Looking Back: Anti-Muslim monk stokes Burmese religious tensions


May 20, 2015

Looking Back: Anti-Muslim monk stokes Burmese religious tensions

By Jonah Fisher

This week (in August 2013), religious violence has once again flared in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. Hundreds of Muslim homes have been burnt to the ground in Sagaing region after being attacked by Buddhist mobs.

In just over a year, more than 200 people, mostly Muslims, have been killed and many more displaced as unrest has spread from Rakhine state in the west to towns across the country. Many are blaming a controversial monk and the nationalist organisation he helps lead for the rising tensions.

wirathuMonk Shin Wirathu at work.

This morning, he is lecturing on the importance of avoiding sexual misconduct.”Yes, venerable monk,” the young men chant in unison, as Wirathu softly delivers his advice on the need to avoid temptation.

When the class is over, he shows me outside. On the wall of the monastery courtyard are graphic posters of the Buddhist victims of recent religious and ethnic violence in Rakhine state in western Myanmar.

They are unpleasant viewing. The pictures from October last year show dead children with their heads cut open and the bodies of women with their internal organs spilling out of their torsos. Wirathu said he put them up as a reminder to Buddhists that the country is under attack from Muslim “invaders”.

“Muslims are only well behaved when they are weak, ” he said. “When they become strong, they are like a wolf or a jackal; in large packs they hunt down other animals.”Wirathu believes there is a Muslim “master plan” underway to turn Myanmar into an Islamic state.

If he is right, it is a long-term project. Latest estimates suggest that of Myanmar’s 60 million people, 90% are Buddhist and about 5% Muslim.

“Over the past 50 years, we have shopped at Muslim shops and then they became richer and wealthier than us and can buy and marry our girls,” Wirathu said. “In this way, they have destroyed and penetrated not only our nation but also our religion.”

Master Plan

_69534222_joonmosque

Wirathu’s solution lies in a controversial nationalist organisation called 969. It calls on Buddhists to shop, sell property and marry within their own religion.Small, brightly-coloured stickers have been distributed to clearly brand businesses as Buddhist-owned.

Supporters of 969 argue it is a purely defensive organisation, created to protect Buddhist culture and identity. Listening to the rhetoric of Wirathu and 969’s leaders, there is no doubt it is squarely aimed at Muslims.

“In the past, there was no discrimination based on religion and race. We all stayed together in a brotherly way,” Wirathu said. “But when their [Muslim] master plan has been revealed we can no longer stay quiet.”

From Rakhine state in the west, to more central towns like Meiktila and Okkan, the link is being made between heightened religious tensions and the preaching and activities of monks and 969.

The outbreaks of violence usually have a depressing symmetry. A small flashpoint, often a crime or perceived insult, perpetrated by a Muslim against a Buddhist, triggers a disproportionate wave of reprisals against the entire Muslim community.

Ten years ago, under the military junta, Wirathu was jailed for his anti-Muslim views. Now in these times of change, his message is widely disseminated through social media and DVDs. Far from being condemned, Wirathu now has backing from the very top.

In June, as his infamy reached its peak, Wirathu appeared on the front cover of Time magazine labelled “The face of Buddhist terror”. Burmese monks were outraged and Myanmar’s President Thein Sein quickly leapt to Wirathu’s defence. The Time issue was banned and a statement released with the President lauding Wirathu as a “son of Lord Buddha”.

‘Obstacle to reform’

_69534220_smarnyinyiSmar Nyi Nyi 

There is no shortage of theories inside Myanmar as to why Wirathu is now flavour of the month. One theory is that continuing ethnic and religious violence could be used by the military as a pretext for maintaining a dominant role in Burmese politics. It is certainly an argument Myanmar’s generals have made before.

kaylarsa

“We are also wondering about this,” Kaylar Sa (above), a monk jailed for his part in the Saffron revolution of 2007, told me as he chain-smoked his way through a pack of Red Ruby cigarettes. He pointed out that the government has acted decisively and violently to end monk-led demonstrations against an army-backed copper mine last year, and yet now was unwilling to tackle them over hate speech.

“At the moment, we firmly believe that the 969 movement is unnecessary,” he said. “If this movement continues to be taken seriously, it could become an obstacle to democratic reform.”

A short drive from Wirathu’s monastery, Muslim volunteers guard Joon Mosque, the biggest in Mandalay, each night. The men told me that in the event of a Buddhist attack, they expect no protection from the (Buddhist-dominated) police or the army.

Smar Nyi Nyi, a veteran of the 1988 student uprising and one of the elders at the mosque, took me to one side. He expressed views that many Burmese share, that shadowy elements within the establishment are stoking the unrest.

“Everybody is talking about the violence between Buddhists and Muslims,” he said. “Nobody is interested in the dam on the Irrawaddy River. No one is interested in the gas pipeline. If somebody is controlling things, he is a smart man!”

Some Muslims cling to the hope that there exists a silent majority of moderate Buddhists appalled by recent events, secretly rooting for them.

“Most of the Buddhists, they are just onlookers ” a retired Muslim doctor tells me with a shrug. “A few might pass a heartfelt regard and say they’re sorry, but that doesn’t come above the surface.”

For Wirathu, each fresh outbreak of religious conflict reinforces his view that Myanmar is part of a global war on militant Islam and that he is being badly misunderstood.

“We don’t use drones – we haven’t killed [Osama] Bin Laden or Saddam Hussein or the Taliban,” he told me.”We are just preaching and posting on the internet and Facebook for the safety and security of our nation. If we are all protecting our own nation who’s the bad guy – Wirathu or Barack Obama?”

