Myanmar: Rohingya Manipulated for the West’s Drive to War
05-09-2018 – If genuine anti-war activists have learnt anything over the last few decades, it is to be supremely skeptical the moment the US Empire and its corporate media apparatchiks start to chant in unison on the latest “human rights” violation which urgently needs attention. It usually means that a “humanitarian intervention”, read – regime change war, is on the way. So it was in Libya, so it was in Syria, and so may be in Myanmar. Some of the actors are the same, some are different, but the effect is familiar – the West poses as the defender of civilisation against Third World barbarians. The hypocrisy becomes immediately apparent to anti-imperialists, but deludes many who should know better.
One year on from the alleged genocide of Rohingya Muslims in the Rakhine state of Myanmar, there has been a round of demonstrations called by some ex-pat Rohingya community groups throughout Australia, which have been backed by liberal political forces and “NGOs” such as Amnesty International. Some misguided left parties have joined the fray. And this time, these actions have the backing of none other than the Donald Trump administration of the US government ! The US government has seen fit to sanction several Myanmar military commanders for allegations of ethnic cleansing, massacres, sexual assaults and extra-judicial killings. It takes one to know one. The US Empire, with its blood drenched history, is itself an exponent of the crimes of which it accuses others.
What happened in the Rakhine state in August 2017?
A report released several weeks ago in London, titled Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience, claimed that from August 25, 2017, around 24 000 Rohingya were killed, and 18 000 Rohingya women and girls were raped during the forced migration from the Rakhine state into Bangladesh. The report claims, amongst other things, that 43 000 Rohingyas were shot, 36 000 were thrown into fire, and 116 000 were beaten – all at the hands of the Tatmadaw (Myanmar military). The writers of the report were from Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, the Philippines and Norway. The absence of anyone from Myanmar immediately raises suspicion. And, given that for the last seven years at least, the West’s war on Syria was replete with incessant claims from the West that the Syrian government was slaughtering its own civilians wholesale, and given that this turned out to be abject lies – we are entitled to smell a rat. Generally, people do not flee from their homes and attempt to enter a neighbouring country without fearing for their lives, and it seems the estimated 700 000 Rohingya who took flight certainly were motivated by fear. But fear of what, and of whom? The West claims, over and over again, that the Rohingya were fleeing from Myanmar’s army. For them, this is a convenient narrative.
In reality, the Rohingya were fleeing from the threatened or actual extreme violence from two sources, neither of which were the armed forces of Myanmar. The first were the ultra-violent and ultra-racist Buddhist “monks”, who were the key protagonists of the “Saffron Revolution” which brought Aung Sung Suu Kyi into government. These “monks” had been whipping up lethal hatred against Rohingya Muslims for years before 2017, which is why there was already Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar. The “monks” are the key support base of Aung Sung Suu Kyi, and of her party, the National League for Democracy – which has in turn been almost wholly funded by the governments of the United States, the United Kingdom, and billionaire regime change specialist George Soros. These openly imperialist forces knowingly do this despite the leading figure of the “monks” being Ashin Wirathu, known as the “Burmese Bin Laden”. Reportedly in response to a question over whether he was the Burmese (Burma is the previous name for the country of Myanmar) Bin Laden, Wirathu said he would not deny it. Fuelling ultra-nationalism, Wirathu has incited and led what are effectively racio-religious purges of Rohingya in Myanmar for years. Yet there are no headlines about Buddhist monks driving Rohingya into the seas.
The second force the Rohingya were also fleeing was the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, or ARSA. Why would a so-called liberation army containing the name “Rohingya” actually turn their guns and swords against Rohingya people themselves? For the same reason that ISIS, with Western governmental funding, gruesomely slaughtered other Muslims (and Christians and other “apostates”) in Syria. That is, ARSA does not represent Rohingya people any more than ISIS represents Muslims. ARSA was originally Harakat Al Yaqin (the “Faith” movement), with many of its fighters having been trained in Pakistan by the notorious Lashkar E-Taiba (LET). Some Rohingya have been jihadists running with Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, Chechnya and the Middle East, and have now been encouraged to return to Myanmar to continue an insurgency with the aim of an Islamic state. It should be stressed that only some Rohingya join terrorist groups such as ARSA, but the precarious state of the Rohingya given their mistreatment at the hands of ultra-nationalists tends to lead to a situation where young Rohingya men might be persuaded to take up arms in response.
The act which precipitated the armed response from the Tatmadaw was a series of pre-dawn armed attacks by ARSA on 30 police stations, which took the lives of some 13 police officers, and seems to have been also used to gather weapons. These pre-emptive murderous assaults took place just two days after United Nations (UN) special representative Kofi Annan issued his report on the Myanmar government’s actions towards the Rohingya. Firstly, it is just too convenient for the proximity of these two actions for it to have been a coincidence. Secondly, if armed attacks by jihadists on police stations sounds familiar, it is because such attacks also took place in Syria, by Western backed terrorists looking to ignite their gruesome insurgency against the Syrian Arab Republic – which was almost universally rejected by Syrians. Just as the Syrian government had little option to respond to an armed attack by terrorists on its infrastructure, the Tatmadaw likewise had no choice but to militarily respond to a terrorist attack on their state. Thus, the Rohingya who fled were fleeing fighting between the terrorist ARSA and the Tatmadaw, NOT the Tatmadaw only, as Western misled refugee rights activists claim.
