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Exclusive: 'Strong evidence' of genocide in Myanmar

By Anealla Safdar, Phil Rees
October 26, 2015

Al Jazeera investigation reveals government triggered deadly communal violence for political gain.

Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit has uncovered what amounts to "strong evidence" of a genocide coordinated by the Myanmar government against the Rohingya people, according to an assessment by Yale University Law School.

The Lowenstein Clinic spent eight months assessing evidence from Myanmar, including documents and testimony provided by Al Jazeera and the advocacy group Fortify Rights.
"Given the scale of the atrocities and the way that politicians talk about the Rohingya, we think it's hard to avoid a conclusion that intent [to commit genocide] is present," concluded the clinic.

Exclusive evidence obtained by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit and the advocacy group Fortify Rights reveals the government has been triggering communal violence for political gain by inciting anti-Muslim riots, using hate speech to stoke fear among the Myanmarese about Muslims, and offering money to hardline Buddhist groups who threw their support behind the leadership.

As the first fully contested general election in 25 years approaches on November 8, eyewitness and confidential documentary evidence obtained by Al Jazeera reveals that the ruling, military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) has attempted to marginalise Muslims and target the Rohingya.

Al Jazeera has made several requests for comment to the Myanmar President's office and government spokespeople but has not received any response.

Genocide Agenda

The investigation, presented in a new documentary, Genocide Agenda, consults legal and diplomatic experts on whether the government’s campaign amounts to systematic extermination.

The University of London’s Professor Penny Green, director of the International State Crime Initiative (ISCI)m said: "President Thein Sein (USDP) is prepared to use hate speech for the government's own ends, and that is to marginalise, segregate, diminish the Muslim population inside Burma.

"It's part of a genocidal process."

An independent report by the ISCI concluded that riots in 2012, which saw conflicts between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims erupt, were pre-planned. The violence saw scores killed, and tens of thousands of people displaced after several thousand homes were burned.

Watch Al Jazeera's 'Genocide Agenda' investigation here

"It wasn’t communal violence," said Green. "It was planned violence. Express buses were organised” to bring Rakhine Buddhists from outlying areas to take part in the aggression.

"Refreshments, meals were provided," she said. "It had to be paid by somebody. All of this suggests that it was very carefully planned."

Former United Nations Rapporteur on Myanmar Tomás Ojea Quintana, meanwhile, called for President Thein Sein of the USDP and the ministers for home affairs and immigration to be investigated for genocide.

Stirring hatred

Genocide Agenda presents evidence that Myanmar government agents were involved in sparking anti-Muslim riots.

An official military document, a copy of which has been obtained by Al Jazeera, shows the use of hate speech, claiming the Myanmarese are in danger of being 'devoured' by Muslims. 

Al Jazeera is releasing the documents with translations alongside the documentary.

The investigation also reveals how the government uses hired thugs to stir hatred.

A former member of Myanmar’s feared Military Intelligence service described how she witnessed agent provocateurs from the army provoke problems with Muslims.

"The army controlled these events from behind the scenes. They were not directly involved," she said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "They paid money to people from outside."

Among other findings is a confidential document warning of 'nationwide communal riots' that was deliberately sent to local townships to incite anti-Muslim fears.

Further evidence from and sources within the Sangha, or monkhood, reveals that monks who challenged military rule in the 2007 Saffron Revolution were offered money to join anti-Muslim, pro-government groups.

While there has been evidence that Myanmar’s military rulers deliberately provoked communal unrest during the years of dictatorship, until now there has been no evidence that this continued after the transtion towards a partial democracy.

Matt Smith, founder of the advocacy group Fortify Rights, said that taken as a whole, the evidence indicates this trend is resurfacing. 

"In the case of the Rohingya, in the case of Rakhine State, that could amount to the crime of genocide," Smith said. "Several of the most powerful people in the country should reasonably be the subject of an international investigation into this situation of Rakhine State."

Disenfranchised Muslims

In the November general election, the USDP is running against numerous ethnic and other parties, but primarily against the National League for Democracy (NLD), led by Aung Sang Suu Kyi.

The vote is seen as a crucial next stage in steps towards full democracy.

Reform in Myanmar has been underway since 2010 when military rule was replaced by a military-backed civilian government.

But since the military junta stepped aside in 2011, hardline Buddhist groups have taken advantage of liberalisation to gain influence in the country's politics.

Muslim candidates have been largely excluded from the upcoming election, in what also appears to be an attempt to assuage hardliners. 

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims were disenfranchised earlier this year when the government withdrew the temporary citizenship cards that allowed them to vote.

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