More From Alder's Ledge

August 20, 2013

Stealing Their Heritage

Myanmar's Slow Genocide
(The Darkness Visible series)

When a tyrant finds that they can no longer effectively kill off a targeted community the endgame scenario they often turn to is no less atrocious then the original sin. It is an option for genocidal regimes that has been a persistent fix all throughout the history of genocide. For the Germans it was the cattle car solution to the "Jewish Question". In Armenia it was defined by death marches into the wilderness where the victims were made to suffer a slow death if not immediately executed. And in Myanmar it is expressed clearly in the eyes of every "refugee" created through the government's barbarism.

Slow Genocide

"We will take responsibility for our ethnic people but it is impossible to accept the illegally entered Rohingyas, who are not our ethnicity," ~Thein Sein

Genocide is defined as the deliberate killing of members of an ethnic, religious, or national group with intent to destroy the group in part or in whole. It can include the imposing of living conditions meant to bring about the death or deterioration of the group in any capacity. This means that the deportations of members of the group can be interpreted as intent to impose living conditions that would destroy the group in part or in whole. For this reason the use of deportations on any scale is a tactic of savagery by a state that can legally be defined as genocide. However slow it might be... it is still genocide. 

In previous post we have explored the intent on Myanmar's part to create refugees of it's minority populations with intent of "ethnically cleansing" it's lands of said groups. Though there are arguments amongst some about the supposed difference between ethnic cleansing and outright genocide, it is the opinion of this blog that the two are the same crime regardless. For that reason the use of such tactics on the part of Myanmar constitute a history of genocide and the continuation of it when dealing with all it's minority groups. 

For the Rohingya this slow bleed has been up to this point has been a genocide characterized by pogroms designed to look like "flash point" events of ethnic unrest. These supposed spontaneous attacks have been accompanied by military action that rapidly follows up behind state supported Rakhine mobs. Where the civilian attackers cannot finish the job the Burmese military picks up the slack. This cooperation shows that despite the appearance of spontaneity, the attacks are often organized and carried out in the same military fashion Myanmar has displayed in the Shan and Kachin states. 

The initial blitz approach to genocide lost steam as the world turned it's eyes upon the newly "democratic" Myanmar. Feeling the pressure to maintain appearances, Burma turned away from outright slaughter and moved toward a slower version of death. Rohingya were rapidly placed into concentration camps without regard to living conditions for the Rohingya themselves. This aspect of organizing IDP camps that would bring about disease, starvation, and eventual death should had shown the intent of genocide on Myanmar's part. But the world looked the other way as Burma sealed off Rohingya villages and created the ghettos that Poland once endured. 

During this entire campaign of slowing down the death toll in the Arakan state the government of Burma expressed a desire to begin deportations. Under the Nasaka small scale deportations did exist. Yet with the old SA gone and the new SS building up it's numbers, the deportations have all but ended. Border security in Myanmar still utilizes human traffickers to deport the Rohingya in boats and along dangerous paths into neighboring countries. This turns a profit for the corrupt Myanmar regime while at the same time fulfilling the government's desire to ethnically cleanse the Arakan. 


"We will send them away if any third country would accept them," Thein Sein. "This is what we are thinking is the solution to the issue."

When Hitler laid out his 'Final Solution' to the 'Jewish Question' he did so with the same vitriol that can be heard in Thein Sein's voice when talking about Myanmar's Rohingya question. The hatred that spewed forth in Mein Kamph can be read in every sentence that has come forth from Thein Sein when addressing the "issue" of Rohingya in Myanmar. It isn't enough that the man calls an entire ethnic group and "issue" but that he feels a need to find a "solution" to them. This is the nature of Burma's endgame.

It is not beyond reason to imagine that if Myanmar cannot deport enough Rohingya fast enough (before the next elections) that Thein Sein could look toward more "spontaneous" actions to reduce the Rohingya population. But for now the endgame solution that Burma has chosen to move forward with is that of deportations and concentration camps. The relationship between the two methods is vital to the endgame that Thein Sein's regime (note that Thein Sein is a puppet to a military backed government) has chosen for the genocide of the Rohingya people.

Deportations are a complex operation when carried out by the state. It has historically been shown that the leaders of such crimes feel a compulsion to document the events a dozen different ways. States compelled to expel ethnic groups in mass seems to need such documents to prove the enemy is really gone. But for whatever reason, the removal is always capable of being proven through the perpetrators' own accounts.

