Roland Watson
February 6, 2018

Rohingya genocide

I suspended the Burma Death Watch blog last April. It tracked with daily updates all of the dictatorship's most severe human rights abuses, for six full years. Its link is still on the homepage, for anyone interested in this period of the regime's crimes against humanity. At that time, I moved the initiative to my Facebook page. For the Rohingya genocide, I believe I am the only non-Rohingya individual who has surveyed and posted news of each day's atrocities (since the latest anti-Rohingya pogroms began in 2012). I of course also post news about the Burma Army's war of colonial conquest against the ethnic nationality homelands in the North and East.

Of my 5,000 FB friends (the maximum allowed), and 1,300 followers, at least a thousand are Rohingya, or Muslim supporters of the Rohingya from other countries. I believe I am having an impact distributing news of the genocide and advocating for action to end it. For the almost 700,000 refugees who have fled to Bangladesh in the last year (and for all the other refugees from prior years), I wrote - among many other pieces, "Burma's Refugees: Repatriation for Whom?" This was the first article to argue that the repatriation process must not only fulfill all essential requirements, starting with citizenship and security guaranteed by international peacekeepers, it must also extend the right of return to ever single Rohingya who has had to flee from their homes, at any time in the past (and of course to any other ethnic nationality refugees), and including their children. It was posted by Eurasia Review, and shared directly from it on FB over two hundred times.

Burma's nuclear and ballistic missile programs

Reuters last week disclosed news of a report to the United Nations Security Council, with the information that North Korea was still selling arms to Burma's military dictatorship.

"The U.N. monitors also said one country, which they did not identify [this is of course the United States], reported it had evidence that Myanmar received ballistic missile systems from North Korea, along with conventional weapons, including multiple rocket launchers and surface-to-air missiles."

This is hardly news. In November 2006, Dictator Watch broke the story that North Korea was helping the SPDC with a clandestine nuclear program. In that statement, we also first raised the possibility that Burma had acquired ballistic missiles as well. At that time we knew that it was buying other types of missile systems from Pyongyang (AAMs and SAMs), but still had no actual confirmation for ballistic. We then got intel on this from secret sources in January 2007, and after that in July published the locations of two launch facilities for North Korean-made short range ballistic missiles. We had many additional updates in following years.

To say it again, the real reason Barack Obama reversed U.S. policy towards Burma was because of North Korea helping the SPDC with both ballistic missiles and its nuclear ambitions. He thought U.S. appeasement would end Than Shwe's plans, and effectively allowed America to be blackmailed. As this latest report illustrates, though, the policy change was a complete failure, on the dictatorship's weapons acquisition, and of course also on democracy and human rights. The U.S. should reimpose wide-ranging sanctions, and work to convince the Europeans, Japanese and Australians to do so as well.

Break up Burma?

Because of the Rohingya genocide and the never-ending Civil War, both of which are grounded in the Burman regime's racism against all the other ethnic nationalities, I started a new initiative to encourage people to consider whether at this point the country should even survive. I prepared a full analysis of the question and an executive summary, with the latter then translated into Karen, Burmese and Chinese.

This initiative is beginning to have an impact (although of course it could be better). The English language article and summary have been read some two thousand times. The Karen translation readership is also doing well, over one thousand times, although for Burmese it is only five hundred. Unfortunately, this translation has yet to go viral in what is now the huge Burma Internet community. (Please share the link.) In any case, more dramatic possibilities for the country are finally being considered, openly, which is appropriate given former democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi's 2011 surrender to the Burman generals.


Lessons in Democracy

There is news about my twenty lesson guide to the democratic system as well.

Robert Mugabe was removed as dictator of Zimbabwe last November. Lessons in Democracy was translated into the country's two principal languages, Shona and Ndebele, in 2009. The first is used in the North (where Mugabe had his base) and the second in the South. In the intervening years each has approached 10,000 downloads. Last October, the month before the Mugabe purge, the Shona downloads took off again. There have now been another 4,000. I am very pleased to have helped the people of the country learn about democracy, and of the possibility that my guide was studied in the weeks before the dictator was deposed.

The guide has also been translated into Azerbaijani and Chinese, with the latter prepared in 2010, in both the Traditional and Simplified character sets, by the Executive Director of the Wei Jingsheng Foundation. (The translation was checked by a well-known but uncredited Chinese author.) Mr. Wei is one of the original Chinese dissidents. In 1978 (eleven years before the Tiananmen Square massacre), he posted to Beijing's "Democracy Wall" a demand for a "Fifth Modernization" - political modernization from communism to democracy. (This was an addition to four other changes just announced by then dictator, Deng Xiaoping.) Mr. Wei was arrested when he later took credit for the statement. He spent almost nineteen years in prison, with five in solitary confinement. He won the U.S. Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award and the European Sakharov Prize. However, he was shunned by the Nobel Peace Prize Committee. Mr. Wei advocates tangible action for democracy. The Committee prefers pacifists (witness Aung San Suu Kyi, and also Liu Xiaobo).

The Chinese translations still get fifty downloads a day. Total downloads are now a couple of hundred thousand, with most from Mainland China through VPNs and other techniques to breach the Communist Party's Great Firewall. Since each download can be read by multiple individuals, including through the pdf files being renamed and shared, the Chinese audience may be in excess of one million people. This is also extremely rewarding. Even though the current dictator Xi Jinping has increased the country-wide repression, it is clear that the citizens want freedom and human rights.

I have also communicated with Joshua Wong, who shared the translations with his associates. Joshua and the other leaders of Hong Kong's 2014 Umbrella pro-democracy moment are now serving a three month jail sentence for their activism. (This is the second time they have been imprisoned.)

I would of course like to have the Lessons translated into other languages that are used by repressed peoples, foremost Arabic. I have a professional translator who will do the work in Arabic for $5,500, and have even prepared a Kickstarter Crowdfunding campaign. However, since the most pressing issue at this point is of course the Rohingya genocide, I have delayed its launch. I will certainly try the campaign at some point, and welcome any advice and expressions of interest.

(Honestly, I'm also afraid that the campaign will fail to reach its goal, even though I'm pretty sure a lot of people would agree that having a straightforward democracy education available in Arabic is a good idea. I don't want to launch it and then have it fall short. I think I have had some influence in my activism, such as by encouraging Burma's ethnic armed organizations to reject the dictatorship's demands, but I have a poor track record trying to raise funds.)

In any case, this is now my 24th year of pro-democracy activism. I am still going strong, and will hopefully be able to keep it up for another decade or two. It's too bad I haven't been able to establish a formal NGO - a 501(c)3. I would have had an even greater impact, including with a lot more media interest. The problem is, I believe in a different model of social change. Real change is discontinuous. It requires a beak from the past, not only a small step away. To overcome dictatorship this necessarily involves revolution, both popular - in the streets, and even sometimes, as with Burma (and also the United States in the 18th Century), armed. Funders only bankroll programs based on the failed idea of gradual change. This is the real reason Suu Kyi gets all her support. They never back revolutionaries.