Greg Stanton on Myanmar, Bangladesh, and the Rohingya


Hello I'm Greg Stanton from genocide watch and George Mason University. It's a great honor to talk to you today about the genocide being carried out against the Rohingya of Myanmar. I'm sorry I can't be with you in person today. I was invited to the conference but for various reasons could not make it and the new president of genocide watch Elisa Forgey also was ill, and therefore couldn't come either, but I hope you will let this statement suffice for hearing the opinion that we have of what's happening to the Rohingya.

The Rohingya of Myanmar have been the victims of genocide carried out by the Myanmar government and Rakhine militias for at least five years since 2012 and the discrimination against them has been rampant since 1982 when they were actually deprived of citizenship in Myanmar. In that year the Myanmar regime, a military regime, imposed a law that enumerated 135 ethnic groups as belonging to the country of Myanmar but excluded completely where the Rohingya, about a million people, Muslim people, who have been part of Myanmar for centuries. We have records of them that go all the way back into the 1700s. So this idea that the Rohingya are somehow illegal immigrants from Bangladesh is a it's a myth and it's being used by leaders of the Burmese community in Myanmar to claim, essentially that they are the true citizens, the true leaders of Myanmar and they should rule over all the other groups. the Quran, the catchin, in the Shang, the Shin, the and of course say don't even recognize the name Rohingin. They consider the Rohingya not to even be citizens.

Now in the way genocide watch analyzes the process of genocide the first stage is always classification and classification in this case meant that the Rohingya were literally excluded from citizenship in Myanmar.The parallel is direct to what Hitler did to the Jews in 1935 with the Nuremberg Laws. He literally stripped the Jews of German citizenship made it illegal for them to hold positions in universities,o be doctors, lawyers to have any positions in the government that's exactly Rohingya what's happened to the Rohingya. In other words this first stage of genocide classification has been one of the most brutal and vicious ways in which the Rohingya had been excluded from Myanmar society.

The other stages that we see in this case of course symbolization in which the Rohingya literally are considered to be foreign because of their dress because of their language because they worship in mosques and so forth.

The discrimination against them in which they're literally excluded from any of the rights that citizens of Myanmar have including rights to health care and education has led them to the fourth stage, dehumanization in which the Rohingya are considered filthy or somehow called terrorists even though frankly the Rohingya have never been terrorists there have been very few incidents in which Rohingya have committed any kind of aggression in Myanmar. The only recent case in august this year by a very I think misguided group the Archon Salvation Army, is so out of character for what the Rohingya were doing that it's now being used though by the Myanmar government as an excuse for what they are doing against the Rohingya it is a justification for genocide.

The organization used against the religion of course is by the Myanmar army itself attacked amle and in by the rocky militias in Rakhine State. it has been a very well planned genocide, in other words the preparation stage has been very clear.

The dehumanization process has also been fostered by Buddhist monks. Actually totally opposed to ice believe the fundamental principles of Buddhism but they are claiming these people aren't full of human that they really are foreign that they're not really people who should have any rights. Now the reason why genocide watch considers this to be genocide, is that the acts of genocide are quite apparent the Myanmar army and Rakain militias have literally slaughtered thousands of Rohingya just in this last three months. Thousands they've wiped out entire villages they've raped thousands of women. these are all the harm hallmarks the acts of genocide and the intent has also been very clear. in genocide you need both the acts of genocide namely killings, creation of conditions that are intended to destroy a group, serious mental and physical harm to members of the group, all of these things have been done.

The intent has also been very clear. The aim has been to not only kill a lot of the Rohingya but it has literally been to drive them out. Now driving people out of a country, forced displacement, is a crime against humanity. Some people think that that should be called ethnic cleansing. We are opposed to the use of that term the reason is that the word ethnic cleansing was a term invented by Slobodan Milosevic it was a term used as a euphemism for forced displacement and genocide. There is no international law against ethnic cleansing there is no international treaty.Tit is a weak word whereas there are international laws against forced displacement which is a crime against humanity and genocide and genocide is a very well defined term in international law the reason we believe that the word genocide should be used in this case is that the intent is clear that it is the intent to destroy a substantial part of the Rohingya group.

Genocide is defined as the intentional destruction in whole or in part of a national ethnic, racial, or religious group. that is what is happening to the Rohingya now the fact that many Rohingya have also been driven out of their villages in their areas that they've also been pinned up in concentration camps such as the one just at the edge of sittwe the capital of Roakin state, indicates that of course you also have forced displacement some people think that you know forced displacement and genocide are somehow mutually exclusive. they aren't. they always go together and the reason they do is because genocide or massacres are used to terrorize people into fleeing, into leaving, and that is exactly what's happened in the last three months went six hundred and twenty thousand Rohingya have fled across a river into Bangladesh.

