By Maung Tha Hla (February 20, 2018)
Lambasting goes unchecked as Myanmar witnessed the exodus of Bengali interlopers tracking back to Bangladesh at the outbreak of violence following the military response in the wake of the deadly terrorist attacks on the security outposts in Rakhaing state.
The scorn of biased mainstream media, human rights activists and the United Nations Organization led the West into leveling accusation at Myanmar for the alleged persecution amounting to “ethnic cleansing” of the Bengali community.
The dissemination features wanton killing, gang rape and destruction of villages, hence driving the Muslims out of Rakhaing state.
A Disturbing Sequel: An avalanche of uproarious criticism and condemnation has been piled upon Myanmar boiling over the alleged “ethnic cleansing” of Bengalis. Criticizing Myanmar on the face of current development requires a clear understanding of the foregoing circumstances that give rise to what it is today. The Bengali problem is much more complex than it seems. Painting the ongoing perplexity as “ethnic cleansing” is too tendentious a stance.
The Bengali Muslims are not innocent victims of suppression in Buddhist majority Myanmar as asserted by the United Nations and the West which stand proxy for the Muslims; a voice that echoes the Bengali pretense. Portraying the Bengalis as victims and the natives as aggressors is not that simple as black and white; the situation is far more complicated given the intergenerational conflict, between the indigenous Buddhist Rkhaings and extraneous Bengali Muslims, growing out of disloyalty on the part of the latter. .
Rakhaing state of Myanmar has been besieged by the illegal Bengalis, the vile legacy of the British colonialism. Having shifted the demographic balance through the mass infiltration and the 1942 ethnic cleansing of the Buddhists, the settled Bengalis flexed the Islamic mussel to lay hold on the border area, where they now constitute 97 per cent of the population.
The 1948 insurgency to grab away part of Rakhaing state fosters long standing tension between the alien Bengalis and native Rakhaings who have a visceral fear of losing their land to the separatist Muslim squatters. Likewise, the traitorous conspiracy for dismemberment of the host nation, having insinuated the fake “Rohingya” ethnicity, generates anti-Bengali sentiment throughout the land, joining forces regardless of race and religious belief in order to safeguard the national sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Claim and Blame: In an effort to give the widest currency to the Bengali plight a sentimental platform was fabricated on the basis of overwhelmingly negative narratives which were collected through the interviews with the Bengali refugees in Bangladesh, who recited the alleged campaign of destruction and appalling human rights abuses committed by the security forces and Rakhaing mobs during the clearance operation.
The stories after stories reported by the media, human rights activists, aid groups and the United Nation agencies became all too familiar, ranging from inaccurate reporting to emotionally expressive accounts without verification for accuracy.
The Bengali refugees in Bangladesh were reportedly numbered about 680,000. According to Dr. Sidney Wong, medical director of aid group Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) 6,700 Bengalis were killed in one month including at least 730 young children under the age of five who were shot, burned to death between last August and September.
What could have been more acute to arouse sensation of the public in the faraway lands than the alleged mass killing of civilians, gang rape of women, children being beheaded or thrown alive into the river or the burning house after having them ripped away from the arms of mothers, who were then brutally raped only to be agonized at the sight of their husbands being butchered and cut into pieces; and the elderly and the disabled were burned alive tied to their own homes! Some women claimed that they escaped naked from the scene of gang rape in their burning villages, soon after recovery from pass-out.
What else of human savagery is yet to be enunciated?
As much as gang rape was vigorously dramatized by young women, mass executions and arson were emphatically asserted by the elderly of both sexes. The children did not lag behind either, who artfully played up horrible deaths of their parents and grandparents at the hands of the security forces. In order to reinforce the stories they made sketches of the soldiers with deadly firearms, the military helicopter gunships and the tree wherefrom the victims were hanged.
Nearly six month after the violence that erupted in last August, the media coverage continues on incoherent versions of gang rapes, gruesome killings and mass graves, while the killing of Buddhists including 5 Mro nationals and the discovery of a mass grave of 45 Hindus, including six children near Ye Baw Kya village in Maungdaw township, hardly received the media attention.
With the burgeoning of rape dramas being on the wane, The Associated Press brought up headline news on February 1, followed by The Reuters about the detection of intangible mass graves at Gu Dar Pyin village in Buthidaung area, citing testimonies given by several refugees in Bangladesh along with videos.
The Guardian reported on February 19 that The Arakan Project provided a video of the grave at Maung Nu village, which was taken before the site as accused was bulldozed by the government in an effort to destroy the evidence of massacres in Buthidaung township.