Why Did They Kill? — An Anthropologist Looks at the Cambodian Genocide


May 14, 2015

Phnom Penh by The Mekong

Tuol-Sleng-prison-survivo-006 I am now reading Hinton’s book, Why Did They Kill? in order to refresh myself. This study gives me useful background and a clearer understanding of what happened to the  smiling, polite and gentle people of Cambodia during the dark days of the Pol Pot-led Khmer Rouge (Red Khmer) reign of terror from 1975 to 1979.. Having read William Shawcross’ book, Sideshow: Kissinger, Nixon and the Destruction of Cambodia  on US involvement in this Southeast Asian nation during the Nixon Presidency, featuring the controversial Henry A. Kissinger, this more recent book gives me an anthropological perspective on the Cambodian genocide and the ideology and character of the Khmer Maoist agrarian experiment that brought untold hardships and tragedy to the smiling Cambodians. It is equally regrettable to note that Malaysia supported the Khmer Rouge when they occupied the country after the Civil War which  evicted the US supported Lon Nol regime. I am told that Malaysia supported the ousted Prince Norodom Sihanouk not  the secretive Pol Pot and his band of murderers.–Din Merican

Why Did They Kill? — An Anthropologist Looks at the Cambodian Genocide

Among the modern horrors of mass killings of non combatants, from the Holocaust on [or for many scholars from the Amaleks on,] that of Cambodia stands out with particular starkness.  From 1975 to 1979 something like one quarter of the population was killed, not by another ethnic or religious group but by those who shared every marker which is used to identify likeness and difference among humans.  True, the non-Khmer Cham people, were singled out as the Khmer Rouge consolidated itself following a brutal civil war, but the vast majority of those herded, hounded, worked to death, tortured, beaten and shot were Khmer Buddhists, just as the perpetrators were.

Why did this happen?  What motivated the participants?  Why did Buddhist and centuries long cultural values provide so little resistance?  Outside the particularities, what if anything did the Khmer genocide share with those of the European Jews, Rwandan Tutsi (1994,)  Bosnian Muslims (1992-1995?) [Want a list?  Here and here.] Can incipient genocides be seen in their formative stages and prevented?  Indeed, are the actions and motivations of those perpetrating genocidal massacres separable from those engaging in search-and-destroy missions, or declaring free-fire zones in other wars?

He is particularly engaged with the question of perpetrator motivation.  The claim made by most that they had to kill because they had to take orders or die, does not explain the excessive, individually generated, cruelty shown by so many.  His uses as a gruesome example three men who take another to the woods for stealing cassava root, tie him to a tree and cut his liver from him, cook and eat it while the victim bleeds to death.  They received no order to do this. He does not mention, though it stays indelibly in the minds of all who see it, the tree in the killing field, against which babies were bashed to death.  It is now covered with colored wrist amulets and small pieces of cloth from those who break down in tears at merely the thought.
Book on Cambodian genocideAs one at whom this question of ‘why do people kill’ has long gnawed, and as a recent visitor to Cambodia and the notorious Tuol Sleng prison, along with its associated killing field, Alexander Hinton’s book, Why Did They Kill: Cambodia in the Shadow of Genocide (UC Press, 2005)  lept out from the small book offerings at the former prison, now something of a museum.

Two other slender books set the scene.  Both were by elderly survivors of months of torture and starvation at the prison, where they now volunteer to witness those years for the Cambodian youth, and other tourists who come through.

Bou Meng was an artist, whose skill at painting a portrait of Pol Pot saved him from death, though not terrible privation and cruelty.  His story and background, including being part of the Khmer Rouge, is told by Huy Vannak, a Cambodian researcher, who worked with Hinton at Rutgers. Bou Meng’s powerful paintings of his prison years are hung in one of the rooms of the museum but are not, as far as I can find, available on-line. [For others I have found, see the end of this post.]Chum Mey, the second living witness, was saved because of his talent with fixing things.  Even while the Khmer Rouge were destroying those with skills and knowledge they had to save a few to keep their own vehicles and machines going.  Both books recount cruelties beyond imagining, and the sorrow of survivors. [Though there are copies available on-line, the prices are outrageous, and the money won’t go to the men, or the museum.  Try Documentation Center of Cambodia where the books were published; it is not responding as I write this.]

Hinton’s book is a terrifically serious and well informed study of the Cambodian experience. Now in the Anthropology Department at Rutgers, he went to Cambodia in 1992 to continue his graduate work on ‘the embodiment of emotion in Cambodia’ and soon shifted his focus to deal with what he was seeing and learning.  The Vietnamese occupation of ten years, which had ended the Pol Pot regime had ended only three years before; the Paris Peace accords had been signed months before his arrival. Cambodia was in ruins. He lived in a small village which had been depopulated during the genocide, conducting multiple interviews in the field which are the basis for his examination and analysis, reflecting onto and out of extensive academic work in genocide studies.  His work is rich and detailed.  The reader will learn much about Cambodian culture, belief and behavior, not only during the years of killing, but crucially, through the generations before.

Robert Jay Lifton, whose work on the Holocaust, POW thought-control, Hiroshima survivors, Vietnam Vets and the current War on Terror has almost defined a field now called psychohistory, sets up the contours in a brief forward.

…the mass killing in Cambodia follows a sequence that has been observed in virtually every genocide: a sense of profound collective dislocation and humiliation, a historical ‘sickness unto death'; an ideological vision of revitalization and total cure, which comes to include a vast program of killing to heal; and the enlistment of a vast genocidal bureaucracy in an unending quest for national purification.  … Genocide is apocalyptic  as it requires a form of world destruction in the service of a vision… or absolute political and spiritual renewal.

Hinton reminds us that the genocide did not spring up, whole cloth, out of nowhere.  The US bombing of Cambodia, 18 March, 1969-28 May, 1970, resulted in something like 150,000 deaths in the south eastern part of the country, and massive dislocation of people and destruction of their ability to make a livelihood.  When Lon Nol joined the coup against King Sihanouk in March, 1970 the Khmer Rouge, having grown from a minuscule national communist party into a formidable force by harnessing anger and resentment against the bombings, were ready to mount a credible opposition.  When Sihanouk, from exile, pleaded with his people to join and support the Khmer Rouge against the treasonous Lon Nol, they responded  and a civil war ensued that took something like 500,000 lives. Almost as soon the KR took power in April 1975 various factions began turning against each other, leading to the purges, elimination of the educated and massive population transfers out of the cities which would eventually lead to the deaths of some 2 million people, about one-fourth of the population.

