(part of The Darkness Visible series)
(Propaganda Sparked A "Scorched Earth" Policy)
Back during the summer of 2012 the Myanmar government allowed and sponsored a systematic launch of propaganda that was meant to portray the Rohingya as "invaders" from Bangladesh. The use of the words "Bengali" and "illegal worker" were not only repeated like scripture by the regime of Myanmar's "reformed government" but were implemented to alienate the Rohingya community. The old Junta had made a conscious effort to isolate the Rohingya from the newly "democratic" society they had created in Rangoon.
In the basic eight steps of genocide the Burmese government had already taken step one prior to the riots that took place that summer. Step one had been completed long before the attacks when the Burmese as a society decided it was acceptable to continue to highlight the ethnic and religious differences between the Rohingya and Rakhine. This is the "classification" step.
It is normal in society to note the differences between ourselves. We clearly know that some of us are Jews others are Christians and others are Muslims. In a stable society these differences float just below the surface. It isn't until a portion of society decides to manipulate these differences that the focusing on these "classifications" is actually wrong. This allows the militant portion of society to paint the image of "us versus them" instead of portraying a united society. This step allows for the combative portion of society to move on to the next steps of initiating and carrying out genocide.
For the Burmese generals it was easy to form a symbol. Around twenty years ago the generals had tucked their symbol away by sentencing her to house arrest. Aung San Suu Kyi became the poster image of democracy in Burma. And in the end it will not matter if she actually supports the genocide against the Rohingya or not. The fact that the generals could use her image while uniting the people of the Rakhine against the Rohingya is hard to deny. For the democracy movement in Myanmar it is now clear that not everybody is created equal.
The use of images like Aung San Suu Kyi fulfilled the second step of genocide. They had created an image to unite their followers. This was vital to giving a rallying cry for the "true Burmese" people. It also gave the generals the ability to flawlessly take the next step in committing genocide.
Sine it is now clear that Suu Kyi does not support the Rohingya people it is easy to see that her image means little to the suffering Rohingya. However her image, her story of oppression, rang loud with the Rakhine and Arakan. This allowed the generals to use step one and step two to justify taking step three.
Members of the regime such as Maung Aye used words like "invaders" to purposefully dehumanize the Rohingya. These descriptions allowed Maung Aye to further isolate the Rohingya within the Rakhine state. By making the distinction between the "actual Burmese" people and the "Bengali invaders" Maung Aye was able to strip the Rohingya of something all Burmese value... their connection to their homeland.
Maung Aye had taken step three flawlessly. By dehumanizing the Rohingya he could make the "us versus them" mentality into more than just a sense of resentment. Now the Rohingya could be hated without a sense of breaking up the community that the Burmese value. Instead the Rakhine could feel that they were uniting their society against an outside threat. This would help them feel like they did back when they fought the colonial powers. This would help the Rakhine feel like "true Burmese".
It was at this point the generals began to organize the police and military. It was at this point that the junta launched step four.
Bringing slurs like "kalar" (dark or black) back to the forefront of society the generals were able to organize society against the Rohingya. Schools, hospitals, and even communal areas in villages suddenly started sporting signs that warned the Rohingya to not enter. Hospitals began telling would be patients that if they were "kalar" they should just stay home. To enforce this the Junta began telling police to enforce these demarcations between the Rakhine and and the Rohingya.
In many ways these actions stumbled the generals into organization, polarization, and the preparation of the Rakhine state. And it was with this that the society in the Rakhine state was prime for disaster.
In the midsummer of 2012 the excuse for action came. With the launch of a propaganda campaign and the claims of Rohingya atrocities, which never occurred, the generals work was justified by the horrific events that followed.
Seemingly overnight Rohingya villages were being torched and those who could not flee were being killed. The seventh step of genocide was now being conducted within Burma.
(Rohingya Village in Pauk Taw Burnt on October 25Th 2012)
The methods used during these attacks was similar to those seen in pogroms in Europe. The only difference here was that it was now Muslims being killed rather than Jews. From the outside one could only look at the Rakhine as though they were rabid. From the inside, the Rakhine were being fed a steady stream of propaganda from the Junta back in Rangoon. The mobs of angry Buddhists were also receiving aid and support by Myanmar military and local police. This was a state sponsored genocide.
For those who dared go against the regime's wishes and offered any support at all to the Rohingya there were Nazi style punishments for their "treason".
In many cases the same tactics used by the fascist Nazis of the 1930s and 40s are now being seen in Myanmar. They are used so that the Junta's "final solution" for the Rohingya can be carried out in its entirety. The young man pictured above had done little to stop the starvation of Rohingya in Myebon, Arakan st. but sell food to the Rohingya in that area. Yet by doing this the young man had helped slow the progress in the generals end goal... the deaths of all Rohingya.
In the Arakan and Rakhine states there is now a "forced famine" in progress. In areas such as Sittwe the Rohingya that are in camps are forcibly isolated. Military and police in these areas make certain that food and water can not make it into their "refugee camps". Both outside aid groups and local Burmese are forbidden to interact with the Rohingya trapped within these concentration camps. By doing this the Myanmar government plans to starve the Rohingya or drive them out of the country all together by leaving them no other options.
(Rohingya Child Dehydrated And Starving To Death)
Yet it is not just the Rohingya within these concentration camps that are suffering. The campaign of implementing a famine in a country not currently suffering a natural one also means that the generals must isolate those Rohingya still living in their own homes. It is these groups of Rohingya that the outside world has little or no contact. They are ironically now suffering the same sentencing that Suu Kyi just was released from. Only this time, the prisoners have no hope of getting out.
Police and Burmese military officials have taken the method of blockading and applied it to these villages. Humanitarian aid groups have been banned from going near these areas. In some cases the aid groups have been told that these areas are just simply too dangerous to enter. And any medical or food aid that is sent to these areas is often handed over to Rakhine villages instead. Making it impossible to reach the isolated communities. Even harder to judge just how many Rohingya are still alive in these villages.
The only things we do know about the isolated areas and the camps alike is that the old Junta methods are still in place. Rohingya men and women alike are used as slave labor for the Burmese military. Young Rohingya girls and boys are often used as sexual slaves for the Myanmar police and military alike. The raping of Rohingya is seen as legal since they technically have no right to live within Burma in the first place. It also allows the generals to keep moral up amongst the ranks since the Burmese military has been fighting endless wars every since the British left in 1948.
As for the final stage in the the eight steps of genocide, the Burmese government has already begun the denial step.
By simply amping up their efforts to deny the Rohingya citizenship the Burmese government is denying that they are doing anything wrong in the first place. And since the outside world is doing nothing to stop the killings or even address them as wrong the Myanmar authorities have no reason to deny anything. It is almost as though we are watching the first genocide to take place where no outside power recognizes anything as even being questionable.
With dictators, world leaders, and the United States President all backing Burma it is hard to imagine anything will change. Obama said little to nothing in opposition to the Rohingya Genocide. If one was to listen to his speech a dozen times over they might never realize that anything was going on in Burma at all. Obama's words were carefully crafted as to not address the genocide but rather to build a relationship with the killers themselves.
One voice that is echoing out of Burma through the miracle of Twitter is that of a refugee. Possibly the only voice left for the Rohingya, Aung Aung (@aungaungsittwe) is the link between the outside world and the restricted access we have to the Rohingya. For this reason I want to close this post by inviting all those reading it to please get on Twitter and follow Aung Aung. Through reading his post you can readily find out more about what is happening on a daily basis in Burma. And more importantly, please retweet Aung Aung every chance you get.
Please scream for the Rohingya. Please fight for those in need of your help.