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Assessing Kofi Annan's role and impact on Rohingya crisis

By Dr Maung Zarni
December 7, 2016

From the outset, I have dismissed Kofi Annan's involvement as nothing more than a public relations exercise launched against the backdrop of strident calls for the UN Commission of Inquiry.

That is, after having done background checks on the 3-Rakhine commissioners on his commission, the scope and the underlying philosophy on which the commission seems premised, and the make-up.

It has made its initial impact on the human rights networks internationally
and the Rohingya activists themselves:

The announcement below poured water on the burning coal - calls for COI.

Many seem intimidated, impressed or pleased to get former UN Secretary General Annan and Chair of The Elders (retired heads of state and other famous politicians). The "welcomers"
ignore well-documented criminal role Kofi Annan played in the death of 800,000;

Annan concealed a crucial and urgent cable addressed to him and which he received straight from the field - Rwanda - by Head of the Peacekeeping Force, Canadian Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire on Jan. 11, 1994 warning of the risk of genocide. Annan was the Head of UN Peacekeeping Force in New York headquarters.

Annan chose NOT to share it with the Security Council, not did he follow up such an important piece of evidence deserved. 

That was according to the UN-sponsored inquiry led by a former Swedish Prime Minister. 

The rest is history.

To be fair to those who welcomed it and showed initial enthusiasm, having a 3-member international team including Annan was certainly better than the previous Rakhine Inquiry Commission formed on 17 Aug 2012 - under previous Thein Sein regime. It was chaired by old history tutor at Mandalay and a friend, with another old, but now former friend Kyaw Yin Hlaing as Secretary.

The RIC ended up - again as I expected - up nothing more than a tool for whitewash for the regime-sanctioned mass violence and destruction of Rohingyas that took place in June and Oct 2012.

Now have a quick read at what Annan claimed officially his commission was going to.

There are 4 problems with Kofi Annan Commission:


like the previous Burmese-only Presidential Inquiry Commission of 2012, Kofi Annan Commission has absolutely no Rohingya representation. (Burmese Muslims do NOT represent Rohingya Muslims and are NOT seem by Rohingyas as their representational voices, naturally).

2) Of the 3 Rakhines, Saw Khint Tint (Rakhine woman leader) holds well-known and well-documented genocidal views towards Rohingya; 2) Mr WinMra defended the Burmese military as its ambassador mass atrocities in the past at UN and other fora including Geneva and New York, and is currently head of the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission, which does NOT respect ROhingya's right to self-identify; and 3) Dr/Mr Tha Hla Shwe recently denies that there is any racial or religious discrimination - in Rakhine or in Burma; that's rather blatant in law of the passage of 4 race-and-faith-based national laws, and everything else that has been going on including the Burma Army leadership claiming its institutional duties now includes the defence of Buddhism and "Burmese" race.

3) Allegations of mass atrocities repeated in waves are excluded from its focus

In the last 4 years there have been credible and well-documented reports of international human rights crimes committed against the Rohingya. Those reports come from the UN Special Rapporteurs on human rights situation in Myanmar. And they identity the role of state security troops and authorities in these rights abuses. Besides there is a growing body of legal, sociological analyses and field studies which increasingly adopt a common view: a genocide is in the process. 

The Commission's scope is only on the two communities - Rakhine and Rohingya the latter of which cannot even be officially mentioned.

4) its sentiment is ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT will lessen the tensions in the communal conflicts and pave the way for future reconciliation between these two communities.

Because the Commission completely ignores or effectively unaware of the state's CENTRAL role in formulating the destruction of Rohingyas as a group it is keen to serve Development up as the panacea. 

Kofi Annan had made it clear that his mission was NOT about investigating allegations of international crimes and human rights violations, despite the human rights activists urging him to do so. 

Now Kofi Annan has clearly veered off the official scope of his Commission and began to make comments to the media which can only be construed as words of the genocide whitewash.

Kofi Annan downplays claims of Myanmar genocide

6 December 2016

This is extremely harmful to the Rohingyas who have jus begun to receive the kind of grassroots and worldwide attention they deserve. 

