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The Rohingya refugee crisis and the problem of objectivity

  
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The article should be entitled: The Rakine State refugee crisis or the Burmese/Bengali refugee crisis. But readers will be more familiar with headings such as Rohingya refugee crisis or Rohingya genocide. Why is that?  On the 25th of August a Saudi-backed terrorist group Arakanese Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA formerly Harakah Al Rakin) attacked thirty police stations in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, murdering 12 security forces and two civilians . The Burmese government responded with a full-scale military counter-insurgency operation. 59 insurgents were killed.
Burmese authorities leaked information which proves that ARSA leader Ullah Ata had planned the attack with help from outside agents in Pakistani intelligence and ISIS terrorists in Iraq. Supporters of ARSA and the Rohingya cause accuse  the Burmese military (Tatmadaw) of  burning down Rohingya(Eastern Bengali) villages. The Tatmadaw say the villages have been burned by the terrorists, embedded among the illegal Bengali immigrant communities. Thousands of Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus have fled the violence. Many Buddhist eye witnesses and victims  have described massacres committed by Bengali terrorists to local journalists in Myanmar. The stories have not made international headlines.
Human rights agencies financed by the US State-Department and Saudi Arabia, such as Human Rights Watch have blamed all of the violence on the Tatmadaw.  As Burmese expert Rick Heizman. has shown, Human Rights Watch have published images of Buddhists fleeing Bengali terrorists, including an image of a Buddhist man being beaten to death by Muslims, and claimed that Rakhine Buddhists were responsible for the attacks. Heizman has called this deliberate disinformation and intends to supply the evidence to the International Criminal Court and pursue Human Rights Watch for crimes against humanity.
In previous articles I have explained the reasons for the media war on Myanmar and the complex ethnic, religious, historical and geo-poltical forces fueling the violence. No researcher – not even the Burmese government- claims that all of the violence is coming from one side. But all the mainstream media and most alternative media sources blame the Myanmar government and ‘fascist, racist Buddhist monks’. I have contested that consensus for the last two years as being a crash oversimplication of a complex ethno-religious conflict and will continue to do so. The following is an exchange I had with a Bangladeshi journalist. Bangladesh is making great efforts to care for the hundreds of thousands of Bengali refugees fleeing the violence in northern Rakhine state. The Awami League government under Prime Minister Sheihk Hasina has a long history of anti-imperialist struggle and, like Myanmar, is facing the dire possibility of a US/Israeli-backed destabilisation and regime change programme. The journalist who contacted me is designated as BJ below.
BJ –  I work for the largest circulating English daily newspaper in Bangladesh. All the reporters that are returning from the border area are telling me the same thing, 99.99 percent of those they spoke to tells them that they are fleeing from the government/army. And I know for a fact that at least some of them, are not “intentionally lying/misleading”. However, regarding most things, I have quite a different view about the world from them. This issue, I do not know first hand well enough, but all the information around me tells me that same narrative. Having said that, I am still keeping an open mind. I have followed your work, and believe fully that you are an ethical man, hence, please keep going forward with your work. If what you are saying is true, then people need to know about that, around me in particular and fast. “If” you are right, which I am not saying you are not. Despite so much seemingly “convincing evidence” I have been hearing about, it is exactly at those times that well, there is often a rat somewhere.


