Lest We Forget The Rohingya Genocide In Myanmar
|William Hanna 29. April 2019|
“The term does not necessarily signify mass killings … more often [genocide] refers to a coordinated plan aimed at destruction of the essential foundations of the life of national groups so that these groups wither and die like plants that have suffered a blight.
The end may be accomplished by the forced disintegration of political and social institutions, of the culture of the people, of their language, their national feelings and their religion. It may be accomplished by wiping out all basis of personal security, liberty, health and dignity. When these means fail the machine gun can always be utilised as a last resort. Genocide is directed against a national group as an entity and the attack on individuals is only secondary to the annihilation of the national group to which they belong.”
Raphael Lemkin (1900-1959), Jewish Polish legal scholar, who in 1944 coined the term Genocide.
For over two years some 10,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by being shot or having their throats slit while many thousands more were subjected to mental and physical torture, brutal rape, and having their villages burnt to the ground. The extent of the barbarity by the military in Myanmar — formerly Burma — has caused almost a million refugees to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh — which is now refusing to accept anymore Rohingya seeking refuge — where they live in makeshift camps. https://bit.ly/2VyODE7
“The devastating cruelty to which these Rohingya children have been subjected is unbearable — what kind of hatred could make a man stab a baby crying out for his mother’s milk. And for the mother to witness this murder while she is being gang-raped by the very security forces who should be protecting her.”
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
It is perhaps somewhat paradoxical that Israel — a nation supposedly established as a safe haven for Jews against another Holocaust — is supplying Myanmar with weapons that are used for the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslim people. On September 26, 2017 the Israeli newspaper Haaretz carried the headline “Israel Refuses to Stop Arms Sales to Myanmar, Despite Its Campaign of Rape, Torture and Massacres Against the Rohingya.” The paper’s report stated that in his response to a petition in the High Court of Justice from human-rights activists demanding an end to the arms sales, the state’s lawyer claimed that the court should not interfere in Israel’s foreign relations. This was in keeping with the initial response issued in March by the Defence Ministry, according to which “the court had no standing in the ‘purely diplomatic’ matter.” The court’s decision appeared to suggest that it had no problem with aiding and abetting crimes against humanity. https://bit.ly/2IiQnXk
Discrimination against the Rohingya dates back to 1948 when British Rule ended and the country’s military regime sought to establish a new sense of nationhood that scapegoated the Rohingya who were noticeably different from the lighter-skinned and mostly Buddhist Burmese. The traditional belief in Myanmar that the Rohingya were recent immigrants from Bangladesh was without foundation and in fact the Rohingya have deep ancestral and chronicled roots within Myanmar’s postcolonial borders.
Myanmar’s tendency to associate the Rohingya with Bangladeshi communities is to some extent explained by the fact that Arakan — an independent kingdom for most of its history but which now formed the Rakhine State in Myanmar — had in the past adjoined the Bangladeshi province of Chittagong. The separation of those provinces and the implementation of borders were a product of British colonial rule which had promised independence to the Rohingya during the war with Japan. That promise was subsequently broken — as were several other pledges to various ethnic groups in the Middle East including the Palestinian people who were unconscionably betrayed by Britain’s Balfour Declaration in 1917 — and in anticipation of the escalating tensions between themselves and other Burmese ethnic communities, some Rohingya had petitioned for inclusion in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) during the 1947 partition.