Despite his fame, Kofi is the man who has Rwandan blood on his hand: 800,000 of them. 

I will NOT trust this man's integrity, will to stop or motives in getting involved a case which is increasingly described by researchers and scholars, and law practitioners with years of personal and direct understanding of the nature of persecution.

How is Kofi Annan in a position to 'downplay or confirm" any allegations of genocide?

He's spent a total of less than 7 days in Rakhine, chauffeured around in an SUV, accompanied by anti-Rohingya Rakhines and all choreographed by Aung San Suu Kyi's Office in Nay Pyi Daw - over two whirlwind visits.

It took years to collect evidence, interview Rohingyas, army officers, Rakhine, etc. as well as do archival research in Burmese, Bengali and English to try to assess the nature of the persecution and claims of rights abuses. 

After nearly 6 years in his capacity as Special Rap on human rights in Myanmar the

Argentinian human rights lawyer Tomas Ojea Quintana has publicly stated that Myanmar is committing a genocide, that UN has an unwritten policy of not calling a genocide genocide and that Aung San Suu Kyi shows no signs of ending it. 

I find it extraordinarily IRRESPONSIBLE, ARROGANT AND CALLOUS to dismiss allegations of atrocity crimes by the State of Myanmar - in light of the on-going media reports based on fleeing Rohingya refugees - by now 20,000 - in Bangladesh, telephone transmissions, etc.

Two most recent reports here - one from AFP:

21,000 Rohingya flee to Bangladesh from Myanmar: IOM

AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE | Published — Tuesday 6 December 2016


Myanmar Rakhine: Inside the closed Rakhine region

Additionally, it is extremely stupid for Kofi Annan to make dismissive comments about these allegations whereas in fact there is a growing body of serious longitudinal (multiyear and on-going) studies of the atrocities against Rohingya. 


Here is my short-list of studies and analyses.

We must not allow this career UN bureaucrat to let another 800,000 destroyed. 

Their destruction may not come as swift as Tutsis in Rwanda.

But as Lancet's Harvard study pointed out - just look at the doctor: patient ratio in the two Rohingya towns of Buthidaung and Maung Daw, you will get a deeply troubling and shocking picture of the kind of existence Rohingyas have been forced to lead - by the national hybrid-gov of Suu Kyi-Min Aung Hlaing:

1: 150,000 Rohingya 
1: 670 (non-Rohingya) in near by Sittwe. 

Raphael Lemkin, the man who gave us the term genocide, discussed how guns and weapons were not the only instruments of genocide.

Sub-survival level nutritional provisions are a part of a genocidal arsenal. 

I condemn both Suu Kyi and Kofi Annan for their criminal irresponsibility in dismissing and downplaying the allegations of genocide. 

[1] Confronting the genocide in Myanmar, Katherine Southwick, Asia and
Pacific Policy Society, 1 Dec. 2016.

[1] The Slow Genocide of Rohingyas, Amartya Sen, Harvard Conference on
the Rohingya Persecution, 4 Nov. 2014.

[1] Recognising the Rohingya People, Editorial, Lancet, 1 Dec. 2016

The Rohingya People of Myanmar: Health, Human Rights and Identity,
Lancet, 1 Dec. 2016

Rohingya Face Health Care Bias in parts of Asia, study finds, New York Times, 5 Dec. 2016.

[1] A Genocide In the Making, Foreign Policy, Sir Geoffrey Nice and
Francis Wade, Foreign Policy, 30 Nov. 2016

[1] Genocide Roundtable, Oxford University Conference on Myanmar’s
Democratic Transition and the Rohingyas, 11 May 2016

[1] Dr. Gregory Stanton at Myanmar Muslims Genocide Awareness

[1] Burma’s Million-Strong Rohingya Population Faces ‘Final Stages of
Genocide,’ Says Report, TIME, 28 Oct. 2015.

[1] Clinic Study Finds Evidence of Genocide in Myanmar, Yale Law
School, 29 Oct. 2015

[1] The Slow-Burning Genocide of Myanmar’s Rohingya, Maung Zarni and
Alice Cowley, Pacific Rim Law and Policy Journal, June 2014

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