Thursday, August 06, 2020

The lie that’s turbo-charging Myanmar’s ethnic cleansing 

Oct 31. 2017
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International media covering Myanmar, including excellent outlets such as the New York Times, the Guardian and Channel News Asia, routinely overlook or misrepresent critical facts about the country.

This is marring, among other things, their otherwise excellent reporting of the Rohingya crisis. 

Most importantly, media are making a serious error in calling Burmans, or Bamar, the majority group. While they may be the largest group, Burmans – the recruits for Suu Kyi and Army commander Min Aung Hlaing’s campaign of nationalistic terror in Rakhine – do not comprise more than half of the total population.

The need to suppress that fact helps explain Suu Kyi’s refusal to publish the ethnicity data from the 2014 national census, and is also part of the reason why the Rohingya were not even counted at all. Myanmar has many other ethnic groups not included among the previous dictatorship’s inaccurate designation of 135 national races. While the major groups certainly have subgroups, the best way to view the country’s ethnic diversity is to simplify the analysis to the largest. These include the Karen, Shan, Kachin, Karenni, Mon, Palaung, Pa-O, Wa, Kokang, Naga, Lahu, Lisu, Akha, Chin, Rakhine, and Rohingya.

(I’m not an expert, so I apologise for not including other smaller groups, or listing some which might be considered subgroups of bigger families.)

It is no surprise at all that these groups, taken together, comprise more than 50 per cent of Myanmar’s population.

Yet the dictatorship’s biggest conceit – and its greatest lie – is that

Myanmar is a majority Burman country; that, as their propaganda name “Myanmar” implies, it is “their” country. 

This view infects everything. 

It is the justification for many evils: the colonial war by the Myanmar Army against the other ethnic nationalities; the Army, parliament, and even the state governments having little if any ethnic nationality representation; why Suu Kyi has historically refused to cooperate with the ethnic nationality resistance, and why she has no ethnic nationality staff or advisers; why she is pro-development – this means Burmans stealing the resources in the ethnic nationality homelands; and why there is a genocide against the Rohingya, and also their exclusion from the census. (The Rohingya population prior to the purges would have been close to two million – more than enough to push the Burmans in the census to well under 50 per cent.)

Domestic media, which are staffed almost exclusively by Burmans, repeat verbatim Suu Kyi and Min Aung Hlaing’s lies. Virtually everyone from outside in turn parrots the in-country outlets. As a result, ethnic nationalities and the repression they face are airbrushed from the record. 

Diplomats are still saying that they have to keep backing Suu Kyi, even though they clearly understand she is a co-conspirator in an actual genocide. But by doing this, they are focusing on an individual who DOES NOT represent the majority of the population. 

Roland Watson


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