Reworking the Colonial-Era Indian Peril: Myanmar’s State-Directed Persecution of Rohingyas and Other


Myanmar’s widely hailed transition from military dictatorship to a Chinese model of great commercial opening and calibrated political liberalization— “discipline flourishing democracy,” as the generals call it—has had one unintended consequence for the country’s military-controlled government: ugly things have been exposed.4 Suddenly, the dark secrets of this predominantly Buddhist nation of 51 million people with diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds have been laid bare. The world now has access to hitherto-closed-off sites of religious and ethnic persecution via international media such as CNN, BBC, wire news agencies, and so on. First, the world witnessed the eruption of two large bouts of violence in 2012 between Rohingya Muslims and Buddhist Rakhine communities in the Western coastal region of the country.

Within a year, there were incidents of organized violence against Muslims in about one dozen towns and neighborhoods across the country.

Burmese social media sites were littered with various hues of genocidal comments, articles, analyses, and updates, and remain so to date. Many openly call for the slaughter of all Muslims (or Kular, in Burmese), while others are more specific about the type of Muslims that should be killed: the phrase “kill all illegal Bengalis,” a popular racist reference to Rohingyas, indicates that they belong in former East Bengal (Bangladesh) and not in Buddhist Myanmar.7

Led by Buddhist monks, protests sprang up in the Rakhine state and in other major urban centers such as Mandalay and Yangon; they called on the quasi-civilian, military-backed government of ex-general Thein Sein to crack down on Muslims and expel all Bengalis to any country, Muslim or Western liberal, that would take them. In fact, in President Thein Sein’s meeting with António Guterres—the then visiting head of the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR)—in Naypyidaw in August 2012, Thein Sein stated that “the only solution” to the troubles in Rakhine was either to send unwanted Rohingyas to countries that may be prepared to accept them as refugees or to contain them in UNHCR-administered camps.8

Burmese media outlets, including those run by former Burmese political exiles, echoed the official and popular view that Rohingyas were illegal Bengali migrants with no organic ties to the country. In the eyes of experts on democratic transitions, these voices from the

mushrooming private media outlets are a sign of Myanmar’s civil society relish- ing its newfound press freedoms in a liberalizing political system. Freedom to

protest, freedom of speech, and freedom of press have finally arrived, or so it is felt. Oblivious to background histories, or simply uninterested in the relevant

past, many Burma-watchers and journalists view the organized violence against Rohingyas as simply an inevitable, if painful, byproduct of multiethnic societies in political transition, à la the Balkans.9 In this piece, we argue that the two unfolding parallel phenomena—namely a sharp rise in fear, loathing, and organized violence against Muslims across

Myanmar and the official persecution of and mass violence against Rohing- yas—are in fact part of a continuum of racist strategic choices made by both the

country’s most powerful military leaders and the democratically elected govern- ment controlled by Aung San Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for

Democracy. This conclusion is based on five consecutive years of our research, including archival works in Burmese and English, bilingual discourse analyses, and hundreds of interviews and in-depth conversations with the members of the Muslim and Rohingya communities, as well as interfaith activists from inside Myanmar, such as Buddhist monks and Christian leaders.

Those who frame several large-scale bouts of violence in Rakhine since 2012 and the violence against Muslim communities across the country as sectarian disputes between the country’s Buddhists and Muslims overlook the crucial history of the region and the peoples concerned. Both phenomena predate, by several decades, the country’s military-led democratic transition, which began in 2011. We argue, however, that it is not the process of opening up that has catalyzed simmering and latent religious and communal tensions to boil over. Rather, the violence is a direct outcome of the central, military-controlled state playing the race and faith card for its own evolving strategic ends in a country rich in religious and ethnic diversity. The Revival of the Popular Notion of “the Indian Peril” and Its “Transference”

The issue of the identity and presence of Rohingyas in the Rakhine region of Myanmar has been much debated. Aung San Suu Kyi herself weighed in on the debate, citing their historical presence as a “non-factual” but “emotive” proposition.10 The presence and identity of Rohingyas as an ethnic community of Islamic faith belonging to Arakan, or Rakhine, were irrefutably established in the primary historical sources published soon after the Burmese annexation of Rakhine, a fact that effectively undermines today’s official and popular narrative that Rohingyas were colonial-era seasonal farm “coolies” who settled in Northern Rakhine only after the British conquest of the Western region of the Burmese kingdom in 1825.11

the brown journal of world affairs Maung Zarni and Natalie Brinham

To better understand how the well-documented, popular anti-Muslim fear among the majority non-Muslim public has been mobilized and how the

systematic persecution of Rohingyas in Western Myanmar is enabled, it is help- ful to take a glance at the past. Myanmar’s pre-colonial expansionist kingdom

of Buddhist Burmese from the Dry Zone plains centered around Pagan, Ava, Amarapura, Mingun, Saggaing, and Mandalay. The Upcountry Myanmar Court

took the Western coastal kingdom of Buddhist Rakhine as its final colonial pos- session through a bloody military campaign in 1785.

