurgency operations against Rohingya militants  who conducted the August 25 attack by the Rohingya militant group ARSA (Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army) on police and military posts, resulting in the death of about 70 people. The provocation certainly led to the intensification of the crisis, which originates in a conflict dating back to the 19th century.

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The Rohingya are a Muslim minority ethnically related to those living in neighboring Bangladesh’s Chittagong District. They form 90 percent of the one million people living in the north of Rakhine State in Myanmar, where ethnic Rakhines – primarily Buddhist – are the majority of the state’s three million residents. Some Rohingya have been in Myanmar for centuries, while others arrived in recent decades. Burmese authorities consider the Rohingya – whether recent arrivals or long-time residents – undocumented immigrants and a source of instability in the country, and not as citizens or as an ethnic group. Burmese authorities are loathe to recognize the Rohingyas as a separate ethnic group which would automatically entitle them for a separate state, as Burmese states are formed on the basis of ethnicity. Moreover, given the concentration of the Rohingyas next to Bangladesh, where Islam is becoming increasingly radical, Myanmar – being a Buddhist majority country – will never accept them as an ethnic entity. If the Rohingyas self-identify as just a religious group, they could enjoy citizenship rights like other Muslims in the rest of Myanmar. Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s recommendations in August are similar, and in September Myanmar leader Suu Kyi stated that her government was willing to take back the refugees after verification. Under the 1982 citizenship law, the Myanmar government recognized only about 40,000 Rohingyas as its citizens.
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The Dalai Lama has urged fellow Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, a main opposition leader in Myanmar, to do more to help protect the persecuted Muslim Rohingya minority in her country amid a worsening migration crisis.
While the response of the Myanmar military was brutal and disproportionate to the attack by the insurgents, the international community’s response, particularly the Western and Muslim countries and their intense criticisms of Aung San Suu Kyi for her failure to stand up against the army crackdown and to protect the human rights of the Rohingyas, is also disproportionate. Critics fail to understand the military-civilian relations and other complexities of Myanmar politics where issues like ethnicity, history, and cultural identity are key ingredients of legitimacy. By condemning Suu Kyi, her critics have inadvertently not only provided a shield to the Army chief, Min Aung Hlaing, from responsibility for perpetrating atrocities against the Rohingyas, but also practically weakened her position vis-à-vis the powerful military of the country. While Suu Kyi’s popularity is still quite high, the political base of her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), is quite fragile. If she tries to take a critical attitude on the Rohingyas, the military can easily align with the Buddhist nationalists, who have nothing but scorn and hatred for the Rohingyas, and undermine her power. That would be a blow to the limited progress Myanmar has made in democratization under difficult constitutional constraints.
 India’s response to the Rohingya issue is calibrated on an understanding of the history and complexities of Myanmar politics of ethnicity and legitimacy. New Delhi has to balance between its security concerns and moralism on humanitarian issues. Initially, it was conditioned predominantly by its security concerns. India, through its consulate in Rakhine’s capital Sittwe, has long been keeping tabs on the influence of foreign Islamist radical groups on the Rohingyas, and warned Myanmar of possible attacks by the ARSA prior to the August incident. In February, India had also warned of an increased presence of Pakistan-based and funded terror organizations like Lashkar-e-Toiba, seeking to exploit Rohingya resentments. Also the influence of Bangladeshi radical organizations such as the Jamaat-e- Islami initially, and then its youth wing, the Islamic Chatra Shabir, within the refugee camps is causing alarm in both Dhaka and New Delhi. Even organizations such as the Rohingya Students Organisation (RSO) were known to have links with “like-minded” groups such as the Harkat ul-Jihad al-Islami (HuJI) along with Hizb-e- Islami of Afghanistan and the Hizbul Mujahideen. On India’s decision to deport 40,000 Rohingya refugees, the government, in its affidavit to the Supreme Court, said that some of the Rohingyas with militant background were found to be very active in Jammu, Delhi, Hyderabad, and Mewat. Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to Myanmar in September described India and Myanmar as “partners” in their concern over “extremist violence” in Rakhine State.
“Myanmar – being a Buddhist majority country – will never accept them as an ethnic entity. If the Rohingyas self-identify as just a religious group, they could enjoy citizenship rights like other Muslims in the rest of Myanmar.”
Even though the issue of terrorism dominates the security narrative on India’s approach to the Rohingya issue, India’s Act East Policy is linked to land connections with Myanmar. This policy, has two major planks – economic development in northeast India and balancing China’s influence. China has not only declared its open support for Myanmar’s “anti-terror” operations, but also expanded its economic and political influence in the country. In fact, it was the heavy-handed criticism by the West and call for sanctions for atrocities against Rohingyas that forced Myanmar again to rely on Beijing to offset any major backlash in the international fora. In such a situation, any open criticism of Myanmar could undermine India’s influence. India is also dependent on Myanmar military’s cooperation to deal with the insurgent groups in the Northeast, who in the past found sanctuary on the Myanmar side of the border. Geopolitics also drive India to take a soft approach to Myanmar’s crackdown on the Rohingyas, fearing the country might otherwise again grant safe havens to North-East insurgents.  China has set up a gas and oil pipeline running from the Rakhine port of Kyaukphyu to Kunming. Beijing has backed Myanmar’s violent crackdown, hoping it will bring security to a region important for China’s energy security. India, for its part, is working on the Kaladan transport project, linking Sittwe to Kolkata. New Delhi believes the best way to reduce tension in Rakhine is through such development efforts.

