19 October, 2017

Realpolitik Not Humanitarian Concerns Will Decide Myanmar’s Future

By Ana Pararajasingham –

Ana Pararajasingham

In a brief opinion piece for Asia Times  published on 4 October 2017, I argued that the persecuted Rohingya’s fate will be decided not by humanitarian concerns but by geo-politics. This was despite the United Nations and Human Rights Watch agreeing that the violence amounted to “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” 

I also argued, as the violence unleashed by the Myanmar authorities against the Rohingya is underpinned by the intent to eradicate their identity as a distinct ethnic group, it meets the UN’s Genocide Convention. And in this situation, international law demands direct and immediate intervention.

In this article, I propose to show that at the end of the day it will be the self-interests of international actors that will decide the fate not only of the victims, the Rohingya, but also that of the perpetrator, the Myanmar state. This is the nature of realpolitik which is entirely devoid of moral or ethical considerations.

A good example of the potency of realpolitik in shaping the lives of people persecuted by the state giving rise to armed uprising is that of Sri Lanka’s Tamils. Targeted by the Sri Lankan state-orchestrated pogroms since the 1950’s, the Tamils embarked on a violent campaign against the state in the late 1970’s. The state responded by unleashing the worst pogrom of all in July 1983.The scale of the violence was such that within just two weeks over 3,000 Tamils were murdered; properties destroyed and tens of thousands  were forced to flee to the Northeast of the island-the Tamil Homeland. The intensity of the violence gave rise to it being dubbed ‘Black July’. International outcry followed. The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) declared  the violence  to be “a series of deliberate acts, executed in accordance with a concerted plan, conceived and organised well in advance  and  concluded that these actions “amounted to acts of genocide’”. Canada opened its doors on humanitarian grounds to all Tamils fleeing the violence. Australia was more circumspect by permitting just those Tamils who had families to sponsor their migration under a Special Humanitarian Program (SHP). The definition of ‘families’, under SHP was extended to include those well beyond one’s own immediate family permitting many survivors to escape the violence. The actions of Canada, Australia and several European countries in this instance were driven by humanitarian concerns. However, as the conflict intensified, geo-politics became the main driver with US, China and India vying to bring Colombo under their respective spheres of influence. As a consequence, Sri Lanka’s Tamils paid a huge price in terms of death, destruction and dispossession. The Sri Lankan state, the perpetrator of these atrocities did not get away either. Sri Lanka’s much vaunted sovereignty has been severely compromised as international actors have intervened directly bringing about regime changes and taking control over several ports. Today, the management of Hambantota port is no longer under the direct control of the Sri Lankan state. Its operation is controlled by China via its state-owned company, China Merchants Ports Holdings. India has a presence in the northern Sri Lankan port of Kankesanthurai (KKS) where it has been involved since June 2011 mapping, as well as removing and disposing vessels sunk during the civil war. Furthermore, India has made its intentions clear that its primary interest lies in controlling the eastern Port of Trincomalee and in this regard has taken several measures to bring Colombo in line. Meanwhile, the US is in a position to influence Colombo thanks to Ranil Wickramasinghe , the right-leaning Prime Minister of the country.

In the case of Sri Lanka and Myanmar ‘political Buddhism’ was a  crucial factor in the attacks mounted against the Tamils and the Rohingya. And in both cases the violence worsened after the persecuted decided to strike back. Violence against the Tamils intensified when the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) ambushed and killed 13 army men in July 1983 and against the Rohingya after the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) attacked 30 police posts in one night killing several policemen. The more telling comparison will be when the various international actors begin to respond in pursuit of their own vested interests.

The posturing by India, China and the US has begun in earnest.  India, mindful of developing access to ASEAN markets and countering Chinese dominance in Myanmar has taken a decidedly pro-Myanmar stance by strongly condemning the ‘terrorist attacks on Myanmar security forces’.   China which competes with the US for influence in Myanmar, has endorsed Myanmar’s offensive against Rohingya Muslim insurgents. Washington, while expressing concern about the violence has stopped short of criticizing the country’s government or its de facto leader, Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.  Aung San Suu Kyi’s ‘western credentials’ explain Washington’s disinclination to condemn Suu Kyi. Suu Kyi can prove to be a useful ally in countering China’s influence. Then there is the ‘Islamic’ threat that looms large as experts warn of Islamic State (ISIS) recruiting fighters from the Rohingya.