GOC: When I was in Syria late March 2011, just two weeks after the first attack by Islamists killed several police and civilians, I spoke to many really amiable anti-Assad people. Some of them were in the Muslim Brotherhood. I had dinner with them. They were extremely friendly. They told me things, lots of things. I heard stories about the ‘Shabiha’- government militia etc, about the lack of freedom in the country; about how countries such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia would be better. I listened and noted what they said. Then I had dinner with pro-Assad people. They were extremely friendly and amiable too. I listened to them. They told another story. When I had spoken to people from all sides, I looked at the wider picture, the global powers involved and the reasons for their hostility to Syria and the history of their destabilisation techniques. It was easier for me to contextualise what was happening as I had read many US foreign policy research papers and understood what the goal of Zionism was in the Middle East. I had also been writing about the war in Libya and had studied the build up to the French bombing of Ivory Coast the year before. When you study NATO or Western-led wars closely, you begin to see patterns and motifs that recur like movements in a symphony. Many people were fooled by the Arab Spring because they had not researched the history of US democratisation programmes. Although  the US government confirmed that they organised the protest movements, many activists still repeat the slogans and memes diffused by the US agencies. The US empire is not omnipotent but many of its strategists have a higher IQ than their leftist critics.
The mass media regularly publish horror stories from ‘Syrian refugees’ about Assad’s alleged crimes. Yet they never interview people who support him and who have been protected by the Syrian army from Western-backed terrorists. There are millions of such people. Why are they never heard? Did your reporters investigate the pro-government protests which have taken place in Myanmar denouncing the Bengali terrorists and their human rights lobbying groups? Have you looked into all the examples of fake news, photoshopping etc?
The beginning of the war on Syria was very like the one in Myanmar now. Did you interview Buddhist minorities in your country who may be connected to Buddhists in Myanmar? Did you interview any of the thousands of Buddhists who claim to be fleeing Bengali terror, who are now also in refugee camps? The Bengali refugees are misfortunate. They are poor people manipulated by unscrupulous criminals, brain washed by a Satanic ideology imported from Saudi Arabia. The Rohingya identity was concocted by the well-connecting local ruling class in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Northern Rakhine. Bengali peasants are the ones who are suffering to please their Muslim Brotherhood lords.
The Wahhabites can pollute the minds of millions. Bias is something some people simply cannot overcome. Any time I’ve asked a Muslim Rohingyarist about crimes against Buddhists, they have simply ignored my question. The only conclusion I can draw from that is that they consider Buddhists to be sub-human. What I find particularly disturbing is just how widespread the bigotry is among Muslims -even those who say they totally reject racism and in many cases support very good causes. I suspect there is an equal level of bigotry among many Budhhists and Hindus. Bigotry won’t solve the problem.

BJ:Very interesting points. I cannot disagree with you on Syria, nor Saudi. Nor the fact that there is indeed a similarity in Bangladesh (satisfaction amongst people) with that of Syria, before the war started. Like I said Mr  Ó Colmáin, all the evidence around me is screaming of the “official story”, as it usually does when something is up. Even speaking about the fact that that may not be the exact case, well, let’s just say I haven’t done that much of it, just cause people are not going to take it well. That is why I will keep an open mind. I don’t know why, but something feels rotten in all of this. Which is why I will be looking forward to your works, eagerly.
As far as your questions towards me. Me personally have interviewed no one. People I know, have interviewed Buddhist Myanmares that are quite anti-Myanmar or NGO (I consider both null and void). They have interviewed Muslim and Hindu Rohingya/ non-Rohingyas. And said the dominant story if you take the 2 groups together is by far that it is the army (but would it be too difficult to pretend to be the army?) but very few Buddhists apparently said it was ARSA.
BJ: I haven’t heard of Buddhists, nothing about them, so I can’t even tell if they are here.

