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  1. #101
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    Rohingya militants in Burma: Terrorists or freedom fighters?

    By Max Bearak - September 11, 2017

    Over the past 2½ weeks, the coastal borderland between Burma and Bangladesh has become the site of almost incomprehensible misery and suffering.

    The United Nations says 313,000 people, most belonging to Burma's Rohingya ethnic group, have fled with nothing but the clothes on their backs to fetid roadside encampments in Bangladesh. They are escaping what many international observers say is a scorched-earth campaign led by the Burmese military to drive an unwanted, mostly Muslim minority from the country, complete with indiscriminate killing, systematic rape and the burning of entire towns.

    Despite the evidence — which by Monday had led the United Nations' chief human rights officer to call the atrocities “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing” — the Burmese military and government say they are not targeting civilians but rather a group of terrorists that claim to protect the Rohingya but are in fact militants bent on creating an Islamic state in southwest Burma's Rakhine state.

    The situation calls to mind the adage: One man's terrorist is another's freedom fighter.

    The Rohingya (pronounced ROH-hihn-juh) have been referred to as the world's “most friendless people” and are undoubtedly in need of protection. For decades, they have faced persecution and been denied citizenship in Buddhist-majority Burma, which is also known as Myanmar. With the country's democratic reforms in 2011, ending half a century of military rule, many in the international community hoped the Burmese government would provide that protection, especially since the nation is led by Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and self-proclaimed pacifist.

    But Suu Kyi has no direct control over Burma's military under the new constitution. And she also subscribes to the belief held by many in Burma that the Rohingya are essentially illegal Bangladeshi interlopers, despite evidence of their presence in the region for generations, if not centuries. The Burmese government officially refers to the group as “Bengali.”

    Until recently, Bangladeshis felt similarly about the Rohingya. “Bangladeshis once had hatred for us,” a Rohingya man named Mohammed Yunus told the New York Times earlier this year. “They would call us names. They used to say we were Burmese, with a bad tone, and swear at us in different ways. But now they have the idea that we are persecuted.”

    That idea has spread far and wide, especially among Muslims around the world. Images and testimony shared by Rohingya have galvanized people from Chechnya to Jakarta to come out in mass protest against Burma's treatment of the Rohingya. Bangladesh now hosts 750,000 Rohingya refugees, and the government in Dhaka recently described Burma's actions as “genocide.” Only international pressure could persuade Burma to accept most of the refugees back, given that almost none would hold Burmese citizenship.

    According to an investigation by the International Crisis Group published in December, the plight of the Rohingya has also inspired wealthy individuals in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere to fund a ragtag insurgency. When the report came out, the fledgling Rohingya militancy was known as Harakah al-Yaqin, Arabic for “faith movement." The group now calls itself the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, or Arsa.

    Money and weapons are channeled through groups of Rohingya expatriates living in the Persian Gulf and Bangladesh and eventually reach Burma, where local fighters receive training. The ICG report says Arsa has growing popular support among Rohingya in Burma, but the recent crackdown was sparked by a coordinated Arsa attack on multiple Burmese border police posts that killed at least 12 officers last month. On the other hand, the crackdown may inspire many Rohingya to join the militants.

    Still, calling the conflict between the military and Arsa lopsided would be an understatement. Arsa probably has a only a few hundred fighters. There is little evidence foreigners have joined the fight. On Sunday, Arsa declared a unilateral cease-fire, hoping to assuage the humanitarian crisis. The Burmese government refused to enter into talks with them.

    The Rohingya remain deeply unpopular in Burma, but Arsa's attacks, even if they pale in comparison with Burma's retaliation, only widen the divisions and serve the government's narrative. With the Burmese military essentially treating all Rohingya men as possible terrorists and effectively blocking humanitarian aid, the vicious spiral of persecution and militarization is in full spin.

    Weeks after Arsa's coordinated attack on police posts, villages are still ablaze across Rakhine, and more Rohingya now live as refugees in Bangladesh than remain in Burma. One has to ask: Is Arsa helping or hurting the Rohingya?


  2. #102
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    Southeast Asia summit draft statement skips over Rohingya crisis


    A draft of the statement to be issued after a Southeast Asian summit makes no mention of the exodus of Rohingya Muslims
    from Myanmar’s Rakhine state following a military crackdown that has been described by the United Nations as ethnic cleansing.

    One paragraph of the communique, seen by Reuters on Monday, mentions the importance of humanitarian relief provided for victims of natural disasters in Vietnam and a recent urban battle with Islamist militants in the Philippines, as well as “affected communities” in northern Rakhine state.

    The statement was drawn up by the Philippines, current chair of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) - which includes Myanmar - whose leaders met for a plenary session in Manila on Monday.

    The draft did not give any details of the situation in northern Rakhine or use the term Rohingya for the persecuted Muslim minority, which Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi has asked foreign leaders to avoid.

    The government in mostly-Buddhist Myanmar regards the Rohingya as illegal migrants from Bangladesh and does not recognize the term.

    Well over 600,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh to find shelter in refugee camps after military clearance operations were launched in response to attacks by Rohingya militants on security posts on Aug. 25.

    The plight of the Rohingya has brought outrage from around the world and there have been calls for democracy champion Suu Kyi to be stripped of the Nobel peace prize she won in 1991 because she has not condemned the Myanmar military’s actions.

    In September, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the situation in Rakhine was best described as ethnic cleansing.

    Some members of ASEAN, particularly Muslim-majority Malaysia, have voiced concern. However, in keeping with ASEAN’s principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of one another, the issue appears to have been put aside at the summit.

    In September, Malaysia disavowed a statement issued by the Philippines on behalf of ASEAN’s foreign ministers as misrepresenting “the reality” because it did not identify the Rohingya as an affected community in Rakhine state.

