Posted in Rohingya

Back to the Motherland

Myanmar, now under martial law, will not be able to overturn the coup, according to a confidential assessment by the British Foreign Office (see below).

In Rakhine, unrest following the coup d’etat is making Rohingya more fearful than before. Since it is difficult to imagine the tatmadaw (military) surrendering power in future, the Rohingya’s fate is sealed.

BELOW: Another trek looming in the near horizon

Generals won’t be hauled to court

Aung San Suu Kyi had tacitly admitted, during a December 2019 hearing in the International Court of Justice (ICJ), that her country’s soldiers committed “war crimes” against Rohingya in Aug-Sept 2017.

Apart from ICJ, the International Criminal Court (ICC) also opened an investigation on Myanmar.

The ICC has been receiving evidence from the International Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (IIMM), a body set up by the UN Human Rights Council.

Human rights groups, including those affiliated with the UN, are pressuring for Myanmar’s top army officers to be prosecuted by the ICC as war criminals.

With their present military coup, however, the Burmese generals will likely to tell ICJ and ICC “no dice”.

Don’t expect Senior General Min Aung Hlaing to bother to show up at The Hague like Aung San Suu Kyi did.

Although there was little chance that the Myanmar civilian government would have ever handed them over to the ICC for trial, nonetheless the generals – by launching their coup – have reduced this likelihood to zero.

BELOW: Aung San Suu Kyi had no power to stop the generals in 2017 from expelling the Rohingya; she has no power to even prevent them from arresting her own self

How the issue of racism figures

The Burmese are regarded as racist because they want to ‘clean out’ (ethnic cleansing) from their country those particular races whom they feel don’t belong.

Burma’s 1982 citizenship law, for example,  deliberately sets out to undo / reverse the British colonial legacy of imported foreign labour populations.

One such legacy is “the world’s most persecuted minority” … unwanted today in Myanmar.

The media are awash with the ‘WHAT’ (“The situation seems a textbook example of ethnic cleansing”) element but they’re reluctant to dig into the ‘WHY’ of Rohingya rejection by Myanmar.

Rohingya are rejected because they’re seen as foreigners — “illegal immigrants”.

Why are they viewed as pendatang? Because after possibly six generations (for some of them) residing in Burmese land, they’re still indistinguishable from Bangladeshis and hence regarded as outsiders.

In its 28 Aug 2018 report, BBC discussed the question ‘Who are the Rohingya and why are they so hated?’

Because Rohingya are “competing for resources with other struggling ethnic groups who feel they are the true Burmese”.

Detractors who feel Rohingya are not “true Burmese” left comments on the BBC’s Facebook along the lines of (see below) :

“They eat Bengali food, speak Bengali, wear Bengali dress. Burmese people should drive every last Bengali back to Bangladesh.”

These anti-Rohingya Facebookers are expressing a majoritarian nationalism.

Unbelonging: Still a stranger in the land

Nationalism is the idea of homeland.

In Myanmar, nationalism takes the form of ethno nationalism. Under Donald Trump’s America First, it takes the broader form of civic nationalism which is inclusive of citizens with various racial origins.

Note that while it is the tatmadaw which carried out the “clearance operations” of villages, majority popular sentiment is aligned with the military with regard to Rohingya unbelonging.

The Burmese general public do not wish to kill Rohingya (genocide). Their preference is ‘merely’ to drive the “Bengali back to Bangladesh” as reported by BBC above.

BELOW: Is Roti Bengali a racist name for bread?

And here lies the crux of the issue — the matter of national identity in an ethno state like Myanmar.

The world media have parroted the Rohingya complaint about racism, for example, reporting that the Burmese majority insult Rohingya by calling them ‘Bengali’.

The media repeat a false narrative that the word ‘Bengali’ is an ethnic slur much like the N-word.

‘Rohingya Muslim group says they are not ‘Bengalis’, Turkish media Anadolu Agency reported in its 30 Nov 2019 headline.

As recently as fourteen months ago, below, the “persecuted minority” were adamant in their continual denial.

Pyrrhic victory through anti-racism propaganda

There is a mismatch between the two narratives. On one side, Rohingya claim to be victims of racism (cause) which led to ethnic cleansing (effect).

On the other side, the generals, the Myanmar civil authorities, the Burmese public as well as Aung San Suu Kyi unanimously regard them as Bengali and thus deserving no place in the homeland.

Coup leader General Min Aung Hlaing goes further to assert that the Rohingya is something “fabricated”, i.e. a self-created political construct.

At the end of the day, the Rohingya stick out in Rakhine whereas they can blend in almost seamlessly in Chittagong.

The concept of Homeland and belonging deserves a deep think, and done with honesty.

As a political strategy, the “We’re not Bengali” gambit backfired bigly.

Its concomitant “We’re Rohingya” gained international momentum only in the early 1990s after the 1992 exodus wave from Arakan across the border to Cox’s Bazar.

This minority community won the battle of political correctness by getting the woke international media to chorus that ‘Bengali’ is a racist and “derogatory term”.

They lost the war where it really matters — their Rohingya self identification did not gain acceptance as one of the Myanmar ‘national races’ that belong.


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