More From Alder's Ledge

February 26, 2013

West's Burmese Parrot Finds Her Own Voice

Just As Vile A Voice As Any Other Nationalist
(part of The Darkness Visible series)

(The Ironic Ideologue

Almost from day one of her imprisonment the outside world begged and pleaded for Aung San Suu Kyi to be released. Their misguided pleas were intended to help bring about the "democratic revolution" that the idealist believed Suu Kyi stood to represent. It was believed that universal human rights were right around the corner for Burma. And Suu Kyi was the poster child for the movement.

Well here we are today and Suu Kyi is released and free. She is an active participant in Burma's ruling party. Her voice is clearly heard in Myanmar as the voice of the people... or at least those whom Burma considers to be human beings. And for some time now she has been the voice of democracy in Burma for the outside world transfixed with her every move. 

For those who have been watching the Arakan region of Suu Kyi's country one would wonder where the democracy she speaks of is. Universal human rights are as far from reality for the Rohingya as food and water are. There is nothing human about the way Burma is treating it's native ethnic minorities... especially the Rohingya. 

So what does Suu Kyi think about Burma's Muslim minorities? 

Till recently Suu Kyi had parroted just what the West wanted to hear about the situation in the Arakan. During her visits tot he West she has been the polite pet of the Western governments as she collected her awards and spoke when told to do so. When watching Suu Kyi in her parades across Europe you could almost see how she mirrored just what her audience had projected upon her. In doing this, Suu Kyi's performance has been impeccable... much like other famous nationalists of days long past.

“A country must decide its citizenship for itself..."
~ Aung San Suu Kyi 

Suu Kyi recently responded to critics of her country's 1982 Citizenship Law in much the same way as her leader, Thein Sein, has in the past. Dancing around the phrases "mind your own business" and "shut-up", Suu Kyi made it clear that Burma's laws will only be made and decided upon by the Burmese. This has been state policy every since the law was made after all. 

On February 20Th, 2013 Deputy Minister of Immigration and Population Kyaw Kyaw Win told the Burmese Parliament that there was no such thing as a "Rohingya" minority in Myanmar. Leaders, such as Suu Kyi and Thein Sein, seem to agree since not one of them decided to make a rebuttal to the idiotic claim. In fact there has only been one government official (Shwe Maung) to even bother to correct the Minister of Immigration and Population (note who made the initial claim and his position in government). 

Suu Kyi's party took the opportunity to once again claim that the Minister of Immigration and Population was technically correct since Myanmar does not recognize the Rohingya at all. This once again helped to solidify the fact that Suu Kyi herself does not disagree at all with Myanmar's current stance upon the genocide of the Rohingya people. Instead it points to the fact that Suu Kyi, much like the rest of her party, believes that the "stateless" Rohingya are simply illegal immigrants... no matter how long ago they may have "immigrated" to what is now modern day Myanmar. 

"We have to be very clear about what the laws of citizenship are and who are entitled to them."
~ Aung San Suu Kyi

It is this embed racism and bigotry that has helped fuel the complicity of Arakan state officials and Myanmar military leaders in the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya throughout Burma. It is the underlying reason that the ethnic violence has been allowed to spread from the Rakhine region on into the capitol city of Rangoon. And it is the reason that the Burmese government itself has no reason nor will to stop the violence that started in mid 2012. 

Suu Kyi's complacency in the genocide should show the West that as long as Burma is not forced to recognize that its actions (and inaction) are violations of international law then Myanmar will do nothing to correct its criminal behavior. In addition to this the fixation with Suu Kyi herself will forever show future and present war criminals that the West's (and international) affection can be bought. Her cult of personality shows that even genocide can be forgiven as long as the killer is willing to portray himself/herself in the light the world finds comfortable.

Suu Kyi's awards should have been revoked or withheld after the conflict began. It would not have been long before the world could had noticed that this "ethnic violence" was in fact ethnic cleansing. And had we not been so busy praising Suu Kyi, we would have noticed her lack of concern and complacency with the slaughter. 

If silence is as much a crime as doing the killing itself. Then Suu Kyi is a murder, not the victim.

Source documents 
(note not all sources are listed)

The Irrawaddy

Democratic Voice of Burma

February 21, 2013

The Wound That Time Cannot Heal

Bangladesh's Persistent Pain
(part of The Darkness Visible series)

(During the War in 1971 the dead were often left unburied.)

“Kill three million of them, and the rest will eat out of our hands.” 
~ President of Pakistan, General Yahya Khan

The war for independence that led to Bangladesh being created out of what had been "East Pakistan" was beyond brutal. This scar upon Bengali past has never truly healed and the wound it leaves upon Bangladesh is often readily visible. On February 5th this wound was ripped wide open as protesters took to Shahbagh Square to show their discontent with the verdict given by the International Crimes Tribunal. The verdict handed down had dealt with the numerous crimes committed during the genocide of 1971. And once again, in the Bengali view at least, the world had sided with Pakistan. 

But what really happened in 1971? 

"It is the most incredible, calculated thing since the days of the Nazis in Poland."
~ as reported by Time magazine, accredited to US officials. 

When Bangladeshis helped elect a nationalist leader, Sheikh Mujib, the Pakistani ruling class decided they had had enough of the "downtrodden races" in East Pakistan". Almost over night the Pakistani military imprisoned Sheikh Mujib and began a campaign of genocide the world was not ready to face. But the storm that was about to be unleashed was not new... it was in fact easily predictable. 

When Pakistan had been cut loose from British rule Bangladesh had been rolled into Pakistani command under the impression that common religious beliefs could bind the two ethnic groups. The racial factor of the unholy union was completely overlooked by Brits and Pakistani officials alike. Britain wanted to be free of the hassles and monetary drag that the region had become. Pakistan wanted control of the region for the resources and power that came with colonial style rule. 

Racist views on the part of Pakistani leaders was evident from the start. Politicians and military personnel alike were openly hostile to the "east Bengalis" they had managed to gain control over. And it was this persistent grinding of their boots upon the neck of Bangladesh that eventually led to bloodshed. Yet this is a fact that Pakistan to this day refuses to admit. 

"East Bengalis…have all the inhibitions of downtrodden races … their popular complexes, exclusiveness and … defensive aggressiveness … emerge from this historical background.”
~ Pakistani General Ayub Khan, 1967

(Stray Dogs Feeding Upon Unburied Bengali Corpse)

When the genocide was initially launched the Pakistani forces set out following the Turkish example laid out in Armenia. During the initial phase of the genocide the Pakistani forces targeted teachers, students, politicians, and community leaders. This was meant to break the Bengali social structure and deprive East Pakistan of its ability to mount a sophisticated form of resistance. It was the same methods employed by The Young Turks, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot, and Mao. It is the exact method that has been proven successful in every genocide the Pakistani leadership had seen occur prior to 1971. Thus it is evident that the Pakistani government not only knew what they were doing but was intentionally taking on the systematic slaughter of Bangladesh. 

