Saturday, May 23, 2015

Dee Brown's Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee

A history of genocide--how the West was won--heart breaking--almost too painful to read.

By Dee Brown.

This book was translated into 17 languages, and has never gone out of print

A must see if you live in the Greater DC area--Peacock Room remix at the Freer Gallery

My book review of Michael Heskew et al, Fighting Techniques of the Oriental World

My book review of -- left on Amazon site--

Michael Heskew et al Fighting Techniques of the Oriental World
3 out of 5 stars
Good drawings, but battles need more historical context--book needs better editing.
Chapters are by different authors, and need good overall editing for style to be consistent.

Diagrams/drawings are very good, but text is variable for above reason.

Special post--PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)

Special post--Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Curse for a Nation--

This photo--from Internet--Rohingya refugees rescued and resting on land--5-23-2015

Photo--New York City skyline from the Metropolitan Museum roof garden.  Photo KM Kaung

Renowned for her love poems, and her love affair and marriage to Robert Browning, after being kept in captivity as an "invalid" for years by her domineering father, I never even knew she was involved in politics.

I could not find my print copy, but here it is--

make sure to open the link and read it--

for those of you who don't know, she also wrote the quintessential lines

"How do I love you, let me count the ways--I love you to the height and depth and breadth, my soul can reach--"

After she eloped with Robert, they had a son and she spent the rest of her life on the Continent.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Article by Dr. Nancy Hudson-Rodd from 2013, comparing Rohingya issue in Burma to West's denial of Jewish issue during World War II

Denial of the Living Hell of Burma  

Nancy Hudson-Rodd July 2013
Happening in Burma today is a story of betrayal, failure, indifference, hatred, war, crimes against humanity, genocide, international silence and denial. When extermination camps were uncovered in Europe over five decades ago, the world promised the un-measureable acts of horror would never again be allowed to happen again. The term ‘bystander nations’ was originally used to describe the lack of response by Allied governments to early knowledge about the unfolding destruction of European Jews, the reluctance to believe allegations of genocide and their refusal to adopt policies to act. Genocide in Burma is a reality. The rulers committing genocidal acts are charming the world getting away with murder. Why?
There is a long history of bystander nations’ selective refusal to act. Global awareness of the prevalence of genocide and ethnic cleansing were heightened by a 1993 massacre in Rwanda where UN Force Commander-Lieutenant General Romeo D’Allaire and a small band of UN peacekeepers were abandoned by the world’s major powers. D’Allaire’s desperate calls to the UN for help were ignored, a failure of humanity to act. Linda Melvern (1998) drew attention to the complicity of western nations through the United Nations failure to intervene in the Rwandan genocide. She points out that genocide was planned without secrecy and after months of careful preparation, still international community held back. The International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, foreign countries continued to invest money into the economy, engaged in trade negotiations with Rwandan authorities, contributing directly to the conditions which made the genocide possible. Why did individual nations turn their backs?  Why did they deny the reality?
In Burma, a similar pattern of official denial and international silence concerning genocide and crimes against humanity being committed by the military regime against civilians is unfolding. Former General Thein Sein, now President Thein Sein, is welcomed and pampered around the world, applauded for transforming Burma from a military dictatorship into a democratic nation. The World Bank, foreign investors, governments, and technical experts complicit in this denial, profit at the expense of the survival of citizens of Burma. The remote border regions of Burma, home to the ethnic groups, and 55% of the lucrative natural resources of Burma, are the sites of decades of genocidal conflicts between the Burmese army and armed ethnic nationality groups.  Despite decades of documentation concerning crimes against humanity in Burma, why is there no action?
The mandate of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Burma was established in 1992. Each year since, the Special Rapporteur has reported serious violations of human rights of citizens, denounced the ruling military regime for failing to cooperate with the international community and to take serious steps to end the ongoing grave violations of international law. The regime has consistently denied these allegations and continues to act with humanity. The 2008 Constitution drafted by former General Thein Sein, now President Thein Sein, carefully included a clause which protected current and former military rulers from being held accountable for crimes committed against the citizens. Foreign governments have supported these crimes through denial.
Crimes in Burma, a 2010 report by the International Human Rights Clinic Harvard Law School was commissioned by four people, each of whom had dealt directly with severe human rights abuses in the international system and have witnessed the painful consequences of inaction, commissioned a study into the grave human rights situation in Burma. “We have seen how severe human rights abuses are not simply condemnable acts but require concerted efforts to achieve some semblance of accountability and justice”.  The report, to evaluate the extent to which UN institutions have knowledge of reported abuses occurring in the country that may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity against humanity found UN bodies had consistently acknowledged abuses and used legal terms associated with these international crimes.  Violations were widespread, systematic, and part of a state policy.

