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By TRT World

Rohingya activists accuse ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, of failing to protect the Rohingya because it hasn't condemned Myanmar’s violence against the ethnic minority as genocide. Is ASEAN protecting Aung San Suu Kyi and Myanmar's generals from international criminal prosecution? 


Maung Zarni 
Coordinator of the Free Rohingya Coalition 

Tom Villarin 
Member of Philippines’ Congress and ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights

Aung San Suu Kyi in 2013. Photo by Shawn Landersz on Flickr.

By Khin Mai Aung | Published by Lion's Roar on December 6, 2018

Last week, a prominent Buddhist teacher defended Aung San Suu Kyi, the Buddhist Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Myanmar civilian leader, against criticism that she is party to genocide. Khin Mai Aung explains why that defense doesn’t hold up.

Recently, respected Bhutanese lama Dzongzar Khyentse Rinpoche posted an open letter on Facebook downplaying Myanmar’s brutal Rohingya genocide and expressing support for the country’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The politician has come under fire in recent years for her tacit support of the ongoing genocide in her country. In his letter, Rinpoche dismisses these criticisms as Western colonialism. By letting Aung San Suu Kyi off the hook for her complicity in Myanmar’s genocide and largely turning a blind eye to the Rohingya’s suffering, Rinpoche implicitly endorses the anti-Rohingya mindset rampant in Myanmar and the Burmese diaspora. Rinpoche’s stunning failure to exhibit the core Buddhist tenet of compassion for the Rohingya’s suffering at the hands of Myanmar’s military is deeply disappointing.

In his letter, Rinpoche makes valid and resonant points about Western double standards, hypocrisy, and paternalism. Vestiges of colonialism endure for both colonizers and their former subjects, even today. As I’ve written before, colonialism is indeed to blame for much of Myanmar’s contemporary troubles. British colonial authorities intentionally stoked tensions between its Bamar Buddhist majority and ethnic minorities through a strategy of “divide and rule,” sowing seeds of resentment between the Bamar and minorities like the Rohingya. Rinpoche further reminds us that atrocities committed by Western powers — before, during, and after colonialism — are frequently downplayed and conveniently forgotten. He’s right that abuses committed by Western powers, like the United States pummelling Laos with an unprecedented number of bombs during the Vietnam war, are not as widely remembered as they should be. On a more mundane level, he is also correct that Westerners sometimes co-opt, decontextualize, and exoticize Eastern traditions and practices (like yoga and meditation) — robbing them of their core meaning and essence.

But his defense of Aung San Suu Kyi’s heartbreaking complicity in the Rohingya genocide based on these legitimate concerns is where Rinpoche swerves off track. Rinpoche says that criticism of Suu Kyi is “a sign of the insidious colonialism that continues to strangle Asia and the world.” He’s wrong. The global outcry over Rohingya persecution — and Aung San Suu Kyi’s failure to denounce it — is not the paternalism of the West imposing its values on Myanmar. Rather, it is a valid response to the Burmese military’s bloody subjugation of a profoundly disempowered minority (using tactics the military has also deployed against other ethnic and religious minorities for decades), and the unwillingness of the country’s elected civilian leadership to even question this brutality.

Rinpoche sets up an East-versus-West dichotomy and cloaks his defense of Aung San Suu Kyi in the righteous language of anti-colonialism, writing “we are expected to kowtow to western morality” and “it’s time to restore the dignity of our own great eastern wisdom traditions and legacies.” In doing so, Rinpoche unwittingly lends support for Myanmar’s alternative narrative of its mistreatment of the Rohingya. This framing opens the door for Burmese apologists — including but not limited to political leaders like Aung San Suu Kyi — to cast abuse of the Rohingya as part of Myanmar’s noble effort to preserve its ethnic and religious identity in the face of Western oppression. In this narrative, Myanmar is merely casting off the yoke of colonial rule by purging the country of “Bengali” foreigners brought into the country by British overseers — not exterminating and expelling a vulnerable and powerless minority group. The contention that the Rohingya are not native to Myanmar is unfortunately reinforced by Rinpoche’s allegation that the British brought “most” Rohingya to Burma during the colonial period as cheap labor to work in rice paddies. It’s true that many people of South Asian descent were imported from the Indian subcontinent into Myanmar by British colonial authorities. But as others have pointed out in response to Rinpoche’s letter, both the Muslim Rohingya and my own ancestors, the Buddhist Rakhine (another ethnic minority in Myanmar), coexisted peacefully for centuries on both sides of the Naf River, which now marks the Myanmar–Bangladesh border. Rinpoche overlooks this important fact, capitulating to and reinforcing the Burmese belief that all or most Rohingya are foreigners from Bangladesh.

It is also not accurate to suggest that Aung San Suu Kyi is being judged according to Western morality, when she herself has spent most of her life campaigning for democracy and free speech. In 2010, she said, “The basis of democratic freedom is freedom of speech.” If that is her belief, why did her political party bar Muslims from seeking office in Myanmar’s 2015 elections? And why does she remain silent while journalists are thrown in jail for reporting on the Rohingya genocide? Is it colonialist to call on Aung San Suu Kyi to uphold the very principles which she has spent her life promoting?

Despite his lengthy excoriation of the West, Rinpoche regretfully omits an obvious and relevant example of Western influence negatively impacting Myanmar. He passionately decries the unfortunate influence of Western society, contending that “We Asians have been taught to disparage our own noble traditions and instead to treasure western values, literature and music, to chew gum and wear faded jeans, to embrace Facebook and Amazon, and to ape western manners and institutions.” Rinpoche misses the fact that the Burmese military has actively used Facebook to spread its propaganda and encourage religious violence. If Rinpoche truly wants Aung San Suu Kyi to cast off the yoke of western colonialism, he should question why she condones the Burmese military’s use of western technology to implement its own version of “divide and rule” by inflaming ethnic and religious tensions in Myanmar.

The profound irony of Rinpoche’s statement that “our own holocausts are conveniently forgotten and buried in the dustbin of history” haunts me. Blinded by anger over Western double standards, Rinpoche doesn’t see how his words may help Myanmar bury its own genocide in the “dustbin of history.” His willingness to let Aung San Suu Kyi (and, by extension, the rest of Myanmar’s civilian government) off the hook for failing to advocate for the Rohingya and other ethnic minorities in Myanmar is dismaying. What the international Buddhist community needs is moral and ethical leadership from prominent religious leaders like Rinpoche, and not excuses for politicians unable or unwilling to stand up for the vulnerable. Rinpoche is absolutely right that the Western world can be self-righteous and judgmental toward non-Westerners, and that non-Westerners, in turn, are sometimes unduly deferential to the West. But by viewing foreign criticism of Aung San Suu Kyi only through this prism, he obscures the larger truth of human rights abuses in Myanmar. And, tragically, he overlooks the fact that Myanmar’s civilian leadership has abandoned the core Buddhist belief in each person’s innate human dignity — including that of the Rohingya.

December 5, 2018


This past week members of Protect the Rohingya (PTR) collaborated with members of the Rohingya Community Development Campaign (RCDC) to organise a winter school for 100 Rohingya adults, men and women, based in Balukhali 10, Ukhiya, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. 

The Winter School project curriculum was compiled specifically for adult learners. The project sought to recreate a campus environment as well as impart social media, interviewing and reporting skills to participants. The 5 day classes included poetry from the global south, oral history and comparative genocide studies.

