The reputation of Myanmar’s pro-democracy icon – Aung San Suu Kyi – is in tatters for her failure to condemn her country’s so-called “clearing operations” in Rakhine State. Once a darling of the West, her portrait was even removed last month from public display by Oxford University UK, the same college she studied politics, philosophy and economics between 1964 and 1967.
On the other hand, the portrait of notorious Najib Razak is still on the walls of his alma mater, University of Nottingham, UK, despite the fact that the Malaysian leader was responsible for stealing and plundering at least US$4.5 billion of taxpayers’ money in the infamous 1MDB scandal. Interestingly, Mr. Najib didn’t actually sit for his degree exams, let alone graduated from the university.
So, Nottingham refused to remove a portrait of the world’s biggest crook Najib despite a motion to the UK University to do so, but Oxford voluntarily placed a portrait of a pro-democracy icon in storage simply because the UK University thought it was a serious crime that Suu Kyi kept her silence over her role in Myanmar’s humanitarian crisis.
Essentially, this means the West puts human rights above anything else – including endorsing corruption and money laundering. But such criticism from the West – from Washington to London – on the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize winner is nothing but music to two powerful nations – China and India. Unlike the West, both Chinese and Indians support Myanmar.
China and India seldom see eye to eye on international affairs. In fact, their troops are at each other’s throat in the stand-offs on the disputed Himalayan border. Heck, they even compete for influence in Myanmar. But on the Rohingya issue, both countries expressed sympathy and support toward Myanmar’s government in spite of the international community’s pressure.
On August 25, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) attacked 30 police outposts in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, leading to the killing of 10 police officers, one soldier, and one immigration officer. After the attack, the government of Myanmar declared the ARSA as a terrorist organization and launched “clearance operations”, resulted in 420,000 Rohingyas fleeing the region.
The liberal mainstream media especially from the West, as usual, jumped into a conclusion that the Buddhists (Myanmar) are to blame for their intolerance and violence towards the Muslims (Rohingya) minority. And the ignorant and foolish politicians, from Washington to London, as expected, swallowed the hook, line and sinker. They were foaming at the mouth at the picture of Rohingya civilians and children.
Even Najib Razak, the world’s biggest crook of whom President Trump saw fit to meet, led his country’s UMNO political party to a protest, perhaps his first demonstration in his entire life, against the so-called violence afflicting the Muslim Rohingya community in Myanmar. Ironically, the same Najib happily discriminates against fellow Malaysian Buddhists and Christians.
Tensions between the Bengali-speaking Muslims and Buddhists in Rakhine state have existed for decades – some even said centuries. Although Rohingya – a Muslim ethnic minority of about 1 million among Burma’s predominantly Buddhist 52 million people – have lived in Burma for generations, most people view them as foreign intruders from neighbouring Bangladesh.
The funny thing is, even Bangladesh, a country with Muslim population of approximately 146.6 million refuses to recognize them. The tensions between the Muslims and Buddhists in Rakhine state peaked in 1982 when Burma’s junta passed a law that identified eight ethnicities entitled to citizenship, and Rohingya were not among them. All hell breaks loose, of course.
The worst violence erupted in 2012 following the rape of a Buddhist woman allegedly by Muslim men. As they have shown and proven – again and again – to the Europeans, the Muslims in Myanmar can be very loud and violent when they decide to impose their beliefs on non-Muslims. The Burmese military knew what would be the consequences if they are not stopped.
Although Muslims account for less than 10% of Myanmar population, sectarianism is rising in the nation. Just like how the Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte is now fighting the radicalized Islamic militants in his country, Myanmar could face similar uprising, which could lead to a demand for a Rohingya autonomous area along the border with Bangladesh at the expense of Rakhine territory.
Obsessed with human rights and unlimited tolerance toward Muslims, the West conveniently ignored the fact that the so-called innocent Muslim Rohingya was responsible for an insurgency in western Myanmar from 1947 until 1961. After they had lost to Myanmar’s army, the Islamic militants rose up against the government again with guerrilla warfare.
And again on 25th August 2017, they started another fight – and lost. But they will continue to fight and kill. The Burmese Buddhist people are simply defending themselves, their country, their identity, their religion and their existence. Even a monk will tell that they “don’t want Muslims to swallow our country.” There’s no telling if Rohingya will invade Chin State or Irrawady region when Rakhine state falls.
China and India, however, knew such facts and realized the deadly risk of blindly supporting the Rohingya Muslims just for the sake of upholding human rights. Sure, Rohingya civilians are getting caught in the crisis, but the Muslim jihadists knew this would happen. And like other radicalized Islamic terrorists such as ISIS, they gladly use civilians as human shield.
One of the reasons why the Chinese and the Indians are on the same page over the Rohingya crisis is the heavy investments they have had pumped into the Rakhine state. The fact that Bangladesh has offered Myanmar assistance to crack down on ARSA speaks volumes that the Rohingya isn’t as innocent as human rights activists make them to be.
China’s investment in Myanmar reached US$18.53 billion in January 2017 and the country plays a unique role in Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative. More crucially, Myanmar offers an utmost strategic access to the Indian Ocean for the Chinese. A simple blockade of the Strait of Malacca by the U.S. and its alliance will cut China off from Middle East oil supplies and from its “Second Continent” Africa.
Therefore, oil and gas pipelines, from the Bay of Bengal through Myanmar to Yunnan province, actually shorten supply routes from the Middle East, allowing China to avoid the potentially vulnerable chokepoint of the Strait of Malacca. The pipeline is part of the US$7.3 billion Kyauk Pyu Special Economic Zone, an investment of state-run CITIC Group as part of OBOR, in Myanmar.
Although slow and pale in comparison to the Chinese investment, India has nevertheless spent over US$1.75 billion in grants and credit to Myanmar. Besides the completion of Sittwe power and the inland water terminal in Paletwa, India is also building the India-Myanmar-Thailand highway, scheduled for completion by 2020.
But the most critical reason why India and China have thrown their support behind Myanmar is the fear of the emergence of terrorist violence on their doorstep, the same way Daesh (ISIS, ISIL, IS) was established in the Middle East. India’s military intelligence has reported close links between the ARSA, Bangladesh’s Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen (JMB) and the Indian Mujahideen.
India has even expelled nearly 40,000 Rohingya migrants it says have illegally settled in the country. That’s why when the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made his first bilateral visit to Myanmar last month; he publicly declared that India and Myanmar shared “similar security interests in the region” – the “extremist violence” in the Rakhine state.
What if ARSA terrorists attack an Indian ship or try blowing up parts of the Yunnan-Kyauk Pyu oil-gas pipeline? The West can scream their lungs out. But Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President Xi Jinping and Myanmar’s State Councilor Aung San Suu Kyi are aligned on the Rohingya insurgency – they see the situation from the lens of “state sovereignty and state security.”
Of course, it’s just a coincidence that India, from where Buddhism originated before spreading to China, is working with the Chinese to ensure Myanmar Buddhists do not fall into the hand of radicalised Islamic terrorism. As far as China and India are concerned, the West can go screw their human rights if Myanmar would turn into Libya, Iraq or the Philippines just to please the Rohingya Muslims.
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