One way to organize these crimes has been to first create ghettos, concentration camps, or detention centers of some sort. These facilities, no matter how inhumanely constructed, are vital to the efforts by states to expel any portion of their population. It helps to confine the members of a targeted group so as to prevent people from escaping what they might rightfully perceive as a slow form of death. It also frees up land and property that was owned or occupied by the targeted group.

Once the ghettos are created the state can take an inventory of their victims. The Germans used tattooing to identify victims as they were deported to death camps outside the view of the rest of society. The Ottomans used decapitations and kill houses to count off the dead so as to keep track of how many Armenians they had removed from the empire. Yet in every case the use of some form of confinement has offered the state an opportunity to commit even more atrocities then before.

For the Rohingya the inhumane confinement of Burmese concentration camps and ghettoized villages has offered the state the chance to extort money, carry out sexualized violence, and other depravities. These crimes have all been forms of torment that have kept the Rohingya under living conditions that are meant to kill. And yet these forms of torture are not the endgame for the Rohingya as far as the Burmese regime is concerned.

In the camps there is a stalwart that the government of Myanmar cannot kill through starvation, with bullets, or through disease. It is the most basic refuge of what makes a human a human. It is the deeply planted seed of hope. It is the basic desire for life that keeps even the most anguish ridden soul alive beyond the point of rationality. In the camps there is this clinging to life that Burma's leaders have not yet been able to trample.

For this reason the government has turned to deportations. If they cannot outright kill the entire population with impunity, and death has not yet set in through mass neglect, the final solution comes in the form of removal. That is why Thein Sein, the puppet with whom the world is met, turns to propositioning the world to take the Rohingya away.

In the words of this tyrannical government rest a message that the world will be fullish to so passively overlook. In the offers to deport the Rohingya lay the warning of what awaits those who remain. Though there is no date given in those few words, there is the intent to end this slow genocide once and for all. If the Rohingya are not allowed to be removed they will face death one way or another.

This is an ultimatum that cannot be ignored. And yet it is the rational of an unsound mind that cannot be reasoned with. We cannot accept the deportations of a people and thus end a genocide through a slightly better means then death itself. Yet the leaders of Myanmar are hinting that they will find a way to force the worlds' hand.

Deportations are already underway. Rohingya are pushed out to sea every day. They are bought and sold like cattle and sent off to lives that barely can be called living. These small scale deportations are Burma's way of testing the waters (so to speak). Our tolerance of them only emboldens the perpetrators of these crimes. Our silence helps drive the nail into their coffins.

A Plea... A Scream.

I will close this post in a way that many of Alder's Ledge's contributors have heard time and time again. It is a story that has tainted post after post here on this blog. And though I don't talk about it near as often as some might want... it is a story that best sums up why Alder's Ledge has kept it's voice raised for so long.

I have said before that I can see the faces of my ancestors in the stories that come out of Burma. Time and time again I have faced a part of my own past in a land I knew nothing about just a couple years ago. It has bonded me to a people that I may never get the chance to meet in person. It has connected me to a struggle that many have never heard about. For this reason I scream.

When the Germans entered Croatia they stole from me something that I hadn't even been given yet, my heritage. The holocaust of my ancestors took from my family the will to identify with their past. It stole from them their name, their lineage, their history. For that reason I lost entire portions of a history that I have fought to restore my entire life. It is a battle that led to Alder's Ledge's creation in the first place. It is the heart and soul of why this blog exist. And it is the blood in our cracked voices as we scream for those suffering that same fate. 

I know that many who read this blog don't have that scar to keep them entangled in what can be easily written off as "someone else's fight". It isn't easy to deal with genocide no matter what you own history with it might be. And it certainly isn't a topic that we often think about bringing up, let alone as often as this blog does. 

But I would like to make this plea once again. 

When I look at Burma I see entire masses of people being forced into the struggle I have faced since my eyes were first opened. What is being stolen from them isn't something that they will ever be able to restore to the way it was prior to all this. Many of them are already a generation or two into this battle to hold onto their heritage. Their mothers, their fathers, and for some their grandparents... all watch as their children are robbed of their culture, their history, their family. 

There is no good way to describe the suffering that comes along with this. Anger, hatred... both taint the soul as a person fights to take back what they were denied so violently. For some, those emotions never succumb to the love for life that they feel was crushed beneath the heels of their assailants. 

For me this is just a little of why I fight. It is what motivates these post. And hopefully, the heart of this has been seen in every word. 

Now I would like to ask that those reading this put these post into their own words... with your own heart. Take everything you can from these articles and utilize them to get the message out. Don't let your voice be silent as the Rohingya people are robbed of their humanity. Scream with us. Join us. Fight with us.

Want to learn how you can help? 

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Some Sources Used:


Bangkok Post


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