As the refugee and humanitarian crisis unfolded in the month of September, with Bangladesh bearing the economic and physical burden of more than 600,000 refugees,  Dhaka’s diplomatic overdrive made New Delhi modify its position on the Rohingya issue and acknowledge that there is now a refugee crisis. India also urged the Myanmar government to exercise “restraint and maturity” and stressed the need to focus on the “welfare of the civilian population.” Even while India’s government exercises caution and restraint in its approach to the Rohingya issue, civil society and human rights groups are quite critical of Myanmar’s handling of the Rohinyga issue, and wants New Delhi to take an active role in seeing the refugees back to their homeland with peace and dignity.

About the Author

Dr. Baladas Ghoshal is  Secretary General of the Society for Indian Ocean Studies and Former Professor and Chair in Southeast Asian Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University. He can be contacted at profbala7228@gmail.com.
The East-West Center promotes better relations and understanding among the people and nations of the United States, Asia, and the Pacific through cooperative study, research, and dialogue.
Established by the US Congress in 1960, the Center serves as a resource for information and analysis on critical issues of common concern, bringing people together to exchange views, build expertise, and develop policy options.

The Asia Pacific Bulletin (APB) series is produced by the East-West Center in Washington.

APB Series Editor: Dr. Satu Limaye, Director, East-West Center in Washington
APB Series Coordinator: Peter Valente, East-West Center in Washington

The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the East-West Center or any organization with which the author is affiliated.

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Aung San Suu Kyi unveils relief plans for Rohingya Muslims


October 16, 2017

Aung San Suu Kyi unveils relief plans for Rohingya Muslims

Nobel laureate aims to restore reputation by setting up civilian-led agency in Myanmar to deliver aid and resettle refugees

Aung San Suu Kyi delivers a speech to the nation over the Rakhine and Rohingya situation in Naypyitaw in September
Aung San Suu Kyi has been criticised for failing to denounce a brutal army crackdown on the Rohingya in Rakhine state. Photograph: Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters

Myanmar’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has announced plans to set up a civilian-led agency, with foreign assistance, to deliver aid and help resettle Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state.

A close adviser, speaking with Aung San Suu Kyi’s knowledge, said the proposed body had been long planned, and was part of an attempt to show the civilian government she leads, rather than the Burmese military, can deliver humanitarian relief, resettlement and economic recovery.

The Nobel laureate has been criticised for failing to denounce a brutal army crackdown on the Rohingya in Rakhine state, which has forced hundreds of thousands to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh.