The commissioners asked the UN Security Council urgently to establish a Commission of Inquiry to investigate and report on crimes against humanity and war crimes in Burma. “If the international community and the UN Security Council fail to take action”, the grave humanitarian situation in eastern Burma and elsewhere in the country will continue unchecked and perpetrators of serious human rights and humanitarian violations will remain unaccountable. “A culture of impunity will persist that is highly conducive to the continuance and escalation of violations”. “The world cannot wait while the military regime continues its atrocities against the people of Burma”.

Sixteen countries supported a proposed UN Commission of inquiry into serious violations of international humanitarian law by all parties to Burma’s internal armed conflicts. No country took leadership at the UN to make it a reality. Foreign ‘bystander nations’ did not deny the violations but expressed their optimism about government reforms despite abundant evidence about continuing systematic repression.  This rationalisation of violations institutionalised in international bodies such as the United Nations is described by Leo Kuper (1991, Genocide: A Critical Bibliographical Review) as “the technology of denial developed by member states of the United Nations as they shield offending governments”.

In their independent research 2010 report, Crimes Against Humanity in Western Burma: The Situation of the Rohingyas, the Irish Centre for Human Rights, concluded that there is “a reliable body of evidence of acts constituting a widespread or systematic attack against Rohingya civilian population in North Arakan State. These appear to satisfy the requirements under international law and confirm the perpetration of crimes against humanity”. The report warned that failure to deal with the root causes of the dire situation of the Rohingyas would lead to a bleak future for the minority. “People committing, allowing, aiding, and abetting these crimes must be held accountable. The international community has a responsibility to protect the Rohingyas, to respond to allegations of crimes against humanity and ensure that violations and impunity do not persist for another generation”.

Tomas Ojea Quintana, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burma (March 2013) condemned widespread and systematic human rights violations being committed against Rohingya in Arakan State. “There continues to be absolutely no accountability for what is occurring there”.  He detailed severe violations and abuses of international human rights including: detention of over 250 prisoners of conscience and ongoing torture in places of detention; ongoing arrest and detention of peaceful protesters; misuse of defamation laws to enforce censorship and heavy censorship of public broadcasting; increasing violations of land and housing rights; the judiciary’s lack of independence from the executive branch; ongoing conflict in ethnic border areas with increased troop presence in various states has increased human rights violation in Kachin and northern Shan States with ongoing attacks against civilian populations, extrajudicial killings, sexual violence and rape, forced labour, portering, arbitrary arrests and detention, and torture.

The UN Human Rights Council adopted March 2013 a resolution on the human rights situation in Burma. The resolution urged the regime to conduct a full and transparent, and independent investigation into all reports of violations of international human rights violations and international humanitarian law.

The Burmese government refuted the report (Observations by Myanmar on the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar) in classic denial approach. The Myanmar delegation pressed for a new rapporteur, one more favourable to Burma.

Each year since 1992 this dance has occurred between the UN and the military regime of Burma.

Prisoners of conscience: “Nobody is arrested on political grounds. Maintenance of law and order is a key responsibility of the government. Legal action is taken against those who violated the laws”.

In the upside down world of Burma, there are no prisoners of conscience only those who disobey the many laws of the nation which are designed to silence defenders of freedom and challenge the authority of the rulers.  Human rights defenders are criminalised.

Conditions of detention and treatment of prisoners: “Necessary measures are already in place, an investigation took place. Allegations that Muslim prisoners detained in Buthidaung Prison after violence in 2012 were tortured and beaten to death. “The authorities have examined these allegations. After verification, they found the allegations were baseless”.

Death may occur in prison but allegations of torture are unfounded as prison authorities would not do this.

Conflict and Situation of ethnic minorities: “Allegations of attack against civilian population and other forms of human rights violations are unfounded. The Report has omitted the destructive, terrorist acts committed by the KIA in Kachin State. It is an undeniable fact that the KIA has committed terrorist acts there. These terrorist acts are too obvious to ignore”.

