Burma’s Step-By-Step Approach toward Rohingya Genocide, Ethno-cide

Human Wrongs Watch

By Dr. Maung Zarni*

#1 Early anti-Rohingya Policy 

I would call the military’s policy towards the Rohingya “structural genocide”, a systematic and sustained act of policy maintained and pursued, irrespective of which general or ex-general is in charge.

This includes various severe restrictions and other punitive acts in order to create living conditions as unattractive and unbearable as possible so that they would voluntarily exit Burma – and which thousands have done.


(after the Caretaker Government of General Ne Win took care of the restive Rakhine nationalists and their demand for autonomous Statehood in the 1950s. The Rohingya were useful as a counter-force towards the Rakhine nationalists in Arakan).

#2 Mass Expulsion

“Naga Min” (meaning “conqueror of all Kulars”) (or literally Dragon King) Expulsion Operation to expel the Rohingya (this operation was led by the man known as Ne Win’s Butcher Brigadier General Sein Lwin, a conservative Buddhist monastery product born in an Upper Burma village and raised by the Burma Army, whose formal Buddhist education stopped at 4th Grade. Sein Lwin was also in charge of the bloody crackdown of 8.8.88 uprisings)

Bangladesh, emerging out of its civil war of East and West Pakistan as an independent nation, openly threatened Ne Win’s regime by telling General Ne Win that Burma needed to take these Rohinga refugees back, or Bangladesh had ample stockpiles of arms to give away to the angry Rohingyas. That was when Ne Win and his deputies backed down and took 200,000 Rohingya refugees back).

General Ne Win was the country’s best known racist, especially with a rather virulent strain of anti-Muslim and Christian racisms. He was the only Burmese general who ordered mosques in Mandalay to stop any early morning prayers which are generally amplified through loud-speakers mounted atop mosques every time he stayed in the Northwest Command Military Headquarters inside Mandalay’s walled city (the Palace).

Ne Win embarked on the policy of cleansing of the Burma Army of any officer who was not a Buddhist. There was one or two exception. But as a matter of policy, Christian and Muslim officers were forced out of any position of importance early in their careers. Since Ne Win’s time, the successive MILITARY regimes, including Thein Sein’s, has been on autopilot with this cleanse-the-army-and-the-government of Christians and Muslims.

#3 Citizenship Denial

Ne Win’s regime stripped the Rohingyas citizenship and de-acknowledge the officially recognized “Rohingya”, and re-wrote citizenship law in line with anti-Rohingya racism. This was a direct response to the fact that they felt forced to take the Rohingya refugees back from Bangladesh.

Now the current verification process undertaken by the Border Affairs Minister under Than Shwe’s pet Lt-General Thein Htay involves forcing through threats the Rohingya families in camps and other locations to write down their ethnic origin as “Bangali” and, in some cases, enticing them of the promise of full citizenship and other protections.

This is ETHNO-CIDE.  

#4 Illegal Migration from Bangladesh

There were in-flow of Bangladeshi migrants into Western Burma. It would be untrue to say that there were no illegal immigration coming to Burma from Bangladesh. Before the situation in Arakan State worsened progressively some Bangladeshi attempted to enter Northern Arakan state via boats.

According to veteran Burma naval officers, they wouldn’t even bother arresting or sending these boat-loads of illegal Bangadeshi in Burmese waters. They simply blew entire boats up – no bodies, no traces, no need to waste man-power to arrest, house, feed and process them for deportation.

#5 Outsourcing Ethnic Cleansing and Genocide to the Local Rakhine

The recent waves of violence against the Rohingya which began in June was the opposite of the earliest post-independence policy which used the local Rohingya by recognizing them as a national ethnic group and administering them as a special group directly by the Head of the Rakhine State Security Forces (mostly Tatmadaw).

The Rakhine State Security Head was the late Colonel Kyaw Soe who later became Minister of Home Affairs in Ne Win’s early Revolutionary Council Government and who was operationally responsible for blowing up Rangoon University Student Union.

The violence against the Rohingya and the rise in anti-Muslim racism were the direct outcome of the State’s ethnic mobilization – in fact, directly through the facebook of Presidential Office Director and Government Spokesperson – you can’t get any more Presidential than that!, all State broadcast and print media outlets, and the crony-owned private media outlets such as the Voice Weekly of Myanmar Egress and Eleven Day News Group.

