The meticulous plan of hardliners of the quasi civilian government of Burma hasbeen successfullyimplemented to create sectarian violence between the Muslim and the Buddhist communities in Arakan Stateof Western Burma. At the time of this writing, the officialfigure showed that more than 50 persons were killed and thousands hadbecome homeless. However, thereal figure, as usual,will be much higher.
Their main aim:-
- Torevitalize the importance of military,to show that in time of crisis only the military is reliable and capable to protect the people from violence and lawlessness, and the NLD led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi cannot do anything in time of crisis like this.
- To discredit Daw Aung San Suu Kyi,while she is on her trip to Europe, by forcing her into a position where she has to make a pro-Rohingya public statement that would damage her popularity among Burma's Buddhists, where anti-Muslim sentiment runs high or on the other hand, if she remains silent she would disappoint those who support her firm stand on human rights. That is, she is damned if she does and damned if she doesn't. (The government is very worried about the support, commandedat home and on her trip to Thailand, which discredited the military. Now the government wants to put herin a very difficult situation, which could seriously damage her reputation anderode much of her popularity. In this respect, they miserably failed, because she wisely targeted the absence of “Rule of Law”.Internationally, her popularity has increased instead of being diminished.)
- To lure the pro-democracy movements, particularly theexiled Burmese media, the 8888 generation leaders, who are very influential,appeal to the resourceful Burmese Diaspora community and the other ethnicnationalities, who agree with them that Rohingya is not from Burma and does notbelong to the recognized ethnic nationalities of Burma.(In this respect, the government is partiallysuccessful, as most of them like Ko Ko Gyi falls into the trap.)
- To divert the public attention away from its lengthy war against the Kachinwhere more than half of the military strength has to be used and over 300,000Kachin have become refugees, while the military losses were substantial, runninginto tens of thousands.
- To successfully implement the Generals’ policy of“Let the minority fight the minority”, a corollary to the“Divide and Rule” strategy.
The strategyhas been meticulously planned by the generals, including the evil genius, Than Shwe, who paints the picture that he is on his death bed, but actually, he is very active and slyly stays out of sight.
He is very allergic to democratic movement, just even to the name of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. He wants to divertthe country's attention away from his gross human rights violations and ethnic cleansing policy, which isnow being carried out with alacrity, in Kachin State. The best way for him is to create sectarian violence.
Earlier, the tension between the Burmese and Chinesestarted to rise higher in Mandalay, but he knew the potential of China and its influence, and it was quickly defused. Now he found the scapegoat in Kalar,a Burmese derogatory term for persons of darker complexion and Indian/Bangladeshi origin.
The Burmese saying of (ukvm; r Edkif&cdkifrJ) “If you can’t beat Kalar, beat the Rakhine” has been skillfully turned into (w&kwfrEdkifukvm;rJ) “If you can’t beat the Chinese beattheKalar” by giving authority to hardliner Aung Thaung, who have now taken up one of the influentialpositions of secretaries in the Union Solidarity and Development Party(USDP), the ruling party. Aung Thaung planned thissecond “Depeyin Incident” by going back to his native village WetLaung village nearKyaukse, in middle Burma and recruited the bad hats, hooligans and thugs by lavishingmoneyon them and much needed resources, and transported them to Taunggoke.
In themeantime Na Sa Ka, via the immigration department, recruited one bad Rohingya, named Shaun Shou(AKA Htet Htet or PhyoZayyar Kyaw) by giving him some cash and Burmese citizenship card,and he in turn persuaded Marme (AKA Yaw Pi or Hla Win) and Lu lu (AKA Myint Swe, orWushee) to go after a young Arakanese woman,named Thida Htwe, who was quite a flirt,for sex with her. The result was a rape case. The next day it washighlighted in the media, including the state controlled media. (1) How could the media learnabout the case in minutes after the event, which took place in a remote area where there was no electricity, if it wasnot pre-arranged?
Then the Muslim pilgrims returning home were killed by a lynch mob. Myresearch indicated that it was not a mob but the bad hats, hooligans and thugs transportedfrom WetLaung village by Aung Thaung. So the conclusion is -(2) since only the security personsat the check-pointknew who the people inside the buswere, it must be they who gavewords tothe bad hats. It explicitly meant that they were conniving.(3) The killing of theseMuslim passengers was done near the town and yet none of the securitypersonnel intervene.Why?
The confidential report which I got is that some of the dark skinsecurity personnel were torching the Buddhist villages posing asRohingya,while some light skin personnel torched the Muslim villages, posing as Arakanese Buddhistyouths. In some cases, police men were seen acting alongside Arakanese in torching homes ofthe Muslims, while several reports indicated that the police opened fire into crowds of theMuslims.
