Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Chinese Developers Behind Burma’s Bengali Cleansing?

(Two articles direct from The HRW & The HUFFPOST on 15 & 18 September 2017.)

HRW satelite image of a burning Bengali border village in Maungdaw District.
(Dhaka) – The Burmese military is deliberately burning ethnic Rohingya villages near the Bangladesh border, Human Rights Watch said today. Such acts of arson, after forcing residents to leave their villages, appear central to the Burmese military’s ethnic cleansing campaign against the Rohingya Muslim population in Burma’s Rakhine State.

Human Rights Watch released new satellite imagery and sensory data showing that 62 villages in northern Rakhine State were targeted by arson attacks between August 25 and September 14, 2017. Human Rights Watch identified 35 of these villages with extensive building destruction from very high resolution satellite imagery, and an additional 26 villages that had active fires detected in near-real time with environmental satellite sensors.

“Our field research backs what the satellite imagery has indicated – that the Burmese military is directly responsible for the mass burning of Rohingya villages in northern Rakhine State,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director. “The United Nations and member countries should urgently impose measures on the Burmese government to stop these atrocities and end the forced flight of Rohingya from Burma.”

Human Rights Watch conducted a detailed building damage assessment in 6 of the 35 affected villages and identified nearly complete destruction in each case. The total number of destroyed buildings was 948.

On the morning of September 13, Human Rights Watch observed from Bangladesh large plumes of thick, black smoke from the Rohingya border village of Taung Pyo Let Yar in Maungdaw township.

A video confirmed to have been taken from a hill overlooking the village shows several buildings burning in the unoccupied village and two large, dark-colored trucks several hundred meters away. Village residents stranded at the border described the vehicles as “military trucks” that had previously entered the village. Three villagers who observed the fires from the hill said that the smoke came from fires set in village buildings.

Fatima, 50, who had fled Taung Pyo Let Yar, told Human Rights Watch that after she saw smoke rise from the village, she climbed a hill to see if her home was on fire. When she reached the top, she saw her home engulfed by a column of smoke. Other nearby homes were also burning.

She said that she had fled on August 31 when trucks carrying Burmese soldiers arrived in the village. The soldiers jumped out of the trucks carrying guns, frightening her, so she ran several hundred meters into the “no-man’s land” at the Bangladeshi border. “When we see the army we just ran away from the village – hundreds ran,” Fatima said. “We just brought our children.”

Mohamed Sahed, 50, climbed the same hill and said that he saw his two trucks and a car burning in front of his house, which was also consumed by fire. He said he saw at least four soldiers in the village. His son, Mohamed Shufi, 24, said that earlier that morning he and two other villagers had re-entered Burma and were heading back to their homes to get wood for cooking at their temporary camp at the border.

But when they were still hundreds of meters from the village, a half-dozen Burmese soldiers spotted them and hurled rocks at them using slingshots. The three villagers ran back across the border and hid.

Earlier in the week, Human Rights Watch directly observed a Burmese military patrol operating within 600 meters of Taung Pyo Let Yar. Rohingya refugees also said that they saw patrols of at least 40 Burmese soldiers operating within meters of the border fence and several hundred meters of the village nearly every day.

Several people at the border said that a Burmese border guard police post was located within 200 meters of Taung Pyo Let Yar, and that since August 31, the Burmese military had routinely occupied houses in the village and used the border guard outpost.

Satellite detection of multiple active fires on September 11 and 13 suggest that villages in new areas of Maungdaw township are now being targeted for destruction. Because of heavy cloud cover, it is almost certain that the actual number of fire-affected villages in the townships of Maungdaw, Buthidaung, and Rathedaung is considerably higher.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres and human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein have indicated that the Burmese military’s actions amount to ethnic cleansing. Burmese government statements seemingly support these conclusions. Zaw Htay, a Burmese government spokesman, told the media that of 471 villages targeted in “clearance operations” by the military, 176 are now empty and at least 34 others partially abandoned.