From the very beginning Pakistani military officials had already set a quota for just how many Bengali civilians they wanted to have killed by the end of the year. The acting President of Pakistan, General Yahya Khan, ordered his troops to kill at least three million Bangladeshi civilians so as to "bring the others under control". From that point it was clear that the military would continue to use methods indicative of ethnic cleansing to clear vast areas of Bangladesh and cull the overall population. 

The second wave of the genocide came as Pakistani troops established "rape camps" and permitted troops on patrol to carry out gang rapes of any Bengali women or girls they came across. This portion of the genocide once again mirrored the heinous acts carried out by The Young Turks during the Armenian Genocide. This act of demanding that Bengali females "offer comfort" for the occupying Pakistani troops was a double bladed sword. First it offered Pakistani troops a perverted moral boost as they were given permission to rape any girl of any age they desired. And ultimately it allowed Pakistani officials to cut the birth rate across the Bengali population. 

The second part of using rape as a weapon was complicated in its intent. By bringing "shame" upon the Bengali female victim the Pakistani forces could multiply their initial crime. If the victim was not raped to death and survived the camps or rape patrols she would be forced to live with the crime. This meant that she was forced to hide her "shame" from her family and community or face being ostracized by her own family. In extreme cases the rape victim could face exile from her community or even the rare "honor killing". All of this was known by Pakistani officials and intended by employing rape as a method of ethnic cleansing. 

"In East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) [General Agha Mohammed Yahya Khan and his top generals] also planned to murder its Bengali intellectual, cultural, and political elite. They also planned to indiscriminately murder hundreds of thousands of its Hindus and drive the rest into India. And they planned to destroy its economic base to insure that it would be subordinate to West Pakistan for at least a generation to come. This despicable and cutthroat plan was outright genocide."
~ R.J. Rummel, Statistics of Democide: Genocide and Mass Murder Since 1900

The final phase, though carried out throughout the genocide, was distinctly religious in the fact that Pakistani forces targeted Hindu individuals living within East Pakistan. This shows the Pakistani desire to use genocide to cleanse the area they wished to keep under Pakistani rule of outside religions. The fact that Pakistan intentionally targeted Hindus isn't a surprise either... in fact it too could have been predicted by the British and UN long before Pakistan slaughtered them in the 1971 genocide. 

When Pakistan and India were carved out of British held territory the issue of religion came to the surface almost immediately. In the initial fighting the Muslims of what is now Pakistan used ethnic cleansing to attempt to push all Hindus and Sikhs out of what was then West Pakistan. The Hindus on the Indian side of the border also turned to ethnic cleansing to attempt to push all Muslims and Sikhs over the border into what was then West Pakistan. This genocide was complex in the fact that both Hindus and Muslims engaged in genocide to gain their territorial aspirations while Sikhs were caught in the crossfire. It was not the case in 1971 when Pakistani forces engaged in genocide in what was then East Pakistan. 

The intentional targeting of Hindus in Bangladesh was however a point in the genocide where the fog of war blurs the lines between Pakistani guilt and Bengali complacency. There is no denying that Bengali citizens helped Pakistani forces in their genocidal ambitions in clearing out Hindus and the businesses they had built in Bangladesh. Through greed, lust, and outright hatred; Bangladeshi civilians were lured into cooperating with Pakistani forces. 

However, no matter how many Bengali forces helped, the original sin of organizing and instigating of genocide still laid with Pakistani politicians and military leaders. Both ethnic Bengalis and Hindus alike were targeted and slaughtered in the genocide. The means and excuses for doing so may have varied. But the results were the same in both communities. 

(Rayerbazar Killing Field, 1971)

"The genocide and gendercidal atrocities were also perpetrated by lower-ranking officers and ordinary soldiers. These “willing executioners” were fueled by an abiding anti-Bengali racism, especially against the Hindu minority. "Bengalis were often compared with monkeys and chickens. Said General Niazi, ‘It was a low lying land of low lying people.’ The Hindus among the Bengalis were as Jews amongst the Nazis: scum and vermin that [should] best be exterminated. As to the Moslem Bengalis, they were to live only on the sufferance of the soldiers: any infraction, any suspicion cast on them, any need for reprisal, could mean their death. And the soldiers were free to kill at will. The journalist Dan Coggin quoted one Pakistani captain as telling him, "We can kill anyone for anything. We are accountable to no one." This is the arrogance of Power."
~ R.J. Rummel, 'Death by Government'

In the end the government of Pakistan was guilty of killing an estimated 1.5 million Bangladeshi civilians. This number was only half of the intended 3 million Bengalis the Pakistani government had intended to kill during the genocide (officially 'Operation Searchlight'). The only reason for the shortfall in the total number killed however was not failure of intent but military defeat at the hands of stiff resistance to Pakistani tyranny. 

Matthew J. White, in his 2012 book The Great Big Book of Horrible Things, estimates the total Bengali civilian death toll at 1.5 million. R.J. Rummel wrote that, "Consolidating both ranges, I give a final estimate of Pakistan's democide to be 300,000 to 3,000,000, or a prudent 1,500,000." And yet Pakistan is only willing to admit (rarely) that they did kill 5,000–35,000 in Dhaka, and 200,000 across Bangladesh as a whole. But most of the time Pakistan isn't even willing to admit to even the 5,000 figure. Most Pakistani politicians and historians fiercely defend the actions of their government in Bangladesh and insist that any deaths were justified and could never be considered "genocide" or even "massacres". 

(Bengali Militia Executing Pakistani Spies After Pakistan's Surrender)

The outside world both during and after the Bengali Genocide remained oddly silent. UN officials felt that it was more important to address the massacres Bengalis committed against minorities after the Liberation War (another term for the genocide carried out by Pakistan in 1971 due to its leading to Bangladeshi independence). US officials sought to pacify Pakistan and grow an alliance with the defeated nation as US interest in the area increased with Soviet involvement in the region sparked. Europe simply looked the other way as they focused on US involvement in Vietnam and other special interest in the region that seemed more important at the time. 

As time has passed the wound that this genocide left has festered and reopened almost routinely. UN organizations continue to focus on Bangladeshi war crimes while appearing to excuse Pakistani involvement in the genocide. With every snubbing of the massive loss of life the United Nations once again fails to realize it's promise of "Never Again". It also continues to drive a thorn into the side of both Pakistan and Bangladesh as the two nations continue to argue about the historic facts of that ill-fated 1971 war.

Till Bangladesh is given closure the history of the genocide that formed the nation will never be given a chance to heal. Much like other nations who have suffered genocide, Bangladesh will never be fully able to close this chapter of their history in a healthy manner let alone recognize their loss in a way that could heal the national wound. Instead the lives of those lost will continue to haunt the two nations and those who continue to live with their tainted history.

