Academics discuss Burmese reforms and Rohingya genocide in Sweden
Burma Times: 13.Feb 2015
In 2007, a saffron revolution led by Burmese monks was cheered on by the world. Yet within a few years, the Buddhist monks in Burma and Sri Lanka had gained reputation as neo Nazis. These were the words of Dr Maung Zarni at a seminar on the developments in Burma on February 10 at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs (UI), in collaboration with the Swedish Rohingya Association.
Noted academics Dr Marte Nilsen, historian of religions and Senior Researcher at the Peace Research Institute of Oslo, and Joakim Kreutz, Research Fellow at UI also spoke at the seminar which among other issues discussed the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in the context of contemporary Burmese politics.
The Burmese democracy advocate Dr Maung Zarni compared the situation in modern day Burma to Nazi Germany. Quoting Martin Kuther King, Zarni drew another parallel with the German dictatorship saying, “Everything Hitler did was legal.”
On the issue of Rohingya Muslims, Dr Zarni contradicted the prevailing impression that it was a communal conflict pitting Buddhists against Muslim. Instead it was a one way persecution of a minority community by the Buddhist state, said Dr Zarni. According to the democracy activist, the Burmese military had devised a strategic calculation that a 2 million strong Muslim population concentrated in one single pocket near one of the most populated Muslim country in the world was a security risk. “Their solution was to decrease the number as much as possible,” said Dr Zarni.
“This is no common communal conflict, but state directed genocide,” he added.
Speaking earlier Dr Marte Nilsen said that the anti Rohingya violence should be considered within the frame of the entire anti Muslim violence in Burma. She also spoke about the reforms and the barriers to peace with the ethnic minorities. On the latter subject, Dr Nilsen said there were shortcomings from the ethnic armies as well as government forces, a point disputed by Dr Zarni who pointed out that the army’s determination not to accept a federal government was the major obstacle.
Dr Zarni also described how the Burmese junta in the aftermath of the overthrow of brutal dictators in the Middle East devised an exit strategy. “The world was surprised when they (Burmese regime) launched the regime but not the western governments,” said Dr Zarni. He also spoke in length and gave accounts on how the west was never serious in promoting the democratisation of his country.
Joakim Kreutz spoke last saying how optimism surrounding a permanent ethnic peace was shattered after high hopes were raised a year ago.
The seminar ended with a questions and answers session.