INTERVIEW – Failure to resolve Myanmar’s crises is connected with US’ “Pivot-to-Asia” policy

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SHAFAQNA – There can be no doubt that the failure to resolve this long running humanitarian crises is directly connected with the “Pivot-to-Asia” policy promulgated by Hilary Clinton as US President Obama’s Secretary of State, and which is directed at isolating and containing China using what is referred to in US military circles these days as “broad spectrum, asymmetric warfare.

Barry K. Grossman received his B.Comm. from the University of Calgary in 1984 and his LLB from York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School in 1987.  After working as a litigator at a major commercial law firm in Toronto, he moved to Australia to teach at the University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Law in 1988. He later worked for several years as a litigation consultant to the national Australian firm of Freehill, Hollingdale & Page before taking up a full time lectureship at Monash University’s Faculty of Law. Mr. Grossman has written extensively on various legal subjects and is a frequent commentator on political affairs. He has resided in Indonesia since 1999. In an interview with Khamenei.ir, Mr. Grossman answers questions on the recent crisis in Myanmar regarding the Rohingya Muslims:

There are claims that the Rohingya are illegal Bengali migrants; even if accepted, would it justify the recent atrocities?

The last time I checked, the term migrant referred to people who, born in one nation-state, have for some reason elected to live in another. The Rohingya, in contrast with migrants, are pretty much without exception born in Myanmar and, as a distinct peoples,  can trace their ancestry  back more than a thousand years to what, until the 19th century, was the Independent Kingdom of Arakan.  The simple fact is that the Rohingya were in Arakan long before Myanmar even existed.

Geographically speaking, Arakan – now known as Myanmar’s Rakhine State, – of course borders the Bay of Bengal; so if the intention behind referring to them as Bengalis was not so offensive and self-serving, the obvious reply would lie in simply giving those who use then term both a geography and a history lesson.

In any case, what people need to understand is that the Independent Kingdom of Arakan, like its nearby neighbours Pegu and Tenasserim, was attacked by Britain’s colonial armies in the early 19th century and, no sooner than the British imposed themselves on the once landlocked Kingdom of Burma, rolled into what the British referred to as their colonial possessions in Burma which the British controlled as a suzerainty until the they abandoned the region in the aftermath of WW2.

The notion that the Rohingya, whose citizenship was stripped by Myanmar’s military Junta in the 1980’s, are Bengali migrants has about as much historical merit as claiming North America’s surviving indigenous Indian population is from outer space.

Ayatollah Khamenei believes the situation in Myanmar is mainly a political issue rather than being caused by religious fanaticism; what’s your take?

In the same way we object to the terrorism carried out by some Middle East based insurgents as “Islamic Terrorism”, we must be mindful of the fact that there is nothing in the precepts of Buddhism that validates, let alone mandates what we are seeing in Myanmar.  To be sure, the glue that binds the 969 Movement and its extremist leader Ashin Wirathu together, is not only that the extremist, hate filled dogma and vigilantism they promote is a text book example terrorism, but also the fact that all their supporters identify as Buddhists. But it would be both an unethical and a tactical blunder to characterise this entirely one-sided slaughter as a conflict between Buddhism and Islam. It is not.  The proof of that, not that we require proof, lies in the fact that the International Buddhist Ethics Committee – Tribunal on Human Rights, compiled a long list of evidences against Ashin Wirathu which it used to condemn his rhetoric and actions and disassociate him from Buddhism.

Also while we cannot ignore what – both sanctioned and encouraged by the Myanmar regime – Wirathu and his supporters  say about Islam and Muslims, we must also remember that primary responsibility for these crimes against humanity rests with the corrupt Generals who control Myanmar’s military and economy with an iron fist, and with Myanmar’s de facto head of state – Aung San Suu Kyiwho has opted not to remain silent as many people have said, but rather to peddle a full slate of lies in her capacity as an apologist for the crimes of her one-time political adversaries in the military.

She is apparently of the view that if she says anything that can be interpreted as being even remotely supportive of the Rohingya, she will forfeit no small part of her grass roots political support in Myanmar. That being the case, knowing that the Atlantic World will support and protect her regardless of what she does, she has opted to anything she feels she must do in order to hold on to power even though she will be judged by history and global public opinion as a monster.

Indeed, she seems to have become a victim of the very phenomena she illuminated in once saying: “”It’s not power that corrupts but fear; fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it,” while forgetting the tragic reality she had in mind when she also once said: “Wherever suffering is ignored, there will be the seeds of conflict, for suffering degrades, embitters, and enrages.”

