Conservatives ruining lives as usual, this time in Myanmar.

rohingamuslimwoman

Rohingya Muslim Woman in Myanmar.
Photo: Ye Aung Thu/AFP/Getty Images

I’ve seen this story about Myanmar reported a couple places and thought I’d bring it to your attention, my beloved Loyal Readers™. And perhaps, you know, opine thereon. As far away as Myanmar is from the US on the other side of the globe and given the relative dearth of Buddhists here, see if any of this sounds oddly familiar to you.

Ma Ba Tha is a group of hardline, ultranationalist, racist Buddhist monks in Myanmar. The name Ma Ba Tha is an acronym for, roughly, “Association for the Protection of Race and Religion.” They are not the only Buddhist monks in overwhelmingly Buddhist Myanmar (also known as Burma), but they have seized an outsized amount of power and influence in the Southeast Asian country.

Buddhists in Myanmar make up 69% of Myanmar’s population, with the rest comprised of a diverse array of much smaller religious and ethnic minorities. Rohingya Muslims make up less than 3%. According to some historians (and the Rohingya people themselves), they are indigenous to Myanmar’s Rakhine State where most of them live; other scholars claim they mainly migrated to the region from Bengal during British rule (1824-1948). Regardless, Rohingyas are denied Myanmar citizenship and considered illegal immigrants, despite many of their families having lived in the country for more than three generations. Long-neglected economic conditions in Rakhine State have led to demonizing and scapegoating the Rohingya as the source of all their problems and a cultural threat.

The Rohingya people are routinely described by human rights organizations as one of the most persecuted minorities in the world. In recent years especially, they have been fleeing Myanmar by the tens of thousands to Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, and to ghettos and refugee camps in Thailand and Bangladesh, often on crowed and dangerous boats. Many have died on these journeys after traffickers abandoned them at sea, while those that arrive at their destinations are repeatedly turned away. Rohingyas that remain in Myanmar are frequently confined to prison camps and not permitted to leave. They have also had much of their arable farmland confiscated by the military and given over to Buddhist settlers. (Ahem.)

myanmarmapMyanmar and surrounding region.
Image: The New York Times (via International State Crime Initiative)

Researchers from the International State Crime Initiative in London obtained leaked government documents, conducted an 18-month investigation and released a report (pdf) in October:

[D]etailed research found ample evidence that the Rohingya have been subjected to systematic and widespread violations of human rights, including killings, torture, rape and arbitrary detention; destruction of their homes and villages; land confiscation; forced labour; denial of citizenship; denial of the right to identify themselves as Rohingya; denial of access to healthcare, education and employment; restrictions on freedom of movement, and State-sanctioned campaigns of religious hatred.

It also found compelling evidence of State-led policies, laws and strategies of genocidal persecution stretching back over 30 years, and of the Myanmar State coordinating with [local] ultra-nationalists, racist monks and its own security forces in a genocidal process against the Rohingya.

While Myanmar’s genocidal policies against the Rohingya began to emerge in the 1970s, the process has accelerated during its recent transition to democracy. Since 2012, the state’s terror campaign has only intensified and remains unrelenting. The report also notes:

The State’s persistent and intensified ‘othering’ of the Rohingya as outsiders, illegal Bengali immigrants and potential terrorists has given a green light to [local] nationalists and Islamophobic monks to orchestrate invidious campaigns of race and religious hatred reminiscent of those witnessed in Germany in the 1930s and Rwanda in the early 1990s.

All of reality notwithstanding, in an interview with a local magazine in Myanmar, Ma Ba Tha monk Ashin Wirathu referred to them as “the Bengalis that call themselves Rohingya, who are trying to seize control.”

monkassholesMa Ba Tha monks marching to denounce foreign criticism of Myanmar’s treatment of stateless Rohingya Muslims, May 27, 2015.
The banner reads “UK (something something) Rohingya, Boat People are not Myanmar.”
Photo: Reuters (via Human Rights Watch)

Not content to confine the Rohingya to destitution and squalor or drive them to their deaths at sea, Ma Ba Tha has rallied to enact four new laws, all of them designed to roll back women’s rights and harm the Rohingya.