GOC: Again the problem is as you have stated. The people they have interviewed are anti-Myanmar or NGOs. There are plenty people in Myanmar working for Western NGOs, media outlets etc. And they all sing the same song. But there are millions of other people with a different view. Why are the views of the majority of Myanmar’s citizens automatically invalid? You say people will not take it that well. Truth can be hard to take and many people don’t take it well.  The Western media will take about the lack of “transparency” and  “democracy”  in Myanmar but those terms are meaningless. In the West we live in oligarchies and all important decisions affecting the public are made behind closed doors. The public’s opinions are implanted through soundbites repeated by ignorant corporate media stenographers. In our society truth seeking has become a crime.
BJ: I have 2 questions for you, and I assume you will have to simply guess the answers. 1) What is the AL govt’s view of this, what are they planning given what they understand the situation to be. 2) Same, in terms of Indian govt and Chinese govt?
Also I saw a lot of pictures taken by our photographers directly from the refugee camps. The condition “looks” awful, like really really bad. And most of the people of course look a little different, but also many (maybe 70 percent) have that hint of really classic of Bengali like from around that area face.
BJ: Maybe I will ask my boss to allow me to go down there myself actually.
GOC: There is no question about how aweful the refugee camps are and how misfortunate and tragic the Bengali refugees are. Most of the countries calling for the “international community” to do something are themselves  responsible for the creation of millions of refugees and have committed genocide in numerous countries. Turkey and Saudi Arabia are the chief Rohingya propagandists! I won’t presume to tell a Bangladeshi about what his own government is up to. But here’s how I see it.
The US wants to crush Bangladesh
The United States never wanted the Alawi League  government in power. They have historical links with  Russia from Soviet times; they are social progressives with a strong left-wing base. They oppose Noble Prize economist Mohamed  Yunus’s microcredit scams and have a genuine determination to bring Bangladesh up to the level of developed countries through state-driven strategic planning, such as their agricultural policies and desire to be self-sufficient in food. Self-sufficiency in food is the basis of freedom and national independence.The US does not want any country to be self-sufficient in food.
There has been, at least since 2013, a covert low-intensity war waged by US agencies against Bangladesh – in particular media and NGOS but also political disturbances which the have been unjustly blamed on the government. The human rights accusations, the concern for disappeared labour leaders who were never labour leaders; the concern for the objectivity of the genocide trials, where much information about US complicity in the 1971 genocide is likely to come out.
Recently, we saw the Israeli plot using the Islamist-friendly BNP party. Israel seeks to lobby the Hindu minority in order to drive Bangladesh and India apart. I suspect they are hoping Modi will go along with regime change in Bangladesh if India can maintain influence there through some form of comprador Hindu/Islamist fusion. Look at Ukraine! Jews and Nazis. Fusion is the name of the game in US regime change these days.
The Bengali refugees could be used for mass protest movements and insurgencies against the Hasina “regime” The French press already call it a regime! So we are in the early stages of hybrid war. Sheikh Hasina is an intelligent woman. She understands that the Bengalis the US wants her to take in are pro-Pakistani, Wahhabised and dangerous. She doesn’t want them back. So, she’s dumping the problem back over the Naf river. It won’t work though. She will have to meet Aung Sann Suu Kyi and work out a plan.
But Myanmar can’t solve this problem either as they are mostly illegal immigrants as far as they are concerned. Russia has good relations with both countries and will work to diffuse the situation. They may come up with mechanisms to that effect at the UN. China has no time for this kind of nonsense. Beijing will support Naypyidaw but also appease Islamabad and Dhaka, while making lukewarm conciliatory statements at the UN.Islamabad, while playing the Muslim indignation game, is still friendly with Naypyidaw. I suggested it was the Deep State in Pakistan, elements in the ISI and, similarly, in Bangladesh, anti AL, pro-Islamist elements in the DGFI.
There is an international terrorist network operating in those countries but many of their leaders are in London under the protection of British intelligence. The West now want resolutions in the UN. The Russians and Chinese are starting to weigh in. Much depends on how the Muslim countries will react. Russia has a wild man in
Chechnya  called Ramzan Kadyrov who acts before he thinks. Putin needs to pull him aside, explain the situation to him and tell him to shut up. The Iranians have already put their foot in it with extremely ill-advised statements. They can always say that the cause has been ‘hijacked’ by the Saudis! As for the leftist- alternative media ranting and raving about genocide, they’ll shut up and pretend they never believed it anyway once the word gets around. I’m only referring to those who claim to be anti-imperialist – not the Chomskyites;  they are already a farce.
Who is responsible for the violence?