Some analysts believe the crisis in Myanmar stems from superpowers’ war of dominance over the region to both control the oil reserves of Arakan and flow of energy through the Strait of Malacca; what’s your take?

There can be no doubt that the failure to resolve this long running humanitarian crises is directly connected with the “Pivot-to-Asia” policy promulgated by Hilary Clinton as US President Obama’s Secretary of State, and which is directed at isolating and containing China using what is referred to in US military circles these days as “broad spectrum, asymmetric warfare” and which, in effect, sees the US and its Atlantic World allies rapidly militarizing everything from the entertainment sector to telecommunications and cyberspace,  the economy, trade, currency markets, elections, as well as the Eurocentric, so-called international institutions which are ostensibly responsible for administering international law and maintaining regional security.

In embracing this NeoCon conceived “Pivot to Asia”, the US invested a great deal tactically in its ill-considered policy of what was promoted as a ‘cautious’ engagement of Myanmar in its effort to freeze out the Chinese. Unfortunately, there was nothing even remotely about the rush to sweep Myanmar up in the US dominated International Order and America’s embrace of Myanmar’s long isolated establishment very quickly came to include military cooperation and a complete unwillingness by the USA to make any progress down the path of engagement conditional on Myanmar resolving its horrible record with ethnic and Muslim minorities.

Indeed, no sooner was the Clinton package unveiled than the Atlantic World political apparatus immediately declined even to use the term Rohingya or otherwise to refer to Myanmar’s on going human rights abuses, opting instead to leave it to 3rd tier diplomats to raise such issues in suitably diplomatic language, while speaking at contrived events, nobody was interested in. Not surprisingly, the Myanmar regime interpreted this as a green light to do what they liked and, as the New Nakba now unfolds, we are seeing only to clearly exactly what it is that they like.

What’s the solution to the recent crisis in Arakan? What are people supposed to do?

Well the first and obvious thing we must do is inform ourselves about the facts and raise our voices as one Ummah to denounce this crime against humanity, while understanding that this is not the time for a call to arms or unilateral action by lone rangers or fringe elements that will only lead to more suffering for the Rohingya. We must also avoid victimising the Rohingya by making their plight a tool to agitate sectarian differences.

The simple fact is that while we have little or no reason to have much faith in diplomacy and international institutions like the UN, sadly we must nevertheless permit this crises to be addressed through the usual mechanisms, while doing everything in our power to  hold the global political apparatus accountable both for any failure to recognise this humanitarian crisis and New Nakba for what is, and for any tendency to prioritise self-interested geopolitical agendas over pressing humanitarian concerns.

That is not to say that we should abandon the Rohingya and deny them their inalienable right to resist and to defend themselves. Far from it. But we must also be mindful that there are powerful, globalist elements in the Atlantic World which have shown themselves to be nothing if not adept at militarising any and all political issues, be it international trade, regional security, or even global warming. If we fall into the trap of losing our heads or letting sectarian differences cloud our judgment, then almost certainly this important cause which should draw us together, will be easily manipulated not only to pull us apart, but to provide a pretense for those who want to see a proxy war in the region between US led Atlantic World nations and China, that pits Buddhists against Muslims on a much larger scale than we have already seen.

At a governmental level, apart from sending he urgently needed aid, we certainly would like to see strident calls from all Islamic nations to have the international community designate the 969 Movement as a terrorist organization and Ashin Wirathu as a terrorist, while at the same time denouncing the Myanmar regime’s contrived claims that the Rohingya are themselves terrorists or armed insurgents who have been burning their own villages down.  We would also like to see genuine calls for economic sanctions and an arms embargo on Myanmar as well as more specific financial sanctions targeting those who wield power in Myanmar, unless the regime deals with this crises in a humanitarian way and permits appropriately vetted observers from Muslim nations into Northern Rakhine State until genuine progress is made in trying to resolve this long running crises.

Certainly, a good starting point would be for the Islamic world to support Rohingya organizations in calling on the international community to put pressure on Myanmar to embrace Kofi Anan’s recommendations to reinstate Rohingya citizenship and stop the institutionalised abuse of Muslims, while also demanding that Myanmar recognise the Rohingya right of return and take steps to protect both their land holdings and the Rohingya themselves, while providing reasonable assurances to Myanmar’s Buddhist majority regarding their concerns.

This interview was published and conducted by Ayatollah Khamenei’s website.

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