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    Southeast Asia
     May 24, '13


SPEAKING FREELY
Neo-Nazi denial in Myanmar
By Maung Zarni

Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say. Please click here if you are interested in contributing.

Myanmar has a newly registered Nazi party, the Rakhine National Development Party (RNDP), created ceremoniously in the wake of last year's anti-Muslim ethnic cleansing in western Rakhine State. Naypyidaw has incubated the party, while opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has wined and dined publicly with controversial


RNDP leaders, including party chairman and member of parliament Dr Aye Maung.

Separate branches of the Myanmar state, including the executive office of President Thein Sein, the parliament, and the judiciary, have all tolerated or tacitly backed the neo-Nazi Buddhist movement known as "969". The Buddhist fundamentalist movement, led by fascist monks such as U Wirathu and RNDP leaders like Aung Maung, himself a Bangladesh-born Rakhine, has been pivotal and yet unpunished in recent violence against Muslims that have killed hundreds and displaced upwards of 120,000.

Underscoring the racist bias, the judiciary recently sentenced a Muslim customer who peeled a 969 sticker off the mirror of a street vendor with his motorcycle key to two years imprisonment for "insulting religion". At the same time, the Thein Sein administration in Naypyidaw has failed to bring anyone to justice for participating in the broad daylight slaughter of 10 Muslim pilgrims in a public space in the southern Rakhine town of Taung-gok in early June 2012. Nor has anyone been prosecuted for this and last year's widely videotaped pogroms against Muslim communities.

With this type of blatant impunity, it is little wonder that the RNDP openly subscribes to neo-Nazism in its quest to create a pure "Buddhist state". The RNDP's official journal, "Toe-Tet-Yay" (or Progress), regularly uses the Burmese word for "beasts" when referring to Myanmar's Muslims, including the ethnic Rohingya. In media interviews as well as parliamentary discussions, RNDP leaders have with discernible admiration publicly talked about how Rakhine patriots should look to Israel and its apartheid system vis-a-vis the Palestinians as a model for handling the Rohingya.

An editorial in Progress's November 2012 edition even endorsed the view that while former fascist leader Hitler may have been a monster to Jews, he was a nationalist hero to many Germans. This is a view that any German in his or her right mind would find extremely repulsive and impossible to sympathize with.

Myanmar's homegrown neo-Nazi party of the Rakhines also calls for national level authorities in Naypyidaw to hold firm against any international pressure, including US rights lobby Human Right Watch's recent characterization of state-linked violence against the Rohingya as "ethnic cleansing", in dealing with the Rohingya situation, including the recent massive displacement of the group along the Bangladesh border.

Instead, they advocate for the forceful implementation of the blatantly racist 1982 Citizenship Act, which was specifically designed to bar any citizenship rights or recognition for Rohingya who lacked the documentation to prove that their ancestry was based in Myanmar, then known as Burma, before the first British defeat of the Burmese feudal kingdom in 1824.

(Incidentally, printing machines arrived in the palm-leaf society of feudal, pre-colonial Burma only around the mid-19th century - and even then it was thanks to the Christian missionaries. By this standard, 99% of supposedly "pure-blooded" Burmese would be rendered ineligible for citizenship.)

The RNDP's racist views have top level support. Speaking recently in New York, Myanmar Immigration Minister and ex-police chief Khin Yi reaffirmed the government's commitment to applying the Citizenship Act of 1982 to the Rohingya who survived last year's pogroms. Khin Yi, who has no exposure to the liberal West or little in terms of critical education, may be forgiven for his bluntness.

However, Myanmar's intellectual elites, including Western-educated opinion makers with PhDs and other advanced credentials from Ivy League schools and Oxbridge, have echoed Khin Yi's official racist stance on recognizing Rohingya citizenship. During his trip this week to Washington, Thein Sein confirmed the government's commitment to enforcing the racist Citizenship Act.

Dr Yin Yin Nwe, a PhD in geology from Cambridge University, Thein Sein's gem stones adviser, a presidential Rakhine Inquiry Commissioner, and the older daughter of the late Burmese authors Mi Mi Khaing and Shan feudalist Sao Saimong Mangra, talked about Rohingya women with visible disdain and in effect endorsed eugenics for them in a May 12 interview with Voice of America.