As an anthropologist, and one who speaks Khmer, Hinton did his field work.  He collected hundreds of hours of interviews with victims, and those executioners who would talk — many of whom, unsurprisingly, say they were innocent of the most gruesome charges, guilty only of following orders.  Indeed, even Pol Pot himself, is quoted as saying ” …even now, and you can look at me: Am I a savage person? My conscience is clear.”

In seven chapters Hinton brings us both the material of the interviews and an analysis  that aims to fit the particulars of Cambodian society to the wider, global phenomenon of genocidal behavior.   Chapter One looks at his notion of ‘disproportional revenge’ in the Cambodian historical setting where peasant anger over US bombings, dislocation and poverty could be given an initial focus against the Lon Nol forces, and then turned back, inward, against newly identified ‘class enemies.’

He sees in Cambodia’s Therevada Buddhist culture structures of power and patronage, which during normal times order relations between people and their world, but which serve as ready vessels for the new wine of suspicion and brutality. He examines how anger is framed and spoken of in Buddhist culture, and yet how, in some people, the beliefs wither and anger takes hold, finding new lines of exculpation in KR ‘theology’

He is particularly engaged with the question of perpetrator motivation.  The claim made by most that they had to kill because they had to take orders or die, does not explain the excessive, individually generated, cruelty shown by so many.  His uses as a gruesome example three men who take another to the woods for stealing cassava root, tie him to a tree and cut his liver from him, cook and eat it while the victim bleeds to death.  They received no order to do this. He does not mention, though it stays indelibly in the minds of all who see it, the tree in the killing field, against which babies were bashed to death.  It is now covered with colored wrist amulets and small pieces of cloth from those who break down in tears at merely the thought.

How does this happen?  How, if as many Khmer Rouge claimed, they killed only to avoid being killed, did the individual acts turn so grotesque, so unrelentingly sadistic?  He shows how orders and understandings, coming from ‘on high’ are filtered through local and personal histories and frames — from generations old stories of revenge and extirpating enemies root and branch, to violence suffered at the hands of Lon Nol forces transmuted and carried out against those ‘marked’ as outsiders, as a disease which had to be purified.

To understand such chilling spaces of violence …we need to examine how ideology is linked to local knowledge and psycho-social  processes.  During DK. social status was largely correlated with ‘revolutionary consciousness’ a notion that was itself forged out of an amalgam of Marxist-Leninist ideas and the Buddhist conception of ‘mindfulness.’  A person with ‘pure’ revolutionary consciousness applied the party line ‘mindfully,’ maintained an attitude of renunciation. and was completely loyal to the party.

He analyses how ‘difference’ was ‘manufactured, and how cultural notions of ‘face’ and honor were used to motivate killings.  He traces the idea and practice of disproportionate revenge.

His notion of ‘genocidal priming’ and ‘genocidal activation’ seem very good theoretical tools to inquire into similarities and differences between genocides.

Yet, as thorough an analysis and history as this is, I am left unsatisfied. In part, as the quote above exemplifies, resonant understanding is obscured by high register academic language. Two other examples: “As I noted in Chapter 5, the bodies of victims serve as symbolic templates through which their subjectivity and that of the perpetrator may be manufactured.” And: “…if we are to answer the most pressing questions about the origins of genocide..we must take a processual approach that weaves together the warp and woof of various levels of analysis.”

With concentrated reading I get it.  But as one with organizer’s bones as well as a student’s brain the language seems far removed from real understanding, from actionable understanding. The genocidaires of the world understand the language needed to carry out their schemes; those who want to disrupt and eliminate their genocidal priming have to find the language suited to the task.

I even wonder if, as useful as the idea of genocide has been since its coinage by Raphael Lemkin in 1948, by creating a category of super-murder, as it were, what is actually a continuum of motivation and behavior isn’t obscured.  The field of genocide studies sometimes seems more taken up with discussions of what constitutes a real genocide than in understanding the similarities between all forms of mass killing. If a single village in a country is wiped out, and only that village, for that village it is a genocide.  Whether or not genocide was intended, for god’s sake, has nothing to do with the facts of the slaughter. Manslaughter we all get, the unplanned killing of another; but involuntary mass killing?  If 100,00 are killed by those who want to wipe them out, and succeed, and another 100,000 are killed simply because they are in the path of directed destruction don’t we have a distinction without a difference?
What, for example, distinguishes the actions of US soldiers in Vietnam (see particularly the recent revelations in Nick Turse’s Kill Anything that Moves) from those of the Khmer Rouge? Heinous murders of those who are not resisting, and will never be a threat.  Policy at the top might be different: presumably the US high command did not intend to kill everyone, though the leadership of the Khmer Rouge claims neither did they. ‘Shit happens when great populations are transferred; resistance must be dealt with.’  But what separates the extreme and swift re-ordering of Cambodian society envisioned by the KR from the swift and extreme re-ordering of Vietnamese society in the Secure Hamlet policies of the US?  Why is the death of those two million a genocide and that two million not?  What distinguishes the torturers in the US from those of the KR?  Does it make any theoretical difference that in the one case the perpetrators were invaders and in the other were native to the soil of the carnage?
Not to pick on the United States alone. Pakistan’s president Yahya Khan called for a ‘final solution’ to the rebellious Bengalis during the Bangladesh rebellion.Sadaam Hussein ordered the death by poison gas of Iraqi-Kurds. The Japanese army in China carried out massive slaughters and conducted cruel experiments.  Is what they did different from King Leopold’s rubber-worker slaughters in the Congo, or what the Ottoman Turks did to the Turkish Armenians? Are Orthodox Jewish Rabbis calling for ‘the extermination of male arabs’ to be distinguished from the Germans who said the same?

Does categorizing one as genocide, the other not-genocide, or indeed Genocide I and Genocide IV helps us understand motivation and action at the state level or that of  the individual who actually guts the pregnant mother, smashes the baby against the tree, burns the village to the ground the living included?

Mass violence would seem to me to be a spectrum disorder, running from the least organized individual mass killings to the most organized, most participated in societal exterminations. The individual behavior, described in soldiers at their killing extreme by Karl Marlantes in What It Is Like to Go to War, as ‘berserking’, must everywhere be similar, though cloaked in local cloth.  The explanations each killer gives himself for his rampage will come from German authoritarianism, or Buddhist respect and subservience to older, better, higher, or Catholic obedience to Church and its reasons, as currently interpreted.