February 20, 2013

Indonesia's American Backed Genocides

Suharto's Holocaust
(part of The Darkness Visible series)

(Former President Clinton With Indonesian Dictator)

“The soldiers marched straight up to us [Western journalists]. They never broke their stride. We were enveloped by the troops, and when they got a few yards past us, within a dozen yards of the Timorese, they raised their rifles to their shoulders all at once, and they opened fire. The Timorese, in an instant, were down, just torn apart by the bullets. The street was covered with bodies covered with blood. And the soldiers just kept on coming. They poured in, one rank after another. They leaped over the bodies of those who were down. They were aiming and shooting people in the back. I could see their limbs being torn, their bodies exploding. There was blood spurting out into the air. The pop of the bullets, everywhere. And it was very organized, very systematic. The soldiers did not stop. They just kept on shooting until no one was left standing.” 
~ American Reporter Allan Nairn, 1991

Most Americans only seem to know Indonesia as one of the places President Obama mentions in his books as a place he grew up as a child. And much like Obama portrayed it in his book 'Dreams From My Father', Americans seem to picture it as a picturesque country... all be it developing at best. We tend not to be informed about the history of genocide that pot-marks Indonesian history. And very few Americans can even name the man that comes across as the Indonesian version of Hitler or Stalin. 

Sadly our government did and has always known about the history of genocide within Indonesia and East Timor. President after president has taken the time to fly out to Indonesia and pat the blood thirsty dictator on the back for his "hard work" developing the country. Not a single one even seemed bothered by the estimated 1.5 million dead that the tyrant racked up over his life time. 

So on January 27th, 2008 one can only imagine that newly elected President Barack Obama may have been disappointed that he would not join the long list of presidents to pat General Suharto on the back. That day the monster the US had backed finally died. Through old age, Suharto evaded justice and escaped punishment for the millions of deaths he had ordered and committed. 

(President Nixon with General Suharto)

(President Reagan with General Suharto)

So how culpable is the United States in the genocides that occurred on General Suharto's watch?

East Timor...

After the Timorese people gained their independence from the colonial rule of Portugal they found themselves moving away from American interest and towards communism as a means of coping with the power vacuum that followed liberation. This thorn in the American's fight against "the domino affect" was immediately identified by Washington DC with help of CIA and military intelligence services in the area. The desire to "fix" the situation in East Timor became the fixation of then President Ford. 

In reality, which is often contrary to Washington's version, East Timor was deeply divided between the right leaning Timorese Democratic Union party and the leftist Fretilin (Revolutionary Front of Independent East Timor) party. This political divide was only tipped into civil war when Indonesian and US propaganda and rumor drove the wedge till the Timor split. Thus the excuse for "solving the problem" was created. 

Indonesia, unlike America, was motivated to interfere with Timorese self-governance due to both nationalism and expansionist race theory. Much like Hitler's Nazi Germany, Suharto's Indonesia felt that the only way to grow their society was to steal both land and resources from lesser races. This was an ethnocentric belief that had been fueled by Suharto's own government and the cultural history of the ethnic groups that built up the Indonesian archipelago.

On December 7th, 1975 Indonesia launched Operation Lotus as it invaded East Timor. The death toll that would follow was horrific. To gain control over villages and cities the Indonesian military was ordered to annihilate all resistance and "clean house" of all potential threats. In modern terms this was a "scorched earth" policy in which the invader used total warfare to crush it's opponents and victims alike. 

(Suharto Used Wave After Wave of Assaults To Wipe Out Resistance)

“The Indonesian forces are killing indiscriminately. Women and children are being shot in the streets. We are all going to be killed…. This is an appeal for international help. Please do something to stop this invasion.”
~ Timor Radio Broadcast as the invasion began.

Over the entire length of the invasion the Indonesian military was unable to maintain and or control all key points throughout East Timor. The main reason was the devotion of Timorese resistance fighters and the FALINTIL soldiers who waged conventional and guerrilla warfare against the invading army. These brave soldiers fought tooth and nail to keep Indonesian soldiers from committing countless mass executions and rapes. 

However, no matter how hard the Timorese forces fought, they could not save everyone. 200,000 Timorese were killed in the invasion out of a total population of 600,000 prior to Suharto's invasion. The shear number of dead was staggering when one factors in just how ill equipped Indonesia was prior to US and English involvement and armament of Indonesian troops.

These figures (provided by Amnesty International) include deaths from military action, massacre, starvation, deaths in Indonesian concentration camps, and those who died from disease due to Indonesian policy and actions during the invasion. 

(Starvation Spread As Suharto Destroyed Any Food Supply)

(Suharto's Legacy in East Timor)

So just how much did the United States back the invasion of East Timor?

“It was Kissinger and Ford who gave permission to the Indonesian generals for their illegal annexation of East Timor, which turned into a genocide.” 
~ Christopher Hitchens in "The Accidental President" published in the 'Mirror'.

As early as March of 1975 the United States was already planning what to do about the Indonesian invasion of East Timor. The United States Ambassador to Indonesia, David Newsom recommended to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger that the United States use a "policy of silence" while dealing with General Suharto. This recommendation was nine months ahead of the invasion. It was agreed upon no later than eight months prior to Indonesia's invasion of East Timor. And it became White House policy more than half a year prior to this portion of Suharto's genocidal legacy. 

On the day of the invasion both President Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger met with Indonesian President Suharto. Ford was clear with Suharto in pointing out that the United States could not put "boots on the ground" due to its embarrassing defeat in Vietnam. On the other hand Ford was forthcoming with his support for Suharto's invasion and the massacres that followed. Both Ford and Kissinger assured Suharto that the United States would supply any form of military support they could without actually pulling the trigger or putting American lives in harm's way. 

"We want your understanding if it was deemed necessary to take rapid or drastic action [in East Timor]," President Ford. "We will understand and not press you on the issue. We understand the problem and the intentions you have."

For the most part the United States had thrown its weight behind the Indonesian military with hopes that the invasion would be "swift" and without any real resistance. This meant that Ford's regime would need to supply the best weapons and ammunition that the United States could afford to hand over to a dictator. And yet at the same time the United States needed to make sure that US built weapons were not found in the hands of murderers should the invasion turn into a prolonged bloodbath. 

"It is important that whatever you do succeeds quickly," Kissinger directing Suharto

To assure this the United States handed over everything from destroyer escorts that were used to shell Timor coastal villages, the landing crafts that Indonesian troops came ashore on, the C-47s and C-130s from which Indonesian paratroopers dropped from, to the M-16s the Indonesian soldiers carried and the 50 caliber machine guns that supported them. US military personnel trained the Indonesian paratroopers on how to jump and where to jump in at. US navy officials were brought in to train Indonesian navy personnel on how to land the landing craft and where they could be brought ashore. In short... Ford spared nothing in his support of Suharto's bloody invasion. 

In total, the United State's backing of the invasion is often said to have amounted to an estimated $250 million dollars stretching from 1975 to 1979. This figure is only as trust worthy as the government that gave it however. 

"I probably have a lot of blood on my hands, but that’s not all bad."
~ US Embassy Worker in Jakarta, Indonesia

(West Papua Genocide Continues)
(Image from 2009)

West Papua...