PTR would like to take this opportunity to thank Nay San Lwin, Fatima Zahra Mayet, RCDC, Adil Sakhawat, Tasneem Fredericks and all those who donated Kindly to make this project a reality. 

Protect the Rohingya is a South African based advocacy organisation that began in 2012 to raise awareness about the plight of the Rohingya. 

For more information:
Tasneem Fredericks - 082 612 1657
Shabnam Mayet - 0721786102

By Sena Güler | Published by Anadolu Agency on December 1, 2018

Maung Zarni says he will boycott Beijing-sponsored events until the country reverses its 'troubling path'

ANKARA -- A human rights activist and intellectual said he withdrew from a Beijing-sponsored forum in London to protest the detention of a million Uyghurs in China’s Xinjiang.

“As a human rights activist, a Buddhist educator and a politically engaged scholar of genocide, racism and violence, I cannot, in clear conscience, participate in the three-day forum which is officially endorsed by the Government of China,” wrote Maung Zarni in his withdrawal letter on Friday.

Zarni was scheduled to deliver a speech on his country Myanmar’s genocide on Dec. 7 at the 5th Global China Dialogue on Governance for Global Justice.

“[…] the ruling Communist Party of China today stands credibly accused of commissioning a systematic and racially motivated persecution of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang Province,” he went onto say.

Recalling an event, he attended in Geneva in September, Zarni said a Muslim Uyghur man delivered a speech which said his mother had died two weeks ago in one of the concentration camps and the man had not seen his mother for the last 20 years.

“I was moved by this Uyghur exile – born and raised in what he and his fellow people call East Turkistan vis-à-vis China’s official name for his homeland, Xinjiang,” he said, sympathizing with the man as he also saw his mother for very brief times in the last 30 years before her death in February, “as a Burmese exile from military-controlled Burma, or Myanmar”.

He also said he saw at the same event some evidence of “a vast complex of concentration camps” – as a German investigative journalist put it.

“I saw photographic evidence of one complex encircled by a tall concrete wall, with watch towers, CCTV surveillance cameras and machine-gun-holding guards,” he noted.

Zarni recalled a statement of Gay McDougall, a member of the UN Committee, saying she was concerned about a UN report, which said China had "turned the Uighur autonomous region into something that resembles a massive internment camp".

He also called on “China’s intellectuals and China-friendly global academics” to work towards reversing the “deeply troubling path” of the country.

“Until then I have decided to boycott any public or private educational or cultural event that is officially backed by the Government of China.”

Xinjiang region is home to around 10 million Uyghurs. The Turkic Muslims have long accused China’s authorities of cultural, religious and economic discrimination.

China stepped up its restrictions on the region in the past two years, banning men from growing beards and women from wearing veils, and introducing what many experts regard as the world’s most extensive electronic surveillance program, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Up to 1 million people, or about 7 percent of the Muslim population in China’s Xinjiang region, have now been incarcerated in an expanding network of “political re-education” camps, according to U.S. officials and United Nations experts.

A poster of Aung San Suu Kyi | Photo by theodore liasi / Alamy

By Maung Zarni and Matthew Gindin | Published by Tricycle on November 28, 2018

A former ally of Aung San Suu Kyi responds to the Tibetan Buddhist teacher’s support for Myanmar’s controversial leader.

Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche, a well-known teacher of Vajrayana Buddhism, surprised some in the Buddhist world recently when he penned an open letter of support to Aung San Suu Kyi, the head of Myanmar’s civil government accused of complicity in the military’s persecution of the Rohingya Muslim minority. The letter praises her sacrifice, courage, and principled political actions in pursuit of the rights of her people, while attacking her critics as hypocrites and arrogant colonialists pushing Western interests and values.

Dzongsar Khyentse is a major figure in contemporary Buddhism. A tulku (reincarnated master) in the Khyentse lineage, he is the son of the revered Thinley Norbu Rinpoche and grandson of the influential Dudjom Rinpoche. An embodiment of the Rime (nonsectarian) movement, he is the guardian of the teachings of the Dzogchen master Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, as well as an accomplished filmmaker and author of popular English language expositions of Buddhism. 

His support for Suu Kyi comes on the heels of a September report by the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar that said the violent campaign against the Rohingya amounts to genocide, a claim supported by several human rights research and documentation bodies around the world. The report, released at a UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, stated that Suu Kyi and her civilian government had “contributed to the commission of atrocity crimes” through their “acts and omissions.” As a result of mounting allegations of culpability, Suu Kyi, who was once lauded for her activism on behalf of democracy in Myanmar, has been stripped of multiple awards, including the US Holocaust Museum’s Elie Wiesel Award, her honorary Canadian citizenship, and Amnesty International’s human rights award.

In response to Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche’s letter, Maung Zarni, a Burmese Buddhist, pro-democracy activist, and former ally of Suu Kyi, and I have co-authored an open letter challenging what we view as faulty narratives, misinformation, and questionable reasoning in Dzongsar Khyentse’s letter. 

—Matthew Gindin

Dear Rinpoche,

In a November 16 letter, you expressed your “deep respect and appreciation” for all Suu Kyi has done “to fight for your people’s freedoms.” You call her a “true heroine of this age, more than worthy of the Nobel Prize and other honours” and say you are “appalled by the removal of awards” she received. You argue that this is a “blatant double standard,” citing the reception of a Nobel Prize by former US President Barack Obama despite his use of drone warfare against Middle Eastern civilians.

You see this double standard as part of “insidious colonialism strangling Asia and the world,” which you say teaches Asians to “disparage our own noble traditions and instead to treasure Western values and music, to chew gum and wear faded jeans, to embrace Facebook and Amazon, and to ape Western manners and institutions.” 

I (Zarni) am a child of a Burmese Buddhist family with close ties to the military. I grew up with intense pride and deep reverence for the Buddhist tradition and spiritual culture of Burma. After coming to the US to study, I founded the Free Burma Coalition to support the struggle for democracy in Burma and became a hardworking supporter of Suu Kyi, inspired by her personal courage and the mixed discourse of Buddhist loving-kindness and human rights. But early on I began to suspect that she was an ethnic nationalist and a Buddhist chauvinist, more concerned for her own legacy and the interests of the Bamar majority than she was for human rights and a true democracy for all the peoples of Myanmar. In April 2016, Suu Kyi assumed the position of State Counselor. She quickly morphed into a key actor in the longstanding oppression of Myanmar’s Rohingya people. Since then I have been a fierce critic of my fellow Buddhist dissident, who now acts in a joint partnership with our former common oppressor, Myanmar’s murderous military, the Tatmadaw.

According to statistics from the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration (IOM) earlier this year, 898,000 Rohingya refugees who have fled violence in Myanmar currently live in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh. Of them, 686,000 have arrived since August 2017, when the government launched a coordinated military-led campaign of arson, murder, and sexual violence against their communities in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. This assault, according to human rights organization Fortify Rights, was deliberately prepared for months in advance by the Tatmadaw. Many Rohingya, faced with proposals over the last year to repatriate them to the country where for decades they faced systemic discrimination and the deliberate deprivation of basic human rights, have said that they would sooner die in Bangladesh.