Everywhere belief is strong and evidence is weak, the containers of belief can be filled with new persuasions.  Everywhere those who trigger the slaughters know they must speak in a motivational language, not just of German or Khmer, but coming from deep in the culture and turning old understandings inside out. Buddhism will be banned but the structures of believing among Buddhists will be applied to the authorities now making claims on their lives.

Among genocide scholars, the goal is to identify genocide in the making and to know better how to intervene — though usually that has been understood as how to get others to intervene rather that how to internally interrupt the genocide priming, and especially the genocide activation,k which Hinton identifies. He does no better than others in showing us where the Cambodians might have known or might have acted as catastrophe built.

At what point, by what measure, does a population know that hate radio is priming a genocide?  When can it still be ignored, passing as “entertainment” as its foremost practitioners in the US claim it is? How does a population brought up for generations to honor their ‘superiors’ know when to resist, to not participate in their evil?

Among the modern horrors of mass killings of non combatants, from the Holocaust on [or for many scholars from the Amaleks on,] that of Cambodia stands out with particular starkness.  From 1975 to 1979 something like one quarter of the population was killed, not by another ethnic or religious group but by those who shared every marker which is used to identify likeness and difference among humans.  True, the non-Khmer Cham people, were singled out as the Khmer Rouge consolidated itself following a brutal civil war, but the vast majority of those herded, hounded, worked to death, tortured, beaten and shot were Khmer Buddhists, just as the perpetrators were.

Why did this happen?  What motivated the participants?  Why did Buddhist and centuries long cultural values provide so little resistance?  Outside the particularities, what if anything did the Khmer genocide share with those of the European Jews, Rwandan Tutsi (1994,)  Bosnian Muslims (1992-1995?) [Want a list?  Here and here.] Can incipient genocides be seen in their formative stages and prevented?  Indeed, are the actions and motivations of those perpetrating genocidal massacres separable from those engaging in search-and-destroy missions, or declaring free-fire zones in other wars?

As one at whom this question of ‘why do people kill’ has long gnawed, and as a recent visitor to Cambodia and the notorious Tuol Sleng prison, along with its associated killing field, Alexander Hinton’s book, Why Did They Kill: Cambodia in the Shadow of Genocide (UC Press, 2005)  lept out from the small book offerings at the former prison, now something of a museum.

Two other slender books set the scene.  Both were by elderly survivors of months of torture and starvation at the prison, where they now volunteer to witness those years for the Cambodian youth, and other tourists who come through.  Bou

Meng was an artist, whose skill at painting a portrait of Pol Pot saved him from death, though not terrible privation and cruelty.  His story and background, including being part of the Khmer Rouge, is told by Huy Vannak, a Cambodian researcher, who worked with Hinton at Rutgers. Bou Meng’s powerful paintings of his prison years are hung in one of the rooms of the museum but are not, as far as I can find, available on-line. [For others I have found, see the end of this post.]

Chum Mey, the second living witness, was saved because of his talent with fixing things.  Even while the Khmer Rouge were destroying those with skills and knowledge they had to save a few to keep their own vehicles and machines going.  Both books recount cruelties beyond imagining, and the sorrow of survivors. [Though there are copies available on-line, the prices are outrageous, and the money won’t go to the men, or the museum.  Try Documentation Center of Cambodia where the books were published; it is not responding as I write this.]

Hinton’s book is a terrifically serious and well informed study of the Cambodian experience. Now in the Anthropology Department at Rutgers, he went to Cambodia in 1992 to continue his graduate work on ‘the embodiment of emotion in Cambodia’ and soon shifted his focus to deal with what he was seeing and learning.  The Vietnamese occupation of ten years, which had ended the Pol Pot regime had ended only three years before; the Paris Peace accords had been signed months before his arrival. Cambodia was in ruins. He lived in a small village which had been depopulated during the genocide, conducting multiple interviews in the field which are the basis for his examination and analysis, reflecting onto and out of extensive academic work in genocide studies.  His work is rich and detailed.  The reader will learn much about Cambodian culture, belief and behavior, not only during the years of killing, but crucially, through the generations before.

Robert Jay Lifton, whose work on the Holocaust, POW thought-control, Hiroshima survivors, Vietnam Vets and the current War on Terror has almost defined a field now called psychohistory, sets up the contours in a brief forward.

…the mass killing in Cambodia follows a sequence that has been observed in virtually every genocide: a sense of profound collective dislocation and humiliation, a historical ‘sickness unto death'; an ideological vision of revitalization and total cure, which comes to include a vast program of killing to heal; and the enlistment of a vast genocidal bureaucracy in an unending quest for national purification.  … Genocide is apocalyptic  as it requires a form of world destruction in the service of a vision… or absolute political and spiritual renewal.

Hinton reminds us that the genocide did not spring up, whole cloth, out of nowhere.  The US bombing of Cambodia, 18 March, 1969-28 May, 1970, resulted in something like 150,000 deaths in the south eastern part of the country, and massive dislocation of people and destruction of their ability to make a livelihood.  When Lon Nol joined the coup against King Sihanouk in March, 1970 the Khmer Rouge, having grown from a minuscule national communist party into a formidable force by harnessing anger and resentment against the bombings, were ready to mount a credible opposition.  When Sihanouk, from exile, pleaded with his people to join and support the Khmer Rouge against the treasonous Lon Nol, they responded  and a civil war ensued that took something like 500,000 lives. Almost as soon the KR took power in April 1975 various factions began turning against each other, leading to the purges, elimination of the educated and massive population transfers out of the cities which would eventually lead to the deaths of some 2 million people, about one-fourth of the population.

As an anthropologist, and one who speaks Khmer, Hinton did his field work.  He collected hundreds of hours of interviews with victims, and those executioners who would talk — many of whom, unsurprisingly, say they were innocent of the most gruesome charges, guilty only of following orders.  Indeed, even Pol Pot himself, is quoted as saying ” …even now, and you can look at me: Am I a savage person? My conscience is clear.”