In 1949 West Papua found itself the subject of fierce debate and a pawn in a hate filled rivalry between the colonized and the colonizer. Once Indonesia was granted its freedom from the Dutch it immediately set its eyes upon New Guinea. However the Dutch claimed that the area of West Papua was a distinct geographical area that was both culturally and ethnically different than that of Indonesia. The results of this feud live on into present day. 

The West Papua people formed their own flag, national anthem, and country's name before the Dutch left for good. The Netherlands noted that "West New Guinea" was clearly forming a national identity. They were beginning to thrive in ways that Indonesia have not yet accomplished as an already established country in its own right.

Suharto came to power in 1965 and after killing nearly 500,000 of his own countrymen he set his eyes upon West Papua. Indonesia had already begun small scale incursions into West Papua with backing of the United States. Suharto was determined to consolidate his power by increasing the size and severity of these incursions and ultimately the total invasion of West Papua. 

The Dutch stepped in one last time in the August of 1962 by forcing Indonesia before the UN. The disagreement over the fate of West Papua was carried out between the Netherlands and the Indonesians with the UN acting as mediator. The citizens of West Papua however were excluded from the decision that followed.

The 'New York Agreement' was the hammer that sealed the coffin for hundreds of thousands of Papuans. This agreement allowed the UN to maintain control of West Papua for a short period of time before handing the reigns of governance over to Indonesia. By the end of 1969 the fate of West Papua was sealed. 

Throughout the time that the UN was said to be in control of West Papua General Suharto's military encroached upon the already limited freedoms that West Papuans had. Brutal forms of torture were employed to make the outside world believe that Papuans wanted to be part of Indonesia. Countless lives were lost as Suharto's silent genocide got under way. 

In 1969 the UN committed the execution of West Papua before the world. The UN announced a rigged election they called "Act Of Free Choice". This election allowed Suharto to handpick 1,000 West Papuans to vote as they were told under duress and often at gun point. No one was truly surprised when West Papua was declared to have voted unanimously in favor of becoming part of Indonesia. The UN, with direction of the United States, had allowed Suharto to invade West Papua without the need to use all out military force. 

All throughout the UN's involvement in West Papua's "free state" period the UN observers sent to monitor the situation had complained about Suharto's military presence within West Papua. Countless times these very UN observers had sent complaints back to New York telling of Indonesian troops restricting UN movement within West Papua. When word of atrocities spread the UN was unable to investigate due to Suharto's policy of confinement when it came to UN personnel. This campaign of committing war crimes behind the scenes had gone on all the way since 1962 till the 1969 vote. 

(Jeny Badi, 18 year old Papuan girl, gang raped and shot by Indonesian troops. July 2012)

Dutch Report regarding West Papua upon the end of Dutch rule in 1961, "the first signs of the violent action taken by the Indonesian military, which would also characterize the new administration in the coming decades, soon appeared. Rapid impoverishment ensued, together with a substantial decline in legal certainty and a loss of civil rights across the board."

Once the UN was officially gone after the vote in 1969 Suharto declared West Papua as a "military operations zone". This allowed the Indonesian military full authority over West Papua and free reign over its unarmed population. Suharto's atrocities would go almost completely unnoticed in West Papua due to the restrictions that came with this declaration. 

In 1998 the "occupation" era of Indonesia's military presence was said to have officially ended with the overthrow of Suharto and his military regime in Indonesia. 100,000 Papuans were estimated to have died during the military occupation period that stretched from 1969 to 1998. This is once again out of a total population of 800,000 prior to the occupation. It does not include the 30,000 Papuans that were estimated to had been killed from 1963 to 1969. 

(Picture taken by Indonesian Soldier after he killed Ninuor Kwalik in 1998. He titled it "Trophy")

"In the three years since [Suharto] fell ... a broad, civilian-based Papuan independence movement has emerged along side the guerrilla fighters and, for the first time, poses a serious challenge for Indonesia"
~ 2001 Human Rights Watch Report

Suharto's legacy lives on in the way Indonesia deals with the "Free West Papua" movement. The movement had it's roots in the armed resistance by the same name that started in 1965. However the influx of common civilians into the guerrilla movement took shape almost immediately after Suharto fell from power in 1998. This movement has sparked the continuation of Suharto's policies across the board in Indonesian government. 

In 2003 Indonesia took Suharto's plans further by parceling out West Papua and dividing it up into three new territories. Their actions were based off the same philosophies the United States used to deal with Native American tribes across America. This action has helped to deprive West Papua of its unity and separate Papuans from one another. 

So just how big of a role has America played in the West Papua genocide?

In 2003 the Indonesian government launched a military operation meant to spread terror and disperse Papuans from the highlands. The actions taken by Indonesian troops included raids, rapes, countless murders, and the burning and looting of countless villages. 

Like so many of Indonesia's military campaigns, this one clearly was committed with American interest in mind. 

Freeport McMoran, a US company, operates a mine in the region where the bulk of the raids took place. Most of the violence was also linked to "security" payments the company pays to Indonesian military and police authorities.

According to Vanuatu-based West Papuan People's Representative Office, "The presence of Freeport McMoran in West Papua has not brought any appreciable benefits to the people ... Instead, the exploitation of the mine has wrought serious damage to the local culture, belief system, environment, social structure and political aspirations of the people ... Freeport also promotes violence in the immediate region by providing funds in the millions of US dollars to the Indonesian military and security forces to maintain 'security' over the mine area, beside the US$1 billion as annual dividend, paid last year to the Indonesian Government."

This is just one of many cases that show that unlike East Timor, in West Papua both American economics and politics play a role in supporting Indonesian policies of genocide and ethnic cleansing. Of course this is only accented by the same military sponsorship given to Indonesia in West Papua as was given to Suharto in his campaign in East Timor. 

The main difference between East Timor and West Papua is that the genocide in West Papua is still ongoing. This also unfortunately means that American support (both government based and civilian based) continues as well. Leaving Alder's Ledge to ask just how America could ever justify the deaths of an estimated 1.5 million at the hands of Indonesia's government over the lives of oppressed West Papuans to this day? 

Is it not time that the United States admit it's own past with genocide, it's involvement in foreign genocides, and it's complacency with ongoing genocides? Can we not move beyond our own selfishness and start righting the numerous wrongs these actions have led to? Or will the United States continue to back genocidal regimes like that of Indonesia and Burma?

