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May 7, 2013

Buddhist Myanmar committing Genocide against Muslims

Scott Stockdale

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While western democracies - including Canada - clamour to do business with the quasi civilian government that took power in Myanmar in March 2011, the slaughter and ethnic cleansing of Muslims in the country continues unabated.

Faced with horrific images of mobs setting entire villages on fire amid rising anti-Muslim sentiment among the country’s Buddhist majority, the Harper government continues to promote what it characterizes as its “principled” foreign policy based on democratic values that include respect for human rights and the rule of law.

While the numbers vary according to whose doing the documentation, most reports estimate that hundreds of Muslims have been killed and hundreds of thousands forced from their homes in what the western press characterizes as “Buddhist-Muslim violence” in the west of the country, thus implying that there are no perpetrators who should be held accountable.

Meanwhile, reports of what actually took place in the Central Myanmar town of Meiktila in late March are still emerging.

Assed Baig, a journalist sent to the region with the help of donation from concerned Muslims, reported that Muslim refugees are beginning to speak out and tell the world what they witnessed with their own eyes.

“They beat them in front of me. I was watching. I can still see it,” Noor Bi said, while crying as she described the moment when she saw her husband and brother murdered in front of her eyes as she fled Meiktila.

This latest attack on Muslims came on the 20th of March in Meiktila, Burma, which is just 50 miles from the Burmese capital and is a military base.

The mob outnumbered the police, and officers were unable to protect the Muslim minority of the town.

The 26-year-old Ms. Noor is now a widow with a 3-year-old son. As she told her story and what she witnessed, the people around her in the make shift refugee camp now set up in the grounds of a Muslim school in Yindaw, began to cry. Grown men sobbed at hearing her ordeal.

Noor Bi’s account is not isolated. Mr. Baig reported that sixteen-year-old Muhammed (name changed for his safety) saw his friends killed in front of his eyes, after he and his fellow students went into hiding when Buddhist monks burnt down their boarding school.

Muhammed vividly remembers the fate of one of his fellow students in particular.

“They dragged Abu Bakr away as he attempted to get on the truck, and began to beat him; he was still alive when they threw him in the fire. He stood back up, and then they stabbed him in the stomach with a sword, twisting it whilst it was in him.”

When 100 people began walking to the police trucks to protest, 25 students and four teachers were murdered, beaten, stabbed and burnt alive. There are pictures that corroborate the accounts.

There are many other eyewitness accounts of the horror that took place in Meiktila and they are slowly reaching the world.

Meanwhile, about the same time as these atrocities were taking place in Meiktila, the Harper government announced that after 25 years of almost no contact between Canada and Myanmar, Ottawa will open an embassy in Rangoon, Myanmar this spring, with veteran Asia diplomat Mark McDowell serving as Canada's ambassador.

Canadian government officials said Mr. McDowell's primary task will be promoting Canada's economic relationship with the resource-rich Myanmar. Trade Minister Ed Fast announced last fall that Canada would open a trade office at the Rangoon embassy and said he hoped to sign an investment protection agreement with the Myanmar government.

As in the case of Israel for instance, trade and investment trump human rights concerns, with, of course, the justification that it's better to engage these human rights violators than to sanction them, although engagement has seldom, if ever, led to better human rights records.

In a late April 2013 report, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said human rights abuses took place in Myanmar despite widespread political, social and economic reforms by a quasi-civilian government that convinced the West to suspend most sanctions to allow aid and investment.

Human Rights Watch accused authorities in Myanmar’s western Rakhine State of crimes against humanity in the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims last year, charges the government dismissed as one-sided and “unacceptable”.

The New York-based HRW said, in its report, that security forces were complicit in disarming Rohingya Muslims of makeshift weapons and standing by, or even joining in, as Rakhine Buddhist mobs killed men, women and children in June and October 2012.

While acknowledging that security forces in some instances intervened to prevent violence and protect Muslims, the HRW report said that more frequently they stood aside during attacks or directly supported the perpetrators, committing killings and abuses, resulting in at least 110 people killed.

Deputy Asia director at HRW, Phil Robertson said failure to investigate properly or punish state officials emboldened those behind campaigns against Muslims, resulting in violence in central Myanmar, where more than 43 people were killed in March and at least 12,000 displaced.

The HRW report which called for international pressure on the government, said authorities had blocked aid from going into the camps occupied by stateless Rohingya and Kaman Muslims, exposing them to malnourishment and diseases such as cholera or typhoid.

About 800,000 Rohingyas live in Myanmar, where they are denied citizenship because the Myanmar government considers them illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

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