Birth control law. The Ma Ba Tha monks are very concerned that the Rohingyas, who make up 3% of Myanmar’s population, are outbreeding them, presumably at a faster rate than they can imprison, exile or kill them. The Rohingyas were previously required to sign a statement committing to not having more than two kids; now the law permits local authorities to “organize” women to wait 36 months between births. The factors to be taken into account by officials include “a high number of migrants in the area,” and critics fear that it will be selectively enforced against the Rohingya.

Even assuming they want to comply, it’s a little hard to envision how people can limit and space their pregnancies without access to reproductive health information and access to birth control. Meanwhile, the activists in the region teaching fellow women about reproductive health have been subject to death threats, intimidation and public humiliation from the monks, who have declared them “national traitors.” One prominent women’s rights campaigner told The Guardian that she and others have seen their pictures, names and phone numbers on posters displayed at Ma Ba Tha monasteries.

Buddhist Women’s Special Marriage Bill. Buddhist women who desire to marry non-Buddhist men must register with government officials, who can deny them if they have “objections.” Human Rights Watch calls the law “incredibly dangerous” and says it is purposely designed to incite hatred toward the Rohingya.

Religious conversion. The law creates “Religious Conversion Scrutinization and Registration Boards at the township (district) level.” The way it works:

Anyone wishing to change their religion will have to be over 18 and will be required to file an application with a local board, including the reasons for the conversion. The applicant would be interviewed by at least five board members, followed by a 90-day study period for the applicant to examine the “essence of the religion, marriage, divorce, and division of property practices in that religion, and inheritance and parenting practices in that religion.” If the board approves the conversion, the applicant would then get a certificate of conversion.

The local board would forward all information it collects about the person to national religion, immigration, and identification agencies…[and] bars anyone from bullying or enticing another person to convert or deterring them from doing so. Punishments for breaching the law would range from six months to two years in prison…

No word on deconversion to atheism, but I’d hazard a guess that the monks no likee.

Monogamy Bill. Every married person in Myanmar (including foreign nationals married to Burmese citizens) as well as citizens living abroad are prohibited from “unofficially” living with another person, essentially criminalizing adultery. Violators are subject to sentences of up to seven years in prison and fines. Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch writes that “laws criminalizing consensual sex disproportionately impact women. For example, a rape victim may be deterred from filing a criminal complaint if the failure to win a conviction puts her at risk of prosecution for adultery.”

monkassholes2They seem fun.
Ma Ba Tha monks and supporters march to celebrate new interfaith marriage restrictions in Mandalay, Sept. 21, 2015.

Photo: AP (via Jezebel)

But who cares about women anyway? Certainly not the monks. FYI, there isn’t even a Burmese word for “vagina.”

The good news is that Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD party overwhelmingly won the recent elections, despite the Ma Ba Tha monks running around for the past 18 months shrieking that “the NLD is the party of the Muslims,” and that Myanmar’s Buddhists face a grave threat from the 3% minority population of Rohingya Muslims who are desperately fleeing the country in droves. The NLD will now select the next president. The bad news is that under Myanmar’s constitution, ministers for defense, home affairs and border affairs are appointed by the head of the military, not the president—and the constitution cannot be changed without the military’s consent.

Governments and agencies in the wider world have condemned the four laws:

The international community, including the European Union in a statement in January and another in July criticizing the marriage law, and United Nations Special Rapporteurs, including the present rapporteur on situation of human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, have warned that the bills breach Burma’s commitments to international human rights treaties, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The US has officially expressed its disapproval: in Myanmar in May, US deputy secretary of state Antony Blinken said about the four laws that he was “deeply concerned” they “could exacerbate ethnic and religious divisions.”