Genocide is not simply incidents of mass killings; it is a long process of systematic, intentional destruction of a target group. Suu Kyi, as the leader of the ruling NLD party, controls several government ministries involved in such efforts against the Rohingya, but she has done nothing to protest or attempt to stop her country’s abuse of them. Meanwhile, she has repeatedly and publicly dismissed well-documented reports of the genocidal violence of the Tatmadaw—in one instance referring to systemic sexual violence against Rohingya women and girls as “fake rape.”

Rinpoche, you cite atrocities committed by Western governments past and present and accuse the modern West of hypocrisy for criticizing Suu Kyi. First, the criticisms of Suu Kyi do not only come from the West but also from people all over the world who oppose the kind of brutal oppression the Myanmar state has subjected the Rohingya to. Second, you erase the distinction between Western non-governmental bodies and activists on the one hand and Western governments on the other. By your logic, the Swedish Nobel committee, local bodies like the Oxford City Council, or Suu Kyi’s own alma mater (St. Hugh’s College, Oxford) cannot criticize human rights abuses if the governments of Britain or Sweden have ever committed atrocities (which of course they have). You lump together governments, private bodies, and activists under the simplistic rubric of “the West.” These kinds of generalizations can become fodder for muddled thinking and racism. After all, many of the Western activists and human rights organizations who have criticized Suu Kyi have also spoken out against the violations of Western countries, and continue to do so. They have also confronted the Chinese state for its persecution of Buddhists and embraced efforts to preserve traditional Asian culture and values, such as the Gross National Happiness initiative in Bhutan. 

A more sober assessment of global politics would recognize that all cultures have committed atrocities and that many have fallen into the temptations of militarism, racism, and colonialism. You present the “noble tradition” of the East as opposed to the ignoble tradition of the West despite the fact that “our East” has as many murderous and colonizing legacies as “their West.” This way of framing the Rohingya crisis and criticism of Suu Kyi does more to obscure the matters at stake than to clarify them. In setting off West against East, your letter focuses on a clash of civilizations instead of the real problem: a clash of values. The true battle is between those who embrace values of nonviolence, compassion, and justice—which the best traditions of both West and East argue for—and those who put first their race, the defense of their traditions, the accumulation of capital, or other divisive values.

While we sympathize with your criticisms of the hypocrisy, arrogance, and colonial legacy of many Western countries and share your concern for the way that the “capitalist system” is swallowing diverse global cultures, we balk at your emphasis on the Western nature of what is destructive in the world today. The problems we face—growing fascism, violent racism, nationalism, tremendous gaps of wealth between the rich and the poor, the destruction of our shared ecosystem and the destruction of both ethnic and zoological diversity—are now global problems exacerbated by the worldwide embrace of misguided policies that are often championed by those who hold power and wish to cling to it. The current conflict in Myanmar embodies this adoption of destructive policies, in which the fires of ethnic disputes have been stoked in order to consolidate power for the military and business elite.

Toward the end of your letter you say that “nothing I write here denies the suffering of the Rohingya people,” but you argue that instead of blaming Suu Kyi, the British “should be taking responsibility for bringing the Rohingyas from Bengal in the 19th and 20th centuries as cheap labour” and suggest that the UK should take in the Rohingya refugees themselves. 

Here you are referencing a false narrative, popular in Myanmar, that claims that the Rohingya are not a native ethnicity but rather Muslim Bengali laborers who never went home and who now want to undermine the Burmese Buddhist state. This ahistorical propaganda is used to justify discrimination and violence against them. Suu Kyi has signaled that she accepts this narrative with her refusal to use the name “Rohingya,” a title by which they refer to themselves and that reflects their centuries-old history in the country.

In fact, the Rohingyas’ presence in the region long predates both the arrival of British colonial rule in 1824 and the emergence of Myanmar as a nation-state in 1948; thousands of Rohingya have been living in the western Arakan Kingdom, now Rakhine state, since the 15th century. Aside from the fact that there were no national boundaries as such in the 18th and 19th centuries, in the pre-colonial societies of the time, demographic and geographic fluidity was the norm. Arakan, or Rakhine, the fertile coastal region of the Bay of Bengal, was a multi-ethnic, multi-faith society until Bamar invaders arrived. Their forces destroyed the nearby kingdom in Mrauk-U and then expanded, annexing Arakan in 1785.

Although international attention has focused on the plight of the Rohingya, their persecution is only the most egregious symptom of the interethnic conflict that afflicts Burma, a violence fueled by the Bamar supremacism of the ruling government and the oppression it directs at the Shan, Kachin, Karen, Mon, and other historic peoples of Myanmar. Arguably, the idea of an ethnically pure nation-state is a product of the very colonialism you claim to decry. 

“For me,” you write to Suu Kyi toward the end of your letter, “you remain the heroine you truly are. And for many who dare not speak up but who secretly agree, you personify our own #MeToo movement.” 

The #MeToo movement arose because powerful persons used their positions to sexually harass and assault women (as well as some men) and then manipulated or threatened them into keeping quiet about it. If anyone in Myanmar personifies the #MeToo movement, it is the Rohingya women and girls whom the Tatmadaw has gang-raped and murdered. 

Suu Kyi has publicly stated that these rapes did not occur, making her an enabler of the kind of violence that the #MeToo movement arose to stop, not a victim of it. In this situation, it is Suu Kyi herself who is a powerful abuser aiding other powerful abusers. Moreover, we find your attempt to co-opt the #MeToo movement to be acutely disrespectful of both the Rohingya victims of sexual violence and of all the courageous women who stood up to say “me too” to call sexual abusers to account around the world.

After this quick reference to #MeToo, you then suggest it may be time to seek out “the Westerner’s weak spot” in that “they don’t dare criticize Muslims or Jews for fear of being called Islamophobic or anti-Semitic,” so “perhaps we need to coin new words for anti-Buddhist or anti-Asian bias to evoke their guilt.” Western countries are particularly sensitive to the Holocaust because so many of us were complicit in the deliberate, state-sponsored murder of six million Jews only 70-odd years ago. We are sensitive to Islamophobia both because of the recent warfare between Western governments and historically Islamic ones, and also because of real problems with violent Islamophobia in western countries, such as the mosque shooting in Canada in 2017. There is a great irony in your writing this at a time when the United States government has tried to impose a ban on Muslims entering the country and when heated anti-Muslim and anti-Jewish rhetoric has been normalized.

To close, we would like to call attention to one voice that is almost totally silent in your letter: the Rohingya themselves. Though your letter is really aimed at “Western” critics of Suu Kyi, the chief resistance to the genocide, and the primary critics of Suu Kyi and the Myanmar state, are not Westerners; they are Rohingya activists like Nural Islam, Razia Sultana, Tun Khin, and Nay San Lwin, to name a few, as well as groups like The Free Rohingya Coalition and Arakan Rohingya National Organization. Many of these Rohingya have been fighting for the last four decades against their impoverishment and oppression at the hands of the Myanmar state, and no one was more pleased by the revocation of Suu Kyi’s awards for human rights activism than they.

While there is always room for criticizing specific policies of a specific Western country or institution, when you paint matters with as broad as a brush as your letter does, opportunities for grappling with injustices in the real world are replaced by harmful meta-narratives that, to our mind, simply stoke the fires of conflict and division. It would be more fruitful for those opposed to colonialism, racism, violence, and injustice around the world to work together rather than to close ranks against each other. Your claim that Western institutions are guilty of colonial violence, both gross and subtle, is true. So is the claim that the Myanmar state and Aung San Suu Kyi are guilty of genocidal violence. Instead of putting these truths in opposition to each other, why not join hands to fight against injustice everywhere? Why not recognize greed, hatred, and delusion wherever they rear their ugly heads and create an international coalition of generosity, love, and clarity? 

