The European Union has done absolutely nothing to pressure Burma Army head Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing and his military to stop its campaign of what the United Nations has described as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” against the Rohingya, writes Mark Farmaner of Burma Campaign UK, in the Democratic Voice of Burma.
Calling for an arms embargo and targeted sanctions, he concludes that failure to act will send a clear message to Min Aung Hlaing that when it comes to ethnic cleansing, Europe’s response is, “Yes on our watch.”
Burma’s military has launched an internal investigation into the actions of its soldiers in Rakhine state, from where hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims have fled in recent weeks, reports the Independent.
“This isn’t an investigation, it’s a public relations effort,” said Mark Farmaner, director of Burma Campaign UK. “It does appear that the government and perhaps the military have been receiving some public relations advice. We’ve seen a concerted effort this week and a significant change in tone in the way they are talking about what’s going on. We know there isn’t going to be a genuine investigation by the Burmese army, we saw this after the attacks against the Rohingya in October last year.”
A persistent myth that the military in Burma are looking for an excuse to retake direct control of the country is now being used to justify inaction over the ethnic cleansing and possible genocide of the Rohingya.
While a misplaced fear of a coup is understandable given Burma’s history, it misreads the current political set-up in the country. The political system in Burma now is entirely the creation of the military. It has been painstakingly designed by them to protect their interests while at the same time relieving the domestic and internal pressure they were under. It has and is working very well for them.
To retake direct control would undo more than a decade’s worth of painstaking work to create the system currently in place.
This new briefing details why this is a myth and how it is used by the government of Burma and international community as an excuse for inaction.
Bangladesh has offered Rohingya refugees shelter, says an AidEx writer for the Diplomatic Courier, but aid organizations face challenges such as restrictions by the Bangladeshi government and difficult logistics.
Burma Campaign UK’s Director Mark Farmaner said: “While Bangladesh has understandably been praised for allowing refugees in, they have not given official refugee status to them. The government of Bangladesh has traditionally placed severe restrictions on aid to Rohingya in Bangladesh, causing great suffering.”
The Foreign Office has confirmed that Prince Charles will not visit Burma on his tour of southeast Asia and India later this month, reports the Democratic Voice of Burma.
“To have someone of Prince Charles’s stature go to visit the country would be seen as a reward, and giving legitimacy to the government and the military that are currently violating international law,” said Mark Farmaner, director of Burma Campaign UK.
Pakistan’s Daily Times reports that Mark Farmaner, Burma Campaign UK’s director, has urged St. Hugh’s College to confirm that the removal of Aung San Suu Kyi’s portrait is connected to her refusal to acknowledge the ongoing genocide against Rohingya Muslims. He has also urged the college to write to Suu Kyi and urge her to respect human rights.
An impromptu recital of a Kipling poem by Boris Johnson on a visit to the Shwedagon pagoda was so embarrassing the UK ambassador was forced to stop him, reports the Guardian.
“It is stunning he would do this there,” said Mark Farmaner, director of Burma Campaign UK. “There is a sensitivity about British colonialism and it is something that people in Burma are still resentful about. British colonial times were seen as a humiliation and an insult. It shows an incredible lack of understanding especially now we are seeing the impact of Buddhist nationalism, especially in Rakine state.”
The Guardian reports that St Hugh’s College Oxford, where Aung San Suu Kyi studied as an undergraduate, has removed her portrait from public display and placed it in storage, following international criticism over her role in the Rohingya crisis.
Burma Campaign UK’s director Mark Farmaner said “This seems a rather cowardly action by St Hugh’s. If they have taken down the portrait because of Aung San Suu Kyi defending the Burmese military as they commit ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya they should say so and write to her urging her to respect human rights.”
Frontier Myanmar reports on Britain’s suspension of its educational training courses for the Myanmar military due to the violence in Rakhine State.
Burma Campaign UK’s director Mark Farmaner told Frontier Myanmar “Ending this training should have been a no-brainer, not something to dither over for three weeks while ethnic cleansing happens … A major rethink on policy is now needed and a return to putting human rights first.”
Interviewed by Al Jazeera, Mark Farmaner, director of Burma Campaign UK, raised concerns about media coverage ignoring Min Aung Hlaing’s role in the Rohingya crisis, the government whipping up tensions using social media and the lack of press freedom inside Burma.