Myanmar: Gasoline and Fire, Not Good vs. Evil – Another point of view on Myanmar: Sounds familiar in the Sri Lankan context
By Tony Cartalucci – LD
The unfolding crisis in Southeast Asia’s state of Myanmar has confounded many geopolitical analysts due to its complex history and the intentionally deceptive and now contradictory coverage provided by the Western media.
The current government of Myanmar is headed by Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD). It has ascended into power after a decades-long struggle against the nation’s military who ruled the nation for decades.
Aung San Suu Kyi is a Creation and Proxy of US and European Interests
Suu Kyi and her NLD are the recipients of tens of millions of dollars in US, British, and European aid. Entire networks of fronts posing as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have been created to undermine and overwrite Myanmar’s sovereign institutions.
The extent of this support and funding is covered by many of the Western organizations themselves, including the Burma Campaign UK, who in its 36 page 2006 report, “Failing the People of Burma?” (.pdf) details extensively how it and its American counterparts have built up Suu Kyi’s now impressive political domination of Myanmar.
The report states explicitly:
The National Endowment for Democracy (NED – see Appendix 1, page 27) has been at the forefront of our program efforts to promote democracy and improved human rights in Burma since 1996. We are providing $2,500,000 in FY 2003 funding from the Burma earmark in the Foreign Operations legislation. The NED will use these funds to support Burmese and ethnic minority democracy-promoting organizations through a sub-grant program. The projects funded are designed to disseminate information inside Burma supportive of Burma’s democratic development, to create democratic infrastructures and institutions, to improve the collection of information on human rights abuses by the Burmese military and to build capacity to support the restoration of democracy when the appropriate political openings occur and the exiles/refugees return.
It also reports:
Both Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Asia (RFA) have Burmese services. VOA broadcasts a 30-minute mix of international news and information three times a day. RFA broadcasts news and information about Burma two hours a day. VOA and RFA websites also contain audio and text material in Burmese and English. For example, VOA’s October 10, 2003 editorial, “Release Aung San Suu Kyi” is prominently featured in the Burmese section of VOAnews.com. RFA’s website makes available audio versions of 16 Aung San Suu Kyi’s speeches from May 27 and 29, 2003. U.S. international broadcasting provides crucial information to a population denied the benefits of freedom of information by its government.
Regarding the indoctrination and education of future leaders of this Western proxy political bloc, it states:
The State Department provided $150,000 in FY 2001/02 funds to provide scholarships to young Burmese through Prospect Burma, a partner organization with close ties to Aung San Suu Kyi. With FY 2003/04 funds, we plan to support Prospect Burma’s work given the organization’s proven competence in managing scholarships for individuals denied educational opportunities by the continued repression of the military junta, but committed to a return to democracy in Burma.
In regards to convicted financial criminal George Soros’ Open Society and its role in interfering with Myanmar’s internal politics, the report states:
Our assistance to the Open Society Institute (OSI) (until 2004) provides partial support for a program to grant scholarships to Burmese refugee students who have fled Burma and wish to continue their studies at the undergraduate, or post-graduate level. Students typically pursue degrees in social sciences, public health, medicine, anthropology, and political science. Priority is given to students who express a willingness to return to Burma or work in their refugee communities for the democratic and economic reform of the country.
The report, written in 2006 when another US proxy – Thaksin Shinawatra – presided over Thailand as prime minister until his ouster later that year, would detail the role Thailand was then playing to undermine and overthrow Myanmar’s political order:
Last year the U.S. government began funding a new program of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to provide basic health services to Burmese migrants outside the official refugee camps in cooperation with the Thai Ministry of Public Health. This project has been supported by the Thai government and has received favorable coverage in the local press. Efforts such as this that endeavor to find positive ways to work with the Thai government in areas of common interest help build support for U.S.-funded programs that support Burmese pro-democracy groups.
Myanmar’s current minister of information, Pe Myint – for example – underwent training at the NED and Open Society-funded Indochina Media Memorial Foundation in Bangkok.
A US diplomatic cable made available via Wikileaks would reveal just how integral such training was in building up the US client state that now rules Myanmar.
Titled, “An Overview of Northern Thailand-Based Burmese Media Organizations,” the 2007 cable states (emphasis added):
Other organizations, some with a scope beyond Burma, also add to the educational opportunities for Burmese journalists. The Chiang Mai-based Indochina Media Memorial Foundation, for instance, last year completed training courses for Southeast Asian reporters that included Burmese participants. Major funders for journalism training programs in the region include the NED, Open Society Institute (OSI), and several European governments and charities….
