More From Alder's Ledge

January 27, 2013

From Warsaw To Aung Mingalar

Welcome To The Ghetto
(part of The Darkness Visible series)

(Hitler Used The Ghetto As A Steppingstone To Auschwitz)

From day one the residents of Warsaw's ghetto were told that they were being housed here because they were no longer equals to their once neighbors and countrymen. The ghetto was never meant to be a permanent solution to the "Jewish Question" in Poland and Europe. It was only meant to segregate the "unclean" from the "pure Aryan" race. For many in Warsaw the ghetto was just the beginning of the end. 

In Aung Mingalar, a modern ghetto in its own right, the segregation they now face is obviously not meant to be a permanent solution to the situation that Myanmar has manufactured. This crises, or series there of, is not being wasted upon the government of Burma. The creation of ghettos and camps across the Arakan is just one step in the long game that the old Junta set in motion. For many in Aung Mingalar this ghetto will simply be the beginning of the end. 

It has long been a model of history to repeat itself. In doing so it has shown us that by ignoring the lessons it has attempted to teach us we are assuring ourselves the opportunity to repeat them. In the case of genocide the lessons have not been learned. With every repetition of this lesson we watch without fail as the world misses the opportunity to learn... the chance to set old wrongs right and to save more victims from history's darkest fate. 

(Burma's Open Air Prison. Aung Mingalar Ghetto)

"I have lost everything," Mohammed Rafi, a Rohingya man who's house was burnt on the same day that his father-in-law was hacked apart with machetes. 

During the June outbreak of ethnic cleansing the Rohingya of Sittwe were targeted for segregation and annihilation. Entire Rohingya neighborhoods were razed as the Rakhine mobs were pointed toward their intended targets. The military offered resistance only for villages and neighborhoods where they would turn around and barricade the Rohingya within. Almost over night the ghettos of Burma were erected and the crisis had begun. 

Violence and the perception of anarchy gave the Burmese military a smoke screen that can not be overlooked. It was with this crisis that Burma acted out its darkest desires and sickest fantasy. By exploiting the racial tensions that already existed the Burmese government was able to fan the flames into and inferno. And with the help of the Buddhists monks they were able to guide the fire across the map just as they desired. All the Burmese government had to do was set back and wait till they could step in and "restore order" to the burning Arakan. 

The tragedy that occurred in June of 2012 was orchestrated. The chaos was planned in as much a manner as how Hitler's SA had planned the pogrom of Kristallnacht. With the use of religious fervor and racial hatred, Burma was able to go forward with their plan to ethnically cleanse the Arakan once and for all. 

In previous post Alder's Ledge has laid out the eight stages of genocide and just how Burma has been checking off the stages. Much like the Nazis of Germany, Burma is using these stages a blueprint to their final goal of solving their Rohingya question. The ghetto is simply a tool used to achieve the construction of a "pure" society. 

“If they gave us the security and allowed us to go the market, then I think that could easily solve the problem,” says Rafi. “The Rakhine [Arakanese] can go to the market and they can go to the hospital, but we cannot.”

Through segregation and isolation the Burmese government has been able to increase the rate of death at a higher rate in the ghettos than in the refugee camps. With overcrowding and poor sanitation common diseases are able to spread easily. To further the spread of these diseases the Burmese have taken the ghetto a step further by denying medical aid and blockading any form of medical assistance or supplies. In doing so the government of Myanmar has created the perfect conditions for higher mortality rates and the rise of what would otherwise have been easily preventable diseases. 

To increase the rate of death even further than disease alone could afford, the Burmese also have taken the measure of preventing food and water from entering the ghettos. Without predictable and reliable access to food and water the people of these ghettos resort to scavenging what few resources they can come across. Food items that would have been overlooked in better days are now utilized regardless of their cleanliness. Water that would have been thrown out is now a source of drinking water regardless of the risk it presents. 

The Jews of Warsaw saw the same steps taken by the German SS. As the Warsaw ghetto became more and more crowded the German SS made fewer and fewer patrols through its streets. This was mainly due to the amount of human waste, the smell of death, and lice and other petulance that plagued the ghetto. For the most part the German SS only entered the ghetto when they believed that food or weapons had been smuggled into the ghetto by children who routinely risked their lives by slipping in and out of the ghetto to scavenge for their families.

“Segregation affects both communities economically, but its impact on the Muslim communities is absolutely disastrous,” says Chris Lewa, head of the Arakan Project. “It curtails their livelihoods, confines them to squalid camps or ghettos making them dependent on humanitarian aid whose delivery is hampered by security threats on aid workers.  [Seven] months on – this is outrageous, unsustainable and inhumane.”

History has shown us that once a government engages in this behavior it is highly unlikely to stop utilizing these criminal tactics on its own. Had it not been for the actions of Polish Resistance fighters the attempts to wipe out Poland's Jewish population would have been successful. It was only through the actions of outsiders that the German regime was halted in its attempts to fulfill their genocidal aims. Burma's case is no different. 

If the government of Burma is allowed to continue forward with its use of ghettos the world will undoubtedly see death camps in Myanmar's future. After all, this is a regime that is facing countless rebellions by ethnic groups it does not believe are "purely Burmese". In the Kachin the Burmese have been using weapons considered illegal by the conventions adhered to by the UN. In the Arakan they have been openly utilizing methods that recreate the crimes of the Nazis and other genocidal regimes. Yet as a world community we treat Burma as though it is special. 

When Cambodia fell into the hands of Pol Pott and the Khmer Rouge the crimes that followed were leaked out to the world almost routinely. We as a world community knew of the "killing fields" and did nothing to stop it. It was only with the invasion of the Vietnamese that the brutal genocide in Cambodia came to an end. 

Burma is no exception to the lessons history has taught us. Just because it has put on the charade of pretending to be in midst of "democratic reform" does not mean it is not committing genocide. Aung San Suu Kyi may very well be the world's sweetheart for her role in this "democratic movement", but that doesn't wash her hands when it comes to ethnic cleansing. 

In the end we will have to look back on Burma in the future and admit to ourselves that we were there when the ghettos went up. We will have to look back on this day and tell ourselves honestly that we did nothing to end the suffering of the Rohingya people. And when that day comes the world will undoubtedly tell itself in the most vain way it can manage... never again.

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