With goodwill,

Maung Zarni and Matthew Gindin

Maung Zarni is a Burmese activist and scholar. He is a visiting fellow at the London School of Economics and the founder of the Free Burma Coalition.
Matthew Gindin is a journalist and meditation teacher in Vancouver, British Columbia. A former monk in the Thai Forest tradition, he is the author of Everyone in Love: The Beautiful Theology of Rav Yehuda Ashlag.

By Nasir Uddin | Published by South Asia Journal on November 17, 2018

The world witnessed a massive refugee situation in the borderland of Bangladesh and Myanmar in 2017, where an extreme form of brutality perpetrated by the Myanmar security forces forced hundreds of thousands Rohingya people, known as the world’s most persecuted ethnic minority, fled to Bangladesh. Myanmar security forces, Burmese (Bamar) ethnic extremists and Rakhine Buddhist fundamentalists combinedly formed an alliance to perpetrate a deadly operation, called clearance operation, started from August 25, 2017, which, a recent report prepared by a three-member-panel appointed by the United Nations shows, compelled more than 725,000 Rohingyas to flee to Bangladesh, about 10,000 Rohingyas were killed in the first two months, hundreds of women and girls were raped, and around 392 villages were partially or totally destroyed.Combined with previous and new arrivals, now Bangladesh hosts about 1.3 million Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar, its South-eastern part, which is considered as the world’s largest refugee camp. The newly arrived Rohingyas in Bangladesh explained their horrible experience and the degree of atrocities was so intense that the UN Human Rights council time and again termed it as “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing”whilst many others called it genocide. Even before the massive campaign in 2017, some credible research like the ones published by Yale Law School and the research team of Queen Marry at the University of Londonfound that the way Myanmar security forces were dealing with the Rohingya people is undoubtedly a genocide. The campaign in 2017 seemingly superseded all previous records. Even after such a massive Rohingya influx and despite all out criticisms across the world, the remaining Rohingyas in Arakan still face an acute sense of vulnerability and are consigned to a life of fear. Notwithstanding the prevailing contested situation, Bangladesh and Myanmar made an attempt to start off repatriation process from mid-November, but expectedly failed. Many international actors, rights bodies and even many local people have “doubt” whether the start of repatriation process means really a “start”or an “end”! Will it really bring any lasting solution without addressing the strong Muslim-Buddhist divide, Rakhine-Rohingya ethnic cleavage, state’s exclusionary policy, and the question of legality of the Rohingya people in Myanmar’s state structure? Many policy analysts, political scientists, academic researchers, and career diplomats might come up with an imagined or intelligent prescription suggesting many potential bilateral and multi-lateral engagements and actions, but I intend to unfold here the ways how the Rohingya refugees, the center-point of the entire discussions, want the solution of their problems in which ways. 

On September 12, 2018, I was interviewing a group of Rohingya refugees together, which is academically called Focused Group Discussion or FGD, in Balukhali refugee camp in Ukhia, Cox’s Bazar where three majhi (block-chief), two aged murubbi (superior), three middle-aged Rohingyas were present and took part in the discussion. Everyone wants to go back to Borma [Burma] but everyone echoes the same narratives: joboner nirapotta (life-safety), nagorikottto (citizenship) and maan-ijjat (dignity) should be insured first. I recorded hundreds of similar stories from many Rohingya men and women living in Ukhia and Teknaf refugee camps. Some, of course, demand an active involvement of the UN bodies like UNHCR in the repatriation process. If we deeply look into the contents of the Rohingya narratives, we can find the solutions to the Rohingya crisis by confirming three demands: legal recognition, life-safety, and human dignity. 

The Rohingya people, whose ancestors were living in the Arakan state centuries ago, were deprived of citizenship in the process of adopting Myanmar Citizenship Law in 1982 which legally rendered them stateless people. Since citizenship is the gateway to all sorts of rights, conferring citizenships to the Rohingya people could be the best possible way forward towards resolving the crisis. My fieldwork experience reveals that the Rohingya people believe if they get legal recognition with the citizenship, they can enjoy all kinds of social, political and civil rights like other citizens of Myanmar. That is what they desperately want as they believe legal recognition could bring a positive change to alter their position in Myanmar.

Many Rohingya refugees whom I met explained that besides conferring citizenship, ensuring life-safety is also important. “If we have citizenship, but no life-safely, what the hell we will do with the legal recognition”—is the sentiment among many Rohingya refugees in the camp. When security forces, and local Buddhist extremists visit Rohingya houses in the village in search of “militants”, they badly behave with the Rohingya people. If they see any form of protest, they physically assault and sometime just shoot on the spot. Even in the market place, on the street, in the public transport, and even in the mosque, the security forces and local Rakhine extremist youths without any reason harass the Rohingya people. If anyone argues and challenges their acts, they start beating publicly, attack with knives & sticks, and sometime shoot on the spot. Their behavior for decades has created a culture of fear in every sphere of Rohingya life in Rakhine state. Therefore, along with the legal recognition, Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar think, social and life safety must be ensured. 

Many Rohingya refugees during my fieldwork in 2017 and 2018 time and again told me that “the Borma military and kichu moiggar fua [some Rakhine youths] quite often harass us at home and outside without any reasons. Their behavior has made us understand that we can’t live there and we are illegal in Myanmar. Sometime, it hurts us deeply as it heats to our self-respect. They behave with us like a januar [animals] not like a manush [human]. We want to lead a human life.” I found the similar sensitivity among many Rohingya refugees who crossed the border following the August campaign. According to their narratives, security forces often raid their houses and not only to harass them but also, they snatch their belongings, saved money, and gold. Sometime they forcibly rape girls and women putting males at home on gun-point. The movement of Rohingya people is still restricted, their freedom of choice is completely absent and there is no liberty to lead a human life. Rohingya people cannot move beyond three kilometers without permission and hence they live in a confinement situation. They need permission to do everything and even to do marriage. Therefore, they think, along with the legal recognition, and life-safety, their human dignity is equally important because they want to lead a normal human life. 

Many politicians and diplomates, local and global media, UN bodies, Human Rights Organizations, global political actors, NGOs, academics, and civil society forums talk too much about Rohingya crisis and give various forms of prescription. What actually the Rohingya refugees want and what their views of the solutions to the Rohingya crisis remain unheard. Based on my field-level experience and long-year engagement with them, I have picked up “three points” as an abridged version of what the Rohingya people think of getting rid of their miseries. Now, the question is: Who will rail the derailed train? 

Nasir Uddin is currently a Visiting Research Fellow at the Refugee Studies Centre (RSC), University of Oxford & a Research Consultant at SOAS, University of London. He is a Cultural Anthropologist based in Bangladesh and a Professor of Anthropology at the University of Chittagong. He is the author of a forthcoming book The Rohingya: A Case of “Subhuman”(Oxford University Press, 2019). 

