Hallmarks of ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims

 

The exodus of the Rohingya Muslims to Bangladesh (AP Photo/A.M. Ahad)

You can consider this as still a sequel to the couple of blogs I wrote about the apathetic Aung San Suu Kyi which can be read at the following links:

https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/2017/10/03/aung-san-suu-kyi-a-laureate-she-is-not/ https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/2017/10/05/aung-san-suu-kyi-a-laureate-she-is-not-part-ii/.

The title I am using is actually part of the descriptive statement issued by US Senator Jeff Merkly about the crisis in the Rakhine State, during his delegation’s visit to Myanmar, when he said: “Many refugees have suffered direct attacks including loved ones, children and husbands being killed in front of them, wives and daughters being raped, burns and other horrific injuries. This has all the hallmarks of ethnic cleansing,”

More than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have left Myanmar’s Rakhine State since August 25, after insurgents attacked security forces and prompted a brutal military crackdown that has been described as ethnic cleansing.

Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s deafening silence and indifference to the plight of the Rohingyas caused uproar in the international community, especially that she is a recipient of the prestigious Nobel peace prize. Not only that. She herself suffered house arrest for many years and, thus, she would have clearly understood what injustice and persecution is all about.

Yet, her government has repeatedly rejected claims that atrocities, including rape and extrajudicial killings, are occurring in northern Rakhine, the epicenter of the violence that the United Nations has qualified as “textbook ethnic cleansing.”

It seems that Myanmar and Suu Kyi, for that matter, does not recognize the Rohingya and denies them citizenship, referring to them as “Bengali” to imply origins in Bangladesh, the country where the hapless people were escaping to.

“In the case of the Rohingya this is so severe that it amounts to a widespread and systemic attack on a civilian population, which is clearly linked to their ethnic (or racial) identity, and therefore legally constitutes apartheid, a crime against humanity under international law,” rights group Amnesty International (AI) said.

But China’s recognized power in Asia is the saving grace for the Rohingyas.

China’s entry and proposal for a three-phase plan for resolving the Rohingya crisis, starting with a ceasefire, has won the support of Myanmar and Bangladesh. A ceasefire should be followed by bilateral dialogue to find an immediate workable solution of the crisis and the third and final phase should be to work toward a long-term solution.

It is in this light that Suu Kyi expressed hope for reaching an agreement with Bangladesh on the return of Rohingya Muslims who have fled to Bangladesh in the past three months. She said both Myanmar and Bangladesh are working on a memorandum of understanding for the “safe and voluntary return” for those who fled.

“Nothing can be done overnight, but we believe that we will be able to make steady progress,” Suu Kyi said.

True, but the compelling question Suu Kyi has to answer first is: Do people, no matter how lowly they are in both social and religious stature in your country, deserve to die first before they become part and parcel of your community?

 

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Human rights world summit in the Philippines

 

President Rodrigo Duterte attending the 25th APEC Leaders’ Summit Meeting in Vietnam.

Stakeholders concern about violation of human rights should congratulate President Rodrigo Duterte for recommending the Philippines to be the site for a world summit on human rights.

“We should call a summit. And I will volunteer to make the Philippines the venue,” Duterte said during a late night press conference in Vietnam where he attended the 25th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders’ summit.

Hopefully, human rights advocates/agencies will consider this challenge and push through with it.

There is no question that the Philippines has issues on human rights violation and it has been magnified even more because of Duterte’s relentless and brutal campaign against illegal drugs.

But Duterte issued a caveat in that the summit should focus on human rights not just in the Philippines but also across the globe. He said that the conference must tackle how to “protect the human rights for all human race.”

I could not agree more with Duterte. For one who feels he is being criticized harshly and singled out as behind the extrajudicial killings in the country as a product of his deadly war on drugs, it is only right and just that human rights violation in other countries should be scrutinize as well for it is in comparison that one could judge if the Philippines tops the list or simply pales when analyzed.

Just because the Philippines is a struggling democratic country does not mean that developed countries supporting democracy and advocating human rights can just go hammer and tongs for what Duterte and his government believe that it is what is destroying the nation especially when abetted by unscrupulous and corrupt politicians?

Asked if he would request the United Nations to monitor his proposed human rights summit, Mr. Duterte said he prefers “a panel of lawyers” to do it.

