Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Burma: New Satellite Images Confirm Mass Destruction

"The shocking images of destruction in Burma and burgeoning refugee camps in Bangladesh are two sides of the same coin of human misery being inflicted on the Rohingya." - Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia Director, HRW
“These latest satellite images show why over half a million Rohingya fled to Bangladesh in just four weeks,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director. “The Burmese military destroyed hundreds of Rohingya villages while committing killings, rapes, and other crimes against humanity that forced Rohingya to flee for their lives.”

A total of 866 villages in Maungdaw, Rathedaung, and Buthidaung townships in Rakhine State were monitored and analyzed by Human Rights Watch. The most damage occurred in Maungdaw Township, accounting for approximately 90 percent of the areas where destruction happened between August 25 and September 25. Approximately 62 percent of all villages in the township were either partially or completely destroyed, and southern areas of the township were particularly hard hit, with approximately 90 percent of the villages devastated. In many places, satellite imagery showed multiple areas on fire, burning simultaneously over wide areas for extended periods.
Human Rights Watch found that the damage patterns are consistent with fire. Comparing recent imagery with those taken prior to the date of the attacks, analysis showed that most of the damaged villages were 90 to 100 percent destroyed. Many villages which had both Rohingya and Rakhine residing in segregated communities, such as Inn Din and Ywet Hnyo Taung, suffered heavy arson damage from arson attacks, with known Rohingya areas burned to the ground while known Rakhine areas were left intact.

To read and see the images of mass destruction by Myanmar's savage military and Buddhist fascists, click here.

Cornel university to host Rohingya conferences

In recent months, roughly half the 1.1 million Rohingya Muslims living in Myanmar have fled their homes in response to what United Nations officials have labeled “ethnic cleansing.” Two upcoming events will attempt to shed light on the crisis.
The first is a lecture by Gayatri Spivak, Ph.D. ’67, University Professor and professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University. Her talk, “The Rohingya Issue in a Global Context,” will take place Oct. 30 at 4:30 p.m. in Hollis E. Cornell Auditorium, Goldwin Smith Hall.
Spivak is a well-known literary and postcolonial theorist and feminist critic.
On Nov. 7, a roundtable called “The Roots of the Rohingya Crisis: The Eradication of a Myanmar Ethnic Group” will feature Michael W. Charney, Myanmar scholar and professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, along with Burmese filmmaker Eaint Thiri Thu and Cornell associate professor of anthropology Magnus Fiskesj√∂.
The roundtable will take place at 4:30 p.m. in Rhodes-Rawlings Auditorium, Klarman Hall.
The series is organized by the Collective of Concerned Students on Global Issues and supported by the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, the Southeast Asia Program, the South Asia Program, the Comparative Muslim Societies Program, and faculty whose work focuses on Myanmar.
The Rohingya are a largely Muslim minority group living in Rakhine state in western Myanmar, a country that is nearly 90 percent Buddhist. Denied citizenship by law, the Rohingya are often described as the most persecuted minority in the world.
On Aug. 23, Kofi Annan, former secretary-general of the United Nations, delivered recommendations to the president of Myanmar on how to improve conditions for all inhabitants of Rakhine state. Three weeks later, top U.N. officials declared that the Rohingya refugee crisis amounted to ethnic cleansing.
The exodus began after attacks on security personnel by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army in October 2016 led to security operations in northern parts of the state. Recent news reports, refugee accounts and satellite images point to brutal treatment of civilian Rohingya by the Myanmar military, including the burning of many villages.
Hastily built camps are unable to meet the needs of internally displaced people or those who have crossed into Bangladesh, India or Malaysia. The refugees suffer from lack of food, shelter and medicine. Bangladesh is now building a mega-camp for 800,000 people to house new refugees along with those who arrived during previous expulsions.
The mass displacement of Rohingya comes at a time of increasingly virulent Buddhist nationalism in South and Southeast Asia. It also occurs in a context of growing American, Chinese, Indian and Russian interests in Myanmar’s natural resources and strategic Indian Ocean ports.