In seven chapters Hinton brings us both the material of the interviews and an analysis  that aims to fit the particulars of Cambodian society to the wider, global phenomenon of genocidal behavior.   Chapter One looks at his notion of ‘disproportional revenge’ in the Cambodian historical setting where peasant anger over US bombings, dislocation and poverty could be given an initial focus against the Lon Nol forces, and then turned back, inward, against newly identified ‘class enemies.’

He sees in Cambodia’s Therevada Buddhist culture structures of power and patronage, which during normal times order relations between people and their world, but which serve as ready vessels for the new wine of suspicion and brutality. He examines how anger is framed and spoken of in Buddhist culture, and yet how, in some people, the beliefs wither and anger takes hold, finding new lines of exculpation in KR ‘theology’

He is particularly engaged with the question of perpetrator motivation.  The claim made by most that they had to kill because they had to take orders or die, does not explain the excessive, individually generated, cruelty shown by so many.  His uses as a gruesome example three men who take another to the woods for stealing cassava root, tie him to a tree and cut his liver from him, cook and eat it while the victim bleeds to death.  They received no order to do this. He does not mention, though it stays indelibly in the minds of all who see it, the tree in the killing field, against which babies were bashed to death.  It is now covered with colored wrist amulets and small pieces of cloth from those who break down in tears at merely the thought.

How does this happen?  How, if as many Khmer Rouge claimed, they killed only to avoid being killed, did the individual acts turn so grotesque, so unrelentingly sadistic?  He shows how orders and understandings, coming from ‘on high’ are filtered through local and personal histories and frames — from generations old stories of revenge and extirpating enemies root and branch, to violence suffered at the hands of Lon Nol forces transmuted and carried out against those ‘marked’ as outsiders, as a disease which had to be purified.

To understand such chilling spaces of violence …we need to examine how ideology is linked to local knowledge and psycho-social  processes.  During DK. social status was largely correlated with ‘revolutionary consciousness’ a notion that was itself forged out of an amalgam of Marxist-Leninist ideas and the Buddhist conception of ‘mindfulness.’  A person with ‘pure’ revolutionary consciousness applied the party line ‘mindfully,’ maintained an attitude of renunciation. and was completely loyal to the party.

He analyses how ‘difference’ was ‘manufactured, and how cultural notions of ‘face’ and honor were used to motivate killings.  He traces the idea and practice of disproportionate revenge.

His notion of ‘genocidal priming’ and ‘genocidal activation’ seem very good theoretical tools to inquire into similarities and differences between genocides.

Yet, as thorough an analysis and history as this is, I am left unsatisfied. In part, as the quote above exemplifies, resonant understanding is obscured by high register academic language. Two other examples: “As I noted in Chapter 5, the bodies of victims serve as symbolic templates through which their subjectivity and that of the perpetrator may be manufactured.” And: “…if we are to answer the most pressing questions about the origins of genocide..we must take a processual approach that weaves together the warp and woof of various levels of analysis.”

With concentrated reading I get it.  But as one with organizer’s bones as well as a student’s brain the language seems far removed from real understanding, from actionable understanding. The genocidaires of the world understand the language needed to carry out their schemes; those who want to disrupt and eliminate their genocidal priming have to find the language suited to the task.

I even wonder if, as useful as the idea of genocide has been since its coinage by Raphael Lemkin in 1948, by creating a category of super-murder, as it were, what is actually a continuum of motivation and behavior isn’t obscured.  The field of genocide studies sometimes seems more taken up with discussions of what constitutes a real genocide than in understanding the similarities between all forms of mass killing. If a single village in a country is wiped out, and only that village, for that village it is a genocide.  Whether or not genocide was intended, for god’s sake, has nothing to do with the facts of the slaughter. Manslaughter we all get, the unplanned killing of another; but involuntary mass killing?  If 100,00 are killed by those who want to wipe them out, and succeed, and another 100,000 are killed simply because they are in the path of directed destruction don’t we have a distinction without a difference?

What, for example, distinguishes the actions of US soldiers in Vietnam (see particularly the recent revelations in Nick Turse’s Kill Anything that Moves) from those of the Khmer Rouge? Heinous murders of those who are not resisting, and will never be a threat.  Policy at the top might be different: presumably the US high command did not intend to kill everyone, though the leadership of the Khmer Rouge claims neither did they. ‘Shit happens when great populations are transferred; resistance must be dealt with.’  But what separates the extreme and swift re-ordering of Cambodian society envisioned by the KR from the swift and extreme re-ordering of Vietnamese society in the Secure Hamlet policies of the US?  Why is the death of those two million a genocide and that two million not?  What distinguishes the torturers in the US from those of the KR?  Does it make any theoretical difference that in the one case the perpetrators were invaders and in the other were native to the soil of the carnage?

Not to pick on the United States alone.  Pakistan’s president Yahya Khan called for a ‘final solution’ to the rebellious Bengalis during the Bangladesh rebellion.  Sadaam Hussein ordered the death by poison gas of Iraqi-Kurds. The Japanese army in China carried out massive slaughters and conducted cruel experiments.  Is what they did different from King Leopold’s rubber-worker slaughters in the Congo, or what the Ottoman Turks did to the Turkish Armenians? Are Orthodox Jewish Rabbis calling for ‘the extermination of male arabs’ to be distinguished from the Germans who said the same?

Does categorizing one as genocide, the other not-genocide, or indeed Genocide I and Genocide IV helps us understand motivation and action at the state level or that of  the individual who actually guts the pregnant mother, smashes the baby against the tree, burns the village to the ground the living included?

Mass violence would seem to me to be a spectrum disorder, running from the least organized individual mass killings to the most organized, most participated in societal exterminations. The individual behavior, described in soldiers at their killing extreme by Karl Marlantes in What It Is Like to Go to War, as ‘berserking’, must everywhere be similar, though cloaked in local cloth.  The explanations each killer gives himself for his rampage will come from German authoritarianism, or Buddhist respect and subservience to older, better, higher, or Catholic obedience to Church and its reasons, as currently interpreted.

