Defense of the Persecuted

On Friday, December 27, 2019, a resolution titled “Situation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar” was passed with an overwhelming majority of votes during the 74th session of UN General Assembly at its 52nd resumed meeting, held at the UN headquarters in New York. This resolution follows the UN’s Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar report (dated 22 October 2019) that declared Myanmar is failing in its obligations under the Genocide Convention to prevent, investigate, and enact effective legislation criminalizing and punishing genocide.

One may recall that recently the Republic of The Gambia, as Chair of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Ad Hoc Ministerial Committee on Accountability for Human Rights Violations against the Rohingya, has filed a legal case in the International Court of Justice against Myanmar for violating its obligations under the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The OIC has also reiterated its call on the international community to extend its support to the legal effort for justice and accountability for the Rohingya people and to redouble all diplomatic and political efforts to put an end to violence and persecution against the Rohingya minority.

Obviously, neither the UNGA resolution nor the OIC’s case against Myanmar government is popular amongst the blind supporters of Suu Kyi, the de facto leader in the Buddhist majority country. One such individual is Kanbawza Win who wrote an article: The True Color of OIC at The Hague (posted December 27, 2019 in the Asian Tribune and the Eurasia Review). I am not surprised to read his knee-jerk reaction calling the OIC initiative as ‘bullying a small Buddhist nation.

His article once again shows his blatant hypocrisy, deplorable bigotry, and disregard for the suffering of the Rohingya people to protect the image of his Buddhist country of Myanmar that is guilty of committing genocidal crimes against this most persecuted people.

In this regard, the interested readers may like to read K. Win’s many condescending articles in favor of the criminals of the Rohingya genocide. For years, before the current crisis hit hard and was deemed genocidal by the world community, he denied the very identity of the Rohingya by calling them outsiders – the ‘unwanted guests’, the Chittagonians, Bengali immigrants, and the Mujahid –  who don’t belong in Burma (Myanmar). He blamed the public intellectuals and human rights activists for what he called – coining the word ‘Rohingya’, as if it was discovered by them. In his article: “Killing two birds with a stone or a Win, Win Situation” (Eurasia Review, July 19, 2012), he even had a solution to deal with the problem that seemed borrowed from the pages of Mein Kampf. He wanted the Rohingyas to be deported or relocated and confined to the eastern part of Myanmar, far from their ancestral homeland. He wrote: “If anyone refused to go along with this order then he must be persecuted according to law and finally deported to the country of its origin. In this way it will stop the illegal immigrants entering the country by fair or foul means. Just by looking at the features of the person one can pin point that he is an illegal immigrant from China if found in the Mujahid area or Bangali in Chinese dominated area. We will have to take drastic action once caught. This will solve the problem at least for half a century until their children got married to each other or the local population.” Towards assimilation, of course, “all these aliens must become Burmese.” As to the funding for this cross-country forced ‘mass exodus’ (relocation) project, he opined, the Burmese government won’t have to ‘spend a single Burmese pyar’ (cent or penny) since the 31 INGOs (international NGOs) will ‘gladly fund.’

Only an admirer of fascism could have come up with such a final solution for the Rohingya people!

Now that the entire civilized world has seen the viciousness of the genocidal crimes against the Rohingya people, Mr. Win’s latest article seems to be an attempt to shift the blame away from his idol – Suu Kyi and her ‘pro-democracy’ government. He is trying to defend the indefensible by whitewashing the crimes of the Myanmar civilian government by asserting that the latter was simply a bystander in this entire genocidal episode and as such the OIC should have gone after the Tatmadaw (the military establishment) and not the so-called flag-carriers of democracy (Suu Kyi included, of course).

There is no doubt that the Tatmadaw who ruled the Buddhist country for more than 50 years have had much to be blamed for the suffering of the Rohingya and the on-going genocidal violence against them since relinquishing the power. However, it would be unwise and grossly wrong to excuse the culpability of the Buddhist population – both within and outside the Rakhine community – and its so-called pro-democracy leaders for the latest tragedies that resulted in the deaths and rapes of tens of thousands and forced exodus of nearly a million Rohingya people to Bangladesh just in the last two years. They not only cheered the genocide happening with their eyes wide open, but also helped in participating, promoting, and then denying that crimes of such mammoth proportion ever happened. Through their very actions, both before and after coming to power, Suu Kyi and the so-called pro-democracy leaders (mostly coming from the dominant Bamar race that espouses its supremacy over others) have proven to be closet fascists. Mindful of establishing Bamar supremacy, they were never after any reconciliation to solve the myriad of ethnic problems that plagued the country since her independence in 1948. The Rohingya genocide was a national project to obliterate their existence in the very land where they were born. Suu Kyi and her government did nothing to stop this crime.