“I’m more comfortable with a panel of lawyers. Because they will understand immediately the legal implications,” he noted, adding that he might also invite “experts in the science of medicine” and the “destruction of the human body.”

It is in this light that I say this to the people and world agencies speaking ill of the Philippines’ human rights record: Before sternly condemning the country led by Duterte on its alleged human rights violations, why don’t you research the human rights violation committed by the following countries and then ask yourselves what you have done about it: Syria, Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, North Korea, Myanmar, Yemen and Nigeria.

 

China and its ‘magic island-maker’ dredging vessel

 

The Tiankun dredger: China’s massive island-maker.

What am I talking about here and what is its significance?

Well, amid ongoing territorial disputes in the South China Sea and the controversial island-building frenzy China has been undertaking thereat, it has been reported lately that this economic giant of a nation continues to flex its maritime muscles, this time with the launching of an equally giant island-building vessel considered to be the most powerful vessel of its type in Asia.

Named the Tiankun, the vessel, more aptly described as “a magic island maker”, is the best of its kind in Asia, according to the ship’s designer, the Marine Design and Research Institute in Shanghai, and “can be used to conduct coastal/channel dredging and land reclamation operations even in bad weather at sea.”

The vessel, with a deck as long as five basketball courts, 140 meters, and a full displacement of 17,000 metric tons, can smash underwater rocks and then suck out sand, water, and mud, and transfer the substance up to 15 kilometers away. It can dredge up to 6,000 cubic meters (around two and half Olympic swimming pools) an hour from a depth of up to 35 meters.

The Tiankun is the same kind of vessel as its sister, the Tianjin, the largest currently operating dredger used to create several China-held militarized islets in the disputed seas including those close to our shores in the West Philippine Sea.

The fortification of these Chinese-made islands with military-grade airfields and weapons systems was referred to later as China’s “great wall of sand,” by U.S. Pacific Command chief Adm. Harry Harris in 2015.

The Philippines government is said to be wary about the giant dredger especially that international security observers have expressed alarm that it might be deployed to the region again, this time to reclaim Scarborough Shoal.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that government is monitoring the dredger especially in the light of the statement issued by Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque, saying, “The President recognizes the principle of good faith in international relations. China has told the President they do not intend to reclaim Scarborough and we leave it at that.”

But who are we really to stop what China has already began in what it claims as their territory historically?

Good faith?

As the poor, aggrieved country we can only rely on our faith. The question, however, is: Will China give in to faith as it extends its influence in Asia and across the globe?

Of exemplary leaders and Trump’s absurdity

US President Donald Trump

It is both interesting and daunting times in the US, and the world in general, as the greatest country on Earth is slowly losing its grip in world leadership because of the absurdity of its leader, President Donald Trump.

It is in this light that I am sharing with you this enlightening article written by Allan S.B. Batuhan under the Business Section of Cebu Sunstar Daily, dated October 23, 2017.

The new normal

Leaders of men used to be looked up to by their constituents as agents of inspiration. In the darkness of moments when there seems to be no hope, they manage to lift up the spirits of their people.

 IT IS for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work, which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. (Quote 1)

 Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning. Henceforth Hitler’s Nazis will meet equally well armed, and perhaps better armed troops. Hence forth they will have to face in many theatres of war that superiority in the air which they have so often used without mercy against other, of which they boasted all round the world, and which they intended to use as an instrument for convincing all other peoples that all resistance to them was hopeless…. (Quote 2)

 And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man. Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own. (Quote 3)

You know that this could happen when you signed up for it … but it still hurts. (Quote 4)

It is almost too easy to guess which one of the quotes above does not belong with the others. Because while the first three inspire, and move the audience to greater passion, the last one unfortunately causes nothing but despair. The first three are the noble language of leadership, the last the crass pronouncement of the rogue.

But believe it or not, all three quotes come from leaders of men. The first one, of course, is from President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. The second is from Prime Minister Winston’s address to the people of the United Kingdom, following the fall of Dunkirk. And the third is excerpted from President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address. And the fourth, well that is what President Donald Trump is supposed to have said in his call to the mother of Sgt. La David Johnson, who was killed in Niger by Islamist militants this month. Four leaders, three of whom lived to unite, and one of whom who rules to divide.