Humanitarians enlisted for war drive
During the US led war on Syria, imperialism learnt how to skillfully manipulate human sympathy for refugees for its own ends. This has now been replicated in Myanmar in the case of the Rohingya. Most first world refugee rights activists, although motivated by wholesome concerns, unfortunately end up stumping for the very force which creates refugees in the first place. Imperialism with its vast corporate media apparatus can spin the story to fit their aims, but left-leaning activists should have been aware that something was up when tabloid former 60 minutes reporter Ray Martin pops up out of nowhere to fly the flag. In April, Ray Martin visited Myanmar and returned a shallow report on the work of the Fred Hollows Foundation who were assisting Rohingya with eye operations. Working people of course should not oppose aid offered for any refugees, but the propaganda point was clear – Rohingyas are suffering at the hands of the evil Myanmar government, and “we” (read: Washington and Canberra) need to “help”.
Of course, the “help” the US Empire is itching to offer is that of sending in its own troops into Myanmar, so as to eventually have troops on the border with the People’s Republic of China (PRC). If it is not able to do this, armed proxy terrorist forces such as ARSA will do for the time being. The chaos and insurgency of terrorist groups in Myanmar can also only benefit Washington, who is seeking to disrupt the growing trade and investment ties between Myanmar and Red China. Washington is furious at this, as China becomes more and more an ally to more and more countries in Asia. In the first eight months of the current financial year, trade between Myanmar and China totaled 7.42 billion in US dollars. Myanmar’s rice, peas, sesame seeds, rubber and fishery products were exchanged for machinery, plastic raw materials and electronic devices from China. Indeed, Myanmar is a part of the billion dollar New Silk Road (One Belt One Road) infrastructure development plan the Chinese government seeks to enact in order to fulfil its demand for more raw materials to fuel its booming socialist economy, AND economically aid surrounding developing countries.
While not minimising the issues the Rohingya face in Myanmar, Western liberals are almost universally unaware of the role of US and British imperialism inside the country over many decades. Their active empathy is then manipulated by the different arms of Western capital, to further ends which will in effect make things worse for the very people they aim to assist. For example, the notorious National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a US State department entity which claims to be a private entity, is funded by corporations that could hardly be described as “progressive”, including Boeing, the Ford Motor Company, McDonalds, Exxon Mobil and Goldman Sachs. The NED has literally created putative “news outlets” in Myanmar such as The Irrawaddy, The New Era Journal and the Democratic Voice of Burma radio. These US state backed outlets operating inside Myanmar strongly oppose many infrastructure projects being built with the assistance of China, even if such projects would contribute to the development of Myanmar and the alleviation of pockets of poverty. They then double as “refugee rights activists” when issues such as the situation in the Rakhine state arise. It is no coincidence that China operates a port in Sittwe in the Rakhine state, as a part of the New Silk Road project linking China, Myanmar and Bangladesh. Myanmar should not be left in a state of underdevelopment just to spite Red China.
Encirclement and lily pads
While not doubting the genuinely humanistic motives of many Western refugee rights activists, their reform oriented politics makes them vulnerable to playing the role of cat’s paw for the aims of the US Empire. For decades, the US state has aimed to land US troops on the border with Red China. Now, with the socialist state led economy of China leaving the West in its wake, imperialism is desperate to “contain and roll back communism” to use a phrase from the first Cold War. This means military encirclement of China, and the constant attempts to establish areas which can be used as a stepping stone, or lily pad, for US forces. In Myanmar, this means using any means at its disposal to create chaos, ethnic conflict and even full scale war. As in Syria, the US and the UK governments will work with and alongside Al Qaeda linked jihadists aiming for a breakaway “Islamic State” – which, if achieved, would be an ideal location for a US military installation. This is what is behind some calls for an “independent” Rohingyan ethno-state.
Some Australian left parties have fallen hook, line and sinker for the US/UK orchestrated “Save the Rohingya” psy-op. Socialist Alternative whitewash ARSA’s links to Al Qaeda, by claiming that ARSA is little more than a “poorly armed group of Rohingyas seeking to resist displacement from their land”. In reality, ARSA is well funded and armed from amongst the governments of Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Pakistan. ARSA even reportedly has a leadership council based in Saudi Arabia.
The Socialist Alliance appears blind even to the role of ARSA, and last year called on the Australian government (!) to “bring charges of human rights violations against senior Myanmar military officials…..” (!!) The Australian government, fresh from human rights violations in wars such as those on Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, is hardly a temple of virtue on this front. Moreover, as mentioned previously, the Donald Trump administration in the US has done just this, sanctioning some Tatmadaw personnel over allegations of ethnic cleansing. When the Commander in Chief of US imperialism effectively carries out your demands, it should at least be apparent that your politics is off-beam. Meanwhile, both Solidarity and the Communist Party of Australia join with the US state department in condemning Myanmar for allegations of “ethnic cleansing”. One wonders if they are aware of the company they keep.
If it is genuinely the aim to assist the Rohingya’s integration into Myanmar, working people need to demand the withdrawal of US and UK government interference in its internal affairs. Myanmar must have the sovereign right to engage in trade and investment deals with whomever they choose, including Red China and its New Silk Road. While the politics of the leadership of the PRC falls way short of a struggle for international revolution, China must be defended, along with the working class internationally, against the West’s moves to ignite a predatory war. Our lives may just depend on it.
Map showing the China-Myanmar oil and gas pipeline, which began operations in early 2017. This mutually beneficial development is what the US rulers lose sleep over. Image from http://www.ramree.com
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