Press Release 
20, November 2018

Myanmar, not Bangladesh, is responsible for failed repatriation

On behalf of the Rohingya people, we would like to express regret and disgust at Myanmar's policy of continuously blaming Bangladesh for the failure of repatriation of Rohingya refugees. As we all know, the ground reality in Arakan (Rakhine) State makes repatriation of Rohingya refugees impossible as the brutal state machinery continues their genocide of the defenceless Muslim community, a policy in place for more than half a century. The sad truth is that Myanmar government has no intention of creating condition for sustainable repatriation and is responsible for failed repatriation and deserving of blame. We strongly condemn it. 

On the contrary, we would like to express our deepest gratitude to the government and people of Bangladesh who are hosting more than a million people in their country. Refugees are a burden for every country in the world, including developed nations, as has been seen in Europe over the past few years. Despite being the most overpopulated and a resource constrained nation Bangladesh has shown extraordinary generosity in letting the Rohingya refugees stay, with humanity the only motive. Myanmar's suggestion that Bangladesh does not want the Rohingya refugees is ridiculous. 

The genocide of Rohingyas is still ongoing, and the remaining Rohingyas in Arakan State continue to be persecuted, and preparations are underway to shift them away from their ancestral villages to IDP camps. State sponsored Buddhist nationalists are protesting against the repatriation of the Rohingyas. The situation of those who have been confined to ghettos and IDP camps following 2012 deadly violence shows no improvement. 

The issue of restoring citizenship to the Rohingya and recognition of their ethnic name “Rohingya” are not even being discussed. There is no change of attitude of the Myanmar authorities towards Rohingyas and other Muslim communities in the country. It is this reality that has terrified the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh every time the word repatriation is mentioned. In truth Rohingyas want sustainable return to their ancestral homeland in Arakan in safety, in dignity and with justice, not to killing field, where bloodshed and violence awaits them. 

It is disgusting to notice that the country responsible for the ongoing genocide continues to shift blame on its neighbour Bangladesh, a country which has tried to offer sustainable solutions for this ongoing crisis, including a serious effort to start repatriation on November 15. But because of Myanmar’s unchanged policy, such an effort was bound to be fruitless. 

On behalf of all Rohingya refugees, we maintain that we want to return to our homeland as long as it is protected from the forces that are complicit in the genocide of the Muslims in Arakan. That would require the demilitarization of the zone as it is absurd to suggest that Rohingyas can return to a zone where the Myanmar military retains the ultimate authority. It would also require the Government of Myanmar to legally recognise the Rohingyas as an ethnic minority as well as full citizens of Myanmar, consistent to other ethnic minorities of the country, as opposed to illegal immigrants, and rehabilitate and reintegrate IDPs in Akyab (Sittwe), Kyauktaw, Mrauk U and other townships affected by the 2012 deadly violence in their original habitats and make peace with all ethnic and religious minorities who are being persecuted since the 1960s. 

Instead of doing that, we notice that Myanmar's leaders including State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi has persistently laid the blame on the Government of Bangladesh. We would like to reiterate that such a policy is doomed to failure. On the other hand, we would once again like to thank the Government of Bangladesh led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and of course the generous people of Bangladesh who have been persistent in their help for our community especially at a time when we needed it the most. We request Bangladesh to ignore Myanmar's blame game policy and pursue a sustainable solution to the Rohingya crisis. 

Last but not the least, we are grateful for Bangladesh's decision not to force the Rohingya refugees out as it would have led them to the killing fields of Arakan. 

For more details, please contact:

Australia: Dr. Hla Myint +61-423381904
Bangladesh: Ko Ko Linn: +880-1726068413
Canada: Nur Hasim +1-5195725359
Japan: Zaw Min Htut +81-8030835327
U.K. Ronnie: +44-7783118354
U.S.A: Dr. Habibullah: +1-4438158609

By Maung Zarni, Natalie Brinham | Published by Middle East Institute on November 20, 2018

“It is an ongoing genocide (in Myanmar),” said Mr. Marzuki Darusman, the head of the UN Human Rights Council-mandated Independent International Fact-Finding Mission at the official briefing at the full Security Council on October 24, 2018.[1] This official briefing was officially requested by 9 out of the 15 Council members over the objection of China, Russia, Equatorial Guinea and Bolivia). [2]

On the same day, before the Security Council briefing, Darusman, former Attorney General of Indonesia who headed his country’s National Human Rights Commission and served as UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in North Korea, had held a press conference in New York where he was joined by Professor Yanghee Lee of South Korea, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights situation in Myanmar.[3]Echoing the UN Fact-Finding Mission Chief’s concerns for Rohingyas’ safety arising out of the continuing existence of structures, institutions, practices and executioners of Myanmar’s genocidal policies, Professor Lee officially opposed the scheme of repatriation of one million Rohingyas who have taken refuge across the borders on Bangladeshi soil.[4] 

Amid calls for international accountability — international because Myanmar lacks an independent and competent judiciary, as well as the political will to bring to justice the main military perpetrators of the genocide[5] — the government of Bangladesh has prioritized the repatriation of Rohingyas.[6] To be sure, the massive influx of Rohingyas into Bangladesh has placed a heavy economic, social and political burden on the country. 

The flurry of activities by Bangladesh authorities — including organizing and attending international conferences and hosting countless visits by foreign heads of state and delegations, and celebrities that are focused on addressing the root cause of the recurring waves of refugee inflows from Myanmar — indicate that the continuing presence of Rohingya refugees in the country is an all-consuming concern for both its government and society at large.[7] 

Because third-country resettlement of one million Rohingyas is not a viable solution, Dhaka’s focus on repatriation — as opposed to holding Myanmar perpetrators of genocidal crimes accountable — is not only understandable but also warranted. However, the most crucial question is how to address the justifiable, widespread and profound fear of further waves of attacks and being sent back to live under genocidal conditions among the deeply traumatized Rohingyas in the camps in Cox’s Bazar district in Bangladesh.[8]

For two consecutive years, Prime Minister Sheik Hasina has gone to the UN General Assembly and presented her proposal to the international community in order to mobilize support for Bangladesh’s efforts to unload the burden placed on her country.[9] The large-scale impact of neighboring Myanmar’s genocide is all too visible for any visitor to the sprawling camp “city” in Cox’s Bazar. It is also a subject of criminal investigation by the pre-trial Chamber of the International Criminal Court after the ICC issued an unprecedented and fully justified ruling that the cross-border nature of Myanmar’s crimes — deportation and “other (international) crimes” — are within the Court’s jurisdiction and hence the preliminary investigations of allegations and facts must proceed,[10] despite non-signatory Myanmar’s official dismissal of the ruling as “meritless.”[11] 

To her credit, Prime Minister Sheik Hasina has highlighted the essential need of the Rohingya, most specifically the group’s safety, upon return to their places of origin inside Myanmar. In her proposals to the UN in 2017 and 2018, the PM even raised, officially, the issue of establishing “safe zone” for the Rohingyas inside Myanmar[12]— and rightly so.

Having had to deal with chronically large waves of Rohingya exodus into the Bangladeshi territories since 1978,[13] Dhaka is best positioned to comprehend and appear to fully appreciate, the absence of physical group safety, which is the direct outcome of Myanmar’s genocidal policies and practices, for this largely Muslim ethnic minority population as the prime “push factor.”[14] 

The predominantly Buddhist Myanmar has long singled out the Rohingya population — which qualifies, according to the UN Fact-Finding Mission report, as ‘protected group’ under international law[15] — for extermination on Myanmar’s soil. The military-controlled Myanmar state has perceived Rohingyas as a group with a distinct identity, language and culture, and as a demographic proxy which Bangladesh is using to ease its (Dhaka’s) population pressure[16]: although Bangladesh is 40% smaller in area than Myanmar, it is home to over three times as many people. 