Attacks against civilian populations are unfounded as the people attacked were really terrorists.

Situation in Rakhaine State: “Allegations of harassment, arbitrary arrest, arbitrary restriction of movement, destruction of places of worship and restrictions thereon were unfounded. They do not match with the real situation on the ground”.

Total denial of the violent acts.

Citizenship Act
The Special Rapporteur’s recommendation to amend the 1982 Myanmar Citizenship Act is unacceptable. No country is obligated to get citizenship to everybody who is living there. The 1982 Myanmar Citizenship Act does not target any particular group. People living legally in Myanmar for three successive generations are eligible to apply for the naturalised citizenship. Therefore, we see no reason whatsoever to review or amend the Act”.

Total denial of existence of Rohingya.

Time is not ripe to consider the amendment of our constitutional provisions”.

Prisoner of Conscience

“We cannot agree to the Special Rapporteur’s observation that Dr Tun Aung is a prisoner of conscience. He was sentenced to 11 years imprisonment after having been found guilty of charges such as the instigation and incitement to cause racial discord, the falsification of national registration certificate etc”.

Dr Tun Aung, a retired medical doctor, Rohingya Muslim community leader, was tortured, denied medical treatment, a lawyer, held incommunicado in Sittwe Prison, having done the exact opposite of what he was charged for, inciting communal violence. On 8 June 2012, the Burmese authorities asked Dr Tun Aung to aid the police in stopping ethnic violence starting. Dr Tun Aung actively tried to calm an agitated crowd. He then sought refuge in the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) where 157 staff of the UNHCR and several members of his family were sheltered. The same police who asked him to restore calm came to take him to the headquarters of the special border security force, who tortured him, then sent him to Sittwe prison, where his family could not visit due to travel restrictions on Rohingya. He was charged with having 6 yuan foreign currency and an out of date sim card from Bangladesh. He had no lawyer, no family members. The only witnesses were police and security authorities. He has since been sentenced to an extra 6 years in prison. The prosecution charged that his sentence was too lenient. He has been denied the urgent medical care that he needs.

The Burmese regime finally submitted a report on the violence against Rohingya in Arakan State. They accused the UNHCR of harbouring a ‘Bengali’ Doctor who had incited violence. Dr Tun Aung is a Rohingya, a long time respected leader and medical doctor. As a member of the Hobart, Tasmania, Amnesty International Group, I and my Amnesty friends write to Senator Bob Carr, the Foreign Minister of Australia and to U Soe Thane, chairman of the Committee for Scrutinizing the Remaining Prisoners of Conscience, in the Ministry of President Thein Sein’s office, for the immediate unconditional release of Dr Tun Aung. Minister Bob Carr met with U Soe Thane on his recent visit to Burma. Did they discuss Dr Tun Aung?