Thousands of refugees have continued to arrive in recent days from across the Naf river separating the two countries, even though Myanmar insists military operations ceased on 5 September.

Aid agencies estimate that 536,000 people have arrived in Cox’s Bazar district in Bangladesh, straining scarce resources of aid groups and local communities.

About 200,000 Rohingya were already in Bangladesh after fleeing persecution in Myanmar, where they have long been denied citizenship and faced restrictions on their movements and access to basic services.

The adviser said Aung San Suu Kyi had been deeply affected by the crisis in her country, and was determined to fix it, but needed to be careful not to inflame the situation further.

“She is appalled by what she has seen. She does care deeply about this. I know that does not always come across. But she really does,” said the adviser, who asked not to be named. “What was not clear to her [before now] was how to fix it, and how to give the civilian government the powers it needed”.

In a speech carried by state TV late on Thursday, Aung San Suu Kyi said: “There has been a lot of criticisms against our country. We need to understand international opinion. However, just as no one can fully understand the situation of our country the way we do, no one can desire peace and development for our country more than us.”

Many of Aung San Suu Kyi’s former allies have been exasperated by her failure to criticise the military, but the adviser said she was treading a fine line, knowing her government could become under threat of being overthrown by the military.

The adviser added her speech marked an attempt to wrestle Buddhism out of the hands of extremists.

Aung San Suu Kyi came to power ending years of military rule in a compromise that left the military with sweeping powers.

In her new proposal, she said she was setting up a new body to deliver relief and resettlement on the ground, as well as implement projects in all sectors of the region.

“It is going to be an implementation unit and will introduce a degree of transparency into the government that will allow the international community to participate and provide aid”, the adviser added.

The aim is for the body to be a vehicle through which recovery aid, including that delivered by the UK, can be funnelled.

Her adviser said Aung San Suu Kyi understood the moral priority of humanitarian assistance, the need to build new homes for those who had to flee as well as the need for economic development in the region.

“She has put herself front and centre of this and said ‘I will lead this’ ”. The adviser added: “She is someone who through her whole life has been committed to the values of human rights. That has not gone away, but she is very focused on fixing the problem, rather than identifying it.

“She recognises there have been particular tragedies amongst the Muslim communities, and amongst other small minority groups. But, yes, she does see this latest and most dreadful upsurge of violence as stemming from carefully timed political attacks on police stations.”

Aung San Suu Kyi’s speech made no mention of the allegations levelled against security forces, over which she has no formal control under the military-drafted constitution. State media in recent weeks, however, has offered repeated denials of the human rights allegations, often blaming misreporting by the west.

In her speech, she said: “Rather than rebutting criticisms and allegations with words, we will show the world by our actions and our deeds. In the Rakhine state, there are so many things to be done.”

Her adviser said: “She is trying to move away from inflammatory and divisive remarks towards a coherent national solution that is civilian-led. The perilous state of the democratic transition in her country is understood.”

Aung San Suu Kyi listed repatriation of those who have fled to Bangladesh as a top priority, a task that faces political and practical hurdles, notably due to the fact that tens of thousands of Muslim refugees who fled to Bangladesh do not have the documentation likely to satisfy the military that they have a right of return.

However, detailed work remains on possible forms of new registration to allow the Rohingya to return.

In another attempt to respond to western criticisms, Myanmar’s military has launched an internal investigation into the conduct of soldiers during the army’s offensive in Rakhine, which was launched after attacks by Rohingya insurgents on security posts in late August.

 

The Rohingya Alarm


October 13, 2017

The Rohingya Alarm

by Bernard Henri-Levy

https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/rohingya-myanmar-genocide-human-conscience-by-bernard-henri-levy-2017-09

The campaign of ethnic cleansing now being carried out against Myanmar’s Rohingya confronts the world with one of those moments that seem to arrive unannounced. In fact, we should by now be able to recognize in such episodes the accelerating pulse of genocide.