Bangladesh is to be commended for receiving these people and for finding ways to provide space for them to allow refugee camps to be built in other words fulfilling its obligations under international refugee law. the one problem of course is that Bangladesh is very reluctant to call these people refugees because under Refugee law, and by the way Bangladesh is not a party to some of the international refugee conventions under Refugee law it is illegal to force people to go back it's called the principle of non-refoulement, which is a fancy French word which means don't send them back. So calling them refugees calls that basic international law into play it makes it apply and that's why the Bangladesh government has been very reluctant to call these people refugees, but they are refugees, let's face it and so what we need now is a is a very frank use of the right words for what this is.

Tt is genocide, it is forced displacement, and these people are refugees some people say well it doesn't matter what words you use after all you know ethnic cleansing is a bad enough thing and so why use such a terrible word as genocide for it well we actually studied this an epidemiologist from Israel le Richter and I and a number of other Israeli epidemiologists actually conducted a study back in 2007 when we were confronted with this argument namely that it doesn't make any difference if you call it genocide. what we did is we actually counted the number of times the words ethnic cleansing and genocide were used to describe the situations in four of the last genocides. Bosnia, Rwanda, Kosovo, and Darfur and we counted the number of times they were used in the New York times in major law journals instatements by the united nations and in the statements by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International and what we discovered was a very dramatic difference. as long as these situations as long as these atrocities were called ethnic cleansing there would be no forceful action to stop them. whereas once the tipping point was reached where the word genocide was applied in each of these cases it made it possible to actually have forceful action and stop the genocide. in Bosnia it was called ethnic cleansing from 1992 up until July 11th through 13th of 1995 when the Srebrenica Massacre occurred and NATO met shortly after that on the July 21st decided it was genocide and bombing occurred by the end of August and it brought the end to the war eventually when Serbia realized it could not win.

The second case, Rwanda, was one in which the international community and the UN failed to use the word genocide until it was nearly all over. for over three months the US State Department refused to use the word genocide and I have read some of those cables because I was in the State Department at that time, and the cables even said things like if we call it genocide we might actually have to do something.

The reason why the word genocide is powerful is its moral force. it doesn't actually require military intervention, it only really has legal implications for what happens within a country, you have to prosecute people who are committing genocide, and so forth, and you have to extradite them if they come into your country and another country wants to put them on trial, but the fact is the term has a huge moral force. in Rwanda we weren't willing to use the term because we didn't want to act the result 800,000 people in Rwanda died and we weren't willing to risk even one life to save them.

In Kosovo possibly one of the more effective cases of intervention to stop a genocide, it was called ethnic cleansing until April of 1999 when ambassador David Scheffer, our war crimes ambassador, went to the border of Kosovo and Macedonia and said that he saw indicators of genocide. well that turned the tide because within a week we were bombing Belgrade and Belgrade surrendered. The Kosovar Albanians were saved they were allowed to go back into their homes many of them had been fleeing a peace agreement was reached and Kosovo is now as you know an independent country and is a very peaceful one in fact by country, a country where my son is serving as a Peace Corps volunteer right now.

The exception that proves the rule is Darfur. Darfur is a case where the American government under the leadership of our war crimes ambassador Pierre prosper who is the man who prosecuted the very first case in their own and tribunal he knew that if we used the word genocide it would make a big difference, and so he commissioned a study done by the Coalition for international justice to go to Chad and interview survivors from Darfur and what they discovered were very clear indicators of genocide. you know the kind of statements made by people who are raping women, that now you will have lighter skinned children, or you know you are a slave, died you slave, and things of that sort. these are indicators as a kind of intent we look for. so the basic decision by the u.s. to call it genocide could have made a difference but unfortunately our Secretary of State Powell said that we would not change our policy. the UN wouldn't even call it genocide. instead they appointed a commission of inquiry under judge kassay. the judge who at the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia had prevented that tribunal from finding anyone guilty for a genocide until he left well he was put in charge of this commission of inquiry. he warned the people on the commission even before they got to Sudan that it was very unlikely they would find enough intent to conclude there was genocide. well sure enough that commission found there were crimes against humanity but not enough for genocide guess what, in Darfur there was never international action to actually stop the genocide.

in other words it really makes a difference what it is called and that's why we believe it should be called genocide in the case of the Rohingya because we believe that a UN force needs to be admitted into Myanmar to provide security for the row hinges as they come back that we hope will happen because if they do not have that kind of security a lot of the Renza will be unwilling to go back to me Omar they will not trust the me on my army to protect them so I leave you with that thought I thought that I hope that the Bangladesh government will consider in its negotiations with Myanmar and that until there is an agreement to really protect the hinges that they should not be forced to go back to me Omar. Thank you.

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(c) 2017 Gregroy Stanton

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