Leaders of men used to be looked up to by their constituents as agents of inspiration. In the darkest of moments when there seems to be no hope, they manage to lift up the spirits of their people, and allow them to dream – if only for a brief moment – that better times are ahead. Gandhi, Mandela, Martin Luther King – along with the three quoted above – these were leaders whose lives were like beacons of hope, whose every public word was awaited with baited breath, because they were always measured, and calculated to arouse only the noblest of emotions in their people.

Today, it seems, this tradition of inspiration is no more. Voted into power by the people of the United States, President Trump has defied all manner of definition, in terms of what a leader should be. When once they were expected to lift and inspire their people, today, sinking them to the depths of despair seems to be the new normal.

 

Aung San Suu Kyi: a laureate she is not – Part II

Aung San Suu Kyi with Archbishop Desmond Tutu

I am not over yet with the appalling Aung San Suu Kyi, the much talked about democracy activist who earned a global reputation as a symbol of defiance and strength in the face of a brutal military junta in her country Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Suu Kyi’s stoicism and her refusal to leave her country, even though it meant forgoing a life with her sons husband, who lived overseas, became, likewise, a symbol of sacrifice, inspiration, hope and freedom for all the peoples in Myanmar.

For leading a non-violent resistance movement, even while under house arrest, Suu Kyi was aptly compared to Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. Evidently and subsequently she won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, but received it in person only in 2012, after her release in 2010. Her party swept elections a landslide victory in 2015, making her the de facto civilian leader of her country.

Now her reputation is rapidly disintegrating because of her refusal to speak out about — or take meaningful steps to prevent — the military crackdown targeting the country’s Rohingya Muslim minority. An estimated 400,000 Rohingya refugees have streamed across the border to Bangladesh running from what appears to be a crackdown on their villages by the military that still controls crucial aspects of Myanmar’s government, including the state security apparatus.

Because of her silence, insensitivity and indifference to the plight of the Rohingyas, dismal things are happening to her and I am citing two here for your information – one is a copy of a letter from Archbishop and former Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu and the other is a reprint of an article published in the BBC News, dated 3 October 2017, titled Aung San Suu Kyi’s stripped of ‘Freedom of Oxford’:

My dear Aung San Su Kyi

I am now elderly, decrepit and formally retired, but breaking my vow to remain silent on public affairs out of profound sadness about the plight of the Muslim minority in your country, the Rohingya.

In my heart you are a dearly beloved younger sister. For years I had a photograph of you on my desk to remind me of the injustice and sacrifice you endured out of your love and commitment for Myanmar’s people. You symbolised righteousness. In 2010 we rejoiced at your freedom from house arrest, and in 2012 we celebrated your election as leader of the opposition.

Your emergence into public life allayed our concerns about violence being perpetrated against members of the Rohingya. But what some have called ‘ethnic cleansing’ and others ‘a slow genocide’ has persisted – and recently accelerated. The images we are seeing of the suffering of the Rohingya fill us with pain and dread.

We know that you know that human beings may look and worship differently – and some may have greater firepower than others – but none are superior and none inferior; that when you scratch the surface we are all the same, members of one family, the human family; that there are no natural differences between Buddhists and Muslims; and that whether we are Jews or Hindus, Christians or atheists, we are born to love, without prejudice. Discrimination doesn’t come naturally; it is taught.

My dear sister: If the political price of your ascension to the highest office in Myanmar is your silence, the price is surely too steep. A country that is not at peace with itself, that fails to acknowledge and protect the dignity and worth of all its people, is not a free country.

It is incongruous for a symbol of righteousness to lead such a country; it is adding to our pain.

As we witness the unfolding horror we pray for you to be courageous and resilient again. We pray for you to speak out for justice, human rights and the unity of your people. We pray for you to intervene in the escalating crisis and guide your people back towards the path of righteousness again.

God bless you.

Love

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

Hermanus, South Africa

Aung San Suu Kyi’s stripped of ‘Freedom of Oxford’

An honour granting Aung San Suu Kyi the Freedom of Oxford has been withdrawn by the city’s council because of her response to the Rohingya crisis.

The de facto leader of Myanmar was granted the honour in 1997 for her “long struggle for democracy”.

