Current News


By Burkely
November 01,

It’s not ethnic cleansing. The world needs to understand that the fear
is not just on the side of the Muslims, but on the side of the Buddhists as
well. No high-ranking US State Department official spoke these words. It was
Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, in an interview with
, dismissing credible claims of the genocide of Burma’s Muslim
Rohingya people, put forward by Genocide WatchForeign Policy in FocusUN DispatchDer Spiegel writer
Jürgen Kremb, the Kassandra
, Ramzy Baroud of the Pakistani publication The Nation,
andmany others.
Suu Kyi continued,
saying that she condemns “any movement that is based on hatred and
extremism,” that “the reaction of Buddhists is also based on
fear,” that the government should deal with these extremists so it isn’t
her responsibility, and finally that “Burma now needs real change…a
democratic society.” These comments are deeply disturbing coming from
someone given the Nobel
 in 1991 for “her non-violent struggle for democracy
and human rights.” Some have even asked if she
should be stripped of her Peace Prize
 for statements such as
this one.

The struggle of the two stateless peoples in Burma—the Rohingya and Shan—and
broader geopolitical issues such as the race for dirty energy tie into one
central question: is Burma really open for the business of exploitation and

The situation for these two stateless groups of people is dire. For the over
two million stateless persons in Burma, no official recognition means
“they have limited or no access to education, employment and healthcare,
and their right to travel, marriage, reproduction and communication is severely
restricted,” according to a study by India’s
Gateway House

The Rohingya, who number over 3.6 million spread across Southeast Asia, have
faced discrimination for years, with the “Rohingya conflict”
beginning in 1947, and continuing to the present. While denying the Rohingya
citizenship in Burma, regime after regime has also cracked down on any
initiative to make the state where they live, Arakan, sovereign and independent.
Authorities have kept a stranglehold on their lives with campaigns like
Operation King Dragon in 1978—which had an official intention of checking the
status of undocumented immigrants living in the country. In the past two
years there has been a renewed state terror campaign against the
Rohingya, who are still called “Bengalis” by the government. This has
created the atmosphere for the supposedly spontaneous Buddhist attacks
on Rohingya villages over the past year, which has now left 100,000

The Shan,
mostly in the country’s northern Shan State, number around 4 million. Numerous
sources including IRIN News,
and the International
Observatory on Statelessness
, consider the Shan to be a
stateless—among the 808,075 stateless people in Burma listed in a database of the UN High Commissioner
on Refugees
.  Whether the Shan are part of the conflict in
their mountainous region or not, they are indefinitely conscripted into the
Burmese Army; the Burmese military raids their villages and there is
restriction of movement according to independent journalist Preethi Nallu
writing for Al Jazeera.
Since their independence was
 in 2005 by exiled leaders, the move has been rejected
by other ethnic minorities in the country along with the opposition party led
by Suu Kyi, the National League of Democracy. All of this is in violation of
the 1947 Panglong
 which stated that all ethnic groups will have
“equal right and status,” that there will be “full autonomy for
the Shan and other ethnic states… financial autonomy vested in the Federated
Shan State shall be maintained [allowing] citizens of the Frontier Areas [to] enjoy rights and privileges which are regarded as fundamental in democratic
countries and…the right to secede from the Federation at any time after the
attainment of Independence [in 1948].”

Then, there are reports that
American missionaries have sterilized 20,000 people in Shan state. All of this
causes many young Shan males to flee to Thailand, where they may find low-paid
construction jobs. Since 2011, in Shan and Kachin states there has been “limited
to no humanitarian access for these displaced communities which are primarily
composed of women, children, and the elderly,” as noted by the Open Society

These horrible conditions are tied into a resource that makes the world go
round: oil, the black gold. It seems Burma is buying into what Daniel Plainview
says in the movie, There will be Blood: “…I assure you ladies
and gentlemen, that if we do find oil here, and I think there’s a very good
chance that we will, this community of yours will not only survive, it will

That is exactly the pitch international capital is making to the government of
Burma. As World War 4
 wrote in a March 2013 analysis of the Rohingya crisis:
“Much of the violence has been in the port of Sittwe, which is to be the
starting point for the new Shwe pipeline project due to open later
this year. The Shwe pipeline will allow oil from the Persian Gulf states
and Africa to be pumped to China… Potentially lucrative oil and gas blocs which
have previously been off limits due to sanctions are also at stake in
Arakan…[with possible future] bids from majors such as Chevron, Total and ConocoPhillips.”