The reports continue. All You Can Do Is Pray: Crimes Against Humanity and Ethnic Cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in Burma’s Arakan State, the Human Rights Watch 2013. Endemic discrimination against the 800, 000 stateless Rohingya Muslim in Arakan State continues after convulsions of violence in June and October 2012. Homes, businesses, mosques, Islamic education centres were destroyed, men, women, and children murdered, stoked by hate campaigns sponsored by Buddhist monks and other groups. Security forces, police, soldiers tended to either ignore violence against Rohingya, were active in violence, with government officials complicit.  There are ongoing allegations of harassment, detentions, sexual violence and rape, arbitrary restriction of movement, and destruction of places of worship. At least 120,000 Rohingya are internally displaced from their homes and interred in camps denied movement and inadequate food and shelter. Access by international organisations to all of these camps has been denied by security forces. President Thein Sein took no serious steps to hold accountable those responsible for these attacks or to prevent further acts of violence.
Dr Gregory Stanton, president of Genocide Watch, the International Alliance to End Genocide, describes genocide as a process that develops in eight stages (classification, symbolisation, dehumanisation, organisation, polarisation, preparation, extermination, denial). These stages are predictable but not inexorable. At each stage preventative measures can stop it. The process is not linear. Logically later stages are preceded by earlier stages, but all stages continue to operate throughout the process. Listed as crimes against humanity the military regime is committing against the Rohingya are: denial of citizenship, imprisonment in displaced person camps; widespread murder of civilians; denial of the right to travel; denial of education rights of children; denial of food and medicines. Burma remains at stage 7 the process of extermination due to ongoing wars against minorities, especially Karen, Shan, and Kachin.
In every research study mentioned, authors have stated that measures should be urgently taken to prevent further crimes against the population. Genocide Watch has stated that preventative measures are available. All studies reveal that if measures are not taken to stop criminal actions, the regime will act with impunity. There has been no international response to these appeals. There has been no Burmese military response and no person held accountable for these crimes. Atrocities are being committed. Children, women, and men are suffering.  
Adama Dieng, the United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide voiced deep concern at reports of increased violence between Muslim and Buddhist communities in central Burma (29 March 2013). Given the convulsions of violence in June and October 2012, he called upon government leaders in Burma to urgently put in place measures to address the immediate consequences of the current violence and also the root causes of the problem to prevent further escalation of violence. “Failing to do so can have serious future consequences which the international community has solemnly promised to prevent”. Dieng urged the Government to clearly demonstrate “that it is serious about holding accountable those responsible for the past and present violence, regardless of their religious or ethnic affiliations”. The government “must also take measures to protect populations at risk”. Noting that that the State has the primary responsibility to protect its population, Mr. Dieng called on the Government to address the situation as a matter of urgency, develop a comprehensive national strategy that upholds international human rights standards and promotes reconciliation and tolerance among Buddhist and Muslim communities in the country.
Where is the outrage? Why has the international community not held the Burmese military accountable for their crimes?
Why does the Australian Government supportive of the Burmese semi-civilian government? Why does the Australian Government not speak out against the continuing human rights abuses against civilians of Burma? It is time to take a sober analysis of what is really happening in Burma.
Australia was the first western nation to sign a Memorandum of Understanding on Development with the Myanmar Government in January 2013. It is the second largest bilateral aid donor to Burma. Australia encourages increased trade and investment links with Burma, appointed a Trade Commissioner and opened an Austrade office in Rangoon in May 2013.  Closer bilateral relations have led to significant increases in senior visits between Burma and Australia.
Foreign Government Language  of Denial
Speaking from Burma, the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator the Honourable Bob Carr, was interviewed by ABC AM, 10 July 2013. Senator Carr raised the plight of Rohingyas during meetings with President U Thein Sein, Foreign Minister U Wunna Maung Lwin, and Ministers U Aung Min and U Soe Thane who “pointed to efforts they had made to bring communities together and promote tolerance”.  (What efforts? None visible, but stay out of a cultural situation you know nothing about). Carr refused to criticise political leadership for lack of strong action concerning violence against Rohingyas.  He emphasised how difficult the “problem” was as explained by the minister for reconciliation “we’ve got 11 armed ethnic groups and we’ve got 135 recognised ethnic groups going back to before colonial times”.  (Classic military response to claim ancient history, no one outside could understand. No mention that the regime created a nation of 135 artificial races denied one the rohingya, not a country of citizens).
Already the second largest contributor of aid to Burma, Senator Carr committed an additional $3.2 million not contingent on any action to be taken by the government towards resolving the Rohingya crisis. “We go on giving aid while, with the credibility that gives us and being seen as something of a champion of Myanmar, we will continue to press with the government and with opposition leadership the plight of the Rohingya”. (What happens when the state which should protect its citizens and therefore be the vehicle of international aid is actually the perpetrator of crimes against the very people it is supposed to protect? The Burmese regime has denied access to people in internally displaced camps and in Arakan State has forced Rohingya to pay for the donated food. There are still members of international non-governmental aid organisations in prison).  Public condemnation of the regime practices and calls for changes are required not quiet support.
 International news headlines focussed on “ethnic and sectarian tensions in Rakhaine and not about the fact that the government has concluded peace agreements, ceasefires with 11 armed ethnic groups, which is an awe inspiring achievement, one that the country can truly be proud of”. The regime of Burma, culpable for crimes against humanity and genocide, should be held accountable not courted. Ethnic and sectarian tensions are words to deny the truth of genocide, to slide over the culpability of state actions.
The Australian government “a champion of Myanmar” is no friend of the people of Burma. The Australian Government needs to publicly denounce the actions of the Government of Burma and call for an international inquiry into crimes against humanity. Disorder and violence are institutionalised and normalised in Burma. The culture of denial encourages turning collective blind-eyes, leaving abuses unexamined and normalised as part of every-day life. The Australian Government knows atrocities committed by the regime. It is time to speak the truth, deny support for the regime, and support the people of Burma. Or do they just want to be another bystander nation?