As the result of Upcountry Myanmar Court’s successful, if bloody, annexa- tion of this multiethnic Rakhine Kingdom in 1785, hundreds of thousands of

Rakhine war refugees—both Muslim and Buddhist subjects of the fallen Rakhine Buddhist kingdom—fled into the British protectorate of East Bengal (called East Pakistan after the Indian-Pakistan partition in 1947 and renamed Bangladesh in 1971, after the war of independence). It was this new interface between the recently Burmese-controlled territories—Rakhine—and East Bengal westward of Rakhine that finally led to the first Anglo-Burmese War in 1824. After two more successive wars between the two empire-building powers, the Burmese met the same eventual fate as their previously conquered people to the West: the Burmese Empire collapsed and was swallowed up into British India by 1886. Through Burmese eyes, the threat and introduction of colonial British rule was not simply seen as an economically-defined imperialist attempt to conquer new territory and its constitutive population and natural resources (for instance, teak, minerals, and precious stones). In his Royal Declaration of War against Britain, the last King, Thibaw, openly framed the British as anti-Dhamma Kala (or alien heretics) whose victory would be a menace to Buddhism.12 As the king, he was the chief patron-protector of Buddhism.

Several decades later, in the 1870s and 1880s, the British colonial adminis- tration began the large-scale importation of Indians, both Muslims and Hindus

in roughly equal numbers, into British Burma.13 The colonial administration subsidized the inflow of Indian laborers and other agriculturalists, including

Indian Chettiar moneylenders, to fill labor and financing needs of the fast- growing rice industry in sparsely populated, British-controlled Lower Burma

following the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. This sharp increase in Indians

and the resultant interface between the local communities and the newer ar- rivals caused major unease among the local Burmese population, especially the

British-educated Burmese elite with their awakened nationalist consciousness. The general sentiment of the threat of “Indian penetration” and its impact on the future of Burma as a predominantly Buddhist society spread among the Burmese

political elites, including those who ran the Burmese press and participated in the limited parliamentary politics of the 1920s.14

This nationalist concern became more acute as the result of the worldwide Great Depression, which caused widespread economic hardships. Popular Burmese sentiments of fear and resentment toward other colonized peoples of Indo-Aryan features, be they Muslim, Hindu, or any other religious affiliation, sharply rose in this period.

The nationalist Burmese newspapers and their allies in the colonial parlia- ment seized on this rising anti-Indian racism and dusted up a 10-year-old, little- known Burmese language publication entitled Mawli and Yogi, which contained

anti-Buddhist views—thus inflaming the already tense racial atmosphere. Race riots between Muslims and Buddhists subsequently broke out in Rangoon, where

the Indians made up 60 percent of the city’s population.15 The British Colonial

Government’s Riot Inquiry Committee, set up in 1938 to investigate both the im- mediate trigger and the underlying causes, published in its Interim Report:

“We think it would be altogether misleading for us to suggest that the jealousy or suspicion or fear (whatever is the right expression) of the Burman towards the Indian in Burma as it exists today is a mere passing phase. There will always be found people who will exploit it for their own purposes.”16

This popular anti-Indian migration sentiment was based on economic and

cultural grievances and fears on the part of the local majority Buddhist popula- tion. Popular economic grievances were rooted in the progressively dispropor- tionate share of farm and landownership in the hands of the Indian settlers,

including moneylenders. Additionally, interracial marriages, particularly those between Buddhist women and Indian Muslim men, were seen as a threat to the predominantly Buddhist national way of life. However, the situation only boiled over into violence when mobilized by the Burmese press, the radical nationalist Thakhins, and colonial era Burmese politicians working for their own agendas. The committee report picked up on this when it wrote:

In June 1938, the “Thiha,” a Burmese owned weekly newspaper, warned Indians that by monopolizing all kinds of commercial enterprise they would incur the displeasure of the Burmese. The example of the Jews This sharp increase in Indians and the resultant interface between the

local communities and the newer arrivals caused major unease among

the local Burmese population. the brown journal of world affairs Maung

Zarni and Natalie Brinham in Germany was mentioned, and it was suggested

that such a state of affairs might occur in Burma.17

Since the publication of this report, both the alien rulers and the large number of people of Indian origin had long since gone home. The Union Jack came down in January 1948, and the country saw two large exoduses—the first on the eve of Japanese invasion in 1942 and the second after crippling economic nationalization by the Burmese military in 1964. The majority of these Indians had indeed made Buddhist Burma their sole home and had come to love their adopted country. Myanmar’s population from the Indian subcontinent with an Islamic background today is only 2.3 percent, compared to an overwhelming Buddhist majority.18 The country’s politics and economy are under the tight control of Burmese Buddhists, civilian and military—not Indians of any faith. After the last sectarian riots of the 1930s, the popular fear of the “Indian Peril” was replaced by the pressing need to focus on gaining independence from the British colonial administration, which returned to Rangoon after the three-year interregnum of the Japanese Occupation during World War II. The Burmese political class—now led by the Marxist-inspired nationalists, most prominently Aung San, with their strictly secularist, non-racialist, inclusive

view of “Burmeseness”—steered public discourse away from the pre-war racial- ist sentiment.19 Within a year of independence, as the country plunged into a

three-way civil war between Burmese communists, non-Burmese ethnic minori- ties, and the first ethnically Burmese-controlled government in Rangoon, the

old fear and loathing of Indians faded into the background for the time being. Still, collective memories of “the Indian penetration” or the Indian—both Hindu and Muslim—domination of the predominantly Buddhist Myanmar

endured, though latently. Apparent in recent anti-Muslim violence are the fin- gerprints of the military-controlled state and state-backed societal actors, such

as prominent Buddhist monks, in the opening up of this can of racial worms.20 Interestingly, the visibly heavy presence of Yunnan Chinese—and their hold on the informal sector of the economy in the upper half of the country—has not given rise to organized violence despite pervasive anti-Chinese sentiments within all segments of Burmese society, including the leadership and the rank and file of the military.21 Organized violence has exclusively been directed at the Muslim communities, rather than at Chinese businesses or their wealthy residential quarters. The question, then, is who is directing public frustrations and discontent toward one community but not the other, even while they are both conceived of as “guests” or “non-indigenous.”22 One must confront the elephant in the room, namely the military-controlled state and the societal actors

that enjoy blanket impunity for any acts of harm or words of bigotry against Muslims and Rohingyas, but not the Chinese.23

Crucially, the Myanmar military regime chooses to make sure that anti- Chinese sentiments do not boil over because the giant next door, China, is too

powerful to anger and because Beijing served as the external protector of the Myanmar regime when it was treated as an international pariah, particularly during the period when Myanmar was under international sanctions from the 1990s until their gradual lifting from 2011 onwards.24 State and non-state actors have instead reworked—in their official and popular discourses—the old fear of

the Indian Peril to make it applicable in the contemporary context. Two signifi- cant developments came about during the two eras of military rule (1962–88

and 1988–2011), namely Islamophobia resulting from global perceptions of the rise of Muslim power and the state-manufactured perspective of Rohingyas as illegal and/or unwelcome “Bengali” immigrants who do not belong in the Buddhist Rakhine lands of western coastal Myanmar.

The Rekindling of Anti-Muslim Racism in Society for Political Use The military coup of 1962, launched under the leadership of Ne Win as Chair of the newly formed Revolutionary Council, was met with protests from political monks and campus activists who had become political allies in their opposition against military authoritarianism. Military leaders and strategists

identified political monks, students, and other segments of society as “above- ground threats to building a new socialist order,” with the generals as the order’s

revolutionary managers.25 Indeed, the traditional alliance of monk-student- opposition-dissidents, with Aung San Suu Kyi as the rallying figure, remained a

threat that the military sought to neutralize until very recently. Military leaders concluded that Western liberal democracy was ill-suited to their country and

that civilian politicians were not strong and patriotic enough to bind the multi- ethnic society in which ethnic minority populations made up an estimated

30–40 percent of the total population. The generals were acutely aware of the need for an umbrella ideology to justify their grip on power.26 They have tried hoisting different ideological banners over the years, including “the Burmese Way to Socialism,” “restoration of law and order,” “peace and development,” and more recently “discipline-flourishing democracy.”