An article on Hermann View linked
the plight of the Rohingya to Burma’s vast mineral resources—which the military
had already kicked people off their land for. Obama had allowed US companies to
invest in the country, including in the gas and oil sector dominated by the
state-owned Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise or MOGE. Seemingly, the genocide was
sparked first by “an oil rush in the country; secondly, twenty
offshore auctions of oil and gas fields and thirdly, big companies flocking to
tap oil & gas fields. This is complimented by the fact that US companies
are becoming more invested in the country as we speak.”

Hermann View also notes that Chuck
Hagel was on the board of directors of Chevron before he became Defense
Secretary. The US-ASEAN Business Council is working to promote “economic
development” in Burma, with a special focus on “energy

Additionally, China’s state-owned oil company has signed a deal for “sale
and transport of the Shwe gas” that will have “adverse impacts”
on the local people” thanks to the construction of a pipeline, according
to Earth Rights


an article that
dug into the “oil angle” of the Rohingya genocide, UK-based
human rights activist Jamila Hanan said that Chinese companies are “trying
to clear out the Rohingya to make way for the money.” The new oil pipeline
would reduce China’s dependence on Malacca Straits choke point, while the
2,800-kilometer gas pipeline could cover 22% of Chinese gas imports. The gas
pipeline was inaugurated in July this year, BBC reports,
highlighting “strong bilateral ties” between Burma and China. Hanan
calls the cleansing of the Rohingya a “petroleum-induced

At the same time, a senior political
scientist of the Rand Corporation
, closely linked to the US military
establishment, finds that “the Obama administration has staked
significant political capital on the wager that Myanmar’s promise may finally
bear fruit… [T]he rate of change in Myanmar over the last two years has been
nothing short of remarkable.”

But, who benefits from this “change”? Not most people in the country.
A recent BBC article notes
that while “the economy of Burma…has got an overwhelmingly positive response
from investors…[and there is more] availability of mobile phones… the majority
of Burmese have yet to feel any material benefits from the reforms… [S]ome
traditional businesses have suffered due to the influx of foreign goods [and] some…say they are being pressured by authorities to give up their land.”

The European Union and Burma are teaming up to “promote political and
social development” and have a “comprehensive program to help promote
economic development,” including a Task Force that will focus on
“reform of state administrative institutions, ensuring transparency and
accountability in extractive industries, and assistance to promote trade and
private sector development…” Human rights activists say this is being
improperly prioritized above issues such as “the theft of land and
property without compensation wherever there are business developments,”
says a report in Irrawady.

The US Chamber of Commerce is setting up a Myanmar Business Chapter
which Irrawadycalls
“another signal that businesses from the United States are showing a
greater interest” in Burma. It will be fully announced at an event that
will be “co-hosted by the US Embassy in Burma, with backing from Chevron,
the US energy giant that has operated in Burma since acquiring
Unocal.” The 25 member companies include “a mix of big brands,
small and medium enterprises and Burmese businesses partnering with American
companies [with] American investors in these sectors include Coca-Cola, GE,
Pepsi and Cisco.”

page on the
 of the American Chamber of Commerce in Thailand that
has a directory of all their corporate members in Burma includes
PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, Deloitte, Monsanto, Cargill, Boeing,
Veolia Water, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Google, TimeWarner, and
many others. 

All of this seems to signal that the US supports the Burmese regime. This
pleases the Washington
Post’s Max Fisher
, who says there has been a “major positive
change” in US relations with Burma, that “foreign investment flows
into the country and its political system opens…. Burma now appears to be
throwing its lot in with the West and particularly the United States.”

Despite this, the US is still blacklisting Burma
for military aid. Voice of America noted
that Burm remained one of five countries thusly blocked, along with Syria,
Rwanda, Sudan and the Central African Republic, Rwanda and Sudan. This
could change; the US has alreadywaived
 prohibiting aid going to countries with child
soldiers. AP reports
“the Obama administration wants to restart U.S. defense training for
Myanmar…assistance [that] would be nonlethal.”

And outside of military aid, ties are indeed deepening. In February, the Center for
Strategic and International Studies
 reported that “the US
Treasury Department eased sanctions on four Myanmar banks, allowing them to do
business with US companies… U.S. officials said that increased access to
Myanmar banks by US companies would help promote social and economic
development and serve as a model for responsible investing in the
country.” The Treasury Department has also issued an order allowing
US citizens to deal with banks that are run by former military junta
figures, Reuters reports.

At the same time, President Obama declared a “national
” in regard to Burma that “prohibits the
importation into the United States of any jadeite or rubies mined or extracted
from Burma and any articles of jewelry containing jadeite or rubies mined or extracted
from Burma,” but seemingly allows other articles that are “a product
of Burma” into the country.

