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Almost time for renewed Burmese sanctions

(Photo: EPA)

January 22, 2015

One of the bigoted Buddhist monks who are spearheading the murderous persecution of Burma’s Muslim Rohingya majority has called a top UN official a “whore” and said that since she liked the Rohingya so much, she should go to bed with them.

The outrageous outburst by the thuggish Ashin Wirathu, leader of the racists 969 organization, came after the South Korean UN rapporteur visit last week to Burma. During her stay Lee protested that the Rohingya were living in abysmal conditions in the concentration camps into which they have been herded “for their own safety”.

She was also scathing about the proposed legislation on race and religion, which is clearly targeting Burma’s Muslims, which includes the Rohingya community. Lee’s trip to see for herself what was being done to the Rohingya was the more infuriating to the ultra-nationalist monks, because she arrived backed by a UN resolution condemning the Burmese government’s treatment of its minorities, in particular the unfortunate Rohingya.

The administration of military place-man and former general, president Thein Sein continues to insist that the Rohingya are not Burmese citizens. Despite their historic communities in the northwest of the country, successive Burmese governments have denied these unfortunates not only passports, but also any legal, political or social rights. This has left the Rohingya prey to hate-filled racists like the appalling monks of the 696 group.

It has also meant that police and army who have been involved in the savage conflict, which has seen hundreds of Rohingya murdered and tens of thousands forced from their homes and livelihoods, have at best stood by and done nothing or at worst have actively joined in the savagery.

The behavior of the security forces reflects that of Burma’s emerging democratic political establishment, which is still nervous of a return of the brutal military junta. Too many people in positions of responsibility have stayed silent about the crimes being perpetrated against the Rohingya. And even the highly-regarded Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Ky has been extremely muted in her criticisms whenever she found herself obliged to comment on these race crimes. 

There is a general fear of antagonizing the country’s Buddhist monks who are seen as having considerable influence among majority Buddhists in the 49 million population. There has for instance so far been no official apology over the “whore” insult and only vague promises that the rabid monk, Wirathu, is to be investigated for his inflammatory comments.

If Burmese themselves will not tackle this evil race-hate cancer, it falls to the international community to take action. The UN now heads up the wave of disgust and despair worldwide that is felt at the deeply discreditable conduct on the Thein Sein government. 

However, disgust by itself, will achieve nothing. What is needed is action. The UN’s Lee said during her visit that Burma was in danger of slipping back in its transition to democracy.

What she did not spell out were the consequences if this continued. The Obama White House is increasingly disturbed at events in Burma. The US president could lead a move to reinstitute sanctions and freeze the foreign investment that has flooded into the country since 2011. There, are many, not simply in the Islamic world, who would now back such a trade and finance crackdown with considerable enthusiasm. The Burmese can no longer be permitted to get away with such naked racism and Islamophobia.

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