…A number of active media training programs attract exiles and those from inside Burma to Chiang Mai for journalism courses ranging from one week to one year. These training programs identify would-be journalists who are active in communities inside Burma, as well as NGOs in Thailand, and help them secure reporting positions with Burmese media outfits in the region. The training programs help ensure that future generations will be able to succeed the founders of the current organizations.
The cable also links US funding to the very predictable “pro-American” attitude adopted by those receiving the benefits of such funding:
In a refreshing take for U.S. diplomats interacting with foreign media, the exile journalist community here remains steadfastly pro-American. Groups such as DVB and The Irrawaddy continually seek more input from U.S. officials and make frequent use of interviews, press releases and audio clips posted on USG websites. A live interview with a U.S. diplomat is a prized commodity, one even capable of stoking a healthy competition among rival news organizations to land a scoop. A 2006 Irrawaddy interview with EAP DAS Eric John multiplied into several articles and circulated widely throughout the exile community and mainstream media.
USG funding plays some role in this goodwill…
Without doubt, Suu Kyi and those occupying top positions within her government, are the product of decades of US-UK and European backing, training, and indoctrination.
Saudi-backed “Rohingya Militants” No More Represent All Rohingya than ISIS Represents All Sunnis
An unfortunate narrative is taking shape across the alternative media, portraying Myanmar’s Rohingya minority as “Islamists” taking up “jihad.”
In reality, Myanmar’s Rohingya minority have lived in Myanmar for generations. Until recently, they have lived in harmony with their Buddhist-majority neighbors across the country, including in Rakhine state.
Many of the talking points now being adopted against the Rohingya are quite literally copied and pasted from US-backed extremist groups in Myanmar. Claims that the term “Rohingya” is simply made-up, that the Rohingya are actually illegal Bengalis, and that they should be expelled by force from Myanmar have been the key points of Suu Kyi’s violent “Saffron monk” supporters for years.
The increasingly empowered supporters of Aung San Suu Kyi – many of whom were present during the 2007 “Saffron Revolution” – are the primary agitators of the Rohingya crisis. While the Western media has attempted to portray the military as being behind the violence, it is often the military that intervenes to separate attacking extremists from the Rohingya villages and refugee camps they seek to slash and burn.
It was the military-led government that attempted to move forward the process of granting the Rohingya citizenship, opposed vehemently by Suu Kyi’s political party and her supporters, and ended entirely once Suu Kyi came to power.
More recently, the Western media has noted the emergence of Rohingya-aligned militants who have reportedly carried out several large-scale attacks on police and military units across Rakhine state.
Of course, no militant group exists without substantial political, financial, and material support. And just as other politically-convenient conflicts have erupted in Libya, Syria, Yemen, and the Philippines, US-Saudi funding is evident among the latest outbreak of violence in Myanmar as well.
It is a combination of gasoline and fire – the tools of a single arsonist intentionally put into place to create a geopolitically convenient conflagration.
The Wall Street Journal in a recent article titled, “Asia’s New Insurgency Burma’s abuse of the Rohingya Muslims creates violent backlash.” claims:
Now this immoral policy has created a violent backlash. The world’s newest Muslim insurgency pits Saudi-backed Rohingya militants against Burmese security forces. As government troops take revenge on civilians, they risk inspiring more Rohingya to join the fight.
The article also claims:
Called Harakah al-Yaqin, Arabic for “the Faith Movement,” the group answers to a committee of Rohingya emigres in Mecca and a cadre of local commanders with experience fighting as guerrillas overseas. Its recent campaign—which continued into November with IED attacks and raids that killed several more security agents—has been endorsed by fatwas from clerics in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, the Emirates and elsewhere.
Rohingyas have “never been a radicalized population,” ICG notes, “and the majority of the community, its elders and religious leaders have previously eschewed violence as counterproductive.” But that is changing fast. Harakah al-Yaqin was established in 2012 after ethnic riots in Rakhine killed some 200 Rohingyas and is now estimated to have hundreds of trained fighters.
While many causal observers note that the violence the Rohingya have been subjected to was bound to provoke a violent reaction, armed insurgencies do not spontaneously emerge. Isolated acts of violence, organized gangs with very limited capacity are possible, but the violence the Wall Street Journal is describing is not “backlash,” it is foreign-funded politically-motivated militancy operating under the cover of “backlash.”