In May, Obama met with President Thein Sein of Burma at the White
, hailing him as implementing “political and economic
reform” and remarking that
“as a consequence of these changes in policy inside of Myanmar, the United
States has been able to relax sanctions that had been placed on Myanmar… [T]his
has also allowed…the prospect of increasing trade and investment in Myanmar…
[T]he United States will make every effort to assist you on what I know is a
long, and sometimes difficult, but ultimately correct path to follow.”

Months earlier, in November 2012, Obama had been the first US president
to visit Burma
, praising reform and telling an
 at the University of Yangoon that the US cares about
oppressed minorities like the Rohingya, while emphasizing:
“[P]reliminary cease-fires have been reached with ethnic armies, and new
laws allow for a more open economy… sanctions have been eased, and we will help
rebuild an economy that can offer opportunity for its people, and serve as an
engine of growth for the world….” He said “reforms must ensure that
the people of this nation can have that most fundamental of possessions—the
right to own the title to the land on which you live and on which you
work.” Nonetheless, he assured that “America is lifting our ban on
companies doing business here, and your government has….taken steps to open up
your economy… I was proud to reestablish our USAID mission in this country,
which is our lead development agency…” He even said that Burma’s “natural
resources…must be protected against exploitation” (but not extraction,
presumably). He concluded: “The United States of America is a Pacific
nation, and we see our future as bound to those nations and peoples to our
West…this is where we believe we will find enormous growth…. I want to send a
message across Asia: We don’t need to be defined by the prisons of the
past.  We need to look forward to the future.”

Bertil Lintner writes in Asia Times that
“Myanmar has emerged as the frontline of the Obama administration’s
”pivot” towards Asia” and the new “China containment policy,”
noting that “naval cooperation [with Burma] would undoubtedly put the US
on a collision course with China.”

Special US partner Britain also has deepening ties with Burma. On the site of
the Democratic Voice
of Burma
, funded in part by the US-backed National
Endowment for Democracy
 (as noted by ProPublica),
it is noted that “the British government has defended its plans to
offer military training to the Burmese army… The British government has
repeatedly insisted that it will only focus on human rights and democratic
accountability. But a prospectus of the course available online lists modules
on the art and science of war, border security and challenges to state
sovereignty, while making no mention of human rights mechanisms… The US and
Australia have also offered military training to Burma as part of their
diplomatic re-engagement with the former pariah state.”

Finally, Burma is gaining a key role by leading the Association of Southeast
Asian Nations or ASEAN. Rappler writes
tha “the country also known as Burma steps into the global stage as it
symbolically accepts chairmanship of the Association of the Southeast Asian
Nations for 2014. The honor is part of international recognition of political
and economic reforms after 50 years of brutal military rule.”

This means that Burma will be heading an organization that was founded on
anti-communist principles during the Cold War. ASEAN’s founding Bangkok
 anticipates among member nations “greater
utilization of their agriculture and industries, the expansion of their
trade… the improvement of their transportation and communications facilities
and the raising of the living standards of their peoples.”

This deeply connects to the Obama administration’s stated goal.
The administrations boasts it “has actively supported…in developing countries
and emerging markets, entrepreneurship…as the key to unlocking economic
potential and lifting people out of poverty… In 2013, the United States
Government led a high-tech delegation to Burma to explore joint opportunities
to bring affordable access to the Internet and improve workforce training
programs… In Burma, the United States Government is bringing together Indiana
University’s Kelley School of Business with Hewlett Packard to establish an
Entrepreneurship Center of Excellence at Yangon Institute of Economics.”

It seems abundantly clear that Burma is open for the business of
exploitation—and the ongoing genocide of stateless peoples is closely linked to
this. Activists and artists are fighting to bring this connection to the
world’s attention—as in the mashup Rohingya Now by
DJ Burkels. The first of the Nuremberg Principles states
that: “Any person who commits an act which constitutes a crime under
international law is responsible, and therefore liable to punishment.”

Amid all the celebration of Burma’s opening, we need to at least start a
conversation about this.


Photos of camps for displaced Rohingya in Rakhine (Arakan) state
by Evangelos Petratos EU/ECHO January 2013, via Flickr.

From our Daily Report:

Blood jade empire as Burma warlords diversify

World War 4 Report, Sept.
29, 2013

Burma: new Shan state opium eradication plan
World War 4 Report, July
1, 2013

Buddhist pogroms in Burma, Sri Lanka
World War 4 Report, March
29, 2013

Burma: pipeline
plans behind Rohingya cleansing?
World War 4 Report, March
19, 2013

See also:

Cosmetic Reforms, as State Terror Continues
by Nava Thakuria, World War 4 Report
World War 4 Report,
December 2011

Special to World War 4 Report, Nov. 1, 2013
Reprinting Permissible with attribution