ASEAN, Aung San Suu Kyi and the Fate of the Rohingnyas


March 5, 2017

ASEAN, Aung San Suu Kyi and the Fate of the Rohingnyas

by Fiona Macgregor

http://www.newmandala.org/suu-kyis-state-denial/

Silence from Nobel Laureate and de facto leader of Myanmar on Rohingya issue is hard to justify. It’s also dangerous, writes Fiona MacGregor.

Image result for aung san suu kyi

What about Liberty for the Rohingyas, Madam? Your Silence makes a mockery of you  as a Nobel Laureate

The brutality recounted in a recent UN report on those fleeing Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state into Bangladesh shocked even those who have closely followed rights abuses against the Rohingya Muslim minority in recent years.

The descriptions of babies’ being killed with knives, multiple gang rapes, elderly people being burned alive, torture and killings that the UN said likely amounted to crimes against humanity by Myanmar’s security forces were profoundly distressing to read and provoked international outrage. Hundreds of people are thought to have been killed according to the 3 February report by UN OHCHR, which was based mainly on the testimonies of over 200 of the estimated 70,000 people who fled over the border into Bangladesh in the previous four months.

Yet Myanmar’s Nobel laureate and de facto leader of the government Aung San Suu Kyi has yet to make a public statement on the shocking findings, not only raising question about her relationship with the military and commitment to human rights, but what kind of future she is creating for the country.

Image result for Genocide in Myanmar against Rohingyas

The atrocities are alleged to have taken part during “clearance operations” as the military hunted those responsible for fatal attacks on border police groups in northern Rakhine on October 9 2016 claimed by a new insurgent group Harakah al-Yakin which said it stands for Rohingya rights. The incident is being treated in Myanmar as a “terrorist attack”. Despite international calls for her direct intervention, Myanmar’s Nobel laureate and de facto leader of the civilian government has no mandate to stop the country’s powerful military carrying out operations in the way it wants.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad told Reuters that when he spoke to state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi shortly after she read the UN OHCHR report, she “seemed to be genuinely moved”. But, the UN report was hardly the first account of such abuses to emerge.

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The Rohingya Boat People can no longer be ignored

Not only had Aung San Suu Kyi refused to publically raise concerns over earlier allegations, but she allowed her own representatives to actively deny them and seek to discredit those, including this writer, other media and rights campaigners, who reported on them. Those denials have been widely accepted by a Myanmar public long conditioned to despise the mainly stateless Muslim Rohingya minority.

In apparently choosing to believe military sources over the international community and in helping to disseminate the generals’ message among the Myanmar public, Aung San Suu Kyi further damaged the already fragile trust in Myanmar regarding foreign involvement in anything to do with Rakhine and the Rohingya issue. Although she has not personally spoken out publically about the report’s contents, Aung San Suu Kyi’s spokesman described the allegations as “extremely disturbing” and vowed they would be investigated.

However it is unlikely that the Myanmar government’s own investigation – led by the military-backed Vice President Myint Swe– will be considered impartial by significant international voices accusing the security forces of crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing. It can be expected we will see a limited number of “show cases” — small scale action against relatively low-level security personnel as has happened in a small number of more high-profile incidents involving rights abuses by the military since reforms began. But constitutionally enshrined impunity for the military means that is likely to be as far as “justice” goes if Myanmar is left to deal with this on its own.

Image result for The Anti-Rohingya LeaderMonk

On 21 February following the announcement the government investigation had been completed, the commission’s secretary, Zaw Mying Pe was reported by Radio Free Asia to have said the group’s findings differed from those described in the UN  report. How to negotiate a way out of the considerable disparity in findings between the international and national investigations will be the most high profile challenge of Aung San Suu Kyi’s leadership so far.

Those who seek to discredit the UN and other international rights reports point to a number of false or exaggerated claims on social media about Rohingya rights atrocities in an attempt to imply all allegations of abuse are “fake”. Meanwhile those seeking to verify many of the accounts face a near impossible task. Northern Rakhine has been cut off to almost all outside observers by the military since operations began.

It has become a case of ‘her word versus his’. The UN and other rights organisations cite the testimonies of alleged victims and witnesses who have reached the relative safety of Bangladesh. Though medical evidence gathered there also supports at least some claims violations have occurred. In return, Myanmar’s authorities use denials of atrocities made by people interviewed by powerful and high-ranking government figures in their home villages where security personnel are still active to suggest alleged victims have lied.