Accordingly, the Myanmar military has instituted systematic measures, both violent and non-violent, designed to change the demographic character of the predominantly Rohingya region of Northern Rakhine, having reversed radically the official recognition[17] granted to Rohingyas in the 1950s and early 1960s as an ethnic nationality of the Union of Burma, who are full and equal citizens, like the country’s other minority populations (e.g., Shan, Kachin, Kayah, Chin, Mon, Rakhine, etc.) and that the 2.5 townships of Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Rathae Daung formed the main administration region of Rohingya people. 

When the Myanmar military realized that its peaceful scheme of changing the Muslim character of Northern Rakhine State of Rohingya homeland through the state-sponsored trans-migration of Buddhist and other non-Muslim internal migrants from other parts of the country was not having any appreciable impact on the region,[18] it decided to resort to waves of state-directed violence against the target-population of Rohingyas.

Since February 1978, Myanmar’s military leaders have attempted to reduce and eventually erase the Rohingyas’ presence from Bangladesh-Myanmar border region, which stretches 270 miles, framing the region next to the populous Muslim nation of Bangladesh as the “Western gate” of the Union of Myanmar. These systematic attempts at the erasure of Rohingya identity and presence are anchored in the military’s revisionist historical discourse — that Rakhine was a “purely Buddhist” land “contaminated” by the unwelcome intrusions and immigration of Muslims, as openly stated in The State’sWestern Gate (Yangon, 2016),[19] by retired General Khin Nyunt, former chief of the military intelligence services and one of the architects of what Amartya Sen calls “the slow genocide.”[20] 

This official and popular discourse of “Fortress Myanmar” is not applied in the equally porous borderlands with the country’s two giant neighbors, China and India.[21] Inside Myanmar, it is public knowledge that the country has received hundreds of thousands of Chinese migrants from the bordering Chinese state of Yunnan — with some estimates putting the number at roughly one million. The Burmese military and political class, including Aung San Suu Kyi and her NLD party leadership were acutely aware of this illegal Chinese immigration[22] into what is known as “Upper Myanmar,” but both have kept quiet since Myanmar’s relations with China solidified after the post-Cold War Western bloc took punitive measures against the formerly non-aligned State on grounds of the well-documented egregious and pervasive human rights abuses. As a matter of fact, under the previous military-backed government of ex-General Thein Sein (2010-15), Myanmar had even created a new ethnic name — Mong Yang Myanmar — exclusively for the almost 90,000 ethnic Han which assisted the military’s operations against restive Myanmar ethnic nationalities such as the Kokant.[23] 

The fact that Myanmar continues to deny its own official documentation supporting the Rohingyas’ claim of Western Myanmar as their homeland and to categorically dismiss their irrefutable historical and official group identity as Rohingyas[24] while imposing on the group a false identity of “Bengali,” that is, citizens of Bangladesh can only be understood within the framework of genocide.[25] It is not the lack of knowledge on the part of Myanmar leadership that ethnic identities are not simply innate or DNA-based, but are invented by political organizations and communities, states or sub-state level entities.

The overwhelming majority of the UN member states — save India, Japan, Russia and China — have been vocal in condemning Myanmar’s “gravest crimes in international criminal and humanitarian law,” as the UN Fact Finding Mission on Myanmar put it. But the public condemnations have not been matched by an equal amount of tangible support for the one million Rohingya genocide survivors in Bangladesh in terms of humanitarian funds, human resources (e.g., trauma counsellors, social workers, etc.), or livelihoods opportunities. Less than half of the need for humanitarian aid has been met.[26] Consequently, Dhaka feels enormous pressure to feed and house, however unsatisfactorily, such a large pool of refugees.

Against this background, the idea and schemes of repatriation, as well as Bangladesh’s anxiety over the need to begin the repatriation, need to be understood. Beyond the calls for justice and accountability in the form of ICC or ad hoc International Criminal Tribunal on Myanmar (i.e., International Criminal Tribunal on Yugoslavia or International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda), Rohingya repatriation is correctly seen as the only viable, peaceful solution to one of the contemporary world’s greatest humanitarian challenges.[27] 

Importantly, repatriation is interpreted and pursued by different key players for different strategic and policy ends. 

Bangladesh advocates repatriation of Rohingyas, as they put enormous strain on Bangladesh government resources, on society and on the Environment.[28] 

The guilty party of Myanmar agree, largely in principle, to receive the returning Rohingyas back as Aung San Suu Kyi and her foreign ministry strategists regard repatriation as a tactic to placate the outraged UN and other state players calling for the establishment of the international tribunal on Myanmar and supporting the ICC’s criminal investigation of Myanmar’s crimes of deportation and other high crimes. This is an open secret among the politically conscious Burmese. In fact, in a recent interview with the Radio Free Asia Burmese Service, Tun Tin, a well-known member of the Myanmar Chamber of Commerce and a Burmese crony, explicitly stated that repatriation is a way of alleviating the pressure of the international campaign for criminal accountability around Myanmar genocide. 

China is pressuring both Bangladesh and Myanmar to start large-scale repatriation because the Communist leadership do not welcome the deepening of Western involvement in the resource-rich country which Beijing considers an integral component of its long-term strategic scheme of power projection into the Indian Ocean. 

India is following suit out of a different logic: New Delhi has recently begun de-nationalizing the several million Muslims in the country’s restive northeast region of Assam, a first step towards Myanmar-style expulsion and deportation. Additionally, India is vying with China for influence over the ruling Burmese military since the early 1990s, which necessitates Delhi’s unconditional support for Myanmar’s policies towards Rohingyas.

Japan is pushing repatriation out of its own strategic calculations, lending Aung San Suu Kyi’s government media and money support,[29] in an effort to counteract China’s growing influence over Myanmar.

ASEAN is split between reformist Malaysia[30] which is openly pushing for strong measures to end the genocide and the rest of the Southeast Asian bloc, made up of largely authoritarian regimes. 

Meanwhile, inside Myanmar, all the key pillars of Myanmar society and politics remain deeply genocidal in their outlooks. Nationally organized Buddhist monks continue to promote venomous anti-Rohingya view while rallying behind the main perpetrator, namely Myanmar Armed Forces. Anti-Rohingya public opinion has largely crystalized, as the direct result of the Myanmar military’s psychological warfare or mass propaganda campaign, using traditional media and, since 2012, Facebook, depicting Rohingyas, falsely as “Islamicists” and “Illegal Bengali invaders” hell-bent on taking over “Buddhist Myanmar.” 

Aung San Suu Kyi herself and her ruling NLD party share the public view that Rohingya identity is “fake” — a political invention dating from the 1950s — and that Rohingyas really belong in Bangladesh. Even if Suu Kyi and her civilian government have the political will — and there is no indication they do — they have no control over the most powerful organ of the State, the Security Sector, and the most culturally influential pillar of Myanmar, the Buddhist Order. Locally in Rakhine, the shared homeland between Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingyas, Rakhine nationalists continue to mobilize openly against any large-scale repatriation.

