On the death count of genocide in Arakan state

Rohingya baby in basket (Bernat Armangue:AP) Sept 8 2017

The Burmese military claims only 400 civilians have been killed since August 25th. A UN representative told media that it’s closer to 1,000 civilians but didn’t explain how they know that since the UN isn’t allowed to enter Arakan state to investigate. Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are reporting epic-scale violence, genocidal violence by Burmese troops & Buddhist nationalist death squads, involving torching of entire villages, spraying bullets indiscriminately, stabbing & beheading civilians, corralling them into buildings & burning them alive, hunting them down like animals.

So who are we to believe? The military conducting the genocide? The UN which hasn’t even issued a mild reproach let alone a condemnation of the genocide? Or the Rohingya refugees who traveled days on foot in flight for their lives? Who you believe tells which side in this genocide you stand on.

This little guy is among the tens of thousands crossing into Bangladesh. Stand with the Rohingya people in their struggle against genocide & for human, democratic, civil, & refugee rights.

(Photo by Bernat Armangue/AP)

Pakistani military sells fighter jets to Burma to conduct genocide

Pakistan pro-Rohingya protest (Ali Hashmi) Sept 8 2017

In 2015, Pakistan sold 16 JF-17 fighter jets to the Burmese military & earlier this year began negotiations to have it produced in Burma. The JF-17 is a multi-purpose death machine which can do aerial reconnaissance, infrared search & track, ground attack, aircraft interception, & deploy different kinds of ordnance. To be used against which country? Is Burma at war with any of its neighbors? Certainly not with India, China, or Bangladesh. So are they using them against the Rohingya or any of the other ethnic groups the regime is at war with in Burma?

Pakistan joins Israel, India, Russia, & China in providing armaments to the Burmese junta. Can the military which runs Pakistan play an emancipatory role in Kashmir whilst selling weapons to the junta to carry out genocide against the Rohingya people? It’s a serious political question that must be answered, not a provocation.

As a political counterbalance to the Pakistani military, there have been several protests in Pakistan in solidarity with the Rohingya people. This one was in Gujranwala. Our deepest respect.

(Photo tweeted by Ali Hashmi)

Genocide in Arakan state a human rights catastrophe of epic proportions

Rohingya boy with sack on head (BErnat Armangue:AP) Sept 8 2017

The UNHCR estimated today that 270,000 Rohingya refugees have sought asylum in Bangladesh just in the past 14 days. The truth of the matter is they have no idea of how many fled, how many managed to enter Bangladesh, how many drowned or were killed trying, how many were turned back by Bangladeshi border guards, or how many stepped on landmines laid by the Burmese military on the border.

There’s no question that the number of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh is taxing the resources of the government but their response has been to increase the human misery of Rohingya rather than provide safe asylum. Instead of demanding other countries provide safe passage & asylum to refugees, the Bangladeshi government obstructs refugees from registering with the UNHCR to receive humanitarian aid (dished out with a teaspoon), offered to conduct joint military operations in Arakan state against the possibly imaginary Rohingya insurgents, & are now resurrecting the plan to relocate thousands of refugees to the barren, isolated, uninhabitable island of Thengar Char.

This is a human rights catastrophe of epic proportions. Such barbarism as the junta is using against the Rohingya was the essence of colonialism & is the essence of neoliberal scorched earth economic policies. If we fail in rendering international solidarity, not just in word but in deed, the struggles against genocide in Arakan & against neoliberal barbarism around the world will be set back & the legacy of colonialism which haunts humanity will again reign over human relations.

Is this young boy a jihadi terrorist or is he a young boy trying to escape genocide? Stand with the Rohingya people against genocide & for human, democratic, civil, & refugee rights.

(Photo by Bernat Armangue/AP)

The media misrepresentations of genocide in Burma cover for the junta

Rohingya elderly man being carried (Bernat Armangue:AP) Sept 8 2017

Associated Press published a poignant & powerful album by photojournalist Bernat Armangue of Rohingya refugees crossing through rice fields into Bangladesh. On each of them AP posted this caption which pushes the limits of how many lies you can pack into two sentences:

“Myanmar’s military says almost 400 people have died in recent violence in the western state of Rakhine triggered by attacks on security forces by insurgents from the Rohingya. Advocates for the Rohingya, an oppressed Muslim minority in overwhelmingly Buddhist Myanmar, say hundreds of Rohingya civilians have been killed by security forces.”

