Labeling Rohingya Civilians as Militants to Justify Army’s Atrocities
By M.S. Anwar | Analysis & Opinion
Once again, the Burmese military has staged violence against the country’s ethnic minority, Rohingya — considered by UN as the World’s most persecuted people — since October 9, 2016. In June 2012, the Burmese Regime triggered violence against the same community that literally paralyzed half of around 1.3 million Rohingya populations in Arakan State. Many human rights groups have termed the crimes against the Rohingya as Crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing or crimes amounting to Genocide. Unfortunately, the international authoritative bodies have failed to stop this slow burning genocide despite ample of evidences proving the government’s hands behind.
U Zaw Htay alias Hmuu Zaw, the current Presidential Spokesman and ex-army major, notorious as a propaganda minister, held a similar position in the President Office under U Thein Sein government in 2012. He, from within the President Office, loudly incited hate speech against the Rohingya on many ocassions. On June 1, 2012, he arbitrarily labelled the Rohingyas as militants through his Facebook post ‘Infiltration of RSO (Rohingya Solidarity Organization) — which was declared as defunct post 2001 — militants in Maungdaw’ to turn the country’s Buddhist population against the Rohingya and as an advance move to justify the impending state-sponsored violence.
Fast forward to October 9, 2016, a group of unknown assailants carried out attacks on the three Border Guard Police (BGP) posts in Maungdaw Township. Since then, the Burmese military has launched full-fledged brutal assaults on the Rohingya civilians on pretext of ‘Operation Clearance.’
The Burmese troops have been committing all sorts of crimes against the Rohingya such as extrajudicial killings, burning homes, plundering properties, raping women, tortures, and arbitrary arrests; blocking humanitarian groups to the region; and what not?
It goes without saying that no responsible government will kill the unconcerned civilians en masse in the name of the crackdown on the assailants/militants.
Few days later, some (unverified) videos of a group of people — in T-Shirts and Sarongs/Lungis holding Swords, sticks and some assault guns — claiming to be the people behind the raids on the three BGP posts surfaced social media. They claimed they are a group of people of resisting the decades-long persecutions and the genocide committed by the Burmese governments against the Rohingya, named their activities as ‘Faith Movement’ and categorically denied to have any links with the foreign based terror groups.
However, the Burmese army through its proxy, Zaw Htay, in the President U Htin Kyaw’s Office, and the domestic media deliberately chose to take the name of an unknown or little known group with a devised term ‘Aqa Mul Mujahideen’ — which allegedly has links with the Pakistan based militant groups — to be behind the attacks. Without an iota of doubt, this move by the military to use the term is to justify the extrajudicial killings and large-scale destructions of the Rohingya minority.
Unsurprisingly, the Burmese military; the neo-nazi propaganda machine, the Presidential Spokesman U Zaw Htay; and the Burmese domestic media are now very quick to tag a ‘Militant Label’ to any Rohingya civilian arrested in the on-going raids at Rohingya villages all over Maungdaw and Rathedaung. To give an instance, the Burmese troops arrested and severely tortured two innocent Rohingya youths during yesterday’s raids at KoeTanKauk (Donseik Fara) in Rathedaung. They were later transferred to the Inn Dinn (Aan Daang) BGP Camp, only to label them as militants and announce it through the portal of Ministry of Information (MOI) (being operated upon the direction of Zaw Htay).
For weeks, the Burmese troops have been committing such kinds of large-scale atrocities with impunity, simultaneously successfully blocking the access of the international media, human rights observers and the aid groups to the region.
On one hand, the Burmese troops are arresting and torturing the innocent civilians. On the other hand, they are conveniently labeling them as militants or terrorists to justify their crimes against humanity. One shot, two birds! All look so easy for the Burmese military, while the international community chooses to just look on.
M.S. Anwar is an activist, reporter on the issues of Arakan and news editor of Rohingya Vision TV. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org