Everywhere belief is strong and evidence is weak, the containers of belief can be filled with new persuasions.  Everywhere those who trigger the slaughters know they must speak in a motivational language, not just of German or Khmer, but coming from deep in the culture and turning old understandings inside out. Buddhism will be banned but the structures of believing among Buddhists will be applied to the authorities now making claims on their lives.

Among genocide scholars, the goal is to identify genocide in the making and to know better how to intervene — though usually that has been understood as how to get others to intervene rather that how to internally interrupt the genocide priming, and especially the genocide activation,k which Hinton identifies. He does no better than others in showing us where the Cambodians might have known or might have acted as catastrophe built.

At what point, by what measure, does a population know that hate radio is priming a genocide?  When can it still be ignored, passing as “entertainment” as its foremost practitioners in the US claim it is? How does a population brought up for generations to honor their ‘superiors’ know when to resist, to not participate in their evil?

In the end, the answers may be simple. In the present, no one seems to know.  I think though, that the proper question is not “Why Did They Kill?”  but “Why Do We Kill?” The list of the genocidal spectrum excludes no one, past or future.

Hinton’s book is a valuable addition particularly to the Cambodian experience, but to the field of genocide studies.  Much work to be done yet, and I think, much simplification and self-searching along with searching the complexities and looking at the others.

– See more at: http://www.allinoneboat.org/2013/04/02/why-did-they-kill-an-anthropologist-looks-at-the-cambodian-genocide/#sthash.N71qlyR5.dpuf

Minister Paul Low is Najib’s highly paid crony


May 13, 2015

Phnom Penh by The Mekong

It is very naive of all of us to expect Minister Paul Low, a former President, Transparency International -Malaysian Chapter and prominent businessman to uphold the principles of good governance which he once championed when he was at Transparency International. As the saying goes, suckers are born everyday. We are all suckers today, and that includes yours truly here in Phnom Penh.

Like my good friend and former colleague at Bank Negara Malaysia and Sime Darby, Tunku Abdul  Aziz, and Pemandu chief, Senator Idris Jala of the infamous Transformation Blues Spin, Minister Low has soiled his reputation. I guess,the temptation to be an apologist for the corrupt Najib Administration is too hard to resist. Credit, therefore, must go to our Prime Minister for being able to co-opt people who he can use to pillage our country. Najib is good as this sort of thing,but not at leading and governing our country.

Najib the Bugus WarriorIt is men like Low, Aziz and Jala and others in our civil service, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, the Attorney-General Office, the Auditor-General’s Office and the Police Force who are ensuring that Najib Razak remains in  office despite persistent  calls for his resignation from civil society activists and a growing number of Malaysians at home and abroad. Together with UMNO leaders who are afraid to criticise the Prime Minister’s policies and actions for fear of losing their business contracts and other  perks, they have collectively let the nation down. Personal interest overrides considerations of public duty, justice and integrity and the future of our nation..As a result, Prime Minister Najib to do as he pleases with our national coffers.

May 13 1969 riotsToday is May 13. It was the day in 1969 which shook the foundations of our nation and caused Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak to initiate policies and programmes to eradicate poverty and restructure our economy to eliminate the identification of race with economic function. The New Economic Policy was to promote national unity through economic growth with distributional equity. After decades of the NEP, we remain disunited as ever.We divided according to class and status and political affiliation.

The politics of race and religion is being pursued by our politicians, while economic justice remains a distant dream. Income disparity between the rich and the privileged and the oppressed middle middle class and the poor has become very glaring.

While we remember today those who lost their lives in the 1969 riots, we must remember its lessons and vow never to allow self serving politicians to split us asunder again. Let us also be aware that the seeds of discord remains embedded in our body politic.If we allow our differences to be exploited by irresponsible politicians for their personal gains, the future of our wonderful country will be bleak.–Din Merican

Minister Paul Low is Najib’s highly paid crony

by Shane Feuntes@www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Paul-LowThe people expected more from Paul Low because of his formerly reputable track record as an activist against corruption. “We expected more because he doesn’t belong to any political party and doesn’t have to compromise his principles,” said Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua.

Instead, he added, the people were sorely disappointed because Low has not only failed to carry out his duties without fear or favour; he has become an apologist for the Najib administration despite the sheer scale of grand larceny in 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). “Malaysians are disgusted that Low has succumbed to the perks and privileges of his ministerial office.”

Pua, who is also DAP National Publicity Secretary, pointed out that Low as the Transparency and Accountability Minister did absolutely zero to check the abuse, embezzlement and pillage of the RM42 billion indebted 1MDB, and “yet he has the cheek to tell the people to wait patiently for the Auditor-General’s Report.”

Low, he recalled, was the President of the Malaysian chapter of Transparency International (TI-M) when he was recruited by Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak after the 13th General Election to exercise oversight on “transparency and accountability”.

Despite the severity of the scandal, the seriousness of the crime and the utter failure of checks and balances in the 1MDB excesses which have resulted in massive loss of public funds, he reiterated that the so-called “Transparency and Accountability” Minister has done absolutely zero to ensure transparency in the company’s transactions and accountability from the ministers, directors and management in 1MDB.

He was commenting on Low telling the people via Bernama on Tuesday, “not to prejudge” and “wait for the audit report” by the Auditor-General (A-G). “Even so, the A-G was only instructed to review the financial accounts of 1MDB in March this year.”

He has two questions:

Why did Low ignore every single criticism and every warning bell sounded by the Opposition, the media, and other critics, in and out of Parliament, for the last two years about the impending 1MDB disaster? Was Low sleeping for the last two years?

Pua conceded that the other ministers were equally culpable by failing to pull the handbrakes on the escalating crisis, but Low was undoubtedly the single biggest disappointment and failure.

“We can understand UMNO ministers blindly cowing to the wishes of their all-powerful president for that is in their political DNA,” said Pua. “We can’t possibly imagine the MCA ministers to even decipher, understand and figure out the 1MDB financial fiasco, much less expect them to ask intelligent questions during the Cabinet meetings.”

He reminded that the people were shocked speechless with the brazen and blatant embezzlement in 1MDB where billions of ringgit was embezzled from the state-owned firm by the now infamous Jho Low.

