Satellite data released by Human Rights Watch shows widespread fires burning in at least 10 areas of Burma's Rakhine state, following a new military offensive targeting the country's Rohingya people. Burmese authorities say some 100 have been killed since Aug. 25, when supposed militants of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) launched pre-dawn raids on police outposts. The army has responded with a massive operation to encircle the Rohingya rebels and block their escape into Bangladesh. But troops are accused of putting whole villages to the torch and carrying out extrajudicial killings. More than 8,700 Rohingya have fled into Bangladesh since since the offensive was launched, but at least 4,000 more are stranded in the no man's land between the two countries near Taung Bro village. Temporary shelters now fill a narrow strip between the Naf River and Burma's border fence.
The Rohingya Muslim people of Burma are facing what some have called genocide in their homeland, long denied citizenship rights and now under attack by both the official security forces and Buddhist-chauvinist militias, who have carried out massacres and burned down their villages. Some 500,000 Rohingya have fled across the border to Bangladesh—where they are not being welcomed. Already confined to squalid refugee camps near the Burmese border, they now face forcible relocation to an uninhabited offshore island. Shunted from one region to another, they are targeted by the predictable propaganda—Burmese authorities have stigmatized them as Muslim terrorists, and now Bangladesh authorities increasingly stigmatize them as drug-traffickers.
Burma's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has rejected a decision by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate allegations of crimes by security forces against the country's minority Rohingya Muslims. The UN body agreed in March to dispatch a fact-finding mission to Burma over claims of systematic murder, rape and torture in Rakhine state. "We do not agree with it," Suu Kyi told a press conference during a visit to Brussels May 2. "We have disassociated ourselves from the resolution because we do not think that the resolution is in keeping with what is actually happening on the ground." (The Telegraph, May 3; NYT, March 24)
Seven of Burma's hold-out ethnic rebel armies formed a new committee this week to prepare collective talks with the government in anticipation of the next round of peace negotiations. Participating groups in what is now being called the "Northern Alliance" were the Kachin Independence Organization/Kachin Independence Army (KIO/KIA), Arakan Army (AA), Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA), National Democratic Alliance Army-Eastern Shan State (NDAA-ESS), and the United Wa State Army (UWSA). The meeting was held in Pangkham, administrative capital of the UWSA-controlled territory. After eight other northern ethnic armies have signed peace deals in recent years, these groups remain officialy at war with the Tatmadaw, the government's armed forces.
Our last annotated assessment of Barack Obama's moves in dismantling, continuing and escalating (he has done all three) the oppressive apparatus of the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) must inevitably be viewed in light of the current countdown to the death of democracy and the imminent despotism of Donald Trump. The fact that the transition is happening at all is a final contradiction of Obama's legacy. He is fully cooperating in it, even as his own intelligence agencies document how the election was tainted. Following official findings that Russia meddled in the elections, the White House has slapped new sanctions on Russia—deporting 35 Russian officials suspected of being intelligence operatives and shutting down two Russian facilities in New York and Maryland, both suspected of being used for intelligence-related purposes. The latest bizarre revelation—that Russian intelligence can blackmail Trump with information about his "perverted sexual acts" involving prostitutes at a Moscow hotel—broke just hours before Obama delivered his Farewell Address in Chicago. The speech was surreally optimistic in light of the actual situation in the country, and contained only a few veiled swipes at Trump. The best of them was this: "If every economic issue is framed as a struggle between a hardworking white middle class and undeserving minorities, then workers of all shades will be left fighting for scraps while the wealthy withdraw further into their private enclaves."
According to official John McKissick at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on Nov. 24, members of the Rohingya community have been subjected to numerous atrocities by troops in Burma, including execution, rape, starvation and forced displacement. McKissick said the widespread violence is part of an ongoing effort by the Burmese government to "ethnically cleanse" the Muslim minority group from the country. Speaking to the BBC from the UNHCR headquarters in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, McKissick said the latest increase in violence against the Rohingya is in response to the murder of nine border guards in Burma on Oct. 9, which some Burmese politicians have blamed on a Rohingya militant group.
Towns and villages across large areas of Burma's northern Rakhine state are reported to be deserted, as terrified residents flee a new military crackdown following attacks by supposed Muslim Rohingya militants. At least 26 have been killed in the military raids, and at least hundreds displaced. Villages are said to be in flames. The military action follows attacks on three border posts along the frontier with Bangladesh Oct. 9 that authorities blamed on a previously unknown "Aqa Mul Mujahidin," said to be successor group to the supposedly disbanded Rohingya Solidarity Organization (RSO). The border attacks, centered on Maungdaw township, left 39 dead—nine police, four soldiers and 26 suspected militants. (Channel News Asia, Channel News Asia, Anadolu Agency, Oct. 14)
President Barack Obama once again singled out Washington's biggest political adversaries in Latin America for censure in this year's White House report on global anti-drug efforts. The annual memorandum to the State Department, "Major Drug Transit or Major Illicit Drug Producing Countries," released Sept. 12, lists 17 Latin American countries out of a total of 22 around the world. As has now become routine, Bolivia, Venezuela and Burma are blacklisted as countries that have "failed demonstrably during the previous 12 months to adhere to the obligations under international counternarcotic agreements." (InSight Crime, Sept. 13)