The Burmese military’s operations in northern Rakhine State followed a series of coordinated armed attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on August 25 against more than 30 Burmese government police stations and checkpoints, government offices, and an army base. The Burmese government alleges that Rohingya militants and villagers are responsible for burning buildings in villages across Rakhine State, but has so far failed to provide evidence of this claim.

Although “ethnic cleansing” is not formally defined under international law, a UN Commission of Experts has described ethnic cleansing as a “purposeful policy designed by one ethnic or religious group to remove by violent and terror-inspiring means the civilian population of another ethnic or religious group from certain geographic areas.… This purpose appears to be the occupation of territory to the exclusion of the purged group or groups.”

“The sightings of Burmese military vehicles and soldiers in a Rohingya village as it goes up in flames fills in some blank spaces of the overwhelming satellite imagery of destruction,” Robertson said. “Concerned governments need to convey the message to Burma’s Sr. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing and other senior commanders that they could be implicated in grave crimes unless they act swiftly to stop the atrocities and hold those responsible to account.”

It’s Also About Land: The burning of villages and eradication of Rohingya communities might have more to do with development projects funded by China than with religious prejudice.

PARIS — Religion and ethnicity have been the major focus in local and international news coverage of the persecution of the Rohingya in Myanmar. Such persecution is part of a long and cruel history suffered by the Rohingya people.

But there are limitations to this explanation for the current phase of that long-standing violence. Two recent developments make me question whether religion gives us the full picture of what is happening now.

The first is the Myanmar government’s 2016 decision to include a relatively significant 3 million acres of Rakhine rural land in the national list of land allocations for “economic development.” Before this, according to government documents, Rakhine was only in the list for a mere 17,000 acres allocated in 2012.

In Myanmar, the government’s language of “economic development” describes allocations of land that the military has de facto control over and have been selling to Burmese and foreign firms for the past 20 years. But Rakhine, a forgotten poor area at the margins of the country, had not really been part of such allocations. To some extent, the international, almost exclusive focus on religion has overshadowed the vast land grabs that have affected millions of people in Myanmar over the years, and now also the Rohingya.

This in itself, then, raises a question: What happened to change that longstanding indifference to the poorest state of the country?

Perhaps it was a Chinese consortium’s plan to develop a $7.3 billion deep-sea port at Kyaukpyu on the coast of Rakhine and a $3.2 billion industrial park nearby. China-funded development projects in Myanmar would be key links in Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative. So the land freed by the radical expulsion of the Rohingya might have become of interest to the military and its role in leading economic development around the country.

Religion may be functioning as a veil that military leaders can use to minimize attention on the land-grabbing aspect of this economic development part of their agenda. This is new in Rakhine, but it has happened in many other parts of Myanmar. For two decades, the military has controlled land allocation to national and foreign actors. The most affected have been minority Buddhists, mostly poor rural people.

In Rakhine, the military may be supporting extremist Buddhist sects who are spurring the persecution of the Rohingya; these Rakhine-based Buddhists are almost as poor as the Rohingya. The military, long in the business of land grabs, cannot lose by enabling the escalating evictions of the Rohingya.

Invoking prejudice against the Muslim population and the “criminality” of the Rohingya community may well suit military leaders’ ultimate goal better than if they truthfully declared what they’re really after ― the business of development.

We’ve seen the rapid and absolute elimination of many Rohingya villages over the last few weeks. There was no forced migration of Rohingya to government-controlled camps to protect them from attacks, as was the case in earlier conflicts. Instead, there has been an effort to erase all traces that Rohingya villages ever existed. While attacks and forced expulsions of the Rohingya are not new, there seems to be something nefarious and intentional in the way these current attacks attempt to erase the Rohingya community.

In major military attacks on Rohingya back in 2014, the military moved the affected Rohingya communities into government-controlled camps with the promise that they would return to their villages. That return never happened. Nor did the military ever hold responsible those who murdered Rohingya and burned their houses and fields in the earlier offensive.

