Myanmar regime commits genocidal destruction of ethnic populations, democrats and dissidents
Myanmar military leaders think they can keep on perpetrating human rights crimes against one targeted community after another. Chillingly, they are getting away with waves of their international crimes, including genocide
The reported pilot repatriation plan by Min Aung Hlaing’s coup regime is nothing more than an act to release the steam of international pressure.
Apparently, Myanmar military leaders think they can keep on perpetrating human rights crimes against one targeted community after another. Chillingly, they are getting away with waves of their international crimes, including genocide. They are attempting to fool the international governments with this latest charade of Rohingya repatriation.
Consistent with the findings in the crimes committed by previous genocidal regimes, from the Nazis in the 1930’s and 1940’s (trade unionists and communists, disabled Germans, homosexuals, Jews, Roma, and Sinti) to Suharto’s Indonesia in the 1960’s (Chinese and Indonesians labelled “communists”) and Khmer Rouge (Buddhist monks, Cham Muslims and “bourgeoisie” Khmer) in the 1970’s, Myanmar regime’s victims have proven to be more than one single population, for instance, Rohingya.
Myanmar military’s egregious rights violations and brutality against non-Buddhist and/or non-Myanmar or Burmese populations are as well-documented as they are decades-old
Amidst the ongoing legal proceedings in the Gambia vs. Myanmar case at the International Court of Justice, the same leadership of Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing, is perpetrating a similar pattern of crimes, this time against Karenni, Karens, Kachin, and, most shockingly, select sub-populations made up of anti-coup Buddhist populations in the Myanmar heartlands in the Dry Zone.
The United Nations released its “Fact Sheet” on the UN report on “The Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar since 1 February 2022 - Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights”, delivered by the Commissioner Volker Turk at the 52nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. It reads:
"One of the most frequently used tactics by the military is the systematic and widespread burning of villages and dwellings. Consistent with their modus operandi documented over decades, including in Kachin in 2011 and Rakhine in 2017, UN reports indicated that nearly 39,000 houses nationwide have been burnt or destroyed in military operations since February 2022, representing a more than 1,000-fold increase compared to 2021."
Only five years ago over 740,000 Rohingyas filed out of Rakhine, Myanmar, crossing the borders into Bangladesh, as they fled for survival from the wholesale destruction of hundreds of villages by Myanmar military. Since the coup two years ago, the same military, using the same tactics, has mass-displaced over 1.3 million in 80% of the country’s conflict-affected regions.
Myanmar military’s egregious rights violations and brutality against non-Buddhist and/or non-Myanmar or Burmese populations are as well-documented as they are decades-old. But what is new is the coup regime is intentionally scorch-earthing communities that are known to be most strident in their political opposition to the widely unpopular military coup of February 2021.
A week after the UN released its Myanmar report to the Human Council, I joined a group of anti-coup activists from Karenni and Saggaing regions who have witnessed first-hand horrendous atrocities that their communities have suffered including targeted air strikes, mortar shelling, massacres and torching entire villages.
Karennis are a national minority whose ancestral region borders with Thailand. Nearly half the population of Karenni people have been internally displaced by Myanmar military’s deliberate attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructures including places of worship. Saggaing, a Myanmar Buddhist heartland adjacent to the second largest city of Mandalay, has become a site of mass killings and mass destruction as the population joined the fierce armed resistance against the coup troops.
The troops now routinely, and with increasingly frequency, behead civilians in all conflict-affected regions. They then leave severed heads on public display and put on social media to terrorise not only the locals but the entire anti-coup public. In ethnic minority regions such as Karenni and Karen regions next to Thailand the troops typically throw their dismembered victims in village drinking wells – apparently to contaminate the drinking water.
UN report offers a staggering number of Myanmar troops’ intentional destruction of houses –39,000. This number does not include other civilian and religious infrastructures such as clinics, schools, monasteries, churches, mosques, food and rice warehouses and markets. The scale of destruction of residential buildings is comparable to what the Rohingya population experienced in the 2017 wave of genocidal destruction
But we are not hearing the warnings against new waves of genocidal destruction against populations with distinct group identities (that is, democrats and dissidents and their communities, and anti-coup ethnic minorities) by the same perpetrators of genocide against Rohingya population.
One possible explanation is that premier human rights organisations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International know how difficult it is to prove the intent in cases of alleged genocides in the face of judges and lawyers who split legal hair in their readings of the Genocide Convention, [a binding inter-state treaty, not a declaration of principles, with no teeth, such as the (post-Rwanda) Responsibility to Protect or R2P].
The same genocidal military, denying and defending its genocide of Rohingya at the International Court of Justice, is commissioning another wave of genocidal destruction, this time against Myanmar’s populations of democrats and dissidents, Buddhists, Christians, ethnic majority and non-Bama minorities
But genocide was conceived before the Nazi genocide (of multiple victim groups) by Raphael Lemkin, the Polish Jewish legal scholar and campaigner to make this particular type of crime of destruction, not just mass-killing, of populations with specific group identities. When the Lemkinian conception entered the lexicon of international law as the Genocide Convention only four types of population are specified as “protected groups”, namely ethnic, racial, religious and national. The groups who have equal claim to distinct identities such as democrats, dissidents, communists, etc. were excluded as a matter of political compromise among a small group of original UN member states.
As a Burmese human rights activist and scholar in exile, I blew the whistle on my country’s textbook genocide against Rohingya a decade ago with a three-year study of the systematic persecution of Rohingya with the intent to destroy the group, in whole or in substantial part. I conducted the study with my researcher colleague and wife Dr Natalie Brinham (2014).
Having listened to numerous eye-witness accounts and combed numerous documentations of Myanmar military’s tactics against multiple populations across the country, I am sounding the warning again that the same genocidal military, denying and defending its genocide of Rohingya at the International Court of Justice, is commissioning another wave of genocidal destruction, this time against Myanmar’s populations of democrats and dissidents, Buddhists, Christians, ethnic majority and non-Bama minorities.
Needless to say, neither the existence of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide nor its application over the last 70-years since its adoption in 9 December 1948 has served as an effective deterrence against post-Holocaust genocides worldwide. So, why stick with the legalistic approach to genocides that has spectacularly failed millions of genocide victims and survivors? Let’s just call a spade a spade, whether the courts and lawyers agree with us or not. At least, the people of conscience and compassion will hear the clarion call against genocide.