Military leaders have kept pursuing their vision of uniting the country under the aforementioned slogans and banners. Implementing the military’s unchallengeable version of a unified Burma in a country that is ethnically and

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religiously diverse with differing class interests has typically been met with a natural resistance from different national communities. Problematically and increasingly, military leaders have looked to the old Buddhist kingdom of warrior-kings as a model for Burma, where the generals and their power base, namely the Armed Forces, serve as the guardians of the Buddhist nation, the dominant race, and Buddhism. When the non-Buddhist communities and minority ethnic groups have resisted the military’s nation-building processes, the generals have opted to consolidate power through the tactic of divide and rule. Simultaneously, the leadership perseveres with its official call for national unity, national consolidation, and peace.27

The strategic and political uses of race and faith by those in power have been well-documented—not least in the previously cited Interim Report of the Riot Inquiry Commission of 1939. On the eve of Burma’s independence in 1946, the slain national hero and former Thakhin nationalist leader, the late U Aung San, publicly accused the last colonial administration of attempting to destabilize the country’s political situation by playing the race card.28 Similarly, Prime Minister U Nu, a close colleague of Aung San, was accused during his election campaign of exploiting the Buddhist majority’s religious sentiment by offering to make Buddhism “the state’s official religion” in 1960.29 By this time, the Burmese military, through its public relations department (or “psychological warfare division”), had also begun to mobilize Buddhist identities by framing Burmese communist challengers as “the Enemy of Buddhism.”30 By the early 1990s, following the global advance of human rights, the most senior Burmese military leadership—Senior General Saw Maung, head of the ruling junta—had actively pursued the manufacturing and propagation

of anti-Muslim racism through the government’s Department of Religious Af- fairs, as documented by Reuters’ journalists in their Pulitzer-winning series of

investigative articles.31 Before the advent of Facebook and other social media sites, the fear-mongering narrative relating to Muslims—which portrays Muslim men as rapists, abusers of Buddhist women, and economic exploiters of a poor Burmese public—was disseminated through short monographs and carefully planted moles among Buddhist monks, as well as through classic “whisper campaigns.”32 Twenty years after the deaths (under house arrest) of the Muslim cleanser of the armed forces and the initiator of this anti-Muslim propaganda campaign, ex-general Ne Win and his hand-picked successor Senior General Saw Maung, their legacy—a repackaging of the colonial-era Indian Peril as Muslim Peril—has taken root in the popular consciousness.

Reverend Wirathu, a young, charismatic monk who hails from the Buddhist

heartland of Mandalay, openly made the call for the liquidation of Myanmar’s Muslims. He declared, as early as 2001 and to rousing cheers of his fellow Buddhist monks, his intention to “boycott, ostracize and eventually starve the Muslims of Myanmar.”33 This was ten years before the country’s military-led “transition.” In other words, the spread of anti-Muslim popular hate speech was already in wide circulation long before the military’s media reforms and the arrival of social media on Burmese soil.

After the release of Aung San Suu Kyi from her last house arrest in No- vember 2010, military leaders witnessed the continuing popularity of their

nemesis, both at home and abroad. Meanwhile, the call for genuine democ- ratization—which included changing the military’s constitution of 2008 that

puts the military above the law on all matters it deems to be of concern to “national security”—remained strident and popular throughout the country. At the same time, Rakhine nationalists had mobilized their communities into pressuring the central government of ex-general and President Thein Sein for a more equitable share of revenues from the sale of natural gas and for greater political and administrative autonomy for Rakhine people. Then came the collapse of the 17-year bilateral ceasefire—the only one in writing—between a powerful Kachin Independence Organization/Army and the Burmese military. Notably, the sharp rise in anti-Muslim racism—in the form of hate speech and organized violence against Muslim communities—and the fear-mongering of illegal Bengalis taking over the Western Burmese state of Rakhine took place alongside these parallel developments. Many of Myanmar’s Western-educated professionals, intellectuals, and technocrats proactively spread the perception of Rohingyas as ignorant descendants of illegal Bengalis through both social media sites and Burmese-language services of the BBC, Voice of America, Radio Free Asia, and the Democratic Voice of Burma.34