Special post--full text of UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights, Burma --Tomas Ojea Quintana--from 2013full

full text

Statement of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar
Statement of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar
By Tomás Ojea Quintana, 21 August 2013, Yangon International Airport, Myanmar
I have just concluded my ten-day mission to Myanmar – my eighth visit to the country since I was appointed Special Rapporteur in March 2008. I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the Government of Myanmar for its invitation, and in particular for granting me an extended visit this time, which has enabled me to cover more ground than I have done previously during my five-day missions.
In Naypyitaw, I met with the Minster of Foreign Affairs; the Minister of Immigration and Population; the Ministers of the President’s Office; the Minister of Education; the Minister of Health; the Minister of Labour, Employment and Social Security; the Minister of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement; the Deputy Minister of Defence; parliamentarians and members of parliamentary committees, including the Bills Committee and International Relations Committee of the Amyotha Hluttaw; the Attorney General; the Chief Justice and other members of the Supreme Court; members of the Letpadaung Implementation Committee; Advisors to the President; and the Chief of Police. I also met with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
In Yangon, I met with prisoners of conscience released since my last visit; members of the prisoner review committee; members of the media, including the social media; members of the 88 Generation; political party representatives; a range of civil society organisations; the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission; lawyers; members of interfaith organisations; and land activists. While in Yangon, I visited Insein Prison and met with five prisoners of conscience, and made a tour of the prison, including the female wards. And I met with members of the United Nations Country Team and briefed the diplomatic community. I would like to thank the Resident Coordinator and the Country Team for the support provided to me during my mission.
I visited Rakhine State, including Buthidaung Prison, Sittwe Prison, Sittwe Hospital, Shwe Kyaung Monastery and Aung Mingalar quarters. I visited Kachin State, and went to Myitkyina where I met with state officials as well as Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) officials. I visited Mindat and Kanpalet in Chin State and met with state officials, community and religious leaders, and civil society. In Mindat, I visited a Border Areas National Races Youth Development Training School (Na Ta La) where I met with teachers and students. I visited Shan State and went to Lashio to meet with state officials and national groups and local monks. I made a tour of the areas affected by the intercommunal violence there last May, and met with members of the Buddhist and Muslim communities affected by the violence. I also visited Lashio Prison to meet with persons detained in connection with the violence. In Shan State, I visited Namhsan and met with representatives of the Palaung self-administered zone and representatives of workers and civil society organisations there. I visited Mandalay and met with regional government ministers and went on to Meiktila township, and in Naypyitaw met with residents of Meiktila who had been affected by the March violence. I would like to thank the Government for organising this wide-ranging visit, and for the freedom of movement and access I was granted, which enabled me to develop a comprehensive assessment of the human rights situation on the ground.
In my visit to Kachin State, I met state authorities and the KIO technical team that had recently opened an office in Myitkyina, where I discussed ongoing human rights and humanitarian concerns. I received further information about the seven-point agreement signed by the government and the KIO on 30 May 2013, which I welcome, and I was encouraged by the inclusion of an agreement to undertake relief, rehabilitation and resettlement of internally displaced persons. However, there remains a serious challenge regarding the implementation of this provision. I learnt that UN humanitarian agencies had only been provided with access to non-government controlled areas once between July 2012 and July 2013. The information I have received about these areas is extremely concerning, particularly with regard to food security. I also attempted to visit Laiza during this mission, but unfortunately the state and central government were unable to grant clear permission. This pattern of denying access not only to address humanitarian shortcomings, but also serious human rights concerns, needs to change immediately.
Over the years there have been serious allegations of human rights abuses against villagers from Kachin, though I believe these have reduced following progress with ceasefire negotiations. However, some clashes continue to occur in Northern Shan State. What is also concerning is the information I received about the lack of consultation with internally displaced communities on their return. Any initiative to return IDPs to their places of origin has to be done with the free, prior and informed consent of the ethnic communities concerned, and also involve consultation with humanitarian agencies working in the State, including UN agencies.