Is War With Iran Now Inevitable?

by Patrick J. Buchanan


With his declaration Friday that the Iran nuclear deal is not in the national interest, President Donald Trump may have put us on the road to war with Iran.
Indeed, it is easier to see the collisions that are coming than to see how we get off this road before the shooting starts.
After "de-certifying" the nuclear agreement, signed by all five permanent members of the Security Council, Trump gave Congress 60 days to reimpose the sanctions that it lifted when Teheran signed.
If Congress does not reimpose those sanctions and kill the deal, Trump threatens to kill it himself.
Why? Did Iran violate the terms of the agreement? Almost no one argues that – not the UN nuclear inspectors, not our NATO allies, not even Trump’s national security team.
Iran shipped all its 20 percent enriched uranium out of the country, shut down most of its centrifuges, and allowed intrusive inspections of all nuclear facilities. Even before the deal, 17 U.S. intelligence agencies said they could find no evidence of an Iranian nuclear bomb program.
Indeed, if Iran wanted a bomb, Iran would have had a bomb.
She remains a non-nuclear-weapons state for a simple reason: Iran’s vital national interests dictate that she remain so.
As the largest Shiite nation with 80 million people, among the most advanced in the Mideast, Iran is predestined to become the preeminent power in the Persian Gulf. But on one condition: She avoid the great war with the United States that Saddam Hussein failed to avoid.
Iran shut down any bomb program it had because it does not want to share Iraq’s fate of being smashed and broken apart into Persians, Azeris, Arabs, Kurds and Baluch, as Iraq was broken apart by the Americans into Sunni, Shiite, Turkmen, Yazidis and Kurds.
Tehran does not want war with us. It is the War Party in Washington and its Middle East allies – Bibi Netanyahu and the Saudi royals – who hunger to have the United States come over and smash Iran.
Thus, the Congressional battle to kill, or not to kill, the Iran nuclear deal shapes up as decisive in the Trump presidency.
Yet, even earlier collisions with Iran may be at hand.
In Syria’s east, U.S.-backed and Kurd-led Syrian Democratic Forces are about to take Raqqa. But as we are annihilating ISIS in its capital, the Syrian army is driving to capture Deir Ezzor, capital of the province that sits astride the road from Baghdad to Damascus.
Its capture by Bashar Assad’s army would ensure that the road from Baghdad to Damascus to Hezbollah in Lebanon remains open.
If the U.S. intends to use the SDF to seize the border area, we could find ourselves in a battle with the Syrian army, Shiite militia, the Iranians, and perhaps even the Russians.
Are we up for that?
In Iraq, the national army is moving on oil-rich Kirkuk province and its capital city. The Kurds captured Kirkuk after the Iraqi army fled from the ISIS invasion. Why is a U.S.-trained Iraqi army moving against a U.S.-trained Kurdish army?
The Kurdistan Regional Government voted last month to secede. This raised alarms in Turkey and Iran, as well as Baghdad. An independent Kurdistan could serve as a magnet to Kurds in both those countries.
Baghdad’s army is moving on Kirkuk to prevent its amputation from Iraq in any civil war of secession by the Kurds.
Where does Iran stand in all of this?
In the war against ISIS, they were de facto allies. For ISIS, like al-Qaida, is Sunni and hates Shiites as much as it hates Christians. But if the U.S. intends to use the SDF to capture the Iraqi-Syrian border, Syria, Iran, Hezbollah and Russia could all be aligned against us.
Are we ready for such a clash?
We Americans are coming face to face with some new realities.
The people who are going to decide the future of the Middle East are the people who live there. And among these people, the future will be determined by those most willing to fight, bleed and die for years and in considerable numbers to realize that future.
We Americans, however, are not going to send another army to occupy another country, as we did Kuwait in 1991, Afghanistan in 2001, and Iraq in 2003.
Bashar Assad, his army and air force backed by Vladimir Putin’s air power, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran, and Hezbollah won the Syrian civil war because they were more willing to fight and die to win it. And, truth be told, all had far larger stakes there than did we.
We do not live there. Few Americans are aware of what is going on there. Even fewer care.
Our erstwhile allies in the Middle East naturally want us to fight their 21st-century wars, as the Brits got us to help fight their 20th-century wars.
But Donald Trump was not elected to do that. Or so at least some of us thought.