Regional and global powers will not want to distance themselves from Myanmar, however, repugnant its treatment of the Rohingya. Instead, attempts will be made to demonise the Rohingya to justify the actions that geo-politics demand. The recent well publicized news of the Rohingya Muslims turning on the Hindu Rohingya based on photos released by the Myanmar Government is perhaps the beginning of this process. 

It is only a matter of time for geopolitics to outweigh any humanatrian concerns. The internationalisation of the conflict is bound to shape Myanmar’s future. A Reuter report indicating  that China is seriously pushing Myanmar to give it an 85 percent stake in a strategically important sea port at Kyaukphyu point to yet another parallel between these two countries.

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Latest comments

  • 5
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    Thank you..someone with a brain writing about Myanmar and the Rohingyas in the context of geopolitics. It is about China’s access to the Bay of Bengal!

    • 2
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      Ana Pararajasingham

      RE: Realpolitik Not Humanitarian Concerns Will Decide Myanmar’s Future

      “In this article, I propose to show that at the end of the day it will be the self-interests of international actors that will decide the fate not only of the victims, the Rohingya, but also that of the perpetrator, the Myanmar state. This is the nature of realpolitik which is entirely devoid of moral or ethical considerations.”

      Thanks for the article. Yes, it is the self-interest that matters to the players.

      The Burmese wants ethnic cleansing The Rohingya wants to live in peace, unmolested. The UN does not want genocide on its books. The situation of the Rohingya is pathetic. What a bloody mess left behind by the British Imperialists in Burma, Sri Lanka, India and the Middle East, at the end of the second great colonial war.( WW 2).

      • 0
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        Ana Pararajasingham
        RE: Realpolitik Not Humanitarian Concerns Will Decide Myanmar’s Future

        First Genocide of the 20th century. In Myanmar, we are seeing the First genocide of the 21st century.

        See below.

        Namibia’s reparations and Germany’s first genocide

        http://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-africa-41596617/namibia-s-reparations-and-germany-s-first-genocide

        Between 1904-1908 German colonial forces wiped out over 80% of the Nama and Herero people’s population in what historians now call “the forgotten genocide”.
        A class action suit is being brought against the German government for reparations. Hear descendants of the Herero victims tell their story.

  • 1
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    YOur article is complete CRAP. Myanmar problem of Bangladeshi bengali speaking muslims problem is exactly the duplication of LTTE and JVP problems in Sri lanka NO one has published real time photos of the incidences.

    • 4
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      Learn your facts before you embarrass yourself.

      The Rohingya people (/roʊˈɪndʒə, -hɪn-, -ɪŋjə/; historically also termed Arakanese Indians) are a stateless[19] Indo-Aryan people from Rakhine State, Myanmar. There were an estimated 1 million Rohingya living in Myanmar before the 2016–17 crisis. The majority are Muslim while a minority are Hindu. Described by the United Nations in 2013 as one of the most persecuted minorities in the world the Rohingya population are denied citizenship under the 1982 Myanmar nationality law. According to Human Rights Watch, the 1982 laws “effectively deny to the Rohingya the possibility of acquiring a nationality. Despite being able to trace Rohingya history to the 8th century, Myanmar law does not recognize the ethnic minority as one of the eight “national races”.[31] They are also restricted from freedom of movement, state education and civil service jobs.[31][32] The legal conditions faced by the Rohingya in Myanmar have been compared with Apartheid.

  • 1
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    This fellow is extremely wrong when it comes to ROhingya issue. And again SL has protected its sovereignity and its ports all the time even when we had war. SL lost the plot by electing the most stupid person ever as the PM, Ranil Wickramasinghe.

    In fact what made SLns lose was their over emphasizing of notions like democracy and civil liberties. If we did not think about so called civil liberties and so called reconciliation, an idiot like RW would not have come to power and SL will surely control its ports and air ports.

  • 4
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    Ana Pararajasingham ~ “Realpolitik Not Humanitarian Concerns Will Decide Myanmar’s Future”
    Realpolitik will try to dodge humanitarian concerns but when the crunch comes Realpolitik will walkaway with tail lodged between their legs – hind legs of course. The merge of East & West Germany is an example. Margret Thatcher opposed dismantling the Apartheid system but the Realpolitik Thatcher could not stop it.
    The persecution of Rohingyas by the Burmese Junta was noted by UN. The Junta introduced the name Myanmar and ostensibly handed over the governing – but the Junta is still holding the rein. UN now calls the persecution as text book cleansing. Realpolitik will only stop genocide after the fact. Myanmar’s future will be decided by human rights activists the world over.