The current persecution started in 1962 when a coup by the military required them to establish a mandate that would help validate their iron fist rule, and to do so, they turned to religion — by making it the standard by which people were deemed to be genuine citizens of the state — and exploited Buddhism to justify their nationalistic agenda. Consequently in 1974, the Rohingya were stripped of their identity and classified as “foreigners” by the state thereby prompting the start of the Rohingya exodus to neighbouring countries where it was hoped safe sanctuary would be found. To make matters worse, the citizenship law enacted in 1982, not only excluded the Rohingya from becoming citizens, but also denied them the right to live in Myanmar unless they could prove their ancestors had lived there prior to independence: an impossible requirement considering that such documentation for most Rohingya was either non-existent or unobtainable. https://ind.pn/2VxzmTP
So even though the Rohingya Muslim minority had lived in Myanmar for many generations, they were regarded as illegal migrants from Bangladesh to whom the Myanmar Buddhists denied basic rights including having a nationality, participation in public life and the practice of their religion, freedom of movement, and access to education, healthcare, and a livelihood. Consequently to date the flight of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar into Bangladesh and elsewhere has continued unabated and is estimated to be close to a million with the precise number of those murdered being difficult to determine. Some 80% of Myanmar’s population belong to the Buddhist faith whose traditional words of wisdom included the following assertions:
“Buddhists develop inner peace, kindness and wisdom through their daily practice; and then share their experience with others bringing real benefit to this world. They try not to harm others and to live peacefully and gently, working towards the ultimate goal of pure and lasting happiness for all living beings; All tremble before violence. All fear death. Having done the same yourself, you should neither harm nor kill; In this world hostilities are never appeased by hostility. But by the absence of hostility are they appeased. This is an interminable truth; Toward the whole world one should develop loving-kindness, a state of mind without boundaries — above, below, and across — unconfined, without enmity, without adversaries.”
Despite such portentous pronouncements, extremist Buddhist monks have been preaching that the Rohingya were reincarnated from snakes and insects, that killing them would not be a crime against humanity, and that doing so would in fact be more akin to pest control that would rid Myanmar of the global Islamist conspiracy to take over the world and forcibly establish a global caliphate. According to UN human rights experts investigating the possibility of genocide in Myanmar, Facebook played a major role in the dissemination of such Islamophobic hatred. https://nyti.ms/2SU2eS4
Derogatory characterisations and dehumanisation have always served as useful tools to justify genocide as had been the case in Palestine where the indigenous population were variously referred to as never having existed, as having to be killed unless they were resigned to live as slaves, as beasts walking on two legs, as being like crocodiles who when given meat wanted even more, as a people whose physical homes should be obliterated to prevent more snakes being raised in them, and as deserving to be bombed “back to the Middle Ages.”
A similar ploy was also used in Rwanda were Hutu tribal propaganda was ongoing for years on the radio and in newspapers and magazines with the Tutsis being referred to as cockroaches who as a mortal threat to the Hutus, needed to be eliminated so as to avoid the Hutus themselves being destroyed. The “destroy or be destroyed” justification was not something that emerged overnight, but was the consequence of calculated and sustained campaigns of dehumanisation and paranoia over a period of years. Every genocide in recent history had followed the same pattern of sustained dehumanisation campaigns that were an essential prerequisite in the lead-up to gratuitous mass murder. That had been the case in Bosnia, Darfur, Rwanda, and Palestine — to mention but a few — and is now the case in Myanmar.
Dehumanisation had also preceded ethnic cleansing by the Nazis whose victims were first demeaned and humiliated over a period of years during which time the emphasis was not so much on the elimination of Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, and other such “sub-humans,” but rather on the propaganda that established the categories of “sub-humanity” to be eliminated. Consequently it was only after the concocted threat from the “sub-humans” had been firmly established and sold to the brainwashed general public, that the “final solution” could then be implemented without challenge.
The ploy of using dark psychology to dehumanise certain ethnic and religious groups is so effective that it has been used repeatedly throughout history. The psychology of such racist and discriminatory dehumanisation consists of five basic elements that include alluding to the below par intelligence or morality of the group to cause it to be ostracised while boosting the ego of the majority by assuring them of their own superiority; using infestation analogies to make the majority fearful that the minority is a threat to their welfare and security; comparing and referring to the minority as animals with the Nazis having frequently referred to the Jews as rats; encouraging the use of violence by the majority who have been brainwashed into accepting that the minority are inhuman; and physically isolating or removing the minority by means of deportation, the formation of ghettos, or the use of concentration camps.
So despite the lessons of two World Wars and the establishment of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, humanity has learnt nothing, made no progress, and remains wallowing in the Dark Ages. In the meantime the Rohingya people need not hold their breath in the hope that the United Nations, the International Criminal Court, or so-called civilised nations will relieve them of their plight and provide them with justice because after more than 70 years of brutal persecution, the Palestinian people are still waiting for the world to act.