As a result, he stressed, 1MDB was now laden with more than RM42 billion of debt which it was unable to repay and was desperately shedding assets to raise short-term capital to service its debts.

This year alone, continued Pua, 1MDB had to beg private investors arranged by local billionaire, Ananda Krishnan, to provide a short-term loan to repay an overdue RM2 billion in loans from Maybank and RHB Bank in February. “The government was forced to proved an emergency “standby facility” of RM950 million which was immediately drawn down by 1MDB.”

Now, he added, the people were up in arms because local financial institutions managing public funds, Lembaga Tabung Haji (LTH) and Kumpulan Wang Amanah Persaraan (KWAP), had purchased land from 1MDB at prices up to 43 times what 1MDB paid to acquire them from the Government.

“1MDB was even desperate enough to dispose of its lucrative concession to build a 2,000MW power plant to Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB) before even a single brick is laid,” said Pua. “The project was won last February via a controversial tender exercise.”

Incompetent, dishonest and shameless Najib Razak clings his job


May 10, 2015

Phnom Penh by The Mekong

Incompetent, dishonest and shameless Najib Razak clings his job

http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/najib-i-wont-be-pressured-into-quitting

TAWAU 10 May 2015. Perdana Menteri, Datuk Seri Najib Razak ketika Perhimpunan Solidariti Rakyat Sabah di Padang Perbandaran Tawau. NSTP/Datu Ruslan Sulai

TAWAU 10 May 2015. Perdana Menteri, Datuk Seri Najib Razak ketika Perhimpunan Solidariti Rakyat Sabah di Padang Perbandaran Tawau. NSTP/Datu Ruslan Sulai

Datuk Seri Najib Razak declared tonight that he will not succumb to calls for his resignation and even urged for support from Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, telling his harshest critic not to disrupt UMNO by making “too much noise”.

At a function in Tawau, Sabah, the embattled Prime Minister, in his strongest response yet to Dr Mahathir, reminded the latter that he had supported him during his tenure in government. “In 1987, I was among those who supported him. Why he (Dr Mahathir) remained as Prime Minister? Because we were united in difficult times.

“When in difficult times we support him to remain in power. If we did not support the leader during trying times, Dr Mahathir would not have been the Prime Minister for 22 years,” Najib was quoted in Bernama as telling a large crowd for the “Sabahans Solidarity Gathering” at a field in Tawau.Therefore, do not forget the past, when he (Dr Mahathir) was the Prime Minister, we fully supported him. Now he is not the Prime Minister, so return the support.

“Even if you cannot support, don’t make too much noise and disrupt the party. We can clarify the 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) issue,” he said, according to the national news agency.

Dr Mahathir, the country’s longest serving former prime minister, has been at the forefront of the ongoing attacks against Najib’s leadership, even saying recently that the prime minister should resign before Barisan Nasional (BN) loses the next general election.

Chief among Dr Mahathir’s concerns is the leadership’s handling of allegations surrounding 1MDB, the state-owned investment firm that has amassed a debt pile worth over RM42 billion in just a few years.

But Najib said tonight that Dr Mahathir has issued conflicting remarks about 1MDB, noting that the veteran leader had at one time claimed that the firm has lost RM42 billion but at another, he reportedly said it owes RM42 billion.

According to Bernama’s report, the prime minister then said that the government will have its own way of solving the 1MDB issue, if given time.

“I will only bow to the people and party members. As long as the people and members of UMNO support me and have trust in my leadership, I will continue to carry on,” he was quoted saying.

Although Najib has ordered a federal audit on the 1MDB, the latest controversy that emerged earlier this week on the firm’s land deal with Lembaga Tabung Haji (LTH) has led to top leaders in his party coming forward to publicly express concern.

On Friday, Najib’s Deputy Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin chimed in from his working visit in Milan, Italy, and said that Putrajaya must be proactive over the attacks against 1MDB and not merely react to the criticism against the state-owned firm.

Apart from Muhyiddin, UMNO leaders like Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein and Khairy Jamaluddin have also weighed in on the LTH-1MDB land controversy.

Explaining the matter for the second time today, Najib again insisted that LTH’s purchase of the land from 1MDB was not a bailout for the troubled investment firm. According to Bernama, he claimed the LTH could have made a RM170 million profit from the investment but because the purchase was made an issue, he decided to advice the pilgrims fund to sell the plot of land.

“Since the facts of the purchase has been twisted and became a hot topic, you can say it was like ‘shooting oneself in the foot’. This is what I call ‘not rationale’ because why are we doing this? For the benefit of the people, so, give us a chance to do it.

“Every issue can be solved but let the leaders solve such issues,” he was quoted saying. Najib has been criticised for his alleged haste in advising LTH to sell the land in question ― a 1.56-acre plot in the Tun Razak Exchange (TRX) that it had purchased last month from 1MDB.

LTH reportedly paid RM188.5 million at RM2,773 psf for the land, which is 43 times what 1MDB paid four years ago when it purchased the plot for just RM4.5 million at a rate of RM64 psf.

A blog called “The Benchmark” first raised speculation on the purchase when it published purported documents of the controversial transaction that critics now claim could be a bailout for 1MDB.

According to LTH Chairman Datuk Seri Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim yesterday, the move to sell the land was a complete U-turn from the Fund’s Board of Directors’ decision on Friday not to do so.Responding to the announcement, several lawmakers said today that 1MDB should instead cancel the transaction entirely and refund the RM188.5 million paid by LTH.

The Ugly Face of the Malay psyche on display


March 25, 2015

The Ugly Face of the Malay psyche on display

by Mariam Mokhtar@www.malaysiakini.com

It takes a brave Malay woman to say what the whole nation is thinking, and it is amazing how many Malay men cannot wait to show the world the ugly face of the Malay psyche.

The threats of physical violence and rape on BFM host Aisyah Tajudin, for her satirical take on the Kelantan hudud law, have proven that despite receiving the ‘best education in the world’, many Malays remain shallow, servile and seriously stupid. Only insecure, egotistical Malay men would feel threatened, not just by the truth, but by a woman, and worse still, a Malay woman.

The rakyat’s problem is that Malaysia’s religious men aspire to become politicians, and its politicians pretend to be religious men.