Both Aung San Suu Kyi’s advisors and those leading the international push for an independent investigation have an immensely sensitive task on their hands in dealing with this situation. That should not be allowed to distract from the fact that there are tens of thousands of people suffering right now, who need proper aid and assistance, their human rights and dignity respected, and access to justice.

Unfortunately, there is a high risk that is exactly what will happen. As the stalemate between the accusers and deniers continues, the victims are very unlikely get the help they need so urgently. That is tragic. It is also dangerous. The longer people are left to suffer and their voices ignored in Myanmar, the more vulnerable they will be to those who encourage them to believe violent insurgency is the best way out of their predicament.

If Aung San Suu Kyi’s interest in human rights is limited, as some have suggest, she should also consider finding a way to resolve things expedient in terms of her wider national goals. If Harakah al-Yaqin become’s a more powerful threat, it will play directly into the hands of those who for various reasons might wish to destabilise the country and undermine her authority.

However, she is not without options if she is willing to choose them. Relying on the idea that development alone will somehow sort it all out in Rakhine is unrealistic. If Aung San Suu Kyi is serious about finding long-term solutions, she needs to look at immediate and direct action to address the fear and hatred that has been allowed to germinate throughout the country.

Her silence is hard to justify. Myanmar needs a strong leader who guides people with meaningful words and actions – not just symbolism and slogans.

Even if there is little by way of demand from the Myanmar public for her to stand up for human rights in relation to the Rohingya, she is letting all the people down as democratic citizens by allowing them to be misled about what has been occurring in Rakhine. It will be very difficult for her, culturally and politically, to acknowledge her government may have got things drastically wrong in its denials of abuses. But she still has room to change the atmosphere going forward.

It is a common trope that Aung San Suu Kyi cannot speak out on the Rohingya issue because to do so will lost her too much popularity in Myanmar and/or risk the wrath of the military and or nationalist hardliners. But this view ignores the immense sway her word has over the vast majority of people in the Bamar heartlands.

The power of those feared hardliners, particularly in the form of the notorious monk-led Ma Ba Tha, dramatically dissipated after the election when authorities chose to clamp down on them showing the group did not have the influence it claimed. Aung San Suu Kyi, however, possesses an influence so powerful it almost appears divine – if she chooses to use it.

Ashin Wirathu
[Ashin Wirathu, who once called himself “the Burmese bin Laden” said the agreement with Sri Lanka’s Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) or “Buddhist Power Force”, was the first step in a broad alliance against conversions by Muslims in the region.]

It is lamentable that she did not do so before now, but it is not too late for her to assume the role of “Mother Suu” and guide her people in the principles of compassion, tolerance and Metta that are now so desperately needed in Myanmar. To do so she will also have to start engaging more with the press – nationally, and internationally.

She has embroiled the national media in disseminating a message of blanket denials that increasingly appears to be inaccurate. In addition, the ever-present threat of the telecommunications act means that anyone who does dare to criticize the military or civilian government online faces the risk of criminal proceedings and imprisonment: Hardly a sign of democratic progress. It is either disingenuous or shows a deep misunderstanding of effective media relations to accuse foreign media of painting a one-sided view of Myanmar that stirs up resentment in-country, while having no formal working mechanism in place that allows journalists to reliably access key figures for timely responses.

Resolving the fact that her relationship with the international media is at an all-time low is not merely a matter of meeting the demands of entitled foreign journalists – it is a case of protecting her own power and the rights of her people. Her ability to act as a respected figurehead for Myanmar on the international stage is one of her trump cards with the generals. She may need to keep cordial relations with the military, but they in turn still need her to play her role as they seek to secure Myanmar’s place on the international stage. If she loses her good reputation abroad — something that is already beginning to happen — her political capital with the military, and her power, will be significantly diminished.

But, there is an even greater risk. She was complicit in a creating a situation in which those, particularly foreigners, who raised the issue of alleged rights abuses were depicted as anti-Myanmar.

If she allows that misconception to continue and does not find a way to reverse the burgeoning mistrust of the international community and media, while supporting a free press internally, she risks setting Myanmar back on a path to isolation and ignorance in which its citizens are kept in the dark over the activities of its military and government: A country where gross rights abuses are perpetrated without challenge.

During all these years under house arrest, that was surely not what she imagined would be her legacy.

Fiona MacGregor is a journalist based in Myanmar for the last four years, and long-time observer of Myanmar and Southeast Asia.  