February 19, 2013

Evidence of Sustained Abuse

Slavery and Rape as Weapons of War
(part of The Darkness Visible series)

(Generally, forced labour in Burma is more pervasive in border areas, in areas inhabited by ethnic minorities, and in all regions with a heavy military presence. ~Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro)


"I was required to provide labour usually for a total of one month per year. During this time I would do whatever the authorities asked, the gathering of firewood; the construction of a shrimp/prawn culture embankment, etc. One time I was taken to do forced labour for 26 days. The forced labour was 46 miles from my home and I had to sleep in the open along with 200 other people. 300 people from my village were involved in this work, the construction of a two-mile long shrimp culture embankment. We were not given food or water; they were expecting us to supply this. We dug a well to have easy access to water. Beatings were commonplace during this work. Some beating resulted in serious injury such as broken arms and legs. No medical assistance was provided. After 26 days of working on the project I escaped and during the next two nights I made my way back home; hiding during the day and walking at night. Some time after my return NaSaKa caught up with me and forced me to pay 200,000 kyats in compensation. To pay for this I had to sell my livestock."
~ Rohingya Refugee 

In 1996 the International Labour Organization carried out a detailed investigation into forced labour practices being carried out by the Burmese Junta government. This investigation was so condemning that the report it yielded led to annual discussions about Burma's crimes. But unfortunately that is where the ability to force change in Burma ended. In 2004 Burma proved this point by executing four individuals they claimed had contacted the International Labour Organization in the 1996. This was both meant to send the message within Burma that talking to outsiders was "treason" and to tell the West to leave Burma's policies alone. 

The reality of Burma's scale of "crimes against humanity" goes far beyond slavery and forced labour however. With the increase of military strength throughout Myanmar the governing body of Burma has found itself incapable of supporting its own weight. This has led the Junta to demand support from all citizens and those they consider to be less than human in the first place. This compulsory servitude is the only mechanism with which Myanmar's government has to lean upon to continue to grow its government's totalitarian rule. Without slavery there would be no Myanmar. 

For the Rohingya within the Arakan this means that they are subject to unlawful seizures of land, livestock, and monetary capital. It also means that the Rohingya are expected to subject themselves to forced labour for the local Rakhine authorities, NaSaKa, and Myanmar military. Those who do not comply with these demands are subject to severe punishment and the ever present threat of death. 

"The military rely on local labour and other resources as the result of the incapacity of the Government to deliver any form of support for their activities (the self-reliance policy). The Special Rapporteur has received many allegations of villagers being severely punished outside the framework of the law because they refused to perform forced labour and of the unlawful appropriation of their land, livestock, harvest and other property. While Myanmar has increased the number of its battalions nationwide since 1988, the implementation of self- reliance policies by the local military during the past decade has contributed to undermining the rule of law and damaging the livelihoods of local communities."
~ The Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar talking about the Arakan 

When you factor in the long history of systemic discrimination within Burmese culture against the Rohingya ethnic minority you find that in the Arakan it factors into their disproportionate abuse through forced labour. This has led to the Rohingya being singled out as the single group in Northern Arakan to be used as slave labourers when the military needs workers to build up the border region with Bangladesh. It has also led to the fact that Rohingya were the only minority used to build and maintain "model villages" along the border with Bangladesh even though the Rohingya are banned from occupying said villages. 

This perversion of culture by infusing it with ideals of racial superiority and religious mandate has left the Rohingya as outsiders in their own homeland. It strips them of their ability to maintain or pursue a sense of self-determination in their own cultural practices and daily communal life. This is only further exacerbated by their constant use as slaves by NaSaKa and military officials. 

The forms of abuse however range from being used as mules to being used as all out slaves in massive construction projects. In areas where the roads are poor or undeveloped Myanmar officials often force young men and boys to carry their heavy equipment and supplies. These loads are often given estimated weights but in all reality are only limited by how much the Rohingya man or boy is capable of carrying (or what their slave driver believes they should be capable of carrying). This form slave labour is often referred to as "portering". It is estimated that a man or boy from every Rohingya home in Northern Arakan is currently used in such a manner. 

"Whereas previously civilian porters were forced to work by a battalion for several weeks on end, it is now more likely that a column of soldiers will pass through a village and demand “emergency porters” to carry goods to the next village where they will be released if other porters can be secured. SPDC soldiers typically show up in a given village and demand porters to carry rations and ammunition. Alternatively, they send order documents to the village head, who must then take responsibility to arrange the stated number of labourers."
~ National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma

The work these porters are made to do is extremely difficult even for the most able bodied individuals. The loads are often made excessively heavy so as to maximize the amount of ammunition and supplies the Myanmar military is capable of transporting. Absolutely no care for the safety and well-being of the Rohingya slave is given by the government of Burma or the military commanders. Instead the Rohingya are forced to march without rest or face beatings and the constant threat of death. 

"Usually carried in woven cane or bamboo baskets, with straps across the shoulders and an additional strap across the forehead. When excessive loads were carried for prolonged periods, the straps of the basket and the basket itself dug into the flesh of the shoulders and back, causing serious injuries and sometimes exposing the bone. Injuries to the feet were also common."
~ International Labour Organization 

Rohingya who are taken as porters are rarely told informed of how long they will be expected to work. Rohingya abducted for this form of slavery right outside their homes or farms are not allowed to tell their families where they are going or why. This absolute disregard for the Rohingya worker's family and community once again shows the embedded hatred the Rakhine authorities hold for the Rohingya ethnic minority. It also shows that abduction of Rohingya for any reason would be hard to prove due to longstanding policies that provide criminals cover due to prior government sponsored activities in the area. 

In addition to porting for the military, police, and NaSaKa forces, Rohingya are expected to subject themselves to forced labour as as to help in construction and repairs of state property. This means that Rohingya can be abducted or ordered as entire villages to help build roads, bridges, military bases, police stations, model villages, and any other structure the NaSaKa, military, or local authorities demand. 

In 2008 Rohingya from around Buthidaung and Maungdaw were called upon to repair a road between the two townships. Hundreds of Rohingya were forced out into the mud and dirt to work as slaves as the military enforced this action. They were given up to ten day shifts that they were demanded to work. Children as young as 10 years old were called upon to do the hard labour. Those who could not keep up pace with the demands were extorted for their "shortcomings" and then beaten and dismissed. 

The most humiliating, and most indicative evidence of ethnic cleansing, form of slave labour in this form is that of forcing Rohingya to build "NaTaLa". These are model villages that are commissioned by the Ministry of Development of Border Areas and National Races. The villages are meant to help steal land from Rohingya while funneling it to Rakhine settlers that the NaSaKa either import from Bangladesh or other areas throughout Burma itself. These settlers are then persistently reminded that their new homes are "under threat" by the very people that built the villages they come to inhabit.

In 2005 the NaSaKa commissioned a model village just outside of Maungdaw. This village was made possible by first confiscating Rohingya land and then demanding that two to three hundred Rohingya build the village to house Rakhine settlers. In 2008 the village was expanded upon by once again seizing Rohingya farmland and once again ordering Rohingya slaves to expand upon the village so that one hundred more Rakhine settlers could be imported to the area. This time the Rohingya slaves were expected to build not just homes but also a school and pagoda for the new Rakhine immigrant settlers. 

Once construction projects are completed the Rohingya are then called upon to maintain the structures or the Military, NaSaKa, or Police stations they were forced to work for previously. This form of slave labour is simply referred to as maintenance work and is a form of slave labour that Rohingya are forced to carry out year round. Unlike construction, a seasonal form of slave labour, maintenance never end. 