The countries that have not ratified or acceded to CEDAW are Iran, Palau, Somalia, Sudan, Tonga, the Holy See (Vatican) and the United States—a regressive outlier as usual. 196 countries are party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, including every single member of the United Nations except one. Care to take a guess which country? Go ahead, I’ll wait…

No I won’t. I got shit to do, people. SPOILER ALERT: It’s the U. S. of A. Because no one’s gonna tell ‘Murikkkans that they cannot control their women and beat their children as they see fit—to say nothing of who we imprison, under what conditions we imprison them, and how we treat refugees and immigrants.

But by all means, let’s have the US ‘splain to Myanmar that its backward ways simply will not stand.

__________

So. Once again we see the problem clearly: it isn’t Buddhism (or Islam or Christianity or…), it’s conservatism. The pathological need to dominate and impose hierarchies, enforced by any means necessary, always harms women and minorities.

Conservatives, why you gotta?

palacefuckyou

8 thoughts on “Conservatives ruining lives as usual, this time in Myanmar.

  1. [CONTENT NOTE: xenophobia, bigotry, Islamophobia and a whole bunch of other horrible shit. –Ed.]

    I would think that the people of Myanmar have every right to be concerned about the effect that Muslims will have on their culture. If they go by what’s happening in Europe, Muslims will eventually destroy the Myanmar way of life. A small group will become terrorists. The Rohinga will stay in enclaves and refuse to integrate into the Myanmar society. In the face of change they will continue, above all else, to hold on to their a weird superstitious beliefs. They’ll put acting and dressing like Muslims ahead of acting and dressing like Myanmarians. The will stand offside and separate themselves from Myanmar culture. I wouldn’t be so harsh on the people of Myanmar who fear for what their country may look like in 30 years.

  2. What the fuck, John. Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar are one of, if not the most persecuted minorities in the world—and that is saying something, my friend. What’s happening in Europe that you’re so concerned about? Are Muslims actually destroying the Western (patriarchal, imperialist, racist, colonialist) “way of life”? No. No, they are not.

    By the way, the Rohingya “staying in enclaves and refusing to integrate into the Myanmar society” is not the same thing as being forcibly isolated, exiled and imprisoned. FYI. If only they would act and dress like Real Americans Myanma and believe the correct superstitions (not the “weird” ones), they wouldn’t be such an existential threat to Official Myanmar Culture™. That would be the one dominated by racist, misogynist, right-wing, conservative shitlords.

    FFS.

  3. I hear all the time from some conservatives that Muslims are destroying our culture – but so far, I can’t see even any indication of a beginning of such a thing.

    Good ole Christian conservatives, on the other hand, seem to want to do that all the fucking time.

  4. [CONTENT NOTE: xenophobia, bigotry, Islamophobia and a whole bunch of other horrible shit. –Ed.]

    KHMS, been to Marseilles, Paris, London or Bradford recently? Watched TV or read a newspaper? Half the children born in France and Britain are born as Muslims – despite them being (around) 5% of the population. The second language in Marseilles? French. The first, Arabic.

    Many of the Muslims in these communities have little respect for the cultures to which they have chosen to live. They want to destroy them and turn them into the shitholes from whence they have come.

    They have high levels of welfare dependence, they breed like rabbits. If they don’t take over countries with the Kalashnikov or the suicide bomb they’ll certainly do it with the pork sword.

    The freedoms that have attracted these people to Europe are the very freedoms that are under threat. America seems to have missed out on the Muslim onslaught. Australia hasn’t, having excepted anyone and everyone who chose to come her by boat over the last five years.

    KHMS, go spend a week In Marseilles, London, Paris and Bradford, then report back.