In the mass media reports  I have heard Bengalis say they were fleeing violence and some said they were fleeing from the army. That makes sense. The army stormed the Bengali communities looking for arms and terrorists. What were they supposed to do? They were probably terrifying and may have committed atrocities but so far I haven’t seen any evidence of the atrocities. So, there are people fleeing violence. That is true. But who started the violence? The ARSA terrorists. And what is the official position of the Tatmadaw? They are looking for the terrorists? Who is burning all the villages. Bengalis say the army, the army say the Bengalis. In order to ascertain which side is likely to be telling the truth we need to weigh up the forces at play both inside and outside the country. Whose interests are being served by the fires? The Bengali activists have gained much attention and now their narrative of oppression is imprinted on people’s minds. Everyone has heard the term Rohingya and they are the ‘most oppressed people in the world and Myanmar is guilty of genocide’ etc So, if I were a general of the Tatmadaw I would be reproaching my soldiers for giving the West what I believe it wants, namely a pretext to impose sanctions or occupy the country with UN troops or both.Kosovo is the most apposite historical precedent. We could also look at the history of Islamist terror groups. Arson is a common war technique of theirs. We also know that false flag terrorism is the standard technique of al-Qaida-linked groups. So, why should we dismiss the Tatmadaw’s accusations that the Bengali terrorists are setting fire to their own villages? We may yet see conclusive evidence of Tatmadaw arson. But we must keep an open mind and listen to all sides before judgement.
Internet activist: Why is Press TV publishing disinformation about Myamar?
Iran wants to assert itself as a leader in the Muslim world. Iran is an emerging power and potential regional empire, with a long history of cultural and political hegemony in the wider region, extending all the way to Chittagong. The Pakistani philosopher Abul Ala Maududi influenced Ayatollah Khomeini, so there are ideological links too. Maududi  had some interesting ideas but he also said that all other religions must submit to Islam. How would you expect Buddhists in Myanmar to interpret that when they have seen once-Buddhist Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Malaysia now completely Islamic? Buddhists experience violence and discrimination in those countries now. 
The Theravada Buddhists of Myanmar fear they are next and in North Rakhine State where Muslims are a majority, they have experienced ethnic cleansing. Many monks have to be accompanied by soldiers to the temple. I hope to see a report on that some day on Press TV. My friend, you say you are unaware of Buddhists in your country. Bangladesh was once full of Buddhists. Islam is not a threatened religion. It is alive and well and on the march. Buddhists feel threatened and the horrible attitude of ignoring their fears, of demonising them, is feeding the perception that Muslims want everyone to tolerate them but will not tolerate everyone. If a dialogue is not opened up between Buddhist and Islamic intellectuals on this topic, both Myanmar and Bangladesh will be engulfed in civil war. I’m not talking here about the CIA’s Dalai Lama. He supports the ‘Rohingya cause’ because he works for the Americans. You are all being set up to hate and fight each other. It is all part of the US imperial pivot to Asia.
  But the problem is that Iran is now fueling the same kind of people they are fighting in Syria. But they did that too in Libya, through anti-Gaddafi rhetoric. Iran supported Bosnian and Kosovan terrorists in the Yugoslav wars. The Republican Party published a detailed report showing that President Clinton had allowed Iranian arms to be shipped to the CIA-backed terrorists. The Bosnian and Kosovan terrorists committed gencoide against Serbs. The Catholic Church backed the Croatian fascists  and the current ponficus maximus is backing the  Christian haters in Myanmar.Lucretius said ‘ religio peperit scelerosa atque impia facta – religion brings forth wickedness and impious deeds. Lucretius had a point!
At a recent conference for international thinkers in Tehran I met a Serbian nationalist leader. He supports Iran and forgives them for Yugoslavia and Iran now has good relations with Balkan countries. Yugoslavia and Libya were mistakes. Dialogue is the key. I know for a fact that people at the highest level of the Iranian military and intelligence apparatus are totally committed to anti-imperialism. So there is hope Iran will play a more constructive diplomatic role in these conflicts in future.
The Burmese situation is particularly complex and I don’t think Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has been well-informed by Iranian emissaries there. That said, Iran’s media is the only one actually seriously discussing it right now, apart from China.It is not possible to express a real opinion about anything in the Western media nowadays. It’s still possible in Iran.And Press TV told me they want to know the truth. So, let’s hope we can get the word out there. Iran is the only country capable of mediating in this conflict and taking a leadership role but they will need to care about people of other religions too. I haven’t seen that yet. Take my opponents in the two debates I did on Press TV. None of them expressed concern about Bengali murders of Buddhists and Hindus. They were not concerned. How should one interpret that? It’s very ugly. I have not taken sides on this issue. I have not denied that there has been Buddhist terrorism. The only way to be objective is to question your prejudice. If the Tatmadaw have thrown babies into fires, if there is proof of such crimes, I will be the first to denounce them. I haven’t seen any evidence of that. I have seen evidence of babies tortured and the videos used to blame the Tatmadaw. Armies torture. NO doubt about it. But no professional army will torture someone, film it and then give it to his enemy to be used against him. One has to weigh up the evidence. I have seen how Al-Qaeda murder children in Syria and blame the government so I am confident in claiming that that is what they are doing in Myanmar too. But if you can provide evidence to the contrary I’ll have to revise my position based on that evidence. I remember when the first pictures of dead police men in Benghazi libya came out in 2011. The media said they were shot by Gaddafi because they refused to shoot their own people. I said then that no miltary would be so stupid as to film a military execution for treason and give it to the enemy. If the Libyan military wanted to kill them, they would have done it in private and made sure there were no images. One year after Africa’s richest country had been annhilated, Britain’s Independent newspaper admitted that the men had been shot by the NATO-backed rebels to frame the Libyan government. But people have a short memory and poor critical evaluation skills. The imperialists know that. Now they have a new narrative and can watch it take off on autopilot. Once again well-meaning leftists are the turbo engines of empire.

About Gearóid Ó Colmáin

Gearóid Ó Colmáin is an Irish journalist and political analyst based in Paris. His work focuses on globalisation, geopolitics and class struggle.

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