Recent reports reveal that NaSaKa used around 30 Rohingya slaves per day to maintain a golf course they had built near Kyin Kan Pyin. This goes to show that Rohingya are thought of in much the same way as African Americans were thought of by white slave owners in the old south. It helps to prove that Rohingya are most definitely not considered equals and are clearly considered to be less than human by their fellow countrymen. 

Other forms of slavery in the Arakan include but are not limited to forced guard duty (or sentry duty) and agricultural development and cultivation. 

Sentries are called upon by the NaSaKa to basically encourage Rohingya to spy upon their fellow Rohingya to supply NaSaKa with information to use to obtain extortion and to commit arbitrary arrests. It is also employed to harass Rohingya villages and communities by keeping them under constant watch and depriving the individual of sleep and security. This form of slavery serves to drive a wedge in targeted villages by implanting distrust and suspicion amongst the community. In many cases if the individual called upon to serve does not turn in suitable information than he/she is punished instead. Thus fulfilling the reason behind this form of slavery in the first place.

"The current regime in Burma pursues limited market economic reform with no pretence of democratic political, social reforms. Control of land and property has been central to state authority in Burma since independence and many laws concerning property rights in land have been passed. There is lack of ownership rights, no right to transfer and lease, buy and sell, or right to use land for growing crops of one’s preference."
~ Hudson-Rod and Htay in; Arbitrary Confiscation of Farmers’ Land by the State Peace and Development Council Military Regime in Burma

One of the most common forms of slave labour imposed upon Rohingya within the Arakan is that of agricultural labour. It is a stinging form of slavery in the fact that Rohingya are not allowed to keep the food they grow. They are not allowed to cultivate the land they call their own and yet are forced to cultivate the land the government claims they do not own. The food they grow is used to feed the mobs that have targeted them in countless pogroms. The work they put into the land saps them of strength while their stomachs go empty routinely.

Agricultural slavery can be applied in three basic ways in Burma. It can involve the Rohingya being dragged out to government owned land (all land in Burma is technically government land) where they are forced to cultivate the land for NaSaKa and military use. It can also require that Rohingya give up random chunks of their land to government authorities. It also can require that Rohingya grow specific crops upon their own land to be handed over to Rakhine upon harvest. The last method also serves to leave Rohingya vulnerable to extortion if the crop is less than demanded. 

In the recent bout of ethnic cleansing this form of slavery has been used to implement a campaign of ethnic cleansing through forced famine. The famine however was not a new concept since Burma has been moving toward this policy for decades now. Through confiscation of cultivable Rohingya land and the forcing of Rohingya to grow inedible crops the Burmese government has been increasing starvation amongst Rohingya communities for decades. 

"Farmers will no longer need to buy diesel for their tractors and vehicles if they grow such a profitable crop. So, physic nut plants should be grown on vacant lands, and on the areas where no other crops thrive for environmental conservation, raising the income of local people, and contributing towards fulfilling the future fuel requirement...Now, thanks to the visionary [sic] of the Head of State, farmers can enjoy fruitful results directly. I would therefore like to exhort farmers to grow physic nut on a commercial scale for their brighter future."
~ Senior General Than Shwe

In 2005 General Than Shwe launched a campaign to increase the land upon which physic nuts could be grown. Publicly the campaign was to increase the supply of an alternative fuel source. In reality it was a campaign to force Rohingya to grow a crop that they could not eat nor would have access to anyhow. The "vacant lands" mentioned by Than Shwe in "The New Light of Myanmar" were those occupied by the Rohingya within the Arakan state. As with most Burmese authorities, Than Shwe did not see the Rohingya as human and therefore had no reason to respect their needs or their lands. In addition the campaign he put in place would serve to deplete the Rohingya of food and substance upon which to survive. 

In the end the use of forced labour is according to the International Criminal Court as a "crime against humanity". It is a crime that is punishable in many ways including formal sanctions. However it is also a crime that has rarely been persecuted due to the toothless nature of the ICC. 

Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court:
~ Article 7 (1) 
For the purpose of this Statute, ‘crime against humanity’ means any of the following acts when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack:... (c) Enslavement
~Article 7 (2)
“Enslavement” means the exercise of any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership over a person and includes the exercise of such power in the course of trafficking in persons, in particular women and children.
~Article 7 (1) (c)
1.    The perpetrator exercised any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership over one or more persons, such as by purchasing, selling, lending or bartering such a person or persons, or by imposing on them a similar deprivation of liberty.
2.    The conduct was committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against a civilian population.
3.    The perpetrator knew that the conduct was part of or intended the conduct to be part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against a civilian population.

But despite all this the ICC finds it hard at best to find it within their jurisdiction to prosecute Myanmar's leadership for blatant abuses and countless crimes against humanity. 


“A man from NaSaKa came to my house. He kicked the door and told me I had to go and work as a sentry instead of my husband. I had to go immediately with my young child and without food. Later in the evening while I was at my post someone else from NaSaKa came. He told me ‘your husband is not there, I will stay with you; I want to live with you’. That night the man raped me in the shed in front of my boy.

We (women) feel at peace in Bangladesh. There is no food and some problems, but there is no rape, we have peace”
~ Rohingya Woman, 26 years old. 

Sex is a weapon unlike any other form of terror experienced by its victims. The use of rape as a weapon has been a horrific hallmark of war since the beginning of time. It is also a defining trait of dictatorships and tyrannical governments. Plus, it has been used almost every time governments begin to practice genocide against a targeted community. 

In Burma the government has identified rape as a means of dividing Rohingya communities while also providing a perverse moral boost to its military troops. Myanmar's troops are allowed to rape Rohingya girls without mercy and without repercussions. Rohingya women have no rights. 

In 2002 Shan Human Rights Foundation and Shan Women's Action Network published "License to Rape". In this publication the organizations spelled out just how Burma's Junta style government has allowed their troops to commit mass rapes. It spells out ‘173 incidents of rape and other forms of sexual violence, involving 625 girls and women, committed by Burmese army troops in Shan State, mostly between 1996 and 2001.’. 

"the Burmese military regime is allowing its troops systematically and on a widespread scale to commit rape with impunity in order to terrorize and subjugate the ethnic peoples of Shan State. The report illustrates there is a strong case that war crimes and crimes against humanity, in the form of sexual violence, have occurred and continue to occur in Shan State."
~ License To Rape

From 2002 through the present day UN affiliated organizations investigated the claims made by "License to Rape". Organizations throughout Burma joined the fight to combat the epidemic rape culture within Myanmar. Refugee International provided 125 cases of rape in Karen State between 1988-2004, 37 cases of rape in Mon State between 1995-2004, 38 cases of rape in Chin State between 1989- 2006, and 26 cases of rapes across Burma between 2002-2004.