In Myitkyina, I went to Jamai Kawng IDP camp and met with Buang Shawng, who I had met in detention during my previous visit and who had been recently released. As well as welcoming his individual release, I hope this will be a sign that the Government will stop the practice of detaining people for their alleged association with non-state armed groups.
I also met with members of the large Shan community living there, and listened to how they had been affected by the ongoing conflict. It is vital that the ceasefire and political negotiations in Kachin State also address the concerns of this group.
I visited Chin State for the first time, and observed the beauty of the environment and how friendly and open the people were. There, I went to Mindat and Kanpalet, and noted that restrictions on Christians have eased notably in 2013, though there remain some shortcomings in terms of bureaucratic obstacles towards opening spaces for Christian worship. Also, in the Na Ta La schools, equal access for both Buddhists and Christians needs to be ensured. In my meeting in Mindat with State Government officials and community and religious leaders, there was a frank but respectful dialogue about State policies and their negative impact on different communities. I found this discussion an example of good democratic practice emerging in Myanmar.
Chin State has serious levels of underdevelopment. Many of the roads I travelled on were nothing more than dusty dirt tracks and the communities I met spoke to me about their frustrations with intermittent access to electricity and uneven access to drinking water. With the country opening up, development will come, but it is important that this process occurs in a participatory, transparent, accountable and equal manner. Environmental considerations should also be at the forefront of developmental policy. Most importantly, the process of development and the exploitation natural resources there should benefit the Chin communities, who have suffered from neglect from the central government over the years.
I went to Rakhine State for the fourth time, and was greeted by many locals who were protesting my visit. Although this was not a message I liked to hear, I welcomed that people were able to stand in public and express their views. I stepped out of the car and met with one of the protestors, who spoke passionately about her pride of being a Rakhine Buddhist, and her distress over the neglect of her community over the years. She spoke of how her community had suffered during the recent violence and upheaval, and of her hopes for a more secure and peaceful future.
In Rakhine State, the state and central government are working well with the international community to address urgent humanitarian needs of both Rakhine Buddhists and the Muslim communities. The authorities and UN agencies have been successful in building new shelters for Muslim and Rakhine IDPs to face the rainy season in time to prevent a humanitarian crisis, which has been a serious concern. In my meeting with the Chief Minister of Rakhine State, I welcomed his assurances that there was no two-child policy in place for the Muslim populations in Northern Rakhine State. The Minister of Immigration reconfirmed that such a policy does not exist, though he accepted that there might have been a practice of two-child restrictions on the ground by Nasaka. I welcome the disbandment of Nasaka, a border security force which has allegedly committed numerous human rights violations over the years.
However, my overriding concern is that the separation and segregation of communities in Rakhine State is becoming increasingly permanent, making the restoration of trust difficult. This continues to have a particularly negative impact on the Muslim community. The severe restrictions on freedom of movement in Muslim IDP camps and villages remain in place. I visited Aung Mingalar, the only remaining Muslim ward in Sittwe, where a large number of people are living in a confined space, with the periphery marked out with barbed wire and guarded by armed police. This has serious consequences for fundamental human rights, including access to healthcare, education, as well as access to livelihoods. Furthermore, there continues to be cases of humanitarian workers facing intimidation by local groups when attempting to provide healthcare to the camps, which compounds the problem of access to healthcare.
The police and army have now taken charge of security in Rakhine State. Although there are legitimate security concerns which the police and army are addressing, I have received many serious allegations of the disproportionate use of force in dealing with large crowds of Muslim protestors. The latest incident saw live ammunition used to disperse a crowd of Muslims in Sittwe, with two killed and several injured. Security forces need to stop the use of excessive force.