As it has once again become evident during her appearance in the Hague, Suu Kyi won’t even utter the R-word and denied the very existence of the Rohingya people. She never visited the Rohingya killing fields in Arakan (Rakhine state) to personally assess the grave situation there despite of all the pleas from the UN, UNHCR, OHCHR and its Special Rapporteur Professor Yanghee Lee. She and her government routinely ignored the international NGOs when they screamed about the serious crimes perpetrated against the Rohingya. To this very day, she is remorseless and continues to deny access to the international fact-finding teams to investigate allegations of genocidal crimes. Through her very acts and decisions, including her testimony at the Hague, she has proven to be  a defender for the Tatmadaw’s genocidal crimes, much to the glee of the flag-waving supporters. Remember also the two Reuters reporters who exposed the genocidal crimes of the Tatmadaw? Her government did not pardon Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo in the annual New Year amnesty in 2019, which saw 9,000 prisoners released. Suu Kyi repeatedly rebuffed calls by figures such as British foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt and US vice president Mike Pence for her to pardon the Reuters reporters, and within Myanmar there has been little sympathy for them. These two courageous reporters were ultimately released in May 2019 from the Insein prison after spending more than 500 days, and that too, under international pressure.

Neither Suu Kyi - as the de facto leader of the Buddhist government in Myanmar, nor those who acted on her behalf within (including the Tatmadaw and the Border Security Forces) and outside the government (including the Rakhine Buddhist supremacists, monks, mobs and politicians) are innocent of the war crimes for which her government is currently prosecuted in the Hague.

Yes, I agree that the OIC should also go after the bigger criminal - China - for its gross abuses of human rights in East Turkestan (Xinjiang) where millions of Muslims are detained. Those unfortunate people are victims of cultural genocide while their men languish in ‘detention’ – or more correctly, concentration – camps. However, one’s limitations to go after a Mafia boss should not be an excuse to ignore the crimes of his trigger men.

Everyone knows about the limitations of the OIC, which unlike the NATO is neither a military alliance, nor does it have a single member state that has the veto power within the UNSC. So, the bucks stop right there! The OIC’s role is relegated to that of a lame duck for all its intent and purpose in the international scene. China, on the other hand, is a veto-wielding power in the UNSC. It has the second largest military establishment in the world, second only to the USA. With the economic strength it has garnered in recent decades, next only to the USA, it has been buying influence all across the globe under the pretext of providing loans on mega projects – esp. the One Belt One Road initiative - in many less developed and developing nations.

There is little doubt that the People’s Republic of China is the bad guy, the criminal Mafia – the so-called step-father of  Tatmadaw, and is behaving like a rogue state, which needs censuring to amend its evil ways and means. I would love to see its leader Xi brought to the Hague for the serious crimes of his Han supremacist regime against the Uyghur people. But is this trial ever going to happen in my time? I doubt that possibility. And K. Win knows it also, too well.

Thanks to the veto-wielding powers in the UNSC, we all know how undemocratic and dysfunctional the UN is and how impotent its General Assembly has become in solving serious crisis around the world. Any rogue and pariah nation can commit the most vicious crime that is known to mankind against its fellow citizens/ residents or against other nation(s) and yet be totally unscathed and unpunished as long as it is either a veto-wielding power – the ‘Nuclear Brahmin’ or the ‘Mafia boss’ – within the UNSC or has a sponsor therein. It is disgusting! But that is the world that we live in today and as such, the sufferings of the vulnerable people linger without any sign of ebbing.

This limitation of ours to address gross violations of human rights and our inability to prosecute the perpetrators or go after the ‘Mafia Dons’ of our time should never be an excuse to ignore such issues. We owe such responsibility to our very conscience, let alone our posterity. It is a crime to do nothing when we see such horrendous crimes happening in our backyard. The OIC should be thanked by all for taking Myanmar to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Many ethnic nationalities (outside the ruling Bamar supremacist race) have welcomed the initiative.