Against this overwhelmingly hostile background — not to mention Myanmar’s state’s policies of persecution, including laws and regulations, which remain completely unchanged — no repatriation without guaranteed safety for Rohingyas is conceivable. The majority of Rohingyas may be illiterate, poorly educated or disorganized. This is in spite of Suu Kyi’s disingenuous public statement that her government has implemented 81 of 88 recommendations by the Rakhine Commission chaired by the late Kofi Annan.[31] 

The 40 years of life under genocidal conditions have taught a bitter lesson: the Rohingyas’ physical safety in Myanmar — whether they be future returnees (1.2 millions) from Bangladesh, the estimated 400,000 trapped in Rohingya villages and Rakhine’s southern regional town of Buthidaung, or those in IDP camps — cannot be assured without international protection. It is inconceivable that without this requisite safety any repatriation will be voluntary or sustainable.

Just one week before the planned bilateral repatriation, Myanmar continues with its official — and non-credible — framing of the human rights and humanitarian catastrophe as a direct result of (Muslim) “terrorism.” UN Ambassador Hau Do Suan told Fox News that “the root cause of this humanitarian issue is because of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) — the Muslim terrorist group. They attacked against the government in Rakhine State in October 2016 and again in August 2017. This humanitarian problem was ignited by those terrorist attacks.”[32]

It is therefore urgently necessary for the issue of the guaranteed safety for Rohingyas in Myanmar to be placed at the center of all international policy discussions on Myanmar’s ongoing genocide. 

However, no meaningful discussion which rightly prioritizes Rohingyas’ need for protection and guaranteed basic human and citizenship rights can take place in the face of the repeated refusals by the powerful Asian governments (such as Japan, China and India) and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) to accept the UN Fact-Finding Mission’s dire warning that Myanmar genocide is “ongoing.”

To overcome this obstacle, the Rohingya people urgently need an international coalition of UN member states prepared to pool their respective diplomatic, commercial, political and even military influences in order to bring an effective end to Myanmar’s slow genocide. In his October 4, 2018 talk at the Council on Foreign Relations,Prime Minister of Malaysia Dr. Mahathir Mohammad stated openly that military intervention (in Myanmar) may be needed.[33] 

Such interventions may not be in the cards, but certainly some form of coordinated and collective protection and guaranteed human rights for the Rohingya is fully warranted. In the attempts to set up protection mechanisms, churches and other non-Christian religious and civil society institutions can play more proactive and strategic roles, particularly given the fact that the religious and group identity of the Rohingya minority is a major driver behind Myanmar’s genocide.

[1] “Marzuki Darusman (Chairperson of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar) on the situation in Myanmar - Security Council, 8381st meeting,”, October 24, 2018,…; See also “Rohingya genocide is still going on, says top UN investigator,” The Guardian, October 24, 2018,….

[2] “China fails to stop U.N. Security Council Myanmar briefing,” Reuters, October 24, 2018,…. See also “8381st Security Council Meeting: Situation in Myanmar,”, October 24, 2018,

[3] “Ms. Yanghee Lee, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar and Mr. Marzuki Darusman, Chair of the UN Fact-finding Mission in Myanmar,”, October 24, 2018,….

[4] Ibid.

[5] International Commission of Jurists, “Myanmar: Government’s Commission of Inquiry cannot deliver justice or accountability,” September 7, 2018,….

[6] Personal communications with Bangladeshi authorities including the Speaker of the National Parliament of Bangladesh and the Foreign Minister, between November 2017 and Fall 2018.

[7] Ibid.

[8] “Aid groups say Rohingya ‘terrified’ about Myanmar repatriation,” AFP, November 9, 2018,…. See also “Exclusive: ‘Can’t eat, can’t sleep’ - Rohingya on Myanmar repatriation list,” Reuters, November 9, 2018,…;

[9] Our 5-point proposal can solve Rohingya crisis: PM,” The Daily Star, October 17, 2017,…. See also “PM Hasina at UNGA: UN-Myanmar deal must end Rohingya crisis,” The Daily Star, September 28, 2018,….

[10] International Criminal Court, “Statement of ICC Prosecutor on opening a Preliminary Examination concerning the Rohingya,” September 18, 2018,

[11] “Myanmar Calls ICC Request For Jurisdiction Over Rohingya Expulsion ‘Meritless,’” Radio Free Asia, August 9, 2018,….

[12] “Bangladesh’s PM at UN urges ‘safe zones’ for Myanmar's Rohingya,” Agence France-Presse, September 22, 2017,….

[13] Dr. Jeff Crisp, former head of Policy Development and Evaluation at UNHCR, shares his first-hand knowledge of ‘the shameful history of Rohingya repatriation since 1978. See “We must not repeat the shameful history of returning Rohingya refugees,” Refugee Studies Centre, Oxford University, January 17, 2018,…" style="color:#0563c1; text-decoration:underline. 

[14] See Natalie Brinham, “Breaking the cycle of expulsion, forced repatriation, and exploitation for Rohingya,” Open Democracy, September 26, 2017,…; and Maung Zarni and Natalie Brihnam, “Waves of Genocidal Terror against Rohingyas by Myanmar and the Resultant Exodus Since 1978,” Middle East Institute,….

[15] Members of the Rohingya community are protected under the UN Declaration on the Right of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities. See “Report of the detailed findings of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar,” Human Rights Council, September 18, 2018, p. 15, #45.

[16]See Maung Zarni and Natalie Brinham, “An Evolution of Rohingya Persecution in Myanmar: From Strategic Embrace to Genocide,” Middle East Institute,….

[17] Official Encyclopedia of Burma (Burmese), Literary House, Union of Burma Government Press, V. 9, under “Mayu District” (of Rohingya), 1964. See also Gregory Poling, “Separating Fact from Fiction about Myanmar’s Rohingya,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, DC, February 13, 2014,…; and Brigadier General Aung Gyi, Vice-Chief of Staff - Army, Myanmar Armed Forces, “Rohingyas are equal and full citizens and an ethnic minority integral to the Union of Burma,” Khit Yay (Current Affairs), Ministry of Defence, Rangoon, July 4, 1961,….

[18] A former military intelligence divisional head of the inter-agency Na Sa Ka based in Rakhine State capital of Sittwe openly admitted in a Burmese language essay that the peaceful means designed to change the demographic character of Muslim region of N. Rakhine failed because the military was not devoting enough financial resources

[19] See ex-General Khin Nyunt, The State’s Western Gate Problem (in Burmese, hereafter cited as “The State’s Western Gate Problem”) (Yangon: One Hundred Flowers Press, 2016). This is the single most detailed account of Rohingya persecution from the perspective of a key perpetrator, openly explaining different schemes, strategies and rationales, adopted by Myanmar military in order to change the demographic and ethnic character of the predominantly Muslim and Rohingya N. Rakhine State of Myanmar. Khin Nyunt was a young major who had played different roles since the very first state-directed terror campaign against Rohingyas under the false disguise of “illegal immigration” checks in February 1978 until his ouster as chief of military intelligence in October 18, 2004. In 1992, he founded Na Sa Ka, the border affairs inter-agency instrument of persecution made up of the ministries of Immigration, Customs, Religious Affairs, Justice, Home Affairs, Defence, and Foreign Affairs, which was formally dismantled only in 2013: for the agency came under a close scrutiny by international researchers and media as it came to be known as the main instrument of Myanmar genocide. Despite its formal dissolution the same repressive mission and institutionalized practices of persecution continue.