"Widespread rape is committed with impunity, both by officers and lower ranking soldiers. Officers committed the majority of rapes documented here in which the rank of the perpetrator was known. The culture of impunity contributes to the military atmosphere in which rape is permissible."
~ Refugee International 

Some of the cases involved gang-rape. Others were cases in which the victims were raped in front of family and friends. Most were rapes in which the attacker was not alone but accompanied by other military comrades. 

"According to information received, in all states in Myanmar, both in conflict areas and in ceasefire areas, Government forces subject women and girls to multiple forms of violence including abduction, forced marriage, rape, including gang rape, mutilation, suffocation, scalding, murder, sexual slavery and other forms of sexual violence. These acts are reportedly often committed by commanding officers, or with their acquiescence. In many cases, women and girls are subjected to violence by soldiers, especially sexual violence, as ‘punishment’ for allegedly supporting ethnic armed groups. Women and girls are in these cases reported to have been detained and repeatedly raped by the soldiers, sometimes leading to their death."
~ UN Independent Expert on Minority Issues, Special Rapporteur on Torture, and the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women 2006

For the Rohingya today in the Arakan this warning is just as important as it was in 2006. During recent pogroms committed by Rakhine extremist the Rohingya reported countless cases of rape and sexual violence. Their reports of sexual "punishment" are almost identical to those depicted in the 2006 report. Their stories mirror the culture of rape the organizations first recorded in 2002. And yet the UN still to this day shows little ability to punish the Burmese government for their depraved crimes. 

In 2007 the Special Rapporteur on Torture, the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, and the Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention lodged a complaint with Burma. In this complaint they depicted the gang-rape of four Kachin girls between the ages of 14 and 16.

"Army officials gave money to the girls and their parents to persuade them not to report their case to the police. However, in late February, the incident was reported by an independent news agency. After the information was released, the four girls were immediately arrested and are now detained at Putao Prison, Kachin state."

Today this same incident is playing itself out over and over again. Rohingya girls and women who attempt to flee or have their stories leaked out are often subject to the same arbitrary arrest by Burmese police. Once they have been victimized by the military they are open to constant harassment by NaSaKa and police forces throughout Burma. If their victimizer even believes that their victim has told somebody they can have the girl killed or arrested (a fate that often leads to death anyhow). 

As of 2008 the UN Secretary-General hinted at the situation the Rohingya face in his report following the Security Council Resolution on Women and Peace and Security.

"In Myanmar, recent concern has been expressed at discrimination against the minority Muslim population of Northern Rakhine State and their vulnerability to sexual violence, as well as the high prevalence of sexual violence perpetrated against rural women from the Shan, Mon, Karen, Palaung and Chin ethnic groups by members of the armed forces and at the apparent impunity of the perpetrators."

As for seeking help amongst the Rohingya themselves... 

Refugee International notes:

"The military’s use of rape to control both eastern and western Burma has been documented for at least fifty years. Despite the longevity of this brutal practice, talk about rape has never been acceptable. Such discussion among Burma’s ethnic women is considered taboo and is usually conducted in hushed tones and with lowered heads. For women to acknowledge that they have been raped is to declare openly that they are “unclean,” and to face possible discrimination at the hands of their family and community members who hold them responsible. For men to acknowledge it is to admit they have been unable to protect their wives, mothers and daughters. For communities to discuss it is to confront the pain, shame, and impotence of people under siege by their own country’s army."

The uncomfortable nature of facing the rape leaves many Rohingya women in a prison comprising of their own hearts and minds. Trapped by a crime that was thrust upon them, these victims find it hard to admit that they were victimized. Many find it even harder to admit to their families that they were attacked. And even if they can tell others there is the possibility that others will hold this crime against them. 

"This is contributing to double victimization, first for having been sexually violated and second for having to bear the fear, shame and stigma that surrounds sexual violence, and to a culture of silence that essentially impedes victims’ access to justice and remedy, and allows impunity to persist."
~ UN Security-General 

For Rohingya who are victimized there is no possibility that they will find justice. If a rape was ever reported there is never the actual possibility that the authorities would investigate. For the most part there is a well understood policy to never investigate a rape against ethnic minorities. This allows the rapist to commit his act without fear of reprisal. It permits the rape to be committed without allowing the victim the ability to ever fight back. 

"In most cases, especially when the perpetrators are Government officials, victims do not lodge complaints to the authorities on any acts of violence committed against them, for fear of retaliation by the perpetrators. In many instances, those that do complain are invariably instructed to accept meagre compensation under the threat that if they do not retract their complaint, they would be subjected to more violence. Alternatively, they are arbitrarily arrested and detained until they withdraw their complaints. Sometimes the families of the victim are threatened as a means of exerting pressure on the victim. On one occasion, a community leader who reported a rape of one of his villagers was beaten and tortured to death by the military. It is also reported that medical personnel who treat a rape victim are reluctant to take any action with the authorities out of fear of possible reprisals against them. As a result of this, victims are entirely discouraged from making complaints; investigations are as a result rarely initiated and perpetrators are seldom brought to justice. The existence of such as widespread culture of impunity exacerbates the magnitude of violence against women and girls in Myanmar."
~ Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women

The added aspect of a deeply patriarchal society only further embeds the fear women hold in reporting rape. In following many rather conservative forms of Islamic law the Rohingya women are especially vulnerable to the cruel realities rape brings both during and after it has been committed. Then when you add upon the Islamic culture the fact that their society is being oppressed you have the possibility of these victims being further victimized by community members. 

In many cases during previous genocides the victims of rape in religiously conservative communities have suffered ostracizing by their own community, blackmail by other women, and corporal or capital punishment by community leaders. This leads many of the rape victims to hide their "shame" at all cost. It also leads to repeat victimization of the rape victim through indirect and direct consequences of the initial crime itself. 

"The Committee expresses its deep concern at reports that Muslim women and girls in northern Rakhine State endure multiple restrictions and forms of discrimination which have an impact on all aspects of their lives, including severe restrictions on their freedom of movement; restricted access to medical care, food and adequate housing; forced labour; and restrictions on marriages and pregnancies. The Committee is also concerned that the population in northern Rakhine State, in addition to being subject to policies imposed by the authorities, maintains highly conservative traditions and a restrictive interpretation of religious norms, which contribute to the suppression of women’s and girls’ rights."
~ UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women

The complex situation that arises out of this horrid crime is one that has perplexed UN officials and Human Rights activist around the world. In the past, highlighted in Bosnia, we as a world community have been incapable of adequately facing this crime head on. However despite our shortcomings when addressing sexual violence and rape, we do know that this crime is in fact a "crime against humanity". That point we can all agree upon. 

And yet the evidence of this heinous crime against humanity mounts in the Arakan...

"Information received from over 30 interviews with Myanmar Muslim women from Rakhine state and other women from areas of armed conflict indicated that a large number of rapes by entire groups of Myanmar military had been taking place. Many women provided testimony that women in villages relocated by the army were rounded up and taken to military barracks where they were continually raped. In other circumstances, women have allegedly been taken by the military when the husband, or other male in the family, had fled at the approach of the army. Often, the "pretty" or young ones were raped immediately in front of family members and then taken away. Women who had returned to their villages stated that some of the women among them had died as a result of the continual rapes. Two female health workers interviewed by the Special Rapporteur reported that in their clinic, women with rape wounds had been admitted and had later died from bleeding or subsequent infection."
~Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in Myanmar noted in a 1993 report.