  • 2
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    https://www.globalresearch.ca/why-u-s-and-saudi-arabia-back-rohingya-in-myanmar/5613015- Myanmar Muslim problem is a western issue. Rohingya are only oart of the muslims that Myanmar has. Unfortunately rohingyas are from a specific province and they are not Sunnis. Saudi Arabi with american weapons are bombing a very poor country in Africa. They are not capable of fighting back. right now they are expecting worst humanitarian disaster in the worrld. that is about 800,000 of cholera patients. Their even sanitary facilities are bombed. Saudi arabian do not know to handle even their fighter jets. so, it is outsiders flying saudi arabian jects and bombing a very poor african nation becuse they are shia supportive of Iran.

    • 1
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      Jimsofty, I think earlier also you gave wrong information about Rohingya and I do not know why you write without verifying some facts. Rohingyas are 95% Sunnis and not Shias. If you meant Saudi Arabia bombing Yemen, it is not an African country but a Middle-east country with same borders with Saudi Arabia. Yemen population majority are Sunnis and about 48% Shia. Before it had a mixed government with it’s leader a Sunni Muslim. Shias carried out a coup and took the power. Like pouring petrol to burning fire the US bastard were behind (manipulators) present conflict. Iran behind Shia and Russia supporting that. So any intelligent person should know these super power bastards and ghost perpetrators (the Zionist devils) behind present day Middle-east conflicts. They were able to do these because these countries leaders are power hungry selfish donkeys.

      • 0
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        Ralli Ameen: YOu are right. they practice sunni Islam but with some sufi practices. So, they are not completely shiite too. language is Urdu (pakisthani) mixed. They are both hindus and muslims. the word Rohingya is a recently made up for political purposes.

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          Yes, Suf practice only by a very small percentage. They do not speak Urdu but a mixed Rohingya language of Arakan (now Rakhine) state.

  • 0
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    Ana Pararajasingham,
    You must write an article about Eelam Tamil ‘cannibalism’ which means some Tamils sacrifice some Tamils like goats (under privilege Tamils) to get rich without shedding a single drop of sweat and to enjoy high life in Europe and Canada. Everyone knows all the Tamils in the West are economic migrants. Tamils who have falsely claimed refugee status receive free housing, free healthcare, spending money, free education (schools and universities), and all sort of privileges that even the native citizens don’t receive freely. Average Tamil’s ( in Europe and Canada) net worth is US $ 2 million, with all sort of scams lots of Eelam Tamils have become dollar multimillionaires and billionaires.

    Pogrom -magnet- Eelamist- Tamils must stop false claim to any part of Sri Lanka, and snap out of mythical ‘home land’ madness.

    • 0
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      John
      Your response has nothing to do with the article.
      You are just a jerk ! and an ignorant one at that.

  • 0
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    yes you are dead right. politics is above anything nowadays. all the ethnic issues created by our colonial masters. here is same situation. When Sinhalese peasant opposed to work for Colonial masters, they bought human resources from outside or gave all the facilities to minorities to work for them. Just like here in Lanka Myanmar situation is same. Here in Lanka British bought Tamil labor, dutch brought Malay and Javanees for their needs. Minorities were given all the facilities to crush majority Sinhalese .Myanmar situation is same . Under the British rulers Muslims discriminated Buddhists in that province.After Independence Buddhists are taking revenge. That is very much acceptable. Our situation is same. In addition to it here situation is bit different. Tamils are historical traditional Enemies of Sinhalese. Tamils always looking for ethnic cleansing of Sinhalese. . That is a historical event. Poor Australoid were supported by Lankan Australoid when Dravidian invaders killing them and taking them as slaves. That is the historical hate Tamils have with Sinhalese. Myanmar case is the same. Muslims supported British rule and betrayed Myanmar people. As such to have peace historical errors should be corrected. Tamils should go to their country. , Rohingyas should be sent back to their original country. That is the only solution. otherwise ethnic fighting will continue until one race is wiped out from the earth.

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