Three Years Of Atrocity (Rohinja)
Dictator Watch’s conflict blog, Burma Death Watch, is now three years old. The blog will continue, because of the ongoing widespread atrocities committed against the people of Burma by the various arms of the country’s military dictatorship. The blog is not a general human rights survey. Entries, from well over a dozen sources, are limited to news of armed clashes, which in almost all cases were instigated by Burma Army units, and which usually resulted in many casualties, as well as other severe regime-committed crimes such as murder and rape.
The indisputable observation that one can make by scrolling through the blog is of the enormous magnitude of the dictatorship’s crimes against humanity, all the while noting that this covers only three years of the generals’ fifty plus years reign of terror. The blog’s associated text document is now approaching 350 pages, with 6-7 links per page. Each link connects to a news article or other source and many cover multiple atrocities, plus, there is little overlap multiple links covering the same event. Overall, the blog reveals that Burma’s so-called reform is a farce. The regime has benefitted from reduced international pressure, and is profiting through its many new business deals with unethical multinational corporations, all the while the people of the country have seen minimal if any relief. Similarly, the International Community has reaped many rewards. The United States’ policy shift on Burma gave Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton a supposed foreign affairs “victory.” Europe, whose policy as always has been set by the French oil company Total, can now openly court Burma’s killers, as evidenced by the many trade delegations arriving from Germany, the U.K., etc. Even NGO workers - those not directly involved in saving lives, have found a clever way to advance their careers and otherwise profit from the suffering in the country. The blog documents thousands if not tens of thousands of regime crimes in the last three years, for which the victims have yet to receive justice, as well as its changing patterns of abuse. It was launched just before the Burma Army’s renewed offensive against the Kachin people in June 2011. One particularly heinous crime, which is now forgotten, is the bomb attack on an orphanage/ school in Myitkyina in November 2011, by regime agents, which killed 10 residents. The orphanage owner was later convicted of the attack in a regime kangaroo court (kachinlandnews). Burma Death Watch is one of many sources of documentation on the dictatorship’s crimes. It will hopefully prove useful when the day comes that Burma is truly freed, and that real justice can be pursued. It also serves as an information storehouse not only for people who want to stay up-to-date on the conflict, but for researchers and others who sincerely want to understand what is happening inside the country.
Portrait of a genocide - As an example of this, the following news items are a partial listing of crimes that have
been perpetrated against the Rohingya people since June2012. Many Burma observers are aware that the ethnic group is being oppressed, but few recognize the full extent - and fundamental nature – of their suffering. As this listing makes clear, it is nothing less than a genocide. You only have to read the determinants from Article 2 of the U.N. Convention. Four of the five basic actions of genocide are being committed against the Rohingya. The Burma Death Watch blog therefore also illustrates that what the leaders of the International Community, and many NGO workers, are really doing is ignoring and through this effectively diverting attention from the worst human rights abuse of all - genocide, and all because they personally are benefitting from the status quo in the country and don’t want to rock the boat.
June 2012 - Following reports of a rape against a woman from Arakan State, for which regime police arrest 3 Rohingya men - their guilt is never proven, nor even that the crime conclusively took place - Rakhine extremists start agitating against the local Rohingya population, officially, Bengali by Burmese government. On June 3rd, a bus is attacked by a mob and 10 Muslim men are killed. (Though not Rohingya, they are mistaken as such.) No one is arrested. Regime media outlets start making derogatory comments about Muslims. Then, on June 9th, in the Maungdaw area and accompanied by regime police, the extremists begin a series of widespread attacks against Rohingya communities. 100 or more Rohingya villagers are reported as being killed. Their bodies are never returned and they presumably are buried in mass graves. Dozens of women are raped. This is the beginning of the first widespread Rohingya pogrom. The killing continues the next day, accompanied by the burning of Rohingya villages and mosques. One report says that another 70 Rohingya are killed. This pattern of violence goes on for another week, during which period many more homes are burned and Rohingya people arrested and “disappeared.” At this point, in response to international media condemnation, the regime starts to clamp down on the violence. 32,000 new Rohingya refugees are reported. By June 20th, the number of refugees is announced by the World Food Program as 90,000. Reports also come in of Army helicopters shooting Rohingya villagers. The deaths are now believed to be as many as 650, and with 1,200 more missing. Thousands of Rohingya homes and businesses have been destroyed.
July 2012 - Rakhine groups demand the right to form border guard units (supposedly for the border with Bangladesh) and to be given guns. Regime police and other security agents continue to make mass arrests of Rohingya people, especially men. Many individuals are killed. An apartheid is established, and Rohingya people are no longer seen in public areas of Arakan State.
August - September 2012 - There is a renewal of largescale attacks against the Rohingya. Many more villages are burned. In one location, over 20 Rohingya people are reported killed. There are thousands of new refugees, and a report that 1,500Rohingya people are either missing or killed in Sittwe. The attacks, albeit on a smaller scale, then continue into September.