Sittwe and in particular Buthidaung prison are filled with hundreds of Muslims men and women detained in connection with the violence of June and October 2012. Many of these have been arbitrarily detained and tried in flawed trials. I met the State Chief Justice and urged for the respect of due process of law. The use of torture and ill treatment, including some cases of death, during the first three months of the June outbreak, needs to be properly investigated and those responsible held to account.
The starting point for the solution to the situation in Rakhine lies with the unavoidable role of the state in pursuing policies that benefit both communities and brings the restoration of the rule of law as a means to build bridges between them. The Minister of Immigration told me that he has started to involve third parties to facilitate engagement between communities and the Government. This is a positive step forward. At the same time, I believe that the central and state Government need to pursue coordinated policies which comprehensively address the spread of discriminatory views and practices in Rakhine State. This includes strong and consistent public messaging through print, broadcast and social media and the engagement of religious leaders and political parties in dialogue. The establishment of the Interfaith Group of Myanmar is a step in the right direction. Addressing the issue of underdevelopment and poverty, including the sharing benefits from the State’s natural resources with local inhabitants, must also be considered as vital to finding solutions to the crisis in Rakhine State.
There continue to be prisoners of conscience in Myanmar, and I reiterate they should be released immediately and unconditionally. I visited Insein prison and met five prisoners of conscience (Ke E, Zaw Min Than, Saw War Lay, Min Min Tun and Htauk Swan Mon). I also met in Yangon with two members of the committee appointed by the Government who have produced a list of remaining prisoners of conscience, which they will soon pass to the Chair of the committee. In Rakhine State, I also visited prisoners who have been arbitrarily detained (Dr. Tun Aung and U Kyaw Hla Aung), and the four INGO workers who have been arbitrarily detained since June and July last year.
President Thein Sein has announced that by the end of the year all remaining political prisoners will have been released. This is a very encouraging announcement, which I hope becomes a reality. The Presidential statement should be accompanied by the respect of every person in Myanmar to freely express and demonstrate their opinions. I have met persons who have been detained and charged under section 18 of the Peaceful Assembly and Demonstration Act for their involvement in peaceful protests, including on land issues. I reiterate that this legislation is not in line with international human rights standards.
In Yangon I met with a range of civil society groups, and listened to their concerns. I urge the Parliament to postpone the passing of the proposed Associations Law. The bill, if passed in its current form, would be a serious setback for the development of a strong and vibrant civil society in Myanmar. With this bill, the Government is setting up a system of registration for civil society which enables them to arbitrarily clamp down on legitimate organisations. I must make clear that the Government has to change its mindset on registration procedures if it is to create an environment in which civil society can thrive.
I also met in Parliament with members of the newly formed Constitutional Reform Committee, which will begin its work next week. Throughout the mission, I discussed with different stakeholders the issue of constitutional reform. They pointed out the provisions of the Constitution that are not in line with international human rights standards, and undermine democracy and the rule of law. These provisions include those that place unnecessary restrictions on who can run for President, and which allow for military appointees to occupy 25 per cent of seats in Parliament. I welcome the opening of space for discussions on the review of the Constitution and hope that this will bring concrete results in the near future.
I also met members of the LGBT community who raised concerns about discrimination and maltreatment at the hands of the police and application of the penal code against them.
I visited Lashio in Shan State where I met with township authorities and Muslim leaders. Both described to me that organised Buddhist mobs that had arrived from outside of Lashio in late April to wreak violence and destruction. I also met, at her home, the Buddhist woman who had inexplicably been set on fire by a Muslim man who was described by the authorities as mentally disturbed and high on drink and drugs. The violence which came after this incident affected mostly the Muslim community in Lashio, where in some cases the police stood by whereas some monks were intervening to try to quell the violence. I met with senior monk Sayadaw Baddhanta Ponnya- Nanda of the Lashio Mansu Shan Buddhist Monastery, who provided shelter for over 1,000 Muslims escaping the rampaging mobs. Muslim houses, shops, a mosque and a Muslim orphanage were burnt down. Also, a Muslim man was brutally beaten to death with sticks and stabbed, and his wife, who I also met, was severely injured. This brought home to me the terrible misery this intercommunal violence is bringing to the lives of ordinary people. A number of Buddhists have been tried and convicted as well as a number of Muslims. The question of how the police reacted, particularly in the early stages, must also be investigated. Many of the Muslim communities that lost their homes, including the orphanage, are unable to return due to administrative requirements which need to be overcome.
The prospect of restoring communities that live in peaceful coexistence in Lashio is much more challenging in Meiktila. On my way to the township administrative office in Meiktila, at around 10.30pm on 19 August, my car was descended upon by a crowd of around 200 people who proceeded to punch and kick the windows and doors of the car while shouting abuse. Due to these serious security concerns, I had to abandon my proposed visit to an IDP camp containing around 1,600 Muslims who had been displaced following the March violence; a visit which had been planned well in advance. The fear that I felt during this incident, being left totally unprotected by the nearby police, gave me an insight into the fear residents would have felt when being chased down by violent mobs during the violence last March as police allegedly stood by as angry mobs beat, stabbed and burned to death some 43 people. I must highlight the obligation of the Government to act immediately to control violent mobs, running riot in communities, and protect all people regardless of their religion or ethnicity; something it seems they have not done during the violence in Meiktila. The Government also has an obligation to hold to account those who have failed to carry out this duty.
The following day, outside of Meiktila, I was able to interview Muslim residents who had been directly affected by the violence, including a father whose son had been killed on his way to play football with a friend. The violence in Meiktila has highlighted to me the dangers of the spread of religious incitement in Myanmar, and the deadly environment that this can create, where a Buddhist monk and Muslim students were brutally killed. Although the Chief Minister declared that the trust had been restored, this does not reflect reality. The central and state government has also an obligation to urgently address these worrying trends.
Just prior to my mission, I was encouraged to see a large commemoration of the 88 pro-democracy demonstrations, and I praise the Government for allowing this to take place. I believe that these initiatives are a necessary part of the democratic transition occurring in Myanmar. The past is unavoidable and will always come up in a country that has suffered decades of conflict and oppression. Therefore, the Government together with civil society has to build on this progress towards addressing the past through mechanisms to establish the truth and bring reconciliation.

