Current News

Burma Govt Accused of Participating in Genocide

Panelists pictured
at the FCCT in Bangkok on Thursday. (Photo: Lance Woodward)
Irrawaddy News:
May 11, 2013
The Burmese
government is conducting a concerted campaign of genocide against its Muslim
minorities, with Buddhist monks and the state collaborating in violent
anti-Muslim attacks, the academic and activist Maung Zarni said during a panel
discussion at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT) in Bangkok on
Thursday.
“It’s nothing short
of genocide,” he said. “Genocide is a process that unfolds; it’s a virus that
spreads quickly into a contagion that cannot be stopped. What has happened in
Burma in the last two years is evil, vile and depraved,” he said.
The genocide in
Burma is now on the scale of Pol Pot’s Cambodia, he added. “And it won’t stop
until all the country’s Muslims and Rohingyas are eliminated.”
These are
challenging times, Burmese Muslim leader Myo Win said. He runs an education NGO
called Smile in Rangoon, and came from Burma especially to attend the seminar
to provide first-hand testimony of the situation facing Muslims in Burma.
“It’s not a
communal or sectarian conflict, it’s a one-sided, targeted and often deadly
attack against Muslims, under the purview of state authorities,” he said.
“Community leaders are spreading hostility and hate against Muslims, through
the distribution of pamphlets and propaganda …verbal abuse, harassment and
violence,” he explained.
Inside Burma there
is a state of fear among the country’s Muslims, he said. The violence against
the Rohingyas in Arakan last year and then the attacks on Muslims in central
Burma have left most Muslim communities feeling vulnerable and scared.
But according to
eye-witnesses inside Burma, the Muslim community has begun to fight back.
Barricades have been set up near the Muslim quarters in Rangoon and citizen
patrols are being conducted.
The Thai Buddhist
social activist Sulak Sivarksa was much more measured in his comments, but drew
a stark comparison between the role of monks involved in the 2007 Saffron
Revolution and those in the Buddhist nationalist 969 movement. The monks in the
2007 uprising were willing to lose their lives for the good of society, he
said, but the 969 monks are spreading hate.
The monks behind
the 969 movement say they are reminding Buddhists of their core values and draw
comparisons with Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Malaysia, which they say
were originally Buddhist countries that were overrun by Islamists.
“Fear is the source
of many problems in any society,” said Sulak. And with Burma’s transition to
democracy, and the increase in freedom that has accompanied it, traditional
prejudices and unruliness have inevitably risen to the fore, he added.
The teachings of
Buddha are very clear, he said: You can never harm anyone, but first you cannot
harm yourself. A Buddhist must overcome fear, must learn to love, even the
oppressors, and never stoop to violence. “Buddhism and nationalism are
incompatible,” he said. “Nationalism is an extension of selfishness…not to be
tolerated or condoned.”
Buddhists must have
compassion; they cannot be quiet and sit on the fence, they cannot turn a blind
eye, said Sulak. But this is exactly what is happening in Burma today, stressed
Myo Win.
“The state’s
silence and inaction has been deplorable,” he said. They are responsible for
the safety and security of the Muslims, but instead they seem to be complicit
in the pogroms, he added.
Those involved in
the violence have not been arrested, and their campaign against Muslims has
been allowed to continue unhindered. They are puppets of a bigger master, he
suggested.
During the panel
discussion, reference was made to President Thein Sein’s televised speech to
the nation, in which he insisted that the government would take preventative
measures and increase security and that all Muslims would be protected and
allowed to worship freely.
But Zarni simply
dismissed the president’s pledges as worthless. “Thein Sein is a world-class
liar,” he stormed.
He was also
critical of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who he accused of “thunderous
silence” on the issue of sectarian violence.