Written By Sara Manni

Aung San Suu Kyi: “No ethnic cleansing in Myanmar”- ?!? – IT IS GENOCIDE.

Published: April 10, 2017

Last Thursday Myanmar’s Nobel peace prize PM Aung San Suu Kyi denied the label of ethnic cleansing in regards of “Myanmar Muslim Minority” which we all know is called Rohingya.



In the aftermath of my essays’ researches, I think is necessary for me to write about it and explain why what is going on with the Rohingya is GENOCIDE and why ethnic cleansing is NOT a “too strong” term to use.

Fist, little technical introduction!

The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide defines genocide as a set of violent acts “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group” (U.N.T.S.,1951). In such cases, the United Nations Security Council, of which Myanmar is not part, should be called into action by applying the Rome Statute. However, the referral has not been obtained yet because China, Russia and the United States absented from voting.

What is happening???

RohyngiaIn the Rakhine state of Myanmar tension between the Muslim Rohingya community and the Rakhine Buddhist nationalists has been going on for decades. On the last four years, it has intensified. Human Rights Watch, Burmese Rohingya Organization UK, Physicians for Human Rights, Crisis Group Asia have reported episodes such: beheadings, assaults, unlawful killings, beatings, sexual violence, mass arrests and complete destruction of villages. This campaigns are perpetrated by organized gangs, and, astonishingly, by BURMESE SECURITY FORCES. This has been reported recently by Human Rights Watch and Physicians for Human Rights – “Where There is Police, There is Persecution”. National Security forces have been denounced of violence, sexual abuses, arbitrary security posts and checkpoints, extortion, harass, discriminatory fines, night raids and detentions. Only in October 2016, 69,000 people had to flee to Bangladesh or Malaysia.




Why are the security forces involved???

The Security Forces are involved because the Rohingya are denied of Burmese citizenship. The government regards them as illegal refugees from Bangladesh and Bangladesh does not recognize them as well. This happened because, according to the 1982 Burma Citizenship Law, in Myanmar there are 135 official indigenous races. However, a group called Rohingya is not stated in the constitution. Therefore, the Rohingyas are completely uncategorized, they are not even recognized as foreign, they have no citizenship. This allows the security forces to create arbitrary security points and so for.

No name – No existence – No protection – No rights 

The denial of citizenship make the unbale not only to access to any human rights protection but also completely affects their livelihoods: they are unable to access legal employment, education and healthcare and are imposed restriction of movement, marriage and reproduction. In 2014 the government carried a census with the help of United Nations, intensifying the problem for the group: “Now if we don’t appear in the census, are we really here?” said a sixty-years old Rohingya to an NGO. Their political identity is not recognized even internationally. In fact, the article cited above is smartly titled: “Aung San Suu Kyi: No ethnic cleansing of Myanmar Muslim minority”. They could have written “of Rohingya Minority”. Even UNICEF in 2014 had to apologise because it used the term “Rohingya” in an oral presentation.


“Following the presentation of the new Rakhine development plan to local partners, the Minister of Local Security asked UNICEF to apologize for using the word “Rohingya”. UNICEF explained the term was used in an oral presentation and this was an oversight, as UNICEF had no intention of engaging in a discussion on sensitive issue of ethnicity at that forum. The term “Rohingya” has been used to identify one community living in Rakhine in numerous UN reports, including by the UN Secretary General, when referring to the political and humanitarian rights of minorities, to self-identification.”

Rohingya leaders regard a recognition of their political identity essential for their legitimacy and ease discrimination and persecution. The problem needs to be solved constitutionally but without legal identification political action is rather difficult.


Moreover, I found interesting article published by Foreign Policy about how, the denial of identity definition generates a process of dehumanization. Basically, denying a group of its own name creates a non-human picture in the name of their antagonists, erasing natural revulsion towards murder.

Preventing the Next Genocide

Why none calls for the amendment of 1982 Burma Citizenship Law and claim the Rome Statue???

Well, this remains a mystery for me, in ethical terms, of course. The rest is unfortunately very clear. In Myanmar, there are clearly crimes against humanity going on and those crimes have been well reported. A great research by Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic, part of the Yale School of Law, has provided a legal analysis defining the crisis as genocide.


In my understanding, the international community has not yet taken serious actions for a set of geo-political /economic interests. Just a tiny evidence. China, US and Russia were absent from voting a referral to the UN Security Council. The Burma Lawyers Council has compared the situation to the Darfur referral. IT IS ALL ABOUT INTERETS!!!!

A quick glimpse:

  • CHINA: Myanmar is an open window to the Indian Ocean, very precious especially for Yunnan and Sichuan provinces; China is Myanmar’s biggest investor, the major sectors are gas and oil, with more than 69 Multi-National Corporations Involved; China is Myanmar’s major army supplier and started to train Burmese officers in both territories. CHINA NEEDS GOOD DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS WITH MYANMAR
  • US: Where there is China there must be US. The United States have to strengthen their tight with Myanmar’s government to maintain regional stability and global leadership, and, again, Myanmar geographical location is very precious.
  • RUSSIA: for Russia Myanmar is a great alley to improve its influence is South East Asia, geo-politically and economically. They are pushing to implement arms trade, bilateral commercial opportunities, subordinate energy security etc. Furthermore, after democratization would make sense for Myanmar to opt for a less dominative supporter, and Russia suits perfectly this role.


Considering all this I think that Myanmar is perpetuating ethnic cleanse and that the world leaders should act now. It is absolutely disgusting to see how in 2017 geo-politics and trades are more important than human lives. We should start by recognizing this people’s name. Starting from media, to international organizations, to NGOs. The Muslim minority of the Rakhine State is called Rohingya. And, I think, SOAS should stop being proud of her Nobel Peace Prize alumni Aung San Suu Kyi. To stop the violence, Myanmar must rigorize this people as  its citizens. Without it, any violence will keep on being justified.

To conclude, the words of this survivor of the 1994 Rawanda’s genocide make the point very clearly:

“The United Nations has taken twenty years to apologize for its failure to recognize and prevent the Rwandan genocide; the international community should not repeat the same mistake in Myanmar” (Prudetienne Seward, 2014)

I hope you enjoyed this very very long post. Loads of shit is happening today and, as students, the only thing we can do about it is to write and make people aware

To the next post,




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