"Female headed-households are particularly vulnerable to sexual abuses, including rape. Women and teenage girls are also at risk when left alone at home while their husbands forcibly work as sentries or are absent. NaSaKa patrols routinely enter homes at night searching for unlawfully married couples or unregistered guests. Girls have also been raped while collecting firewood."
~ Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women 2008

"In many of the incidents documented, the women were not only raped, but were also physically tortured in other ways, including being beaten, suffocated by having plastic put over their head, and having their breasts cut off. In the following ex-ample, the woman was beaten unconscious and raped, and her pregnant sister murdered."
~ Refugee International, "No Safe Place" report.

International law is very clear on rape however. It was defined by the International Criminal Tribunal of Rwanda:

"Like torture, rape is used for such purposes as intimidation, degradation, humiliation, discrimination, punishment, control or destruction of a person. Like torture, rape is a violation of personal dignity..."

However during most prior cases in which rape was brought up as a subject of trial in the International Criminal Court the definition of rape had involved the penetration of the penis into the vagina. In Burma it is important to note that the ICC had expanded upon the definition of rape in international court while reviewing cases that arose out of the former Yugoslavia. 

"The actus reus of the crime of rape in international law is constituted by: the sexual penetration, however slight: (a) of the vagina or anus of the victim by the penis of the perpetrator or any other object used by the perpetrator; or (b) of the mouth of the victim by the penis of the perpetrator; where such sexual penetration occurs without the consent of the victim. Consent for this purpose must be consent given voluntarily, as a result of the victim’s free will, assessed in the context of the surrounding circumstances. The mens rea is the intention to effect this sexual penetration, and the knowledge that it occurs without the consent of the victim."

And was finally fully defined later with the following ICC definition. 

"International criminal rules punish not only rape but also any serious sexual assault falling short of actual penetration. It would seem that the prohibition embraces all serious abuses of a sexual nature inflicted upon the physical and moral integrity of a person by means of coercion, threat of force or intimidation in a way that is degrading and humiliating for the victim’s dignity."

Yet here we are in 2013 without a single case being brought up against Myanmar and its brutal military. While courts have well defined rape as a crime against humanity we have yet to see a Burmese soldier or general brought up on this crime before the ICC. 

These two crimes are often combined. In so many cases the Rohingya man and boys are forced away from the home as slave labour while the women and girls are raped. Both are tools of ethnic cleansing that work toward the same end result. These are weapons that the Rakhine extremist not only support but fully implement in their goal of ethnic cleansing. 

If these two methods were even remotely removed from the arsenal of the Burmese regime countless Rohingya lives could be saved. Without these two tools the Myanmar government would have just a little less control over the Rohingya community. But more importantly it could save many Rohingya the indignity that these two crimes manifest.

Source documents

February 18, 2013

Arakan Still Smoldering

Is Next Wave Of Violence Lingering Over Horizon?
(part of The Darkness Visible series)

 (Camps are "more like prisons")

During the past week I have been seeing more and more tweeters sounding the alarm that the next wave of ethnic cleansing is about to strike in the Arakan. Almost a year ago I would have thought this was a tad bit overly dramatic. Today however it feels closer to reality than ever before. 

These days the Rohingya within Burma are living in a situation where they are waiting for the next boot to drop. Their lives are in constant danger as the radical Rakhine continue to rally Buddhists to their cause. All the while they are starved in camps that the UN says are "more like prisons". More of the Rohingya die daily of hunger and disease in villages that are locked down behind blockades the government has erected. 

For the Rohingya it always feels as though the next wave of violence is persistently lingering over the horizon. 

So what could the next wave of violence look like if it were to happen tomorrow?

After the last two outbreaks of ethnic cleansing in the Arakan the Rohingya were effectively disarmed and rounded up into camps or confined to their villages and ghettos. This has left the Rohingya unable to mount any effective form of defense against attacks from well organized Nasaka backed mobs or Rakhine nationalist that were not disarmed after the fighting. It is important to also note that Rohingya prior to the fighting had only been able to use agricultural tools and common household items to fight back. The Rakhine on the other hand have the support of modern weapons and vehicles to readily move their forces onto target. Thus the mere "fighting strength" of the two communities is already disproportionate. 

When you factor in the length of time that the Rohingya have been starved and deprived of communication with family and friends the ability to organize is depleted as well. With no ability to openly communicate with neighboring villages or camps the Rohingya are isolated. They are for lack of better words the proverbial sitting ducks in this situation. 

In addition there is no reason for the Rakhine to wait for an excuse to attack either. 

The initial violence was blamed on an alleged rape and murder of a "Rakhine" Buddhist woman. The result was an untold number of Rohingya arrested, raped, murdered, and made homeless. Of course there were a handful of Rohingya that fought back to save their homes and loved ones and these were killed or arrested while their attackers went free. But the fact remains that the initial campaign of ethnic cleansing was a result of a planned campaign in which a rape was exploited and rolled into a larger crime. 

After the campaign began the Rohingya were sent off to concentration camps or had their homes turned to ghettos. This was intended and has been carried out to further isolate the targeted community. It leaves the victims vulnerable to further exploitation and potential extermination. It was the same method used in Poland with the Jews in Warsaw. It was the same method used in Bosnia by the Serbs to exterminate Muslims. 

All of this leaves one to guess that if the "ethnic violence" returns it will be targeted at a community already living under siege. If or when the next stage of this campaign of ethnic cleansing begins it has the possibility of being the Rakhine extremists' version of Hitler's "Final Solution".

If it begins as early as March (an estimate given by tweeters following the genocide) then we are almost guaranteed to see Burmese police clearing out ghettos and emptying the camps. Mass executions could be possible as Rakhine extremist find that they have no ability to deport or drive out the thousands of Rohingya caught in their ghetto liquidations. Rohingya attempting to flee would face Nasaka forces ready and willing to shoot first and ask questions after the killing is finished.

Now by this point many people reading this probably think that I'm jumping directly to the worst possible scenario. For many the thought of this sort of thing happening in our time is uncompromisable. We are supposed to be living in a modern age of civility and tolerance. Burma however lives in an age and culture of ethnocentrism and Junta law. And this sort of tragedy is already taking place on a daily basis in the Arakan region of Myanmar whether our Western press and media like it or not.

Rohingya within Burma are living a day to day life as they wait to see if their government will kill them all or just let this latest outburst of violence build upon a long history of oppression and discrimination. For them, it is not a question of if the next wave of violence will happen... it is when it will begin.

Source Documents
(note not all sources are listed)

Democratic Voice of Burma

Eleven Myanmar

The Irrawaddy

Mizzima News