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The great lie

Partners in crime? REUTERS

By Forrest Cookson, Dhaka Tribune

Myanmar has been propagating lies to cloak its true intentions

A lie told once remains a lie, but a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth” — Joseph Goebbels

In Myanmar today, the army is engaged in massive ethnic cleansing of the Muslim Rohingya. There were about one million Rohingya in the Rakhine state of Myanmar in January 2017. By January 2019, there will be 100,000-200,000 left inside Myanmar, the residue of the ethnic cleansing. Where will they all go?

There are two destinations — Bangladesh or death.

Already the UN reports that 300,000 have come across the border recently to join the 400,000 already in Bangladesh. The crossing rate is in the order of 10,000-20,000 per day and in another 20 days there will be some 500,000 new refugees in Bangladesh.

By January 2019 there will be 600,000-800,000 for a total of at least one million in Bangladesh. One can expect 100,000-200,000 dead, as killing at the rate of 500 per day is feasible for the Myanmar army over the next year. Who is going to stop them?

This is genocide. Make no mistake. The intent of the Myanmar army is to kill or drive out all of the Rohingya, most of whom are Muslim.

This is being done by burning down Rohingya villages, killing their cattle, killing men and children, raping women and girls, in a systematic way to destroy their society.

The evidence for this is in the satellite pictures of the villages burning and in the testimony of thousands who have crossed into Bangladesh and told their story.

The abuse and ethnic cleaning of the Rohingya is not a new story; there have been many incidents in the past in the past few years and the cruelty and evil of the Tatmadaw (Myanmar army) have been well documented.

But the abuse and killings have gotten much worse since then and the world has done little about it. The person who fought for democracy in Myanmar has exposed herself as a cruel leader no longer worthy of respect.

After decades of suppression it should surprise no one that the Rohingya have tried to defend themselves.

The Arakan Salvation Army (ARSA) in 2016 launched attacks against police posts where lurked the monsters that were raping and killing.

The Tatmadaw saw an excuse to attack ever more viciously now trumpeting the excuse that the poor Myanmar army had been attacked by the ferrous ARSA Islamic insurgents.

ARSA, on September 10, announced a cease fire to try to bring the killing and destruction to an end which the Myanmar government rejected with the claim that they “do not negotiate with terrorists.”

The Myanmar government, with the support of their friends, has commenced trumpeting the Great Lie.

The Great Lie is the assertion that the burning of the villages and the killing are the work of the ARSA, determined to establish an independent Islamic fundamentalist Rakhine state.

This is the trap that faces any oppressed group that attempts to defend itself against violence perpetuated against them. This self-defense is then used as an excuse for further violence and attacks against the oppressed group. This is more or less what happened to the population of Bangladesh.

The Myanmar government has invited the international press into Myanmar and fed them this Great Lie. Most independent journalists will not fall for this. One important television correspondent repeated the claims of the Myanmar government in such a way as to convey their falsehood.

The person who fought for democracy in Myanmar has exposed herself as a cruel leader no longer worthy of respect

However, it is worse. The Chinese press is repeating the same lies over and over. So is the Russian press. Even the Indian prime minister, to his everlasting shame, has signed on to the Great Lie.

The quotation from Joseph Goebbels, the great propagandist of Nazi Germany, is on point. Goebbels used this technique repeatedly in Czechoslovakia to claim abuse of German residents as an excuse for intervention.

The Russian press is going even further and asserting that this an operation of the United States government modeled on Kosovo.

These are the ways that the Great Lie is created and repeated as Goebbels taught.

Every day now, Myanmar, helped by India, China, and Russia, is building this Great Lie.

This will be used to reject and push back against the accusations of genocide against the leaders of the Myanmar state, their security forces, and intelligence services. While trumpeting the Great Lie, the killing, destruction of villages, raping of women and girls continue, all in the name of fighting the ARSA.

One expects the Chinese and the Russians to see rape, torture, destruction of property, and killing to be legitimate state policy. We have seen so much of this behaviour by these two states that we are numb to this evil.

We expect this from the Myanmar army, driven on by a wild Buddhist monk who, it is known, is high on narcotics when he preaches.

But we are disappointed in the lack of courage of shown by Aung San Sun Kyi, who is now persona non grata among people with morals. We are disappointed in Indian Prime Minister Modi who has thrown India in with this evil.

The point of recognising the Great Lie is that it must be fought. The reality of the oppression of the Rohingya must be fought by proving the Great Lie is just that. How do you do that?

The Bangladesh government must invite the press corps of the world to come and see for themselves, to interview the poor souls who have made it across the border and hear the stories of the actions of the Tatmadaw.

The government should establish its own record-keeping by interviewing and building oral records of the refugees.

Care must be taken to ensure their accessibility as these records will be the basis of future trials for Crimes Against Humanity and for genocide.

Bangladesh should also mobilise its considerable legal talents to build a case against the Myanmar government. A systematic case of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity can and should be built.

A list of generals and others in Myanmar should be assembled and the UN Security Council, the US government, the EU, and Japan approached to bring sanctions against these people.

The Great Lie must be fought under Bangladeshi leadership. While other countries may provide support and funding, this is an effort that Bangladesh should take.

It is Bangladesh that is bearing the brunt of the oppression of the Rohingya. This is an undeclared war against Bangladesh and should be met with appropriate opposition.

Forrest Cookson is an American economist.

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