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Scholars blast Oxford press over controversial writer

A group of scholars and rights campaigners from different countries have blasted Oxford University Press (OUP) over the commissioning of controversial researcher Dr Jacques Leider to write a reference article on the persecuted Rohingya people in a forthcoming series of the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Asian History.

Head of the Bangkok-based Ecole Française de l’ Extrême-Orien, Dr Leider is an adviser to the Myanmar military’s Armed Forces Historical Museum in Naypyidaw, according to a statement issued by the scholars and activists on Monday.

Their statement reads: “We…are disturbed by the fact that OUP’s Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Asian History series has commissioned Dr Jacques Leider to write a reference article on the subject of the Rohingya people…

“We find that positions taken by Dr Leider in interviews with the press, in public talks and in published articles raise serious questions about his objectivity regarding the Rohingya and their history. His well-documented pattern of denials that the Myanmar military-directed mass violence and scorched-earth military operations against the Rohingya community – the subject of his ORE article – is challenged by the growing body of legal analyses and human rights research reports…”

It adds: “We believe that televised appearances by Dr Leider with military and government officials condoning state policies against the Rohingya give the appearance to the viewing public that he validates views that underlie the Myanmar military’s ousting in 2017 of 680,000 people and the massacre of Rohingya for which the military has recently admitted responsibility.”

The statement further reads: “We note also that OUP appears only to have commissioned an article on the Rohingya and not on the Rakhine Buddhist community whose ethnic claims, we understand, are no stronger than those of the Rohingya. It is hard to interpret this as other than OUP’s taking a stand in favour of the Myanmar military and against the Rohingya for reasons unclear and that OUP supports, at least indirectly, the current ethnic cleansing which Dr Leider’s writings and media appearances are used to deny.”

The scholars and rights campaigners urged OUP to reconsider their decision to commission Dr Leider to write the reference article, saying “if the article goes ahead, it includes a clear disclaimer that Dr Leider is not a distant observer and that the article should be considered as an opinion piece, not as an unbiased reference source.”

The statement was signed by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, a professor at Columbia University in the United States; Nursyahbani Katjasungkana, national coordinator of Indonesia Legal Aid Association for Women; Noam Chomsky, an linguist, philosopher and activist based in the US; Mofidul Hoque, director of Center for the Study of Genocide and Justice in Bangladesh; Tapan Bose, a filmmaker, human rights defender in India; Richard Falk, a professor emeritus at Princeton University in the US; Barbara Harrell-Bond OBE, a professor emeritus at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom; Barbara Harriss-White, a professor emeritus at the University of Oxford; Ritu Dewan, vice president of the Indian Society of Labour Economics; Prof Gregory Stanton, founding chairman of Genocide Watch in the US; Johan Galtung, founder of Peace Studies; Youk Chhang, chairman of Documentation Center of Camboda; Abdul Malik Mujahid, chair emeritus of Parliament of the World’s Religions; Karen Jungblut, director USC Shoah Foundation in Los Angeles; María do Mar Castro Varela, a professor at Alice Salomon University in Berlin, and CR Abrar, a professor at the University of Dhaka in Bangladesh.

(c) 2018 Dhaka Tribune

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