Aung San Suu Kyi and “Rohingya” Militants: Gasoline and Fire, Not Good vs. Evil
The current client regime presiding over Myanmar – created and perpetuated by American cash and support – is being intentionally pitted against a militancy funded and organized by America’s closest ally in the Middle East – Saudi Arabia.
It is a combination of gasoline and fire – the tools of a single arsonist intentionally put into place to create a geopolitically convenient conflagration.
It should be noted that Rakhine state is the starting point of one of several of China’s One Belt One Road projects – connecting Sittwe Port located there to infrastructure that leads across Myanmar to China’s southern city of Kunming.
|Image: This map provided by VOA accompanies stories by the US State Department-funded media platform eagerly reporting how violence is disrupting China’s OBOR projects.|
Not only does the violence in Rakhine state threaten Chinese interests, it also helps set a pretext for direct US military involvement – either in the form of “counter-terror assistance” as is being offered to the Philippines to fight US-Saudi-backed militants from the Islamic State, or in the form of a “humanitarian intervention.”
In either case, the result will be US military assets placed in a nation directly on China’s border – in Southeast Asia, just as US policymakers have sought to do for decades.
For example, The Project for a New American Century (PNAC) in a 2000 paper titled “Rebuilding America’s Defenses” (PDF) would unabashedly declare its intentions to establish a wider, permanent military presence in Southeast Asia.
The report would state explicitly that:
…it is time to increase the presence of American forces in Southeast Asia.
It would elaborate in detail, stating:
In Southeast Asia, American forces are too sparse to adequately address rising security requirements. Since its withdrawal from the Philippines in 1992, the United States has not had a significant permanent military presence in Southeast Asia. Nor can U.S. forces in Northeast Asia easily operate in or rapidly deploy to Southeast Asia – and certainly not without placing their commitments in Korea at risk. Except for routine patrols by naval and Marine forces, the security of this strategically significant and increasingly tumultuous region has suffered from American neglect.
Noting the difficultly of placing US troops where they are not wanted, the PNAC paper notes:
This will be a difficult task requiring sensitivity to diverse national sentiments, but it is made all the more compelling by the emergence of new democratic governments in the region. By guaranteeing the security of our current allies and newly democratic nations in East Asia, the United States can help ensure that the rise of China is a peaceful one. Indeed, in time, American and allied power in the region may provide a spur to the process of democratization inside China itself.
It should be noted that the paper’s reference to “the emergence of new democratic governments in the region” is a reference to client states created by the United States on behalf of its own interests and in no way constituted actual “democratic governments” which would otherwise infer they represented the interests of the very people possessing the “national sentiments” that opposed US military presence in the region in the first place.
In 2000, the US had several prospective client regimes emerging – including Suu Kyi in Myanmar, Thaksin Shinawatra in Thailand, and Anwar Ibrahim in Malaysia. Since then, only Suu Kyi remains – while Shinawatra and his sister have fled abroad and Ibrahim resides in prison.
It is important that readers and analysts alike understand several key points regarding the crisis in Myanmar:
- Aung San Suu Kyi and her political party are whole-cloth creations of US and European interests;
- The Rohingya have lived in Myanmar for generations;
- Saudi-backed “Rohingya militants” no more represent the Rohingya people than the Islamic State represents the Sunnis of Syria and Iraq;
- These “militants” are admittedly supported and directed from Saudi Arabia and do not represent a legitimate “backlash” against anti-Rohingya violence and;
- The US does not seek “regime change” in Myanmar, it seeks to disrupt Chinese interests, undo Chinese-Myanmar ties, and if possible, place US military assets on China’s border.
The further from these facts analysts start out with, the further from the truth they will find themselves as the conflict in Myanmar continues to unfold. Readers and analysts should hold in suspicion narratives based on ideological rhetoric or built upon geopolitical analogy rather than actual evidence regarding finances, logistics, and socioeconomic motivations.
In Myanmar, Suu Kyi’s movement, anti-Rohingya violence, and alleged “backlash” all come accompanied with very obvious and significant foreign-footprints. It is a testament to the scale and complexity of manipulation the West is still capable of undertaking and places in jeopardy not only the majority of the people in Myanmar – Buddhist and Rohingya alike – who wish to live in peace, but the entire region as the US attempts to continue its pursuit of regional hegemony.