Editorial: What’s going on in Myanmar?

Several important pieces are missing from the narrative in the imperialist media.

For several months now, the muslim minority Rohingya people have been fleeing Rakhine state in western Myanmar over the border into Bangla Desh, stating that they were driven out by Myanmar soldiers burning their homes and killing at random. Thousands of Rohingya refugees are now living in refugee camps under extremely precarious conditions.

The Myanmar government has denied (1) that atrocities are being committed, and (2) that the Rohingya even exist. The de facto president of the country, Ms Aung San Suu Kyi, once hailed by imperialism as a champion of democracy and reform against the country’s then military dictatorship, is facing calls that she be stripped of her Nobel peace prize.

Yet there seems to be little doubt that the Rohingya do exist, that they are fleeing over the border in vast numbers, and that they are doing so because they are afraid of remaining in their own country. At the same time, the imperialist media are taking a far greater interest in this particular refugee crisis – and a more pro-refugee partisan stance – than in others around the world which are just as bad or worse: eg, in Syria and Yemen. The crocodile tears being cried by the USA over the Rohingya are particularly hypocritical.

Not only is the USA guilty of multiple genocides (of native Americans at home, of Koreans, Vietnamese, Iraqis and others abroad), but it is also midway through its own massive ethnic cleansing programme. Over 3 million workers of Latin American origin were deported by the Obama regime (2009-16), and Trump is anxious to beat this ignominious achievement. Clearly neither genocide nor ethnic cleansing are behind the US’s concern over the Rohingya crisis.

It seems that the Myanmar government has some sort of a pretext for engaging in what amounts to ethnic cleansing that is more than mere racism and discrimination. The Moon of Alabama website has explained:

“Rakhine plays an important part in the Chinese One Belt One Road initiative as it is an exit to the Indian Ocean and the location of … a planned economic zone on Ramree Island and the Kyaukphyu deep-sea port, which has oil and natural gas pipelines lined with Yunan Province’s Kunming.

“Pipelines from the western coast of Myanmar eastwards to China allow hydrocarbon imports from the Persian Gulf to China while avoiding the bottleneck of the Strait of Malacca and disputed parts of the South China Sea.

“It is in the ‘western interest’ to hinder China’s projects in Myanmar.”

Indeed, it seems more than likely that imperialism has been encouraging jihadis to cause trouble precisely with a view to hindering these projects. A local islamist insurgency acting under the name of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army “is led by Ata Ullah abu Ammar Junjuni, a jihadist from Pakistan … He grew up and was educated in Saudi Arabia. He received military training in Pakistan and worked as a wahhabi imam in Saudi Arabia before he came to Myanmar.”

The Rohingya community, who are settled in large numbers not only in Myanmar but also in Bangla Desh and Pakistan, has a history of being mobilised to fight on behalf of imperialism. During the second world war they were mobilised by the British to fight the Burmese government, which had sided with Japanese imperialism. Then large numbers of Pakistani Rohingyas from Karachi were mobilised by imperialism to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan.

In view of the way jihadis have recently been mobilised by imperialism to fight in Iraq and Syria, and the terrible cost that the people of these countries have had to bear as a result, it is only to be expected that the Myanmar government would want to take steps to stifle any jihadi activity in their own country.

Unfortunately, however, because for years the Myanmar government has discriminated against the Rohingya, refusing people who have been living for several generations in the area even the right to citizenship, the community is disaffected and thus susceptible to the siren songs of jihadism. Hence the present shocking ethnic cleansing.

What actually needs to be cleaned up, however, is the chauvinism of the majority buddhist Myanmar community, which needs to start by lifting the denial of civic rights to the country’s muslims. The country can expect to benefit hugely from the Chinese projects that are proposed, as a result of which it should be possible to win over all communities in the country to ensuring conditions of peace exist so that these projects can go forward.

The Myanmar government has said that it will facilitate the return of the Rohingya. It must stand by its word and at the same time ensure that refugees return to safety, with full compensation for losses of homes, livestock and crops during the crisis. The most important thing is to ensure that the returning refugees should all have a stake in peace so that they can be relied upon not to harbour or support imperialist-backed jihadism in their community.