Using the rhetoric of freedom of speech and press, the military-backed, semi-civilian government of Thein Sein in effect provided blanket impunity

against any form of hate speech, however severe and genocidal, against Myan- mar Muslims and Rohingyas.35 Meanwhile, in direct violation of the country’s

existing law—which only allows one national Buddhist Order (or Sangha) to prevent discord among different circles of monks and keep the order under one national governing body of monks—Thein Sein’s government allowed the establishment of a new parallel monk organization under the banner of “the Association for the Protection of Race and Faith.”36 In its final months in power, the military’s proxy government passed four “national race and faith protection” laws and touted the passage of these laws as one of its major achievements as it

the brown journal of world affairs Maung Zarni and Natalie Brinham went into the election of 2015.37 The great majority of Buddhists in the Burmese press, human rights circles,

intelligentsia, and creative communities were swayed by the revival of anti-Mus- lim sentiment.38 Civil society circles bought into the official view of Rohingyas

as “illegal” Bengalis who pose an imminent threat to the Buddhist Nation of indigenous peoples. These civil society groups spread the image of Muslims as a menace and Rohingyas as illegals who could in due course morph into “jihadists,” supposedly receiving funding and other forms of support from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and even the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). A case in point is the half-hour Burmese-language interview in July 2017 between Irrawaddy

News Group chief-editor Aung Zaw and former Information Minister ex-Colonel Ye

Htut where both amplified the official narrative of how Bengalis who do not belong in the Western Myanmar state of Rakhine are fast-becoming potential jihadists.39

National-Securitization of Muslim Lives Today, the everyday activities of Myanmar’s Muslims, from Rakhine State to Mandalay, have been branded as threats to national security. This development has resulted in state intrusion into many aspects of Muslims’ lives, causing varying degrees of symbolic and physical harm. Food donations to Muslims— both in humanitarian and religious/cultural contexts—now come under the purview of Myanmar’s security forces. In the latter part of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan this year, Myanmar authorities in the central administrative office of the second-largest division—the Mandalay Division—issued a general directive ordering its township and ward administrative branches, including Myanmar Police Force units, to ensure that international philanthropic and humanitarian groups do not distribute any in-kind or food donations intended for consumption during the fasting month to Muslim communities under their local jurisdictions without prior official permit. Even those with official permits can only donate under close supervision by state authorities.40 The message implied by the involvement of Myanmar security forces is that food stuff and other consumer goods for household use donated by groups outside Myanmar

The everyday activites of Myanmar’s Muslims, from Rakhine State to Mandalay,

have been branded as threats to national security.are a national security concern. Meanwhile, in the western Myanmar state of Northern Rakhine, the

World Food Program has reportedly discovered alarming levels of food depriva- tion among Rohingya Muslims, severely affecting upwards of 80,500 children.

Human Rights Watch identifies the emergence of extreme malnutrition as the intended outcome of Myanmar authorities, who have locked down large areas where Rohingya reside in response to a few isolated incidents of armed attacks on Myanmar border security posts since October 2016.41 The population has long been forced to exist in abysmal conditions where malnutrition levels have

been compared to famine-like situations in sub-Saharan Africa.42 This situa- tion amounts to what Amartya Sen, a leading scholar on famines, calls acts of

“institutionalized killings” of the Rohingya on the sole basis of their ethnic and religious identity, as well as their physical presence on the Rakhine Buddhists’ land to which Myanmar officially and popularly claims Rohingya Muslims do not belong.43 The deliberate policies and administrative orders that have blocked humanitarian aid over sustained periods restrict “nutritional opportunities”— in Amartya Sen’s words—for Myanmar Muslims and Rohingya.44

Between the two communities, Myanmar Muslims and Rohingya, the lat- ter are incomparably worse off as the victims of what many believe to be ethnic

cleansing, crimes against humanity, and slow genocide. Because these commu- nities are subjected to monitoring, control, and restrictions on life-sustaining

food, coupled with denial of access to adequate or even basic medical services, Myanmar may be using food as “a weapon of persecution.” In his article entitled “The Nazis Used It, We Use It: The Return of Famine as a Weapon of War,” Alex de Waal discusses the use of (man-made) famines as a weapon of war to target

a specific population, illustrated by the Nazis as well as other Western pow- ers.45 As Gregory Stanton, founding president of Genocide Watch and former

president of the International Association of Genocide Scholars notes, “Since the beginning of genocide studies with Lemkin, Hilberg, Kuper, Charny, Fein, Hovannissian and many others, ‘genocide by attrition,’ including starvation, has been a major concern of genocide scholars.”46