Myanmar is moving forward in a significant number of areas, which has brought positive changes to the human rights situation, and has the potential to bring further improvements. However, there are still critical challenges, including the historical need of reconciliation with ethnic groups. In this regard, the initiatives being implemented at the highest levels by the Government to stop more fighting in the country needs to be accompanied, in parallel, with measures at the grassroots level to also engage local and rural communities in the process of peacebuilding and reconciliation. More space needs to be opened up for their voices to be heard, particularly the voices of women, including in the peace negotiations, so communities have trust and belief that this process will lead to a better future.
I want to again thank the Government of Myanmar for its invitation and cooperation. And I reaffirm my willingness to work constructively and cooperatively with Myanmar during this transition to improve the human rights situation of its people.

Monday, May 18, 2015

What a real interview looks like--from The New Yorker

Highly recommended--esp for airhead Bur media types--

this is what an interview looks like.

This is what an investigative reporter looks like.

Esp. interesting is how he found the ISIS ideologue using social media--

The Atlantic Editor in Chief interviews Graeme Wood--

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Excerpt from my novel--Genghis: The Sky God's Emissary--by K.M.Kaung

Yesugei and Temujin were riding to his mother’s tribe, the Olkhunut, to find him a bride, when between the two mountains Checkcher and Chikutu, they came across a man from the Ongirat tribe named Dei-sechen or Dei the Wise. 
Dei was a thin man, taller than Yesugei, with an earnest expression, untidy hair and a grizzly beard.
He called out, “Friend Yesugei, where are you off to?”
When Yesugei told him, Dei glanced at Temujin and said, “This son of yours has bright eyes and a light in his face.  Last night I dreamt that a falcon with the sun in one claw and the moon in the other alighted on my hand.  I told someone, ‘To dream of the sun or the moon is unusual enough, but both in the claws of a falcon who came to me!’”
Dei said to Yesugei, “Surely this means something.  I have a beautiful daughter at home.  Won’t you come look at her?”
He told Yesugei and Temujin the survival strategy of the Ongirat, their clan or tribe, on the steppe.
“Since the days of old, we Ongirat have been protected by the beauty of our daughters, by the loveliness of our granddaughters,  and that’s how we stayed out of battles and wars.  When you elect a new Khan, we take our loveliest daughters and place them on carts.  Harnessing a black camel to the cart, we trot off to the khan’s tent.  We offer our daughters to sit beside him as his khatun or queen.  We don’t challenge empires.  We don’t go to war with our neighbors.  We just bring up our daughters and place them in the front of the carts.  Since the days of old we Ongirat have had khatun as our shields.  We’ve survived by the loveliness of our granddaughters, the beauty of our daughters.”
Dei the Clever spoke so eloquently, pulling at his tapered beard which reached to mid-chest with his slender fingers, Yesugei was impressed. 
He and Temujin rode with Dei to his tent. 

Copyright Kyi May Kaung

I based this mostly on Secret History of the Mongols.