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Humanitarian Colonialisms in the Rohingya Genocide

By Dr. Maung Zarni
September 20, 2018

NGOs destroy civil society, said a top sociologist at Columbia.

He is absolutely correct.

If Rohingyas do NOT hang together they will be hang separately.

I see the disaster or humanitarian colonialism being repeated in Rohingya situation. There is an immediate need to forge and expand intra-Rohingya solidarity and collaboration.

I define INGOs as neo-COLONIAL, that do not identify with Rohingya resistance to repatriation under duress, or have organic ties to Rohingya's struggles (meaning groups that impose their agendas & priorities).

Mine is not an original insight, but drawn from David Korten's: the only western or external NGO that is NOT colonial is the type that is connected with and support the oppressed's resistance and movements.

If I were a Rohingya refugee, or a member of the diaspora, I would work with any NGO that comes in with $, has political connections, and a voice.

However, I would NOT have any expectation or illusions that humanitarian INGOs (and politicians) will have pure moral desire or political will to respect, listen to or appreciate Rohingyas' wishes
and needs.

Generally, or typically, INGO-recipient relations will necessarily be INSTRUMENTALIST. That is, they come because it's their job, income generator, career, or professional or personal interests. There are of course NGO individuals who care, genuinely. But in the INGO politics it is organizational interests and logic that in the final instance drive what these entities officially say and do. Human rights INGOs are not immune from this cancer.

Rohingyas deal with them because there are no better choices - accept their money, medicine, work as fixers, field "researchers", informants or informers, whatever the case, etc.

That's the reality: the crucial thing is to know this instrumentalist nature - they use the refugees and refugees use them - of these interactions.

The last thing Rohingyas need is be swayed by these INGOs and their slanted, trendy advocacy campaigns - that never ask for what Rohingya really need, that is, protected homeland where they can live in peace and safety as normal human community, like everyone else.

To be able to maintain a healthier power equation between the INGOs and the refugees - nearly 1 million now - Rohingya refugees and the diaspora must forge ties that go beyond little family circles , or that cling to petty little organizations where they are "Chairmen" or "Chairwomen" "President" or whatever.

So far I have not seen Rohingya elites in diaspora building this absolutely necessary intra-Rohingya solidarity, respect and organizational collaboration.

The absence of this broad-based solidarity amongst the victims, both the diaspora and in sub-human camps, is deeply troubling, both from moral and strategic perspectives.

If Rohingyas do NOT hang together they will be hang separately.

I have seen this NGOs as disease in the context of the armed Karen revolution. The result is ugly: capable potential revolutionaries are snatched out of the movement and into program manager positions, from where they sing the NGO tunes.

With absolutely nothing - beyond the presence of 1 million bodies in the sub-human camps in Bangladesh - Rohingyas are far more vulnerable to this politics and exploitation by the NGOs and politicians than the Karens have ever been.

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