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PARIS – As is so often the case, it was an artist who sounded the warning. His name is Barbet Schroeder, and the alert that he issued came in the form of his fine, sober film The Venerable W., a portrait of Myanmar’s Buddhist monk Ashin Wirathu. Known as “W,” Wirathu is the other face of a religion that is widely perceived as the archetype of peace, love, and harmony. And behind his racist visage lies a broader Buddhist embrace of violence that takes one’s breath away.

Shown at the 2017 Cannes Festival, Schroeder’s film attracted an impressive amount of media attention. And, in a subsequent television appearance, Schroeder warned that the Rohingya, the Muslim minority in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, lay in the sights of Wirathu’s bloodthirsty “969 Movement.”

That should come as no surprise. The Rohingya are a million men and women rendered stateless in their own country. Deprived of the right to vote, of political representation, and of access to hospitals and schools, they have faced pogroms whenever the military that has tyrannized Myanmar for a half-century has tired of starving them.

The Rohingya’s unique status is stunning in its calculated cruelty. They are simultaneously rootless (officially unrecognized in a country so obsessed with race that it counts 135 other “national ethnicities,” making them literally one race too many) and root-bound (legally barred from moving, working, or marrying outside their village of origin, and subject to restrictions on family size).

Image result for ethnic cleansing in myanmar against the rohingya

So here we are, confronted with one of those moments that seem to arrive unannounced but that, by now, we should be able to recognize as the accelerating pulse of genocide.

Nearly 400,000 people have now been transferred from the realm of subhumans to that of hunted animals, smoked out of the villages to which they had previously been confined, driven out on the roads, shot at, tortured for fun, and subjected to mass rape. Those who survive are arriving at makeshift camps just across the border in neighboring Bangladesh, which, as one of the world’s poorest countries, lacks the resources, though not the will, to offer proper shelter to the swelling ranks of refugees.

The United Nations, overcoming its customary pusillanimity, has drawn on what remains of its moral capital to condemn these crimes, declaring the Rohingya the world’s most persecuted minority. For those inclined to see and remember, the situation in Rakhine State recalls the ethnic cleansing that occurred in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s and the even worse massacres in Rwanda in the same decade.

But many are not inclined to see. Because the Rohingya’s persecutors, by restricting access to journalists and photographers, have denied their victims a face, and because the Rohingya are Muslims at a bad time to be Muslim, nearly the entire world is turning a blind eye.

Confronted with this tragedy foretold, the world should meditate on what my late friend, the philosopher Jean-François Revel, called unused knowledge and the passion for ignorance.

We should curse the naiveté that led many, including me, to sanctify the “Lady of Rangoon,” Aung San Suu Kyi, herself the subject of a film, this one intended to be hagiographic but, in hindsight, appalling. Since becoming Myanmar’s de facto leader last year, Suu Kyi has abandoned the Rohingya to their fate.

Suu Kyi seemed to deserve the Nobel Peace Prize that she won in 1991, when she appeared to be the reincarnation in one body of Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, and the Dalai Lama. But from the moment when she solemnly assured the world that she had seen nothing in Sittwe, that nothing had happened in the rest of Rakhine State, and that the string of alarming reports to the contrary was just the “tip of an iceberg of disinformation,” her Nobel Prize became an alibi.

The Rohingya are the latest cohort of the existentially naked: people dispossessed of everything (including their own death), shut out of the human community, and thus stripped of rights. They are the people Hannah Arendt predicted would become fixtures of humanity’s future, living (or living dead) reproaches to hollow declarations of human rights.

But, before that happens, I will make a wish. Tomorrow, a very different woman, Sheikh Hasina, the prime minister of Bangladesh, will appear before the UN to appeal for an international response to the Rohingya crisis. I have known Hasina for nearly 50 years, and I have had many opportunities to appreciate not only her nobility of spirit but also her deep and abiding attachment to a moderate and enlightened Islam that fully respects the rights of man – and of women.

My wish is that humanity’s conscience will be there to hear her address in New York City, and that, because she is heard, the alarm she raises will not have the ghastly resonance of a death knell.