Another essay in the RNDP's 20-page official publication talks broadly about why certain individuals should not be considered human and hence not entitled to universal human rights. The same article argues that ethnic Buddhist Rakhines are only original inhabitants, or tai-yin-thar, of Rakhine State and that the ethnic name "Rohingya" should not be officially recognized for reasons of "national security".

Insecure racists
This national security over human rights perspective has also been shared by certain George Soros-funded 88 Generation Peace and Open Society Group leaders, including Ko Ko Gyi, who has openly endorsed the anti-Rohingya view since his meeting last year with ruling United Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) chairman and presidential-hopeful ex-General Shwe Mann.

Ko Ko Gyi, of course, is not alone. From presidential spokespersons such as Zaw Htay and Ye Htut, to Myanmar's National Human Rights Commission, to Western donor-funded human rights educators such as Aung Myo Min of the Human Rights Education Institute and other self-styled "civil society" leaders and organizations, all find it "unacceptable" to characterize last year's mass violence against Rohingya and other Muslims of western Myanmar as "ethnic cleansing" or as "crimes against humanity".

As Rakhine State spokesperson Win Myaing recently put it to Reuters, "How can it be ethnic cleansing? They are not an ethnic group."

These expressions of racial hatred were not entirely unpredictable. As early as 2004 Rakhine dissidents in exile based along Thai-Myanmar border areas such as Mae Sot were found to be reading and discussing Hitler's infamous tract Mein Kampf, or "My Story". It thus would not be surprising if Myanmar's neo-Nazis among the Rakhine and multiethnic public may be inclined to learn German so that they may read Hitler's racist treatise in the original.

According to a retired German ambassador to Myanmar who recently wrote a commissioned analysis on the rise of what many have referred to as a "neo-Nazi Buddhist movement", the German Foreign Ministry was adamant against his use of the labels "Nazi" or "neo-Nazi" to describe what he viewed as just that. Apparently the word "Nazi" is too close to home for Berlin, which was actively engaged Thein Sein's quasi-civilian regime.

German officials are not alone in feeling squeamish about the overt labeling of recent genocidal and Nazi-like developments in Myanmar. Yangon-based Western diplomats charged with engaging Thein Sein's government are known to be hostile to any characterization of the clearly coordinated and Naypyidaw-backed mass violence against Rohingya and other Muslims as "ethnic cleansing", not to mention the use of the term "genocide".

But after advocating for human rights and democratization in Myanmar since the end of the Cold War, the West-led "international community" has lately come to play the lamentable role of "genocide enablers". From the United States to the European Union, from Britain to Japan, from the Paris Club to the Asian Development Bank, not to mention the "Burma-pernicious" International Crisis Group - as Australian economic adviser to Aung San Suu Kyi, Sean Turnell puts it - all have looked the other way in pursuit of their broader commercial and strategic interests.

Herewith is a shortlist of the concrete ways in which Western players have instilled a sense of invincibility in Thein Sein's fascist leadership and his proxy genocidal RNDP:
  • US President Barack Obama stops in Myanmar for six hours, claiming the visit as a foreign policy "success story" (Nov 2012);
  • The Paris Club cancels US$5.7 billion of Myanmar debt (Jan 2013);
  • Japan forgives $3.7 billion of Myanmar debt (Apr 2013);
  • The Brussels-based International Crisis Group awards Thein Sein its "In Pursuit of Peace Award" (Apr 2013);
  • The European Union lifts its long-held economic sanctions on Myanmar (Apr 2013);
  • Obama gives Thein Sein reciprocal red carpet treatment at the White House, while a senior US senator indicates he will let sanctions-related legislation lapse (May 2013).

With such international rewards and accolades coming in the direct aftermath of anti-Muslim ethnic cleansing, it is not surprising that Naypyidaw feels comfortable in ignoring its critics. Obama steered studiously clear of the term "ethnic cleansing" when stating his mild concern about the recent anti-Muslim violence in Myanmar. After all, who would want to refer to their budding business and diplomatic partners as genocidal perpetrators of crimes against humanity?

Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say. Please click here if you are interested in contributing. Articles submitted for this section allow our readers to express their opinions and do not necessarily meet the same editorial standards of Asia Times Online's regular contributors.

Maung Zarni is a Burmese activist blogger (www.maungzarni.com) and visiting fellow of Civil Society and Human Security Research at the London School of Economics. The above was adapted from a May 18 entry on his personal blog.

(Copyright 2013 Maung Zarni.)


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