Burma Times Special Report: January 18, 2015
The US ambassador to UN, Samantha Power had a particularly strong message for the Burmese regime accusing them of not bringing to justice those who had spearheaded communal violence against the Rohingyas and other Muslims in the country.
After sometime, a very long time, the US has recognised the ground reality in Arakan. Ambassador Power rightly points out that the situation for the Rohingyas has worsened in recent times.
Rohingya activists will be pleased that the US seems to be coming, a little late to their rescue. Over the past few years, the Rohingyas watched helplessly as the US cooked up compliment after compliment, followed by even better compliments for Thein Sein’s reformist government as Rohingya men, women and children were subjected to genocidical persecution by the regime. The reason for such compliments, according to US, was that Burma was moving towards ‘democracy’ after years of repressive military rule.
The warming up of relations came after the government made economic and political reforms, the latter witnessing the return of the western backed and popular opposition leader Aung Saan Suu Kyi back to political life after years of house arrest. The former attracted western trade and investment into the once closed economy of the country, which has some of the world’s greatest reservoir of untapped resources.
Some Rohingya activists are understandably happy that once again the US has spoken for human rights in the country. In this day and age, the US is still the sole superpower of the world, whatever one says about the rising influence of China. US military and economic power is still the game changer in this region and most other regions of the world.
The reason for American chastisement of the regime however does not stem out of concern for Rohinya Muslims, the root cause is Aung Saan Suu Kyi’s complaints that reforms have stalled. After a few years of honeymooning with her former enemies, Suu Kyi is understandably upset that the regime is preventing her bid for presidency.
So the key to America’s heart is Rohingya reconciliation with Suu Kyi. That would not be possible. Suu Kyi, wary of the Rohingya’s unpopularity among the Buddhist majority does not support their cause.
The first country that Barack Obama chose to visit after winning his second presidential bid was Burma. In the coming years, economic and even military co-operation between the countries have improved to such an extent that independent analysts find it difficult to believe that the US will ditch their new found friends because of a Muslim minority.
So some human rights activists can be forgiven if they see American intentions with a pinch of salt. According to Burmese democracy advocate Maung Zarni, “there are those who those who think the United States Government is going to help rescue the Rohingyas from the slow genocide they need to think and look harder at the below-the-radar politics.”
Zarni in the article titled ‘Why Myanmar is committing a slow genocide against nearly 2 million Rohingya Muslims’, also accuses the US to help put a PR spin on the ethnic cleansing of Rohingyas in 2012 in cohorts with the regime.
Zarni’s accusations will sound disturbingly familiar with those who remember the US embassy’s initial praise for the government’s handling of the riots in June 2012 and the statement that the government was showing neutrality in the conflict, a fact which we know is not true.
In spite of everything, Rohingya activists are hoping that the past is past and the superpower state shall keep true to its commitment to human rights and democracy in their part of the world.