Burma: At least 288 Rohingya Muslim villages destroyed in just one month

At least 288 Rohingya villages in Burma’s Rakhine state have been partially or totally destroyed since violence in the area worsened at the end of August, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).
Analysis of satellite images suggests tens of thousands of homes have been razed amid violent clashes that have been blamed mostly on the Burmese army.
Many of the buildings were destroyed after Burmese officials claimed they were no longer carrying out “clearance operations”, the charity said.
Images also suggested that villages belonging to the country’s Rohingya Muslims were destroyed while nearby areas occupied by non-Muslims were left largely untouched. In villages of mixed ethnicity, Rohingya homes were burned to the ground while others were left intact, it added.
Burmese officials have accused the Rohingya of setting fire to their own villages but international observers say there is overwhelming evidence that the atrocities were committed by the country’s military forces.
Burma’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has claimed operations by security forces ended on 5 September but HRW said at least 66 villages have been destroyed since then. Ms Suu Kyi has faced widespread condemnation from the international community over her failure to speak out about violence against the Rohingya.
The latest round of violence erupted on 25 August, when Rohingya militants attacked more than 20 police outposts in Rakhine. The military response of Burmese state forces has forced almost 600,000 Rohingya to flee the country, mostly into neighbouring Bangladesh, and reportedly left thousands dead.
Phil Robertson, HRW’s deputy Asia director, said: “These latest satellite images show why over half a million Rohingya fled to Bangladesh in just four weeks.
“The Burmese military destroyed hundreds of Rohingya villages while committing killings, rapes, and other crimes against humanity that forced Rohingya to flee for their lives.
“The shocking images of destruction in Burma and burgeoning refugee camps in Bangladesh are two sides of the same coin of human misery being inflicted on the Rohingya. Concerned governments need to urgently press for an end to abuses against the Rohingya and ensure that humanitarian aid reaches everyone in need.”
According to HRW, the worst destruction was in Rakhine’s Maungdaw township, where most of the violence took place. There, around 62 per cent of all villages were either partially or totally destroyed in just one month between 25 August and 25 September – a figure that rises to 90 per cent in the southern part of the area.
In the majority of villages, between 90 and 100 per cent of buildings were destroyed.
HRW demanded the UN Security Council impose an arms embargo on Burma and implement individual sanctions on the military leaders that are believed to be responsible for the abuses.
It comes as the UN said up to 15,000 Rohingya refugees had entered Bangladesh via one border crossing point since Sunday – many of them having walked for a week to flee Rakhine after their homes were set on fire.
UN officials said thousands of refugees are living in rice fields near the border while they await permission to enter Bangladesh.

UK Foreign Office Minister Mark Field says it's 'ethnic cleansing''

Claims of ethnic cleansing in Burma by a senior United Nations official appear to be "increasingly an accurate description", the UK Government has said.
Foreign Office minister Mark Field acknowledged Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has stated that violence against the Rohingya people in Burma by the military and militia seemed a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing".
More than half a million people - most of whom are Muslim ethnic minority Rohingya people - have fled the country to Bangladesh amid atrocities and fatalities in Rakhine state.
Mr Field stopped short of declaring the UK believes ethnic cleansing has occurred, explaining it was reluctant to do so for two reasons.
Mr Field told MPs in the Commons: "The broader reason is we're trying diplomatically as far as possible to see movement from the Burmese government and in fact there has been some, quite significantly, from Aung San Suu Kyi.
"There's another slightly more personal reason... my own mother was ethnically cleansed as a German national in the early months of 1945.
"She moved from a part of Germany that my forefathers had lived in since the 1720s. She was able to return to, briefly, as a visitor in her 50s - I have never seen that part of the world.
"It is a phrase, because it is loaded I think with great emotion and a sense of a finality about ethnic cleansing, that I have hitherto been relatively reluctant to use - not in any way in disrespect to the Rohingya but we still maintain a hope that many Rohingya will be allowed to return safely to Burma.
"It may be a forlorn hope.
"However, I do also accept the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights having said it seemed to him like a textbook case of ethnic cleansing.
"And I conclude this appears I'm afraid to be increasingly an accurate description of what has happened."
Mr Field's remarks came after MPs heard that evidence of ethnic cleansing in Burma is overwhelming and the country's military must be held to account.