    Suu Kyi, who did not mention the crisis in a speech after arriving in Manila on Sunday, criticized ASEAN’s principle of non-interference herself in 1999 when she was fighting for democracy in a country then ruled by a military junta.

    “This policy of non-interference is just an excuse for not helping,” she wrote in an opinion column in the Thai daily the Nation at the time. “In this day and age, you cannot avoid interference in the matters of other countries.”

    Roberto Romulo, a former Philippine foreign minister, told the Philippine news channel ANC that there appeared to be no discussion about the Rohingya at the ASEAN summit.

    “They’re treating with a great deal of respect a discredited Nobel Peace Prize winner like Aung San Suu Kyi,” he said.

    Amnesty International Philippines representative Wilnor Papa told ANC that the ASEAN leaders would talk about “terrorism and peace and order ... but there are a whole lot of elephants in the room they won’t be talking about, that people are trying to ignore.”


  3. #103
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    The Rohingya tragedy shows human solidarity is a lie

    by Tawakkol Karman - 1 Dec 2017

    Nobody argues any more about what is happening in Myanmar.
    The United Nations, international human rights organisations and world capitals all agree that the war being waged on the Rohingya Muslims is a clear example of ethnic cleansing and genocide.

    According to international reports, the number of people who have fled Myanmar military operations in Rakhine state have reached approximately 600,000 refugees by October.

    The crisis continues to get worse, fanned on one hand, by the Myanmar government's intolerance and insistence on continuing their racist exclusionary policies, and on the other hand, by the fact that the world's interest in what is happening in Myanmar is just not deep enough.

    Human solidarity

    The most dangerous thing the Rohingya tragedy has uncovered is that the idea of "human solidarity" may be nothing more than a big lie.

    Those who call and fight for freedoms and human rights regardless of race or religion or colour or ideology - and I am one of those - are facing a huge conundrum. Why is this happening? Why is this human holocaust, happening right before our eyes, not being stopped? Are there unknown conditions that must be met in order to show human solidarity and offer the support needed to end a particular people's suffering?

    These are questions whose answers, I fear, will be terrifying. Is human solidarity something afforded only to the strong and rich who have political or economic power in the international arena?

    Many are starting to understand that human solidarity does not extend to Muslims.
    Regardless of how accurate that opinion is, it is an indicator of the doubts that have taken root in the minds of some, and that is not a good thing.

    And this is not the only loss that has come out of the Rohingya tragedy. The regime in Myanmar, which is perpetrating horrific violations every day, can still find allies who defend what it is doing. The Myanmar regime's responsibility for the extermination of the Rohingya is clear and its statements denying what is happening are mendacious.

    Sacrificing her past as a fighter for rights and freedom in order to embrace tyranny, Aung San Suu Kyi - leader of the Myanmar government and Nobel Peace Prize laureate - serves as a prime example of the damage that can befall someone we thought would keep her principles no matter what.

    It is truly tragic that Aung San Suu Kyi is defying reality and denying with confidence the violence and ethnic cleansing, to an extent that Amnesty International has classified her affirmations as "a mix of untruths and victim blaming". Aung San Suu Kyi could have fought and won a victory for human rights or for her own conscience at the very least. But she preferred to fight for her "nation" and its military vision built on exclusion, marginalisation and rejection of diversity. What a tragic end for a woman who so many counted on.

    The 'terrorism' excuse

    The Rohingya tragedy has confirmed what we've said about the use of "terrorism" by dictatorships as a useful excuse to realise political goals and destroy opposition or political opponents.

    The world has seen how entire villages are destroyed and their inhabitants killed or displaced, all atrocities committed in the name of the "war on terror"; who can accept these justifications? I would think no one.

    The truth is that using "terrorism" as an excuse
    to suppress opponents and to enable tyrannical political leadership to strengthen its bases is an old ruse that everyone can see through. The UN and international community have to be brave and prevent the use of "terrorism" in this way.

    Authoritarian regimes must be deprived of the opportunity to use a just cause such as fighting "terrorism" for their own ends. Not only that, but there must also be a real accounting of those who have perpetrated human rights violations for any reason.

    Fighting racism

    There are numerous calls to end the military operations against the Rohingya today. This can be seen as a positive development, and although it comes very late - better late than never.

    In spite of that fact, the regime in Myanmar likely will not respond to these calls unless there is a unified international stance against the crimes against humanity that are being perpetrated there. The military in Myanmar are still the ones who call the shots, and they don't see anything wrong with denying the Rohingya their rights.

    The Rohingya tragedy has shown how a UN member state can have an internal policy built on racial and religious discrimination without any international consequences. Therefore pressure must be increased on the regime in Myanmar if we are to see real course correction.

    It is time to take a firm stance on Myanmar. We should not pacify a state promoting apartheid policies. It is time to stop a human tragedy that has persisted for decades.

    A few days ago, Bangladesh and Myanmar reached an agreement that allows the repatriation of Rohingya refugees, who were subjected to a campaign of persecution and forcible displacement by the Myanmar army only two months ago. But this agreement, even if implemented, is not enough to go on as if nothing happened.

    It is true that the repatriation of the Muslim-majority Rohingya is very important to put an end to this tragedy, but what guarantees will the Myanmar government provide for not repeating its ethnic cleansing campaign?

    Nevertheless, this agreement should be a prelude to the end of abhorrent discrimination against the Rohingya who should be given political and civil rights as citizens of Myanmar.

    The Rohingya have lived for a long time without knowing the true meaning of humanity and justice
    . Would it not be wonderful if they could find some of that now? We must work to realise that with all our strength, not just for them, but for all of us.



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