    Iris, I would have described the core values of Western culture as democracy, the rule of law, freedom of speech, equality for women and girls coupled the right to an education and the right to marry who they choose, freedom from institutionalized paedophilia and genital mutilation, the separation of powers … These values need to be cherished and protected. I don’t know why you’d continue to live in a society that was ‘patriarchal, imperialist, racist, colonialist’. Come to Australia, we don’t have many patriarchs, imperialists, racists or colonists, we’re more laid back here. We’re more interested in football, cricket and tennis. If you come to Canberra I’ll show you around. You’ll meet some fair dinkum, true blue, dinky di, fun-loving Aussies.

    When people come to Australia they don’t have to sign up to a set of values that those born her are inculcated with from birth. We take our way of life for granted, until we see how Muslims come in, live in enclaves and start to run their own societies. It’s costing Australian governments billions of dollars beefing up security arrangements to second guess would be terrorists. Yep, welcome to the new Australia.

    I believe Western nations need to have a document that sets out some of the cultural rules. If people don’t like them they can go somewhere else. People then have a choice, fit in or ship out.

    Wearing headgear is the ultimate symbol of not wanting to fit in to the society that’s welcomed them. In the 1920’s Kemal Ataturk got rid of the head gear, thus liberating Muslim women. These days the sisterhood thinks it’s smart to encourage Muslim women to wear what ever they like – not recognising the symbolism.

    When ever you see a woman wearing a burka, hijab or scarf you know they’re both the victim and perpetrator of misogyny on a grand scale.

    • KHMS, been to Marseilles, Paris, London or Bradford recently?

      Nope, but it’s not as if France and Britain aren’t in the news every day. Not, surprisingly, with the stuff you complain about, though.

      I note that France has a long-time problem with refusing to integrate those immigrants, instead settling them in ghettos. Surprise, surprise! That doesn’t end well. We don’t like to make that kind of mistake in Germany. (And before you mention Cologne, as far as I can tell right now, the culprits there were a fairly small group of people – you can find such groups in every large enough population. All indications are that the rates of criminality among immigrants and Germans are extremely similar.)

      Watched TV or read a newspaper?

      I prefer radio.

      Half the children born in France and Britain are born as Muslims – despite them being (around) 5% of the population.

      Citation needed. (That would mean they have about twenty times as many children ON AVERAGE. Sounds like bullshit to me, might even be biologically impossible..)

      The second language in Marseilles? French. The first, Arabic.

      It seems that Marseilles has always been a city of immigrants, the direction of immigration just changes over time. It seems that at the moment, about a third trace back to Italian roots, and the major new immigrant stream is from Eastern Europe.

      Many of the Muslims in these communities have little respect for the cultures to which they have chosen to live. They want to destroy them and turn them into the shitholes from whence they have come.

      I doubt that, but I know it’s not true for the ones here.

      They have high levels of welfare dependence, they breed like rabbits. If they don’t take over countries with the Kalashnikov or the suicide bomb they’ll certainly do it with the pork sword.

      The freedoms that have attracted these people to Europe are the very freedoms that are under threat. America seems to have missed out on the Muslim onslaught. Australia hasn’t, having excepted anyone and everyone who chose to come her by boat over the last five years.

      Presenting Australia of immigrant concentration camps as the place having accepted everyone just lost you the last bits of believability, I’d say.

      KHMS, go spend a week In Marseilles, London, Paris and Bradford, then report back.

      You know, I live here in a place that has a high percentage of immigrants (pretty much from all over). And I don’t see any significant problems from that. Well, the fast food situation is much improved.

      Come to Australia, we don’t have many patriarchs, imperialists, racists or colonists, we’re more laid back here.

      You mean you’d never take away all children from Aborigines to raise them isolated from their culture? And I just dreamt all the stories about concentration camps for refugees, or Aussie military ships trying to land them anywhere except in Australia?

      I believe Western nations need to have a document that sets out some of the cultural rules. If people don’t like them they can go somewhere else. People then have a choice, fit in or ship out.

      We mostly do. It’s called a constitution.

