Saturday, March 29, 2014


The Rakhine nationalists' mob attack on international aid workers last week is showing the early signs of genocidal tendency towards Rohingyas. Various international NGOs, including UN World Food Program, had been working in Rakhine State since 1994 refugee repatriation. This is not a simple case of unruly mob randomly attacking INGOs. Clearly, there are underlying political motives on removing/attacking those INGOs. Unless U Thein Sein government put a stop to these mob intimidation and violence, there is potential to escalate into a large scale conflict. Such escalation of conflict will pose a threat to Burma's democratic transitions.
Should such escalation of conflict eventuated to a large scale, it will serve in the interest of RNDP and Rakhine nationalists. Surely, there must be elements within Burmese military who would be watching with intense interest on this situation.
Nationalist Agendas
By removing international aid workers, the Rakhine nationalists think they can silence advocates of Rohingyas. By sabotaging census-collecting process, the Rohingyas will become 'unregistered forever' in the Rakhine State. Should UN WFP were to withdraw from Rakhine State, hardships for Rohingyas will increase and will trigger greater ever flight for them to Bangladesh. These are the kind of simplistic mob agendas which RNDP, Wirathu and PBMU monks are trying to promote.
Some of those who are reasonably well informed about politics, this kind of genocidal agendas are un-thinkable. And some would even say that can never happen in Burma.
Unfortunately, the world's history had proven time and again that such genocides can happen, especially in transition. One example is the rise of nationalist leader Slobodan Milosevic in the 80s in former Yugoslavia. Once this kind of natiolanist leader is in power, it is sure to have much political violence and bloodshed.
Intolerance -- the early signs
What we have repeatedly seen in Rakhine State in particular and in proper Burma at large is the form of racial and religious intolerance against a minority group. As I mentioned before, this kind of intolerance will be resonating with greater majority of Burmese masses. The populist Monk Wirathu and nationalist groups like RNDP will ride on the waves of such intolerance using freedom of speech as a vehicle. Needless to say, there are such populist and racist elements are within even in Australia with the same secenario for riding the tides of intolerance.
Then again, in a democratic and open society, such a freedom of speech MUST be allowed. In comparison to a mature democracy like Australia, Burma in a transitional state does not have a proper balancing powers. In Australia, for example, certain populist leaders within Executive Powers can impose racist laws as measures to margnialise minorities. In such case, there will be opposition by civil society -- reflected in Parliament and Senate, reinforced by regular and periodic general elections -- and a challenge at the High Court (Constitutional Court of Australia). As such, the excesses of Executive Powers can be put on a break by the other balancing powers.
The danger Burma is facing now is not having such balancing powers. At the end of the day, people like Wirathu and group like RNDP which has racist agendas will be Burma in the future. U Thein Sein government, for a short and medium term therefore, should put in place strong protection for international aid workers and their operations. The freedom of speech is to be allowed but incitation of mob violence should not be tolerated. The rights to organize and assemble is to be respected, but those with intent to break the laws and initiate violence must be punished.
For the long term though, Burma will need an independence of judiciary, and especially setting up of a Constitutional Court. For example, the interfaith marriage laws which proposed by PBMU, even if being approved by the Burmese Parliament, should be scrutinized and challenged at the Constitutional Court. As we can see, the democracy is not all about 'majoritarian rule'. And certainly, the democratic political leadership isn't quite the same as populist mob-leadership. In democracy, while the freedom of speech is allowed, the rights of minority must be protected. A true political leadership must rise above those mob agendas. Otherwise, Burma's transition will fail.
Future for INGOs
For the INGOs and UN, I think this is about time to ponder forming a consortium of some sort for their humanitarian work in Burma. Whilst there have been set-backs in their operations, they should not be discouraged. Those who have Burma expertise should now formulate a policy of reintegrating Rohingyas and development of Rakhine State as a whole.
I also think those community and resistance leaders in exile & resistance should also look for models of reintegration for their respective displaced people. For example, Karen and Kachin community leaders in particular; they should look at finding international assistance when ceasefire and peace previals in Burma. Obviously, for refugees in Thailand and elsewhere, the resettlement option is limited and, definitely, not for everybody: I heard years ago, a Karen refugee individual who took suicide option when resettlement to abroad was for him (He's not insane -- I dare say).