Notably, the claims of detection of mass graves only surfaced following the discovery of a grave of 10 Bengali terrorists at Inn Din village in the Maungdaw locality.
The question here is why the Bengalis took that long to come up with videos of the purported mass graves.
Meanwhile, in a speech to the UN Security Council on February 13, US Ambassador Nikki Haley denounced Myanmar accusing it of making the Bengali life “A Death Sentence”, clamorously recounting The AP’s story of the attack on Gu Dar Pyin village and the five mass graves reportedly narrated by Noor Kadir, a Bengali refugee at Balukhali refugee camp in Bangladesh. Regrettably, the Ambassador took the preposterous story for granted, without the least apprehension.
As a matter of fact the government issued a statement on February 2 about non-existence of the purported mass graves after a 17-member official team had conducted a physical investigation accompanied by Muslim elders and interviews with the villagers.
Before jumping to a conclusive judgement on the alleged crimes against Bengalis, valuable lessons should be drawn from the 2014 Du Chee Yar Tan “massacre” allegedly committed by the Police and Rakhaing villagers in the night of January 14, whereof the Bengalis made all horrible claims, similar to the current accusations, sowing atrocity accounts, including a mass grave of 40 people of all genders and ages. The AP first broke the story which was planted through The Arakan Project which in turn hatched up the “massacre” to the imagination of Chris Lewis. The detailed account of events by the government had failed to placate the international community.
However, to all commotions and international condemnations against Myanmar, the much publicized “massacre” turned out only a hoax fabricated to cover up the killing of a Police Sargent by the Bengali mob, having the incident duped into a carnage perpetrated by the Police and Rakhaing Buddhists. (See footnote.)
By the time when the violence dust has settled the degree of truth about the unproven and overcolouring claims lodged by the Bengalis refugees will be ascertained.
It does not mean that the current crisis was devoid of incidents, but given the magnitude and intensity of the violence there was a good chance on the part of the Bengalis to concoct distorted stories portraying them as innocent victims at the hands of the military and Rakhaing villagers.
It is unrealistic expectation to avoid collateral damage of any measure in an armed conflict of that nature when members of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) mingled with the Bengali population and embedded in the villages which were used as hideouts to ambush the Myanmar security forces which dislodged the terrorists from the villages.
Not every Bengali is terrorist nor involved in the attacks but in a hot pursuit of the terrorists, flushing them out of the villages, it is next to impossible to tell who’s who since thousands of Bengali men, particularly the able-bodied including pre-teens, and even some women were involved in the attacks, having them deployed as human shield. Compounded to the confusion is that the terrorists are neither in a distinctive outfit nor marked with any insignia.
In some villages the religious leaders recruited Bengalis who joined the movement en masse.
To quote Reuters’ Tommy Wilkes, based on his last October 5 report, who had interview with the ARSA fighters in Bangladesh, ” One fighter, 35-year old Kama Hussain from a village in Rathedaung in Myanmar’s Rakhaing state said he joined ARSA when a religious leader stood in his village square in June, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, and implored a crowd of hundreds to fight.”
It is open secret that the ARSA enjoys legitimacy from local and international fatwas. The madrasas teachers are hardcore cadres in the villages, who recruited new fighters on the strength of religious oratory and political rhetoric. Those who do not join the terrorist group are termed traitors.
As the report goes there is a small band of trained foot soldiers operating in villages under local commanders who take orders from senior commanders at the township level, who in turn answer to the respective chief commanders who have access to the terrorist ringleader, Ata Ullah.
According to last December report of the International Crisis Group the ARSA operated from cells within villages.
The complaint about the loss of a son, a husband, or a father by any individuals among the fleeing Bengali community, which was composed mainly of the old men, women of all ages and children, is the proven fact that the lost or unaccompanied men were those who avowed themselves partisans or were conscripted by the ARSA, whose goal as declared in October 2016 was “to seize control of part of Rakhaing state to create a Muslim democratic state for the Bengali Muslims”, an ambitious goal that has long been cherished by every Bengali of the past and present generations, inside and outside Myanmar.
No Smoke without Fire: Every crisis has some foundation. The root cause of the Bengali problem lies in the decades-long pursuit of their pipe dream for a free Islamic state which as planned was to be acceded to their former homeland, now Bangladesh.
