The NY Times coverage of the Rohingya struggle against ethnic cleansing is appalling & dishonest. But then most media coverage is an absolute disgrace if not a mockery of journalism. If it weren’t for social media & Rohingya activists we wouldn’t have a clue about what’s happening & would think it was just that Muslims & Buddhists in Arakan (Rakhine) state can’t work out their differences amicably because Muslims are so damn unreasonable wherever they are persecuted.
Last Tuesday, seven Rohingya men were taken by police escort from Dar Paing, a concentration camp where they are forcibly confined, into nearby Sittwe, the capital of Arakan state. From this point on, media can’t tell its ass from its elbow about what happened so we turn to Rohingya media for some semblance of reality.
The men were being taken to court to testify in a criminal matter, the details of which have not been released. During a break in the trial the police escort took them to the Ywar Gyi Mrauk quarter of town a few kilometers away. Since under the terms of their persecution by the government Rohingya are restricted from entry to many areas including this neighborhood, it would be useful to know why police escorted them to a district where they would be endangered. For what purpose?
Buddhist nationalists spotted them as they got off the truck & despite the presence of seven or eight police escorts began shouting “the kalars are entering the city.” (Kalar is a racist term for Rohingya.) This drew a mob of Buddhist nationalists who attacked the Rohingya men with bricks, bats, & other weapons. They beat a 55-year-old man to death on the spot & sent two to the hospital in critical condition. The police, who presumably were armed, claim they were helpless before this attack & took off. What was to stop them from shooting off warning shots to the mob or shooting a few in the ass since they have never shown restraint in executing unarmed Rohingya?
The story, as Rohingya media reports it, makes sense. But Associated Press, Reuters, the NY Times, & other media have an entirely different version of events. According to them, police escorted the Rohingya men from the concentration camp “to both restrict & protect them” so they could purchase some boats from a guy in Sittwe. Can they elaborate for us what the hell the Rohingya men would need boats for since they aren’t allowed to leave the concentration camp to go fishing? Since there’s no employment in the concentration camps, how were they going to pay for the damn boats?
The most repugnant aspect of NY Times coverage is their insistence on calling this “communal violence” rather than a systematic, government-orchestrated military campaign to ethnically cleanse the Rohingya. It’s not that rabid Buddhist nationalists have no culpability but that they are manipulated, cultivated, organized, & encouraged to participate in violence against Rohingya by the Burmese military & the Aung San Suu Kyi regime that fronts for it.
Why would the NY Times do this? Because their reporters are as stupid as their columnists like Nicholas Kristof, Thomas Friedman, & David Brooks? No, but because the NY Times is the voice of Wall Street & of US companies who have billions invested in the neoliberal economics which Myanmar is implementing. They do not want any sentimental concerns about human rights crimes by the regime against Rohingya Muslims & several other ethnic & religious groups to stand in the way of massive profits to be milked out of Myanmar. So that makes their appalling, lying-assed coverage nothing less than contemptible & criminal.
That also explains why Aung San Suu Kyi & the military junta refuse the UN investigation of human rights crimes against the Rohingya. You can bet your bottom dollar that US, European, Indian, Japanese, & Chinese companies with investments in Myanmar back that refusal one-hundred percent.
Our fullest solidarity with the Rohingya people in demanding full democratic, human, civil, & refugee rights.
(Image of muzzled Suu Kyi from James Stencilowsky on Flickr)