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Four dead as Myanmar religious clashes bleed into KL

June 05, 2013
Firefighters extinguish a fire during a riot between Buddhist and Muslims in Lashio township May 29, 2013. — Reuters pic
KUALA LUMPUR, June 5 ― Deadly clashes between Muslims and Buddhists in Myanmar have spread to Malaysia, which both employs a large Burmese workforce and is home to one of the biggest Rohingya Muslim population outside of the country.

According to media reports, four Myanmar nationals have already died while another eight were injured following reprisal attacks believed to be linked to the religious riots in the country.

“The religious sentiments (back home) have caught up with Myanmar workers here, leading to both Muslim and Buddhist groups launching heinous attacks on each other in areas with a large number of Myanmar nationals,” Kuala Lumpur deputy police chief Amar Singh Ishar Singh was quoted as saying by the Sun daily.

Buddhist mobs in Myanmar have targeted the country’s Muslim minority for violence in recent months, with the latest hotspot being northern city of Lashio, near the border with China.

Malaysia has an estimated 400,000 Myanmar workers, many of whom are restaurant and construction workers. It also houses around 23,000 Rohingyas, according to a UNHCR registry, but the number is believed to be closer to 50,000.

According to Amar, the police have formed a task force to deal with the issue and have so far arrested about 60 Myanmar workers, primarily in Sentul and Brickfields here, as a precaution.

“We have called up the leaders from both factions and had a meeting with them today and urged them to advise their people to end the violent clashes,” Amar said yesterday.

The four reported deaths were the result of four separate attacks in various parts of Kuala Lumpur, with the latest being the case of a Myanmar car wash employee who was set upon at his workplace by a group armed with parangs.

According to a report by Malay language daily Utusan Malaysia, police are probing the existence of an alleged radical Buddhist movement known as “969” that was purportedly formed to annihilate Rohingya Muslims here.

Some Rohingyas have reported receiving VCDs with scenes of murders perpetrated by the so-called “969” group, while Myanmar workers have also been spotted wearing T-shirts bearing the numbers in parts of the city.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Calls for support of Rohingya Muslims increase

Source worldbulletin, 2 April
Calls for support of Rohingya Muslims increase
As the attacks on the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar continue, calls for the international community's support increase.
A Special Representative in the UN Secretary-General, has assessed the violence in Myanmar by stating "the support of the international community is necessary for the Rohingya Muslims." for humanitarian aid / support of the international community needed.''
In an interview with Turkish media, Vijay Nambiar— a Special Representative in the UN Secretary-General—reminded that the attacks against the Muslim minority in the Arakan state of Myanmar have been ongoing since last year.
Nambiar indicated that, according to the government's figures, around 100 people lost their lives in the events last June, but other sources claim that the death toll was much higher.
Emphasizing that the approximeatly 1.5 million Rohingya Muslims have been struggling with problems over the last 60 years, Nambiar stated:
"The Myanmar government must solve the problems of the Rohingya Muslims problems as part of the democratization process. If this problem is not resolved on the basis of equality, the whole reform process will be negatively affected. First the physical problems of these people should be solved, their security should be guaranteed, and they should be allowed to return to the places they were forced to leave. The government should then make arrangements so that these two communities can live in peace arrangements. But since tensions are still high in the region, displaced persons will have to remain in camps for a while.''
Stressing that the support of the international community was needed for humanitarian assistance, Nambiar explained that political pressure on the Myanmar government could also be effective.
Suggesting that regional countries and the international community also had a role in resolving the problem, Vijay Nambiar mentioned that countries in the region sometimes do not accept Muslims who fled Arakan.
Meanwhile, the RISE advocacy groups has also called on other refugee advocacy groups to be more active in denouncing Paris Aristotle, Director of the Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture Inc, who has built hiscareer as a self-proclaimed refugee advocate.
Aristotle has called on the Australian Parliament to reassess the ''template'' for asylum seekers and refugees outlined in the Houston report devised by a panel chaired by former defence chief, Air Chief Marshall Angus Houston, and to reconsider the Malaysia swap deal.
The Melbourne Anti-Deportation Campaign has responded to the Houston report by condemning "the absolute hollowness of the moral considerations that are presented as justifying an aggressive campaign of regional policy and border control."
The response report denounces the Houston report for "provid[ing] justification for the undertaking of misconceived deportations" and for how "In a bizarre feat of 'humanitarianism' the proposals made by the [Houston] Report make it not only admissible, but advisable to act in order to prevent family reunions for refugees."