But a motion to Oxford City Council said it was “no longer appropriate” for her to hold it.

More than half a million Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar to Bangladesh following recent violence.

The trouble erupted on 25 August when Rohingya militants attacked security posts, triggering a military crackdown.

Ms Suu Kyi spent years under house arrest in Rangoon as a campaigner for democracy while Myanmar (formerly Burma) was ruled by a military dictatorship.

She became a worldwide figurehead for freedom before leading her National League for Democracy party to victory in open elections in November 2015.

‘Absolutely appalled’

But her failure to denounce the military or address allegations of ethnic cleansing has been criticised by world leaders and groups like Amnesty International.

Other organisations are now reconsidering honours given to Ms Suu Kyi, BBC world affairs editor John Simpson said.

“I think it is perfectly natural to look around for ways of saying we disapprove utterly of what you are doing,” he told BBC Radio Oxford.

Oxford City Council leader Bob Price supported the motion to remove her honour and confirmed it was an “unprecedented step” for the local authority.

People are “absolutely appalled” by the situation in Myanmar, he said, adding it was “extraordinary” she had not spoken out about reported atrocities in the country.

Last week it emerged St Hugh’s College, Oxford, had removed a portrait of Ms Suu Kyi from display.

 

 

Eid al-Fitr and Trillanes’ continuing woe

First let me greet Happy Eid al-Fitr to the Muslims all over the world, but especially our brothers and sisters in Marawi City who are suffering the misfortune of having their tranquil lives outrageously disturbed and bedeviled by the Maute-ISIS militants.

Muslims are celebrating the Eid-al-Fitr religious holiday with prayers as they mark the end of Islam’s holy month of Ramadan, during which believers abstain from eating and drinking during daylight hours.

It is my fervent hope and prayer that the Marawi siege will end soon with government helping rebuild the lives of people and in the forefront of reconstructing the damaged city.

On a much different note I cannot help but share with you this video that reflects nothing but the continuing woe of Sen. Antonio Trillanes.

Nobody, but nobody really wants to be in the shoes of Trillanes now. He made a big boo-boo of himself during the highly watched interview he had with BBC’s ‘Hard Talk’ host Stephen Sakur that it looks like he has become the butt of jokes already.

It Trillanes thinks that his predicament in the interview will come to pass as swiftly as it shamefully happened to him, he is wrong for this will forever remain a stigma on his persona that he should start kissing his political ambitions good-bye.

Good for him and enjoy this video!

 

A “bully” is an apt description of China in the SCS

 

U.S. Senator John McCain (photo by Reuters)

It surprises me no end hearing highly respected Republican U.S. Senator John McCain describing China as behaving like a “bully” with its militarization of islands in the South China Sea.

Of course that is what it is or it won’t be called and acknowledged the second most powerful nation on Earth today, and fast catching up to surpass the U.S.

What I am saying is that when China started getting economically strong and used it in building its military might to be able to do what it wanted with impunity, like claiming most of the resource-rich South China Sea, it was simply making a statement not only to the other claimant nations in the region, but more so to the western world, especially the U.S., that it is there to stay and not even an international body like the United Nations (UN) could drive it out.

Like the rest of our neighbor-nations we also knew what we were up against when China started reclaiming and converting atolls and reefs into militarily equipped islands.

But what was even worse was when it included in their build-up the country’s exclusive economic zone, a sea zone prescribed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) that stretches from the baseline out to 200 nautical miles and over which the country has special rights to explore and exploit its marine resources in the water and beneath.

Thus, China, which does not respect the UNCLOS, prevented our own fishermen from catching fish in our own territorial waters.

If this is not bullying in the real sense of the word, I do not know what is.

By claiming almost the entire of SCS China was already bullying the world and if only the U.S. reacted to this claim sooner and challenged China’s hegemony in the area it would have not gotten to a point where the SCS, through which about US$5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year, could be a potential flash point.

Now to counter the perceived Chinese aggression in the area, the U.S. has been conducting so-called freedom-of-navigation exercises, the most recent of which was conducted by a U.S navy warship near Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands.

Yes, McCain is right in describing China as a “bully”, but he and the rest of the American politicians could have prevented China from becoming one in the SCS had they decidedly choose to confront China much, much earlier.