The latest hudud debacle has very little to do with religion. It is about power. Power over the Malays in Malaysia. Power to overcome any non-Malay resistance. And power to crush any opposition, especially from progressive Malays, who represent the biggest threat.

Aisyah (above) wanted to liberate Malay minds, not conquer their bodies. Her video was for people to reflect and to ponder. She did not force her message on others, if they did not wish to accept them.

Aisyah discussed important issues, so we may understand some of our country’s problems. If she didn’t care for her country, she would have chosen to remain quiet, like 97 percent of the population.

The Malays are creative and in the olden days, songs, sajak (poems) or bangsawan (opera/plays) would relay any messages, from rulers to their subjects. Aisyah is merely continuing a rich Malay tradition. The Malays who reacted badly to her satire, are an uncultured lot.

Aisyah appealed to the Muslims’ faith and their compassion. The Malays who threatened her, revealed everything that Islam does not represent.The BFM host used ingenuity to drive home a message about hudud, in Kelantan. The bigots revealed their stupidity and inability to use their intellect, to counter her point of view. Their threats, to rape and kill, will force more moderate, but silent Muslims, to speak out. These bigots have also stained the moderate face of Malay Muslims.

BFM should not have apologised for making and airing the satirical video. The company probably had no choice. The government issues permits, and can shut down companies. In the past, companies had their computers seized, their editors harassed, their Muslim writers accused of being lesbian, gay, apostate or atheist, and issued with death threats, violence or legal action.

In the Charlie Hebdo massacre of January 7, terrorists used Islam as their excuse to mow down several people, including a Muslim Policeman. Disagreeing with the cartoonists, does not give the men a licence to kill. The terrorists’ actions further tarnished the image of Islam and gave the impression that Muslims lacked the ability to enter into intelligent discussion.

Silencing freedom of expression

The day after the Paris carnage, Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Khalid Abu Bakar said that Malaysia needed the Sedition Law to prevent such attacks on Malaysian soil. The terrorists used bullets, in Paris, to silence freedom of expression, but Khalid uses the Sedition Law, to curb freedom of speech.

The IGP claimed that his role of policing Twitter, was to act like the referee of social media, and stop troublemakers. So, why are tweets from extremist and racist UMNO Baru politicians not censured? Khalid should leave Aisyah alone, and arrest the men who threatened her.

NIK RAINA INTERVIEW Using a slew of laws like sedition and blasphemy to condemn Aisyah, just shows his desperation. The IGP is mimicking the Federal Territories Islamic Affairs Department’s (JAWI) relentless pursuit of the Borders manager, Nik Raina Abdul Aziz (above).

Malays brought up on UMNO Baru’s diet of race, religion and royalty, have had their brains sucked dry. They have long forgotten how to think, to rationalise and to analyse.

By all means, blame UMNO Baru, but do not forget their new partners in crime, PAS. Both parties are desperate to take control of the Malay mind, but more importantly, their votes. It is all about power. Sadly, the late Nik Aziz Nik Mat’s experience of both him and PAS being betrayed by UMNO/Umno Baru, have already been forgotten by the PAS ulama.

PAS President Hadi Awang is desperate to force hudud through Parliament. This is about power. When it comes to absolute power, religion becomes a pawn, and a means to an end.

Hadi has fallen into UMNO Baru’s trap, and we are now being distracted by hudud, instead of tackling major issues like 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), corruption, the goods and services tax (GST) and the flood victims.

Malays can still be pious without having to become wannabe Arabs. Malays are in danger of losing their history and their culture, which go back several centuries, long before Parameswara was born.

If Malays do not reclaim their true identity, the only reference to Malay culture will appear at cultural shows, for the benefit of tourists, and at Tourism Malaysia performances worldwide. The religious indoctrination by power-hungry Malay men, has reduced Malays to a poor imitation of Arabs, and turned multi-cultural Malaysia to a ghetto-nation.

Hudud does not belong in multicultural Malaysia. Aisyah’s video made us think, and that is what the bigots fear most.

Rape, Murder, Hudud?


March 24, 2015

READ THIS:

http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/hudud-a-cause-for-hubris-and-hypocrisy

Rape, Murder, Hudud?

by Dr.Azmi Sharom@ http://www.rakyattimes.com

Azmi SharomAs I feared – no one can speak against hudud. Non-Muslims don’t have the right and Muslims must just obey because, according to PAS, this is God’s law.

In fact, if you question it, you deserve to be burnt and raped, as has been the threat against a BFM radio newsreader. I thought murder and rape are also against God’s law. But perhaps in the minds of some, two wrongs do make a right. Or perhaps there is a clause that says that murder and rape are OK as long as they are committed in the name of God.

 I am very angry. I am angry for the following reasons:

As usual, when anything about Islam comes up in this country, there is a tendency for all reason to go out the door. This is shameful because Islam has prided itself on being a faith of reason where knowledge and the written word were emphasised in the very first revelation.

The disgusting behaviour of the thugs who threatened Aisyah Tajuddin of BFM Radio for her participation in a video questioning the implementation of hudud is an insult to the religion into which I was born and raised. Yet, I hear nothing from the “defenders of the faith” against these people. Perhaps it is because they don’t like what Aisyah said? If that is the case, then what they are saying is that if you don’t like what someone thinks and says and if another person threatens serious harm to him or her, it is OK to just keep quiet. In other words, consent through silence.

And already some PAS people are making sounds that this is something that cannot be debated and cannot be questioned. This, from a party that claims to be democratic. “Islamic democrats” – some of their number describe themselves. Where is democracy if we can’t discuss the laws which govern us? Where is democracy when a person lives in fear of being demonised, just because his or her ideas differ from those of the “Islamic democrats”?

Hadi3Haji Abdul Hadi Awang al-Hududu

I have always held the belief that if those in PAS or anyone else wants to implement hudud or any law that they think is so fantastic, then it is their right. If they want to make this a country governed by their Ulama Council, it is their right.

But if you want to change this country, you have to do it by the rules. You must obey the Constitution and you must allow democratic space for full and open discussions. And you must defend the right of people to take part in those discussions.That is the only just way. Or does justice not matter anymore?

 

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