The Bengali separatist movement, which is fraught with external fueling, started in the British colonial days. In spite of ups and downs the movement grew with the years riding a new wave of support. The latest generation of separatists, the ARSA, formerly the Harakah al-Yaqin, is funded in large part by the Saudi-based Bengali diasporas and the wealthy Arab nationals from the gulf states, and has organization bases in South Asia as in the case of its predecessors.
Last August 25 coordinated attacks, directed against 30 police outposts and a military base, brought the death toll to ten police personnel, one soldier and an immigration official. The assaults extended well into September, involving ninety four skirmishes.
Covering a wide range of territory, the attacks marked a dramatic escalation far more deadly and far-reaching than similar raids in October of 2016. The difference this time was that the attackers targeted the Buddhist civilian communities, including the Hindus, who lived in fear in a precarious situation actuated by the Bengali onslaughts.
The atrocities perpetrated by the Bengali separatists against the non-Muslim civilians hardly attracted the media attention, while the crackdown of the Bengali terrorists was given the widest currency in the media.
The tactic of alien Bengalis, who inherently indulge in manipulation, is to shrewdly use provocation to get reaction which is exaggerated and brought into play as an excuse for the violence against the host.
No sooner had the Annan commission’s report been made public than was timed for the last October assaults. The latest ambush on January 5 took place weeks after a plan was announced by Myanmar to repatriate some hundreds of Hindus and Muslims from Bangladesh.
Claiming responsibility for the attack the ARSA terrorist ringleader Ata Ullah said, the group had ” no other option but to combat ‘ Burmese state-sponsored terrorism’ against the Rohingya population for the purpose of defending , salvaging and protecting of the Rohingya community.”
The motive in the attack is to radicalize and provoke the Bengalis who stay put in Rakhaing state. Death threats were made in order to push the remaining Bengalis out joining the exodus which is still in progress, though fewer in numbers and far between the groups. The reported killing of two Bengali leaders in the refugee camps, who favoured repatriation, is to intimidate the potential returnees and thus undermining the repatriation process.
What is all behind the ARSA’s stratagem, as speculated, is to build up the refugee population into an unmanageable proportion to the capacity of subsistence assistance as they prolong their stay in Bangladesh, hence driving the situation to a point where the international community ends up being compelled to take actions towards solving the problem, either resettlement or possibly a safe zone if not a separate state for the Muslims inside Rakhaing state.
The ARSA will mount more attacks to unstabilize the region. Now it is a situation wherein the terrorist attacks triggered the military response, which in turn induced attacks by the terrorists, all in a vicious circle.
After all, the clearance operation was induced by the Bengali separatists who purposely created chaos. Contrary to the one-sided narratives being flooded in the western media the Bengali terrorists started the lethal attacks and response was legitimate to defend the national sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Footnote: The much politicized 2014 De Chee Yar Tan “massacre”, stands testimony to the intrinsic mastery of setting up tactics vamping up flagitious stories of atrocity and horror. One story among others goes that five Muslim villagers sneaked into the area of the village after the attacks and found 10 severed heads bobbing in a water tank. Some of these were of children. One of the men went further to ratify that he put his hands in the tank to confirm through touch what he thought he saw. There was also the story of a mass grave of 40 villagers of men, women and children, which was discovered at the sight of a hand protruding from the ground.
The fabricated massacre story was first narrated in details by The Associated Press after having been elaborately hatched up by the Arakan Project and backed up by Fortify rights, both being pro-Bengali groups. The United Nations vindicated the Bengali accounts through its own investigation. It concluded that the attacks resulted in the death of at least 40 men, women and children. Fortifying the alleged attacks the MFS gave a specific number of the wounded who sought medical treatment at its clinic.
The much propagandized accounts earned public condemnation against Myanmar by the UN, the human rights activists, the media and the West especially United States and United Kingdom through their embassies, which in a joint statement demanded an investigation of the alleged massacre. British Foreign Secretary William Hague took to social media site twitter on January 23 to say that he was “sickened’ by the reports and that UK will press for action.
Much to the repentance of those who blamed the government and local Rakhaings for the repugnant allegation of atrocities, the over-publicized horror turned out to be no other than a hoax speculated by the Bengali villagers in order to cover up the killing of a Rakhaing Police Officer, the only casualty of the incident. The sophisticated Westerners were naively baited into a regrettable gamble by the backwater Bengali villagers.
Maung Tha Hla is the author of two books namely, THE RAKHAING and ROHINGYA HOAX.
He is founder president of the Buddhist Rakhaing Cultural Association of the United States of America.
He was Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations Organization.