      Wearing headgear is the ultimate symbol of not wanting to fit in to the society that’s welcomed them. In the 1920’s Kemal Ataturk got rid of the head gear, thus liberating Muslim women. These days the sisterhood thinks it’s smart to encourage Muslim women to wear what ever they like – not recognising the symbolism.

      You know, I remember both my father’s any my mom using headscarves a lot. Neither of them was ever anything remotely like a muslim.

      And the guys I meet every Wednesday evening in a cafe to talk about computers, the world, and everything – one of them has taken to wearing a hat. He’s pretty much a local, though he did marry a Russian.

      You sure you mean “wearing hedgear”?

      Bah. I think Iris is quite right in her diagnosis: a clear case of CDS.

    • As for Australia… white people like to pretend the Australia doesn’t have a racism problem. A recent perpetrator was our right-wing Prime Minister, who insisted that “Ours is the most successful multicultural society in the world”. He wrote this for publication on what he calls “Australia Day”, and which survivors of 200 years of genocide call “Invasion Day”. Oh, the irony.

      Sorry about the long essay that follows. For a two-minute summary, watch John Oliver – The Most Comfortably Racist Country. Except we can’t watch it in Australia. Double the irony.

      The trick is that Australia’s population is so overwhelmingly white that many white people can breeze through their lives without encountering anyone else. This didn’t happen by accident.

      First were the ones who moved here 40,000 years ago. There weren’t a ever a lot of them, because Australia’s poor soil and low rainfall can’t provide that much food. Despite this, we intentionally murdered many indigenous Australians, and caused the deaths of many others through disease. Then we made the survivors live in the inhospitable parts of the land where we hadn’t built farms and cities – reservations, effectively. Then, because they were living in poverty in remote places, we declared they weren’t fit to raise children, and stole them. At least it’s over, right? No, in 2007 we suddenly noticed the horrible way we’d made people live and used it to justify the Northern Territory National Emergency Response. Domestic violence and child abuse are serious problems, but they are problems throughout Australia. If we actually cared, we’d have applied the same rules to all Australians, not just the black ones.

      From 1851 century Chinese people came here to mine gold, with similar results to California. They would find an abondoned lease, work hard, scrape an income out of it, and enrage the other miners. There were riots, and some were murdered. The Government responded with the White Australia policy.

      For the next 50 years British people were welcome, while anyone from farther afield – Italy, say – was suspect. Then European Australians became accepted allies against migrants from south-east Asia. This limited recognition was not given freely; it was earned through back-breaking labour in remote mountains on Australia’s hydro-electric schemes.

      With the Vietnam War (which Australia joined, and conscripted people into), we started getting “boat people,” asylum seekersr from Vietnam and later from as far afield as Afghanistan. If we’d let them in and listened to them talk about the Taliban, maybe we’d have been paying attention before the September 11th attacks. Even while we were bombing their country, Afghanis kept insisting that we weren’t that bad and could we please let them in, and we kept insisting that their country was perfectly safe and we were only bombing them a little bit.

      All too often, Australian Federal Politics deteriorates into both major party candidates competing to say how harshly they’ll “stop the boats”. Some detail is still necessary, which Jaymes Diaz forgot. (He didn’t win the electorate.) The current government claims a “success” here, possibly by bribing criminals in violation of International, Indonesian and Australian law.

      As for those “fair dinkum, true blue, dinky di, fun-loving Aussies”, our customs appear to consist of getting drunk, screaming about a sport where men misuse banned peptides and gambling on the Melbourne Cup. I’m not going to insist that anyone coming here adopt those. As for gender equality (good) and domestic abuse (bad), we need to discuss them, but I will not hold new migrants to any higher standard than we impose on ourselves. On this topic, I also endorse Stephanie Zvan’s essay After Cologne: Reflections on a Refugee Neighborhood.

  5. Pingback: Hello FtB people. FYI, I don’t like squirrels.

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