The photos, all with the same caption, have appeared in many media sources pushing the line promoted by the military junta & Suu Kyi regime that jihadi insurgents are responsible for inciting the violence. There is no real evidence for the alleged attacks–allegations by the junta do not constitute evidence–let alone for the actual existence of ARSA outside of videos on YouTube that are only a few months old. This genocide was planned & militarily prepared to exact maximum harm on the Rohingya people. It is a mockery of journalism to cite the death toll of 400 given by the military engaged in genocide rather than interview refugees who witnessed people executed in the most barbarous ways.

The only reason media is creating such a dishonest narrative is to protect the billions & billions of dollars invested by dozens of countries in Burma. By misrepresenting the Rohingya as jihadis they can drag in the Islamophobia crap, justify the genocide as communal violence, & prevent human rights activists from demanding sanctions be placed on the Burmese junta.

Stand in solidarity with the Rohingya people in their struggle against genocide & for human, democratic, civil, & refugee rights.

(Photo by Bernat Armangue/AP)

The voices of Rohingya refugees must be honored & heard

Rohingya mother refugee and kids (AP Photo:Bernat Armangue,) Sept 7 2017

Men & women fleeing from genocide with their children–especially after seeing family members raped, executed, tortured, or burned alive–must endure a special kind of high-adrenalin hell fearing they will not be able to get their children to safety & may witness them brutally killed. This young mother collapsed in exhaustion after arriving with her children in Bangladesh on Tuesday.

All of this is overwhelming to witness but we must face it squarely in the face because it is nothing compared to what the Rohingya endure. Now the world knows what is going on & tens of thousands of people around the world, especially in the Muslim countries, are marching in solidarity with the Rohingya. They have never had this kind of support before. They stood alone against generations of pogroms & then genocide at least since 1942.

We cannot allow the junta, Suu Kyi, or political degenerates to vilify the Rohingya as jihadi terrorists or turn this into some kind of proxy war thing as they did so effectively in Syria. The only way to do that is to honor the voices of Rohingya refugees who testify to genocide & reject all other vile apologetics for the regime or attempts to make this all about pipelines to China. When media or the UN play stupid because they can’t get into Arakan to see the carnage for themselves, we have to insist they respect & hear out the testimony of Rohingya refugees & not reject it as they do.

It’s time to build a movement to demand Burma stop the genocide since there are still hundreds of thousands of Rohingya remaining in Arakan. We have to demand full human, democratic, civil, & refugee rights. We can no longer allow our Rohingya brothers & sisters to stand alone. This cannot be the final stages of genocide but must be the first stages of international solidarity.

(AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

Call me Rohingya


“I am Burmese & Buddhist. I strongly condemn Aung San Suu Kyi, army, & Myanmar media for mis-framing my country’s Rohingya genocide as “terrorism.”

–Maung Zarni, Burmese dissident in exile.

(Photo is Maung Zarni)

On that fake photo nonsense from Suu Kyi & media: it’s just to deny genocide

There are many who are warning about fake photos from the genocide in Burma. They don’t realize that this comes from Suu Kyi herself who’s making a big deal that a Turkish government official tweeted (& later deleted) photos from the Rwandan genocide in 1994, identifying them as Burma. The BBC picked this up because they’re pushing the line that it is not a genocide but communal violence. Jonathan Head, their correspondent for southeast Asia, said there were 1.5 million tweets about the Rohingya crisis since September 5th including photos that were from other crises around the world. Does he want us to believe that he or BBC fact-checkers have gone through 1.5 million tweets in the past 48 hours & vetted all those photos?

In fact, mostly what is tweeted are cellphone videos which are easily vetted because of the uniforms of the Burmese army. It cannot be said that photos are pouring out of Arakan state; in fact there aren’t a lot of them except at the border area in Bangladesh where journalists are allowed. So which photos is Head talking about? The only ones he pointed out were those by the Turkish guy which Suu Kyi tried to make hay out of.

What Head should be squawking about is that journalists are not allowed into the region. Although today Head reported he was on a regime-sponsored tour of Arakan embedded with the military. They are not allowed to investigate freely & are under guard. He reported he saw a group of thuggish Buddhists walking away from a torching scene brandishing swords, machetes, & sling-shots who admitted to setting the fires. But that fits nicely into the communal violence scenario that Head is pushing. According to Human Rights Watch satellite imagery, the devastation from fires is so dense & extensive that it could only have been done by the military & not just roving Buddhist death squads with boxes of matches.

What’s deeply troubling is that at latest count, 164,000 Rohingya have streamed into Bangladesh extremely traumatized & with life-threatening injuries, including bullet wounds, & their testimony that the military is torching their villages, burning their families & neighbors alive, raping, executing, torturing is not considered reliable.

It has to be said frankly that Head, the BBC, & other media pushing the line of communal violence rather than denouncing genocide are collaborating in a criminal way with the military junta in Burma.