The result of this orchestrated events led to sectarian violence. The situation got out ofhand, resulting in hundreds being killed and thousands of homes burnt. However, many people withenough brain suspected that this was a setup. Finally, the accomplice Shaun Shou was silenced inthe custody and the police declared that he committed suicide. (4) How could a person commit suicide while he was in the custody of the security authorities?
In a place where the societal fabric is heldtogether solely by an economic nexus without strong social or cultural ties it becomesproblematical. The ruling generals have effectively exploited the situation for their own agenda. Bykilling each other, the people themselves become the ultimate losers. The militaryends up as the clear winner. The government's initial passivity in enforcing law and orderin Arakan State has led the public to demand decisive military intervention.
The longerthe conflict goes on, thearmyis more likely to emerge as the indispensable defender and savior of "National Security." The timing of the conflict clearly benefits therulers, who arranged it to coincide with Daw Aung San Suu Ky’s European tourin 24 years. Thegovernment's proxies paint a picture of her promoting herself and her personal popularity,while her people suffer back at home. Obviously, the regime followers would be quite happy to see her ona perpetual world tour and media circus to keep the world's attention away from theirwar against the "ethnic" nationalities, their rapes, murders, looting and atrocities againstthe population. Now the rapacious "developers" of EU led by Myanmar Egress and those of the USled by Chevron are smacking their lips to join in the rape of the human and naturalresources of the country.
The Rohingya problem has to be decided by the people of Arakan and thegovernment, while the humanitarian concern must be given priority. Recognizing theRohingya ascitizens, who have been living in the country for centuries will have noproblem at all, but the individual verification will be problematic, considering the rampantcorruption among the security and immigration personnel, as many recent arrivals from Chittagong hold BurmeseNational Registration Cards. This is because the country had been under the long rule of the corrupt militarydictatorship and administration.
However, to recognize theRohingya community as one of the ethnic races is out of question, becausethe Yandabo Treaty Chronicles (In the final phase of the treaty of Yandobo when Burmawas annexed into the British Empire in the 1850s,) the British had painstakinglyenumerated the general census of all the ethnic tribes residing in British Burma and therewas no mention of Rohingya. It describedthe Muslim community in Arakan as Mujahid and theywere seasonal Muslim migrant workers from India (at that time there was no Pakistan or Bangladesh). Besides, when the Union of Burma was born in 1948,these Mujahid, residingin the northern part of Arakan, wentto Ali Jinnah, founder of Pakistan, imploring him to take this northern enclave of Arakan intoEast Pakistan. However, the appeal was rejected.
This authentically proved that the ancestors or Rohingyadid not have any allegiance to the Union of Burma. Another factor to be noted is that allthe ethnic nationalities residing in Burma recognize the lingua franca but not theRohingya, whose language is the same as Chittagonians, nor do their leaders attempt todo so.
The majority of the Arakanese Buddhistssuspect that there will be anotherattempt to take this northern part of Arakan into Bangladesh. However, it must be admitted that the Rohingya have been mistreated for decades inBurma. The Rohingya childrenare denied travel permits, the privilegeof attending school or even the ability to obtain a marriage certificate. This discriminatory attitudeis apparenteven among some of Burma’s pro-democracy leaders, the so-called “forces forchange” in the country. They harbor a false notion that “If western nations reallybelieved in human rights, they would take the Rohingya from us.” Indeed most commentseither in English or in Burmeseon the internet seldom suggest solution to the unfolding crisis. Thecommentersuse the internet mainly asa means to vent their own bigotry.
What has happened recently is just more of a symptom of a long history of a horrible discriminatory treatment of the Rohingya. The military administration that hadruled the country repressively for half a century had handled the situation very badly fordecades. It had encouraged corrupt mentality. It made little efforts to integrate them orresolve this problem in a sustainable way and is not an integral part of any reconciliationprogram involving ethnic groups, but instead the Generals have exploited the Rohingya bygiving them voting rights in Burma’s landmark 2010 elections promising them citizenship, ifthey voted for the military regime’s representatives. However, the promise was neverkept.
Hence, as long as the former Burmese generals and the military officers are in power, theywill never really attempt to solve this problem and will even try to prevent anyone fromdoing so, lest the raison d’etre for havinga large establishment of the army would disappear. However, a very stronginternational reaction, including a strong statement from the United States that note Burma as a“country of particular concern” in its annual surveys oninternational religious freedom is something to be thought of by the upcoming leaders ofBurma. Let us see how the Generals will react to the Amnesty International call forinvestigation. The call will probably fall on deaf ears like the call for the formation of UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) on Burma, in the past.
The author is a former Burmese diplomat.
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