Photo by US Dept. of State

Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and icon of democracy in Burma encounters condemnation in the US from human rights groups and activists everywhere she goes. The reason for this is simple: the image of her as a pure ‘champion of the people’ only lingers in the minds of those who know little about Suu Kyi, “the politician.”

Suu Kyi, during the long years of struggle to attain power lobbied the US to place increasingly restrictive sanctions on Burma for rights violations and the suppression of democracy by Burma’s military dictators. As the leader of the civilian government she has just successfully gotten President Barack Obama to remove all remaining sanctions on Burma. The US was the only nation that still had conditional sanctions in place, now the whole world is doing business with a nation presiding over a slow-burning genocide against the Rohingya that has seen “21st century concentration camps” proliferate. It also seems that 100  Burmese tied to the genocidal military regime will be taken off the SDN list (Specially Designated Nationals that cannot conduct business with the US).

The Rohingya face genocide as a number of studies and international experts have concluded, yet they are also essentially being treated as ‘collateral damage,’ that ugly euphemism employed by militaries when they actually mean innocent civilians they have victimized. To be collateral damage implies that according to the state’s calculus, you are an acceptable, inevitable casualty in pursuit of the state’s higher interests. In this instance the higher interest is economic: the US wants a slice of the mineral, gas rich resources and cheap labor of a ‘frontier economy,’ while sending China the message that “we run things in your backyard.”

Supporters of Aung San Suu Kyi point to the creation of an Advisory Commission headed by Kofi Annan to blunt the criticism of Suu Kyi’s actions and policies. They don’t mention however that the commission doesn’t have a single Rohingya representative and the two Rakhine Buddhists who have been appointed supported crimes against humanity.

The New York Times’ report on the lifting of sanctions quotes John Sifton of Human Rights Watch, rightly noting that, “It sends a terrible message to say you’re not going to reward a government unless they do something, and then reward them anyway.” This is exactly what the Obama administration has done. While the rhetoric has been generally decent from the administration: saying the name ‘Rohingya,’ calling for restoration of rights for the group, and an end to ‘crimes against humanity,’ positive actions have been few and far between.

The decision to lift sanctions without a word about the genocide means that Rohingya lives are reaffirmed as expendable. Sen. Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican noted with dismay during his meeting with Suu Kyi today that he was “appalled by her dismissive reaction to concerns I raised this morning about the problem of human trafficking in her country.” We are asked to place our trust and faith in Aung San Suu Kyi, the politician, whose party has already declared that the Rohingya are “not a priority.”

Human Rights organizations will now be focused on strengthening the bipartisan Congressional legislation “Cardin-McCain Burma Strategy Act 2016” introduced on Tuesday, and ensuring it be as strong a monitoring mechanism as possible. For the sake of the Rohingya cause let’s hope they succeed, otherwise in the future we may be speaking of the Rohingya of Burma in the past tense, victims of a “21st century” genocide that happened on our watch.


The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Chicago Monitor’s editorial policy.


5 COMMENTS

  1. Barack Obama, Kofi Annan, or Ban Ki Moon have no chance of success in imposing a fake minority on Myanmar. Myanmar and any self respecting country will never accept illegal immigrants as legitimate citizens.
    The fact remains, so called Rohingyas are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh who stole the identity of native Rakhine people to fool the civilized world.
    To steal identity and distort a nations history is a severe crime.

  2. People naturally fear collectivism, either racial, political or religious in nature. I search your articles about human rights and I don’t see any article about human right violations in Middle East. Interesting…

  3. So called, Rohingya are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh due to over populations and resource scarcity in Bangladesh. They are genetically identical to Bangladeshi(Bengali). Speak like duck, walk like duck and sound like duck is a duck. They are 100% Bengali. The question is if some of them have lived there for generations illegally, should they get citizenship? Probably but it is a political question.

  4. The above comments clearly point to the racism that runs deep among too many Rakhine and Bama Buddhist nationalists who with the support and encouragement of the military have been perpetrating a genocide. Denial of identity is a hallmark of genocide and these commenters are doing just that.

    As for the ‘illegal Bengali immigrant” baloney that is a canard put forward so that the Rakhine will not lose their political supremacy in Arakan state. Indeed, the Rohingya have been in Rakhine for generations and have as much claim as indigenous people of the land as the Rakhine. Obviously, it bears repeating but the Rohingya have been documented in that region for a very long time, in their history they trace back their lineage to the 8th and 9th century. British imperialist Francis Hamilton in his survey of Burma writes about their long presence in Arakan state in a 1799 article, titled: “A Comparative Vocabulary of Some of the Languages Spoken in the Burma Empire”, that “I shall now add three dialects, spoken in the Burma Empire, but evidently derived from the language of the Hindu nation. The first is that spoken by the Mohammedans, who have long settled in Arakan, and who call themselves Rooinga, or natives of Arakan.”

  5. Bengali muslims are hijacking the name Rohingya.
    All the Bengali muslims who using the name Rohingya are identity thieves.
    Rohingya mean Rakhingtha (Rakhing people) by Chittagonian Bangali accent.
    Same as Burmese call “Rakhing” as “Yakhine”. Bengali dialog do not have “Ra” sound. So they used nearest sound “Ro”.
    So, they call “Rakhingtha as “Rohingya”. All the Rakhingtha (Rohingyas are Buddhist) nothing to do with the name Rohingya and Bengali muslims.

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