Religiously Motivated Demographic Engineering The Myanmar military has held a 50-year firm grip on what Louis Althusser called “Ideological State Apparatuses” (e.g., education systems, religious institutions, community groups, and information ministries). They have consistently and falsely told the domestic public that there is no such ethnic group as the Rohingya

the brown journal of world affairs Maung Zarni and Natalie Brinham

and that they are Muslim interlopers from neighboring Bangladesh who only came to Rakhine as colonial era farm laborers after the First Anglo-Burmese War of 1824. Typically, when confronted with the irrefutable primary historical evidence dating back to 1799 and official documentation from the Ministry of Defense validating the Rohingyas’ claim of historical and official belonging to both pre-colonial and post-colonial Myanmar, even the educated class of Burmese—Buddhist clergy, technocrats, journalists, writers, human rights activists, not to mention diplomats and pro-democracy ex-military officers— refuse to accept the truth.47

In the public’s eyes, the growth and presumably continuing inflow of these “illegal” Muslim migrants threatens to replace the dwindling Rakhine Buddhist majority of this Western region of the country. Therefore, they need to be shipped out of the country. Neither the public nor the political and military leaders are keen to restore their full citizenship rights. This state-manufactured myth about Rohingyas as unwanted Bengali migrants, both from the colonial era and contemporaneously, has taken root in the popular Burmese mind. However, the military leaders who have long maintained a tight military and administrative grip on the predominantly Rohingya region of Northern Rakhine know for a fact that there is no inflow of migrants, legal or illegal, from Bangladesh—as clearly stated by the ex-Brigadier Khin Yi, who served as the Minister of Immigration under President Thein Sein (2011–15).48

In his book Our Country’s ‘Western Gate Problem,’ ex-military intelligence chief Khin Nyunt—considered Myanmar’s most powerful military leader while in office—opened his introduction to the book with the patently false assertion that “the pre-colonial Rakhine State of Myanmar had never had any Muslim presence.” He then went on to explicitly link Islam with the wars, violence, and terrorism in the Middle East, insinuating that the presence of Muslim Rohingyas—Bengali in his racist reference—spells deep trouble for Myanmar.49 What is little known beyond the well-publicized periodic waves of violence—both vertical (state-directed acts of violence) and horizontal (locally

organized communal violence)—against Rohingyas as members of an ethno- religious group is the demographic engineering in which the military govern- ments have been engaged over decades since Operation Crow (Kyi Gan Sit Hsin

Yay) in 1966.50 Since the country’s independence, the Burmese military has viewed western Burma’s Muslim population through a national security lens, as they were the borderlands Muslim community with bicultural ties to both the adjacent East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and the western Burmese region of Arakan, or Rakhine. Further, Rohingyas also waged a short-lived armed secession-

ist movement, thereby accentuating the military’s security concerns. However, this secessionist revolt was not unique to the Rohingyas. Virtually all ethnic borderlands peoples, including Arakanese Buddhists (now popularly referred to as Rakhine), saddling long and porous borders of Burma—with China, India, Thailand, Laos, and East Pakistan—staged armed revolts against the majority Burmese rule from the center at various points in the post-independence period. But because Rohingyas are the only Muslim community in Burma with their own geographic pocket next to Bangladesh, their record of secessionist attempts continues to inform the military’s policies towards the Rohingya population. According to ex-General Khin Nyunt, the former head of the Directorate of Defense Intelligence Services (military intelligence), the military has two major demographic objectives: first, to double the country’s total population (up to 100 million) because of the country’s geographic position sandwiched between India and China, and second, to radically (read: unnaturally) change the Muslim (Rohingya, ethnic) character of the Northern Rakhine State.51 In pursuit of this two-fold goal, the military has done three things. Firstly, they

have turned a blind eye to the fact that ethnic Han Chinese from the neigh- boring Yunnan state of Southern China have entered and settled throughout

upper regions of Myanmar. Secondly, they have subjected the population to a “campaign of terror” under the disguise of “immigration checks,” the direct result of which is the drastic reduction of the number of Rohingyas from Rakhine as hundreds of thousands periodically flee western Myanmar for Bangladesh and other refugee-receiving countries amid the instant illegalization of the great majority who choose to remain inside Myanmar. Thirdly, they have established Buddhist settlements where the military and local authorities implement the scheme of state-directed transmigration of Buddhists.

The government facilitates the transporting and resettling of different Bud- dhist populations composed of retired Myanmar civil servant families, Myanmar