Today, most Rohingya are stateless and lack citizenship in their home country. Photo: canva.com.

Analysis

Buddhists in Myanmar continue to deny crimes against humanity

For the first time, deserted soldiers in Myanmar testify about mass killings and rapes in 2017 against Rohingya carried out on the orders of their officers. More than 10 Rohingya are said to have been killed and more than 000 people have fled to Bangladesh due to the violence of the Burmese arm.

The UN report from 2018 alarms about how the ethnic group Rohingya were indiscriminately murdered in Myanmar by the country's army - young, old, children and women. Houses have been lit. Villagers have been locked in their houses and burned to death. Women and girls have been raped by soldiers and military officers, even in gang rapes, sometimes in front of their own children and families. In total, it's about over 10 Rohingya who lost their lives in most villages.

The army, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and local reports of these events deny crimes against humanity. Some soldiers were arrested for the massacre in the village of Inn Din. They were sentenced to ten years in prison, but released after less than a year.

The media has recently reported testimony from what are said to be deserted soldiers from the Burmese army. Indirectly, they have confirmed testimonies from the Rohingya. The soldiers claimed to have killed women, men and children, burned and raped on orders from their commanders. Among other things, they had been ordered to kill all the Rohingya they saw. VIttnesbörden seems to confirm an intention to carry out ethnic cleansing or even genocide. The data has, however denied in Burmese media.

Systematic discrimination

The army began operations in the summer of 2017 in response to the new organization Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) attacks on border police posts. ARSA - a poorly equipped but well-organized resistance movement among the Rohingya, organized by exiled Rohingya in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, has the support of many younger, local Rohingya. (The branch is seen by researchers and other commentators as a result of decades of systematic discrimination, marginalization and oppression.)

The army's operations in 2017 were the culmination of the discrimination and oppression to which the Rohingya have long been subjected and which some observers have previously considered to be ethnic cleansing and showing signs of genocide.

Strong Buddhist national identity in Myanmar

The majority of the soldiers and almost all the officers in the Burmese army are Buddhists. Buddhists are believed to be filled with loving kindness, compassion and tolerance towards all living beings, as well as engaging in meditation and paying homage to the principle of non-violence. Stereotypes about the tolerance of Buddhists have become a central element of the country's national identity, which began to be cultivated by the nationalist organization: the Young Men's Buddhist Association (YMBA) in Burma in the early 1900th century during British colonial times.

Tolerance, non-violence and loving kindness have since become an essential element of Buddhist identity in Burma. When Buddhists have used violence, it is described almost exclusively as defensive violence. The blame must be placed on others and reappears in the history of Burma.

Recurring riots against Muslims

During the economic depression of 1938, riots broke out against Muslims of Indian descent in Burma. The start is seen as a Muslim pamphlet that is said to have violated Buddhism. The riot was led and initiated by Buddhists, including monks, leaving 181 dead and over a thousand wounded; the majority of Muslims of Indian descent. When Burmese (Buddhist) ministers read the report of the event the following year, they refused to believe what had happened. Some argued that the report was a conspiracy between British and Indian interests with the intention of diminishing the Burmese nation.

A similar phenomenon has been observed regarding Buddhist nationalist monks who, during sermons, have spread hate propaganda about Muslims since 2012. When people in the audience later attacked Muslims, burned down their shops, houses and mosques, the Buddhist monks refused to take responsibility. To the extent that violence was allowed, the blame was placed on the Muslims again.

When Myanmar's ambassador to the UN Security Council in 2018 commented on the UN report on the Burmese army's attacks on the Rohingya in the autumn of 2017, in which the army was accused of plotting genocide, he added: the blame for the "terrorists" among the Rohingya.  

A few months later, Myanmar's counterattack came: Myanmar's own report that toned down and denied what was the basis for many accusations. It gave the reassuring message that although some human rights and war crimes had been committed, there was no evidence of gang rape or any intent to commit genocide. According to the report in addition, the Rohingya themselves must have burned down their houses to win the sympathy of the international community.

The Rohingya people - a vulnerable people with a complex history

The Rohingya people are a poor Muslim people with a generally low level of education. Many are farmers living in apartheid-like conditions in one of Myanmar's most disadvantaged, poor and underdeveloped areas in the northern state of Rakhine in the southwestern part of the country. Most people do not know much about Islamic extremism and have in the past mostly lived in peaceful coexistence with Buddhists, Hindus and others. Their history is complex and cannot be discussed in detail here.

Today, the majority of Rohingya, who most people in Myanmar call "Bengals", are stateless. They lack citizenship and are seen as illegal immigrants by their own country who continue to expel them.

Myanmar's army, which has long had a bad reputation among the people due to its authoritarian rule for many years of military dictatorship (1962-2011), now appears among Buddhists but also others as an acclaimed hero who protects the country from an imagined Muslim danger. In many ways, the army has gained renewed legitimacy among the people. The information from the deserted soldiers will probably not get much attention in Myanmar.

Facts

In 1989, the military junta SLORC changed the country's name to "Myanmar" from "Burma". The names were politicized before the country opened in 2011. The democracy movement continued to use "Burma". For this reason, "Burma" is used here before 2011 as the name of the country. "Myanmar" has become widely accepted after 2011. However, the practice of using this word as a name for the language or translating it into adjectives has not yet been established.

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