[20] Amartya Sen, “The Slow Genocide of the Rohingya,” Harvard University, November 4, 2014,…; See also Maung Zarni and Alice Cowley (aka National Brinham), “The Slow-Burning Genocide of Myanmar’s Rohingya,” Pacific Rim Law & Policy Journal 23, 3 (June 2014): 683-754,

[21] Myanmar shares over 1,000 miles of borders with each of these neighbors in the West, Far North and the East. 

[22] Personal communications with a former member of the National League for Democracy party team which screened public letters sent to the party leader Aung San Suu Kyi who answered written questions in her well-publicised weekly “Democracy Forum” which she held at the entrance of her house in Rangoon. Myanmar military intelligence has been widely blamed for “selling citizenship” to thousands of Han Chinese immigrants, residents and traders from the Sino-Burmese border province of Yunnan.

[23] “The Mong Wong, Burma’s newest citizens, face backlash,” ReliefWeb, May 6, 2016,…" style="color:#0563c1; text-decoration:underline.

[24] At his invitation-only official talk at Chatham House in London in July 2013, the then Myanmar President and ex-General Thein Sein repeated the institutionalized denial: ”We do not have a group named Rohingya.” David Mepham, Dispatches Burma: “Excuse me, Mr. President…”, Human Rights Watch UK, July 19, 2013,… .

[25] As part of the systematic destruction of a targeted racial, ethnic, religious or national group, in whole or in part, Raphael Lemkin, who coined the term genocide, conceived genocide as a two-phase process with respect to the group’s identity or “national pattern”, as he called it: first, the destruction of the group’s identity/pattern and second, the imposition on those group members, who survive the destruction, of a new identity/pattern as chosen by the perpetrators. This crucial point is often overlooked. See Raphael Lemkin, Axis rule in Occupied Europe, (Clark, NJ: Lawbook Exchange, Ltd., 2008), specifically Chapter IX, “Genocide”: 79.

[26] “Int’l humanitarian appeal for Rohingya crisis underfunded: UN chief,” China Daily, August 29, 2018 ;

[27] For a thoughtful essay on putting the rights, safety and well-being of the Rohingyas at the center of policy discussions, see Bill Richardson, “Accountability Alone Will Not Solve Myanmar's Rohingya Crisis,” TIME, November 5, 2018,….

[28] Mehdi Chowdhury, “Rohingya refugees remain a heavy burden on Bangladesh,” The Conversation, August 20, 2018,…. >

[29] Writing in a Washington Post op-ed, Japan’s Foreign Minister Taro Kono exhorts the international “not to criticize, but to patiently support Myanmar’s own efforts for the early, safe, voluntary and dignified repatriation of refugees.” See Taro Kono, “The world must support Myanmar and Bangladesh,” Washington Post, September 25, 2018,

[30] PM Mahathir Mohammad, “The world needs to draw the line. Military actions may be necessary (to end Myanmar genocide)," Council on Foreign Relations, New York City, October 4, 2018, (Hereafter “The world needs to draw the line.”)

[31] Aung San Suu Kyi, “Democratic Transition in Myanmar: Challenges and the Way Forward,” The 43rd Singapore Lecture, Singapore, August 21, 2018,….

[32]“Burma doubles down on claims to justify treatment of Rohingya minority,“ Fox News, November 10, 2018,….

[33] “The world needs to draw the line.”

Rohingya refugees who fled from Myanmar wait to be let through by Bangladeshi border guards after crossing the border in Palang Khali, Bangladesh October 9, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

MS Anwar
RB Opinion
November 12, 2018

Some may differ. But I believe the government of Bangladesh is currently not seeing beyond Chinese Economic Inducements and some temporary political leverages in the region. It is important to consider all aspects especially when an action could endanger thousands of human lives and is bad for a country's long-term national interests.

Somebody, please deliver these points to the Bangladesh government and policy makers. 

Here how they are:

Bangladesh and Myanmar have made a bilateral agreement on Rohingya repatriation (which is due to begin soon). However, the survivors/refugees themselves, all alike, say "we prefer deaths over being forcibly sent back to Myanmar. We will at least get funerals here after deaths. Over there, the cruel Myanmar do not treat us like humans and commit all sort of atrocities." Some refugees have even said that they would commit suicide if foced to go back to the 'Killing Fields in Myanmar'.

The UN Human Rights Council have proven that Genocide on the Rohingya people is still going on in Myanmar. Under such condition, (possible) forced repatriation of Rohingya by the Bangladesh government and other parties (involved in the process) are violating the act of Non-refoulement and facilitating Myanmar's Genocide (on Rohingya). 


On Monday (Nov 12), Camp-in-Charge (CiC) of Balukhali camp 9 and 10 in Cox's Bazaar summoned all Mazhis (Captains or Focal Points) and Elders from the camps and threatened them to persuade 2,260 Survivors enlisted for repatriation scheduled on November 15. If failed, they were told, the Bangladesh authorities will cease Ration Supply to the refugees, bar the refugee youths from working in NGOs/INGOs, restrict their movements and stop local shopkeepers/vendors from selling foods and goods to them, implying that the survivors/refugees will be kept starved. 

'Go back or die here out of starvation in a confined place.' Just like that? What is so big a crime the survivors have committed by seeking refuge in the country that they deserve to be starved and confined (to death)?


Coming back to the point, the Myanmar government has explicitly shown its intention that the returning refugee will be confined in internment camps or a very small place of housing arrangement fenced with barbed wire.

There will be no freedom to move around for Rohingya. Genocide and atrocity crimes against them will continue silently. In turn, that will force the people to flee from the internment camps one by one and silently to Bangladesh. And these people will successfully be assimilating in Bangladesh societies, like it's been going on for decades. Everyone is aware of that. Bangladesh won't be able to stop that gradual migration by the Rohingya (because of Genocide) into the country.

Consequently, in Myanmar, the population of Rohingya decrease and increase in Bangladesh over the time. Who gains and who loses at the end? It's all clear.


Therefore, we request the government and people of Bangladesh to 'Make Hay While the Sun is Shining' and not miss this historical opportunity which will not only serve Bangladesh's long term national interest but also end Genocide and shape Rohingya's future. Please be an important part in ending the Genocide going on more than 40 years. Please help them get justice and International Protection to ensure Genocide (on them) never happens again.

Dear Bangladesh's Government, please see beyond Chinese economic inducements; and bilateral economic and trade ties with Myanmar. Please reconsider your position on the premature repatriation of the Rohingya which will further endanger them. The solidarity of World Citizens are with Rohingya. Thus, if you cooperate with Rohingya and the governments of many countries that are in Solidarity with Rohingya, you could find a way out of Chinese pressures as well, if there are any.


These people are not threats to Bangladesh but will really benefit the country provided the opportunities. They are not threats to Myanmar sovereignty, either. They are threat to none. Perhaps, their oppressor (Myanmar genocidal regime) perceives them to be threats because they are committing Genocide (on them), just like a burgalar percieves the (house) owner a threat.

All they want to dream and live like other human beings, like you, like them, like all. Please help them dream and live as equally as other human beings. Yes, they are human beings, too, and human lives are more precious than anything else.

Rohingya Exodus