October 2012 - January 2013 - Rohingya refugee camps now resemble concentration camps. Aid worker access is limited. Rakhine extremist militia are trained and armed by the regime. Arrests and killings continue. The number of internally displaced Rohingya people continues to rise. Then, late in October another spasm of ethnic cleansing erupts. The second widespread Rohingya pogrom begins. In the village tract of Min Bya, near Sittwe, 450 homes are burned and twenty people killed. Many other villages are burned including in Mrauk U. Overall, 2,000 homes are destroyed and some 100 people killed. Buddhist monks call on the Rohingya to be targeted. Deaths then rise into the hundreds, and a new refugee crisis begins. 28,000 new refugees are reported. Thousands also attempt to flee by boat, and hundreds of people drown. Students together with monks and 88-Generation leaders hold an anti-Rohingya demonstration in Sittwe. The entire Muslim quarter of Kyauk-Pyu is burned to the ground; also Pauk Taw. Mosques are attacked in other parts of Burma. Rohingya in camps are arrested if they refuse to say that they are from Bangladesh. In November, President Obama visits Burma, and yet another Rohingya village is burned that day. Although the open attacks are finally stopped, the ethnic cleansing continues into 2013.
February - June 2013 - All Muslim travel in Western Burma is restricted. There is forced registration of
Rohingyas as “Bengalis.” Six Rohingya fishermen are murdered. Other mass murders continue into March. At this point, a new orchestrated campaign of attacks is initiated, as Buddhist mobs target Muslims in Meikhtila in Central Burma. This is the beginning of the third widespread antiMuslim pogrom. Dozens of people are killed and thousands displaced. Foreign journalists are ordered at gunpoint to destroy their film of the atrocities. In one instance, a Buddhist monk puts a knife to a journalist’s throat. The monk-led antiMuslim Burma neo-Nazi 969 movement is established. In another attack, 32 Muslims students are killed. The wave of violence then expands into surrounding villages, yielding 8,000 new refugees. The Muslim quarter in Pegu is attacked. In April, 13 more Muslim students are killed. There is a report that the Burma Army is holding 20 Rohingya women as sex slaves. At the end of April and into May, new anti-Muslim riots erupt. The town of Oakken is burned down. Violence then spreads to villages near Rangoon. Anti-Muslim unrest begins in Kachin and Shan states. Two hundred more Rohingya drown in Arakan State after encountering a storm when fleeing the country in boats. Other Rohingya are forced by the police to move to beaches in the hopes that the storm - a cyclone - will kill them. In early June, more villages are attacked in Central Burma and there are many new murders.
July - October 2013 - There are attacks in Thandwe, Arakan State. The 969 Movement grows. Attacks occur around Sittwe in August. 42 houses and 19 businesses are burned in Sagaing Division. Anti-Muslim rapes and murders continue into September. Seventy homes are burned by extremists in Sandoway in October. Six Muslims are reportedly killed there. More attacks occur around Rangoon. 10 Rohingya refugees die when their boat sinks.
November - December 2013 - Murders of Rohingya continue. Another 70 Rohingya women and children drown while fleeing the ethnic cleansing, when their boat sinks. More shops are burned, and Rohingya people tortured. 1,500 Rohingya refugees are detained in Southern Thailand, and 16 of them are killed.
January - March 2014 - Police and Rakhine extremists raid villages around Duchiradan in Maungdaw.16 people are initially reported as having been killed, and one woman raped. Over 100 are missing, and a mass grave is found. Rohingya village heads are arrested. Security forces “hunt” Rohingya IDPs. The casualties are later increased to 52 killed, with 330 homes destroyed. Regime security agents are evacuated the night before an inquiry commission arrives. Another Rohingya woman is gang-raped, and a father and his two sons murdered. Additional arsons and abuses occur in the area. An investigative report by Fortify Rights indicts the regime for crimes against humanity for explicitly targeting the Rohingya. 11 Rohingya are killed in early March, while traveling to Rangoon. 11 more homes are burned in Duchiradan; 40 other homes are burned in Dar Paing village. 113homes are burned in Maungdaw. Arson attacks are then perpetrated against two more neighborhoods. 5 Rohingya women are tortured by the police to say that they started these fires. The Doe-Dan village bazaar is burned. Meanwhile, the concentration camp treatment of the 100,000 or so Rohingya refugees continues. Many children and elderly are dying of malnutrition and disease. Buddhist racists attack aid workers who are trying to help them. And finally, the dictatorship announces that Rohingya people cannot self-identify as such in the upcoming national census.
Closing note - As of the beginning of April 2014, the crimes against the Rohingya people of Burma have in no way ceased. Although an accurate count is impossible, it seems clear that their deaths have reached at least the low thousands. However, the International Community - and human rights icon Aung San SuuKyi - have done their best to ignore this fact. Suu Kyi won’t even speak the word “Rohingya.” In conclusion, while the abuse that the Rohingya people have been subjected to is not identical to the actions of the Nazisor in Rwanda, it is clearly a genocide. This is what genocide in 2014looks like. Also of note, abuses against many other ethnic groups throughout Burma continued during the same period.
Confrontation between Burmese Polices and Rohinja, also called Bengali
Roland Watson is the founder of Dictator Watch, a front-line activist platform, and has been working for freedom and democracy in Burma for twenty years. He is also the author of Lessons in Democracy, a basic guide to the democratic system that has been translated into Burmese, Chinese and other languages.