Chinese enterprises, mostly state-owned, have been key developers in Myanmar for years. And Beijing’s influence is growing. For example, Beijing is a major backer of the controversial $3.6 billion Myitsone Dam project in northern Myanmar, which threatens to upset fishing industries and displace thousands of people. China is also a key actor in the timber industry in Myanmar’s vast forests. Over a million acres of forest land are being lost every year in recent years; a third of these forests is now gone.

We can see why the Kyaukpyu project would be highly desirable for Beijing. It fits Beijing’s goal of internationalizing its economy and would be an important piece in the $900 billion Belt and Road Initiative. It would give China a major foothold in the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean beyond. This is a project with global aspirations.

This is not a side of the Rohingya issue that has been widely included in the international discussion regarding the extreme attacks and expulsions of Rohingya over the last few weeks. The focus in the international community has been exclusively on the fact of religious persecution.

One cannot help but wonder whether Aung San Suu Kyi’s much-criticized silence is partly driven by these mega-projects, as they can bring valuable and much-needed development to Rakhine, the poorest in Myanmar.

Crude oil brought by ship from the Middle East will be stored at oil tanks on Madae Island in Kyaukpyu Township prior to sending it to China through the recently constructed pipeline, according to a Rakhine State minister.

Large 100,000-ton oil tankers will moor at Kyaukpyu Deep Sea Port as of January 2015, Rakhine State Minister for Forestry and Mining U Kyaw Khin told Mizzima on December 23, using the oil tanks of the China National Petroleum Corporation for storage. “China needs crude oil while the Myanmar government will benefit from [fees charged for] the storage of the oil and the use of the pipeline,” he said. Oil tankers will arrive at the island at least three times a month.

Some local people have expressed concern over the possible danger to the environment and oil spills. “The project may benefit the government but cause difficulties for local fishermen. The local authorities have not responded to concerns about responsibility for accidents,” U Tun Kyi, a local resident on Madae Island said.

The Minister for Energy and Rakhine State Chief Minister U Maung Maung Ohn met with local people in Kyaukpyu on December 21 but reportedly did no clearly address the issues of possible accidents and pollution.

Arrangements have been made to send crude oil from the CNPC Company tanks to China along a pipeline that runs parallel to the natural gas pipeline that will deliver gas from the Shwe block off the Rakhine coast. According to Lower House MP U Aung Mya Kyaw of Sittwe Township, the government has an arrangement to deal with any oil spills as part of the agreement.

About 450,000 barrels of oil maximum will be sent to China per year. Myanmar will have the use of one tenth of it, Deputy Minister for Energy U Aung Htoo told local people on December 21. Shwe gas activists noted in a report in 2013 that the Myanmar government will make US$54 billion from the pipelines over a period of 30 years.

The Reason Burmese Generals Are Shitting On UN & OIC

One can't blame China for vetoing any critical statement against Burma at UN for it has invested too much in Burma like trans-Burma pipelines and Kyauk Phyu deep sea port.  Burmese generals also do not give a shit about OIC or UN as long as China is behind them. Believe it or not they learned that crucial lesson from their old mates North Koreans continuously shitting on the mighty US of A and their own experience back in the late 1988.

Burma during the failed 8-8-88 (Four-Shit) Uprising in late 1988 was critically threatened from two fronts: one from across the maritime-boundary at south by the US Navy and one from across the land-boundary at North-East by the China’s PLA.

The nuclear-armed US Seventh Fleet was in Burma’s territorial waters and the fleet’s Amphibious-Assault-Ship USS Belleau Wood was ready to land its 3,000 strong Marine Division in Rangoon while the one-million strong and also-nuclear-armed South-Western Army of PLA with its Rapid-Armoured-Division ready to march to Mandalay was amassing across Muse on the China border if US ever made the first move.

And Americans did not dare to make that critical first move even while Burmese army was on their knees and being fed by Chinese. Since then Burmese generals know very well that their Burma is at such an important geopolitical location China will support them at any cost as long as they do not ally themselves with any other world power. 

General Min Aung Hlaing knows very well that he can rely completely on Chinese President Xie.