 

Congratulations to New Zealand and The All-Blacks–The World Rugby Champions


November 1. 2015

Congratulations to New Zealand and The All-Blacks and Thank you, Australia for your Grit and Sportsmanship

 

New Zealand (16) 34 Tries: Milner-Skudder, Nonu, Barrett Cons: Carter 2 Pens: Carter 4 Drop-goal: Carter

Australia (3) 17  Tries: Pocock, Kuridras: Foley 2 Pen: Foley

New Zealand held off a fierce Australian comeback to win a thrilling World Cup final and become the first team to retain their title.

Wonderful tries from Nehe Milner-Skudder and Ma’a Nonu had given the All Blacks a 21-3 lead early in the second half before David Pocock and Tevita Kuridrani struck back.

With 15 minutes to go there were just four points in it, but a nerveless long-distance drop-goal and penalty from Dan Carter snatched back control.

And when replacement Beauden Barrett sprinted away on to Ben Smith’s clearing kick at the death history was made, with New Zealand also becoming the first three-time champions of the world.

Beauden Barrett scores for New Zealand as they beat Australia

Beauden Barrett’s last-gasp try was the icing on the cake for the world champion All Blacks

A fitting farewell

The achievement is a fitting farewell to their phalanx of retiring greats. Carter was outstanding under a ferocious Wallaby assault, landing 19 points from the tee, and his captain Richie McCaw was not far behind as their side was tested to the limit.

They have been the outstanding side of this generation, and once again found a way to win when the heat came on from their great trans-Tasman rivals.

Wins graphic

All Blacks seize control

The All Blacks came out at pace, McCaw smashing opposite number Michael Hooper, Wallabies’ skipper Stephen Moore bloodied in the face and Carter curling over a testing penalty from out wide for 3-0 before Bernard Foley’s simpler effort levelled it up.

Australia were targeting the great fly-half, Scott Sio lucky to escape a yellow card for a late hit and Sekope Kepu giving away a penalty for a high tackle that Carter popped over to retake the lead.

Matt Giteau was next to feel the intensity, clattered trying to tackle Kieran Read and unable to continue with what looked like concussion.

It was often messy and never less than flat-out, New Zealand dominating territory and possession but having to content themselves with a third Carter penalty, this time from way out right.

Then it came, a wonderful team move of magic hands and sweet timing – Conrad Smith finding space down the right, Aaron Smith popping up on his inside, McCaw taking his pass at pace and putting Milner-Skudder in at the corner.

Another perfect kick from Carter added the conversion for 16-3 at half-time and the Wallabies were sinking fast.

Wallaby fightback

Ma'a Nonu scores New Zealand's second try

Ma’a Nonu’s fine try looked to have put the All Blacks out of sight

No team has ever scored so many in the first period of a World Cup final, and the brilliance resumed a minute into the second half.

This time it was Sonny Bill Williams, on for Conrad Smith, who sucked in three defenders before off-loading to Nonu, the wrecking-ball centre careering past the despairing Kurtley Beale and Drew Mitchell on a 40-metre run to the line.

Despite Carter’s missed conversion the All Blacks appeared unstoppable, but when Ben Smith was sin-binned for tip-tackling Mitchell, Australia struck back – driving a maul off the line-out, Pocock at the back for the try, Foley curling over the conversion for 21-10.

Suddenly the men in gold sensed a chance and when Will Genia dinked a kick into the wide spaces in the right-hand corner, Ashley-Cooper was there to feed Kuridrani and send the huge centre away through Carter’s tackle for another splendid score.

Tevita Kuridrani scores Australia's second try

Tevita Kuridrani’s try gave Australia real hope, but New Zealand regained control

With Foley’s conversion sailing over, 14 unanswered points had come in 11 minutes, and a thrilling contest was wide open once again.

Carter would have his revenge. From 40m out he struck the sweetest of drop-goals to extend the lead to 24-17, and then nailed a penalty from just inside the opposition half with seven minutes left.

Australia kept pressing, but when the ball was turned over in the New Zealand 22 Smith kicked clear, Barrett out-paced the despairing Pocock and the party could begin.

Man of the match – Dan Carter

Dan Carter--All Black

After missing the 2011 World Cup final through injury, this was the perfect ending for world rugby’s perfect 10. Carter could not dream of a better finale to his 12-year, 112-cap All Black career, and few would deny him the moment after what he has given the game down the years.

Read MORE: http://www.bbc.com/sport/0/rugby-union/34671255