Austrian election results

The final result of Austria’s election is still too close to call with counting continuing and a tight battle for second place between the far-right and centre-left.
Interior ministry data as of lunchtime on Tuesday shows the centre-left SPO pulling ahead with 26.9 per cent, with the far-right FPO just behind on 26 per cent.
The conservative OVP, led by 31-year old Sebastian Kurz, is guaranteed first place, with currently 31.5 per cent of the vote; the final result is expected on Thursday.
Whether the FPO or SPO comes second will likely affect the final composition of the government; if the SPO ends up ahead, it has suggested it would be open a deal with the FPO as a junior coalition partner – dropping a four-decade ban on dealing with the far-right.
This would see the conservative OVP excluded from government despite topping the poll.
The SPO has however ruled out a coalition with the FPO if the SPO has to be the junior partner, meaning the FPO would likely join up with the OVP and make Mr Kurz chancellor.
“We are not yet in the phase of coalition talks,” Mr Kurz said on Monday, explaining that he would wait until the final result became known on Thursday.
Speaking in Brussels a spokesperson for the European Commission called on Mr Kurz to negotiate a “stable, pro-European government” – but he would not be drawn on whether this meant the FPO should specifically be excluded.
A deal between the SPO and OVP however seems unlikely, as a previous government formed between the two parties collapsed amid acrimony in the spring.
The last time the FPO entered government in the year 2000, other EU states briefly imposed diplomatic sanctions on Austria with the aim of forcing the extremists from government.
The sanctions were short-lived, however, after warnings that they could be counter-productive and stoke up nationalist sentiment in the country.

Neo-Nazi leader quits movement, calls racism 'rubbish'

A prominent neo-Nazi and former organiser of the National Front has given up his far-right views as well as revealed he is gay and has Jewish heritage.
Kevin Wilshaw was a high-profile figure of the National Front in the 1980s and was speaking at extreme right events as recently as this year.
Speaking to Channel 4 News, he explained he had given up his violent past – which included smashing a chair over someone’s head, vandalising a mosque and being arrested for online hate race offences.
He added that he did not have many friends at school and was looking for “comradeship”.
His comments come as the Home Office confirmed that there had been a rise in hate crime reports by almost a third in the 12 months following the Brexit referendum.
The Government has also been urged to launch an inquiry into far-right extremism in the armed forces after four soldiers were arrested for being alleged members of a banned neo-Nazi group called National Action.
Mr Wilshaw, who joined the BNP and was indirectly involved with other fringe groups, came under abuse from members of his own side, however, when they suspected he was gay.
“It’s a terribly selfish thing to say but it’s true, I saw people being abused, shouted at, spat at in the street – it’s not until it’s directed at you that you suddenly realise that what you’re doing is wrong,” he told the news show.
He also revealed his mother was part Jewish, and her maiden name was Benjamin.
The BNP remains active, including a recent campaign against supposed plans for a mosque in the Lincolnshire town of Louth that local authorities said do not exist.
He added that he felt “appallingly guilty” about his past, but also that he would find it difficult to fill the “void” of far-right activity that has shaped his life.
“I want to do some damage as well, not to ordinary people but the people who are propagating this kind of rubbish – want to hurt them, show what it’s like for those who are living a lie and be on the receiving end of this type of propaganda, I want to hurt them.”
Hope Not Hate, the non-profit which received a “cry for help” from Mr Wilshaw, has helped to expose and document the expansion of the far-right in Europe and in the US under the label of “alt-right” which was coined in 2008. Several high-profile figures in the extreme-right movements were born in the UK, including Milo Yiannopoulos and Paul Joseph Watson.
Mr Wilshaw is not the first neo-Nazi to turn against his past.
Michael Kent from Colorado spent two decades in a violent white supremacist group. After his black, female parole officer influenced him to change his way of life, he had his far-right tattoos removed via Redemption Ink, a national non-profit that offers free removals of hate-related tattoos.