Regrettably, Kanbawza Win has never come to the aid of the persecuted Rohingya people. Instead, his writings and speeches seem to favor the very persecutors,  a trend which is extant in this latest of his writings, too. Following the footsteps of ‘Julius Streicher’ and hate provocateurs of the Buddhist Rakhine stock (the likes of Aye Chan), he portrayed the Rohingyas – the descendants of the first settlers to Arakan - as ‘unwanted guests’ in his homeland of Myanmar simply because these victims happen to be racially Indian/Bangladeshi and religiously non-Buddhist, and not his kind. One wonders if Arakan (the Rakhine state) would be part of today’s Myanmar had it not been for that accidental history of its annexation in 1784 CE by the Bamar supremacist king Bodawpaya!

Mr. Win’s animosity does not end there. He taints the struggle of the Rohingya people for human rights, self-determination and self-identity (as an ethnic group) as acts of terrorism.

It’s amusing to see him now preaching about the importance of reconciliation. He wrote: “If only, the OIC has done a good home work and use its resources to prop up the pro-democracy movement in Burma, and concentrates on Conflict Resolutions rather than Accountability, the world would be much a happier place and forget the saying that, ‘All Muslims are not terrorists but all terrorists are Muslims’.”

Before I comment about his last remark, let me state the fact the so-called pro-democracy groups working outside Burma rebuffed the Rohingya leadership. During their ‘democracy movement’,  they did not allow any participation from the Rohingya community in their meetings  held  in Thailand or elsewhere under the auspices of the Democratic Alliance of Burma, the National Reconciliation of the Union of Burma and many other forums. In rare occasions they allowed the Rohingya to have an observer status. That is all! The door of negotiation and reconciliation was never shut from the diaspora Rohingya leadership. They knew too well that a transition from military dictatorship to civil government won’t stop their victimization and can, in fact, worsen it with all the highly toxic hate speeches and writings from the Rakhine and other Buddhist supremacists that have poisoned the air and prepared the ground for their very annihilation. History of the past few years have proven them right.

Mr. Win talks about nation-building. By now, as a member of the domineering Burman (Bama) ethnic group, he ought to know that an artificial state like Myanmar glued through violence plus a feudal mentality of divide and conquer, mixed relentlessly with a toxic dose of hatred and intolerance for the subjugated ‘others’ cannot be a recipe for success. By the way, if these Bamar supremacists and bigots now have a change of heart and are serious and sincere about conflict resolution and nation-building let them show their true color by acting upon the recommendations laid out by the UNGA resolution. Good activities will beget good results.

Lastly, I am duly offended by Kanbawza Win’s last comment. There he went again, showing his true color! Rather than getting incensed about the ‘true color’ of the OIC, which as we established he disliked because of its promotion of the Rohingya humanitarian cause – a just cause, which I must add – he may do us all a great favor by looking into the mirror and self-introspect. He has the uncanny audacity to smear the entire Muslim world with his factually erroneous and highly repugnant statement: “All Muslims are not terrorists but all terrorists are Muslims.” Bigotry is written all over this statement. Didn’t we hear this remark emanating from the bigots of the Sangh Parivar whose followers have been guilty of terrorizing hundreds of millions of non-Hindus living in India, let alone having killed M.K. Gandhi?

It is long known that one of the ways to institutionalize crimes against a targeted group is to dehumanize it. By robbing its humanity, you justify your barbarity over them. And this is the evil strategy that has long been used by mass murderers and supremacists throughout the ages to exterminate the ‘others’. It is the same tactics that have repeatedly been used by apartheid regimes in South Africa, Israel, and Myanmar (just to name a few) and the Hindutvadi supremacists in India.

Shame on K. Win to repeat such a tirade! Only an ignorant, a racist or a bigot could make such a remark.

If Kanbawza is looking for terrorists, he does not have to look too far away. There are more cases of Buddhist terrorism practiced against the non-Buddhist minorities in the Buddhist-majority states than we could count from the entire Muslim community. Just an objective study of statistics on terrorism in places like Cambodia, Sri Lanka, and his native Myanmar (run by Bamar supremacists and rapist military despots) is sufficient. [Interested readers may like to read my book - Democracy, Politics and Terrorism - America's Quest for Security in the Age of Insecurity (available in the a better understanding of the topic.]

