Contact: Roland Watson, roland@dictatorwatch.org


January 7, 2017

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There have been many developments with the genocide of the Rohingya people of Burma, so many in fact that it is easy to lose track. This update is a summary of the most important events.

The Rohingya have suffered periodic bouts of severe repression dating back decades, at the hands of both the military dictatorship and racists among the Rakhine community with which they share Arakan State. Hundreds of thousands had fled to Bangladesh, with many still living there in squalid refugee camps, and with others having moved further afield notably to Malaysia and throughout the Middle East (the Rohingya diaspora).

The latest repression began in the summer of 2012, when Rohingya men were falsely accused of raping a Rakhine woman. This led to riots and slaughter - a series of anti-Rohingya and anti-Muslim pogroms not only in Arakan State but in other parts of the country as well. Over 140,000 Rohingya were driven from their homes, with the majority moving to internally displaced person camps, which are nothing less than concentration camps. The rest fled to Bangladesh or were trafficked to Thailand, with hundreds dying at sea or being abused and then killed in forest camps near the border of Malaysia.

This repression was ideologically motivated by racist Buddhist monks, notably Wirathu, and with the backing of the military dictatorship. It was state-sanctioned and organized violence.

At this time, Aung San Suu Kyi was a new MP, having just won her seat in a by-election. She chose not to speak out about the violence, which inaction was generally presumed to reflect a fear of angering both the military and the faction of her followers who agreed with the racist monks (some of whom no doubt also participated in the pogroms). This was her first major human rights failure following her formal ascent to power.

Later on, she went from being a silent bystander to an active proponent of the repression, arguing that the word "Rohingya" should not be used, and that the Rohingya people were not the principal or disproportionate victims of the violence. In effect, she supported the claim that members of the group, whose families have been resident in Burma for centuries, were in fact illegal immigrants and could therefore be detained and expelled.

Things stayed this way - in this terrible, precarious state - following the lessening but not the cessation of anti-Rohingya violence in early 2014. The Rohingya homelands were blockaded, including for aid shipments; apartheid was established between Rohingya and Rakhine villagers; and the Rohingyas in both the concentration camps and those who remained in their homes were systematically abused and denied access to health care and their sources of livelihood.

In October 2016, the regime reported that three police posts had been attacked in Arakan State, and blamed the Rohingya. These attacks have never been substantiated - they could have been staged, or - if they did occur - if Rohingya were truly responsible (and, if so, why they did it). The regime then used the purported attacks, just as it had the rape claim in 2012, to launch a scorched earth offensive. The Burma Army destroyed dozens of Rohingya villages. Initially, they were burned down, but later when this was identified through satellite imagery collected by Human Rights Watch, torn down (often by the villagers themselves after being forced to do so at gunpoint). Hundreds if not thousands of villagers were murdered. (There is no possibility of an accurate count - these villages and their inhabitants have been wiped from the face of the earth.) Hundreds of Rohingya women were also rounded up, publicly humiliated, and raped - many were gang-raped to death. This level of violence precipitated another exodus with an estimated 50,000 fleeing to Bangladesh, and with countless shot and killed as they attempted to escape, including in boats crossing the border Naf River, which river became clogged with their bodies. The violence was so extreme that it became clear that state-sanctioned ethnic cleansing - genocide - was being perpetrated.

With all of this underway, new developments came fast and furious.

- The International State Crime Initiative of Queen Mary University of London analyzed the violence and concluded that it fit the legal definition of genocide.

- Dictator Watch called for an investigation of Suu Kyi for complicity in the genocide and for United Nations Security Council action.

- Suu Kyi, in a Channel News Asia interview, denied the genocide and defended the military dictatorship.

- Burma Army and regime police continued their violence against the Rohingya.

- The International Crisis Group, friends to dictators everywhere and which has parroted the propaganda of the Burmese generals for years (notably on sanctions), released a ludicrous report saying that a serious Rohingya insurgency was developing, thereby justifying even more state violence, all the while ignoring the genocide.

- Regime police perpetrated the Naf River atrocity.

- Suu Kyi defended the military at an Asean ministerial meeting that she herself convened. The dictatorship also organized a media tour of Rohingya areas (which had and continue to be off limits to reporters), following which the few villagers who were willing to be interviewed were arrested and beaten. (One was found beheaded.)

- Suu Kyi's office released a statement saying that the rape claims were fake, without conducting a serious investigation, thereby enabling even more rape.

- A collection of Nobel Prize laureates and other notable individuals criticized Suu Kyi and called for Security Council action.

- Anders Corr of Forbes revealed hitherto secret documents between Burma and Bangladesh which confirmed that the Rohingya are citizens of Burma, and which disclosed that there was an agreement between the two states to allow the refugees in Bangladesh to return home. Later, Bangladesh issued a statement saying that all the Rohingya in their country, even refugees from many years earlier, should be allowed to return to Burma.

- The dictatorship conducted an "investigation," of itself, and within a couple of days announced that there was no genocide.

- It was further announced that new villages for the Rakhine people would be built on the Rohingya ruins.

- A regime police "selfie" video was released which showed one of the many, many village raids and villager abuse. Suu Kyi's office, forced to acknowledge the video since millions of people around the world had watched it, said it was an isolated incident.

- John Kerry, Secretary of State of the United States Government, wished "Myanmar" a Happy Independence Day, with no reference at all to the Rohingya genocide.


Edmund Burke's famous saying goes that for evil to triumph all that is required is for good people to do nothing.

The Rohingya genocide is still in progress. There are daily village raids, and more murders, rapes, assaults and robberies. The dictatorship has reportedly identified over 1,000 additional homes for destruction. However, no one - not one single person - who is in a position to make a real difference is willing to do anything to stop it.

For Suu Kyi, she is an essential part of the problem. Following the 2015 general election result, one can no longer argue that she refuses to address the issue because of election politics. She is indubitably a racist herself. She may be in denial about this, as so many racists are, but her words and actions, and inaction, paint a crystal clear picture. She is no less racist than the dictatorship stormtroopers who are committing the murder and rape. Were Rohingya girls to be raped literally on the ground in front of her, she would still deny it. The only positive step would be if she were gone.

The same culpability holds for the International Community, meaning the U.S. and Europe. Sporadic, mild criticism notwithstanding, they will not do anything to help, including in the Security Council. This therefore empowers the dictatorship. Also, even though we do not know what U.S. policy on Burma will be under Donald Trump, given his pro-business slant there is no reason to believe that it will change.

In conclusion, and overall, this is a true disaster. The worst possible mass human crime is being perpetrated, and no one with an ability to help is willing to do anything. Suu Kyi herself has sided with the killers.

I'm not normally at a loss for words, but I really don't know what to say. Even as a cynic, I never imagined that the leaders of our world were this despicable.

Frankly, I don't know what we should do. We just have to keep pushing until something in the pro-genocide alliance breaks. This has to end.