#6 Acting Contradictory and Inconsistent as a Matter of Policy

There are elements that are not directly or even indirectly affiliated with Thein Sein government, who have been involved in the violence against the Rohingya. They are acting out of their own calculations, politically and ethically motivated. These cannot be construed as part of the regime’s designs against the Rohingya.

What IS part of the regime’s designs is they would give the troops different and often seemingly contradictory orders from the Central Command. Local Rakhine admin and authorities dare NOT act on anything without Naypyidaw’s knowledge and command. So, what appears to be local acts are in fact greenlighted by Naypyidaw. Half-century of only taking orders from the highest authorities cannot be erased after 2 years of luke-warm democratization and devolution.

One of the reasons that outsiders, including human rights researchers, can’t get their head around is why certain local security forces are protecting Muslims and Rakhines in one place and other local forces were siding with the Rakhine skin-heads in slaughtering the Rohingya and Muslims.

That was precisely because the troops were given different orders from central command, depending on the contexts. This seeming contradiction was meant to give the general international impression that the government is UNABLE or UNWILLING to end the ‘sectarian conflict/violence’.

This comes up far short of capturing the central role the State itself is playing through various sophisticated techniques of outsourcing and incitement of large scale attacks on the Rohingya and to a lesser extent the other Muslims.

#7 President Inquiry Commission

Established on 16 August 2012 in the face of the mounting threats from the Organization of the Islamic Conference of 57 UN member states, Naypyidaw scrambled a diverse group of 27 Burmese and showcased them as “independent-minded upstanding citizens” who will get to the bottom of the “sectarian violence” in Arakan State.

Well, at the bottom is Naypyidaw.  Why would the generals and ex-generals want to anyone to sniff for real truths and share them with the whole wide world?

They know exactly what transpired – because they have been involved in the attempted genocide for nearly 40 years.  So, as glamorous and respectable sounding as it is, the Presidential Inquiry is a decoy, a ploy and one of the biggest jokes of contemporary Myanmar!

#8 Where Is “Democratic” Myanmar Heading after Rohingya Ethnic Cleansing or Genocide?

An institutionalized Apartheid in Western Burma and anti-Muslim racist behavior across the country – and all kinds of racism against the Chinese, Christians, etc.

#9 What Are the Gains for Naypyidaw?

Too many to list. But have a glance here

A potent version of traditional “Buddhist” racism and racialism have been revived in the service of the militant and militaristic “democratic” government which now speaks softly, that is, getting better at spins but remains as ruthless and callous as it has ever been since 1962 coup.

Monks are happy with the regime. NLD has no real voice or power in the Parliament, no intellectual or policy input other than calling for greater deployment of troops in the conflict/violence-prone Arakan State.

Plus its leader Daw ASSK has been making utterances without having done her homework about Bangladesh and its alleged illegal immigrants to Burma (while Thein Sein cleverly downplayed this issue in his VOA Burmese interview with Than Lwin Htun after the -expel-or-cage-the-Bangali illegals fiasco – during the meeting with the visiting UNHCR head 5 months ago).

#10 Does This All Sound Conspiratorial? You Betcha!

The Generals do NOT inherit power or influence – 99% of them do NOT have famous dead fathers or grandfathers or -mothers. They know it. Everything they have they have worked at it. We can say they have “earned” the power to rule through CONSPIRING tirelessly round the clock.

They have plans A-Z in order to make sure 1) they do NOT ever have to give up the ultimate control over Burma’s political and power institutions and 2) Aung San Suu Kyi never becomes head of state or have any real power in Burmese politics, beyond the illusion of policy influence.

Welcome to our ugly majoritarian neo-Fascist democracy run by militarists!

*Dr. Maung Zarni is member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment, founder and director of the Free Burma Coalition (1995-2004), and a visiting fellow (2011-13) at the Civil Society and Human Security Research Unit, Department of International Development, London School of Economics. His forthcoming book on Burma will be published by Yale University Press. His article has been here re-posted from TRANSCEND Media ServiceGo to Original – maungzarni.com

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**Map: Source:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burma

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