Facts are:  Muslims are the worst victims of terrorism – by both the state and non-state actors. The crimes of the Myanmar government against the Rohingya and other ethnic minorities (who are Christians) that are struggling for self-determination qualify as acts of state terrorism. The same is the case with state terrorism of Buddhist Sri Lanka against the Tamil minority (who are Hindus and Muslims). The terrorist activities of the Buddhist monks and mobs against the unarmed Rohingya and other Muslim minorities in Myanmar are examples of non-state (Buddhist) terrorism that had the blessings from the local and central state government. The same is true about the (Buddhist) terrorist activities of Bodu Bala Sena in Sri Lanka against the Sinhalese Muslims. And as to the killing fields of Cambodia, the least said the better! According to Yale University history Professor Ben Kiernan, the "fiercest extermination campaign was directed against the ethnic Cham Muslim minority." As many as 500,000 people, or 70% of the total Cham population, were exterminated. Much like what happened with the Rohingyas of Myanmar, Islam was seen as an "alien" and "foreign" culture that did not belong in Cambodia.

To paraphrase John Pilger, the limbs found lying in the rubble in Arakan, Iraq, Syria, Gaza, Gujrat, Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Pakistan, Khartoum and Afghanistan are theirs (Muslims); the terrible burns shown fleetingly on TV are theirs.

The falsehood of the quoted statement from K. Win is made obvious also by the facts that a Tamil (Hindu) terrorist assassinated Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Sikh guards, guided by Khalistani militants, shot Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. White supremacist groups (including the KKK) have had their share of terrorist acts in the US. Timothy James McVeigh was a (Christian) terrorist who perpetrated the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people and injured over 680 others. In the 1970s, terrorist groups in different Latin American countries cooperated with one another as well as Palestinian, European, and Japanese urban guerrilla groups. Nor is modern day transnational terrorism in some parts of Africa Muslim in character. Lord’s Army, e.g., operating in many parts of Africa, is a Christian terrorist group. The 2011 Norway attacks, referred to in Norway as 22 July or as 22/7, were two sequential domestic terrorist attacks by Anders Behring Breivik, a Christian, in which 77 people were killed. The Christchurch mosque shootings were two consecutive terrorist shooting attacks at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, during Friday Prayer on 15 March 2019 that killed 51 people and injured 49 were carried out by Brenton Tarrant, a 28-year-old Christian man from Grafton, New South Wales, Australia. The 2006 Malegaon bombings were a series of bomb blasts that took place on September 8, 2006 in the Muslim town of Malegaon, in the Indian state of Maharashtra killing 8 persons and injuring 80 were part of Saffron (Hindu) terrorism. Three of the arrested terrorists were identified as Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, Shiv Narayan Gopal Singh Kalsanghra and Shyam Bhawarlal Sahu – all associated with the Sangh Parivar.

The 2002 communal riots in Gujarat, where the majority of victims (at least 2,000) were Muslims, are attributed largely to "foot soldiers" of the Hindutva movement. The riots are part of a recent rise of Hindu extremist movements in India that have been linked to Saffron terrorism. The twin blasts that shook two coaches of the Samjhauta Express around midnight on 18 February 2007 were linked to Abhinav Bharat, a Hindu supremacist group. Sixty-eight people were killed in the ensuing fire and dozens were injured. The Ajmer Dargah blast that occurred on 11 October 2007, outside the Dargah (Muslim shrine) of Sufi saint Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer, Rajasthan, was committed by the Hindutva organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its affiliates.

I think the above samples (by no means a comprehensive one), should be sufficient to see the utter falsity of the claims made by hate provocateurs that K.Win quoted irresponsibly. I hope that he won’t spew bigotry to further poison our world and truly try to educate his so-called pro-democracy activists since bigotry cuts both ways.

In closing, let me state that although terrorists may claim to belong to a religion, but their actions speak volumes. They truly have no religion. They are an anathema to established religion. The Qur’an (5:32, 17:33) forbids terrorism of any sort. Muslims don’t have monopoly on terrorism either. In fact, as aptly put by John Pilger in his 2001 essay, ‘Far from being the terrorists of the world, the Islamic peoples have been its victims.’

Coming to the defense of the persecuted people is noble that defines our very humanity, and it is not bullying.

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