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First contact: A Rohingya survivor on Phuket hears from a loved one

Time to Ask, Are You a Racist, Too?

Monday, April 15, 2013
News Analysis

THE QUESTION that needs to be asked of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi is: Are you a racist? The same question should also be asked of Burma's President, Thein Sein.

This is not an easy question, but it has to be asked. The reason? The survival of the Rohingya people of Burma rides on the answers.

The pair of leaders have been busy for months now, touring the world, enjoying the praise heaped on them for their roles in opening the door in Burma - also known as Myanmar - to a more democratic form of government.

Nobody has asked either of them the ''R'' question.

Aung San Suu Kyi has been positioning herself for a bid that could see her become Burma's next president. It's a long shot. Her chances disappear entirely if she takes a stand for an oppressed minority - the Rohingya.

The only tolerance ''open'' Burma has so far proved to have in abundance is tolerance of racism and hatred.

Instead of becoming more generous and accepting of different races and religions, the Burmese and their government appear to be simply more open in their brutal violence.

Accounts by Rohingya we have encountered recently in Thailand support reports of nightmarish treatment in Rakhine state that drives them - men, women and children - to risk their lives at sea.

The Burma they leave is changing, but no effort has been made so far to provide an antidote to decades of toxic propaganda encouraged by the generals who once ruled Burma.

Hatred was what the generals did, and they did it well. ''Open'' Burma has simply allowed the racists and bigots to have their say without fear of consequences, leading to the torching of villages and the deaths of scores of innocent people.

Perhaps the most convincing evidence that Burma's deeply ingrained racism needs to be addressed remains a letter written in 2009 to Hong Kong diplomats by then Consul General Ye Myint Aung, soon after the secret ''pushbacks'' of Rohingya boats from Thailand were exposed.

He did not mince words. The Rohingya, he said, were ''ugly as ogres.''

In a letter to all heads of foreign missions in Hong Kong and local newspapers, he wrote: ''In reality, Rohingya are neither 'Myanmar people' nor Myanmar's ethnic group.

''You will see in the photos that their complexion is 'dark brown,''' he added, noting that the complexion of Myanmese is ''fair and soft, good-looking as well.''

He noted that his own complexion is a ''typical genuine one'' of the Myanmese ''gentleman'' and ''you will accept how handsome your colleague Mr Ye is.''

''It is quite different from what you have seen and read in the papers. (They are as ugly as ogres),'' Ye Myint Aung wrote.

In the intervening years, all that has changed is that international governments have openly welcomed the economic opportunity that Burma presents while ignoring the bigotry and hate.

Somewhere, sometime soon, as Aung San Suu Kyi and Thein Sein sell the new ''open'' Burma to the world, the question has to be asked: Are you racists?


Comments have been disabled for this article.


It's time to call it quits on the e tended honeymoon that the world is having with Burma and Su Kyi. What's happening to the Rohingyas and the Muslims in Burma is apartheid, and by not raising our voice against it and taking decisive action we are becoming complicit of the same crime. Shame on all of us!

Posted by Anonymous on April 15, 2013 12:00


Good article..have been wondering where Suu Kyi has been re' all of this and what her stance is

Posted by sky on April 15, 2013 12:06


Because we all know how peace-loving people of a certain religion are if allowed to integrate in society. as evidenced by all the bloodshed in Southern Thailand.
I would not look too harshly on the Burmese for not wanting to have to deal with that kind of crap.

Posted by William Taylor on April 15, 2013 13:05

Editor Comment:

It's a question of oppression, not religion, as a quick glance at the history of southern Thailand and Burma will teach you, William Taylor. Buddhists and Muslims live in peace as neighbors along the Andaman coast and on Phuket - the close-by example that perhaps the Burmese should follow. Honi soit qui mal y pense.


Editor, that peaceful coexistence will only last until the terror in the south works its way up, as it seems to be doing world wide.

Posted by Tim on April 15, 2013 16:47

Editor Comment:

Huh? Ignorant speculation, Tim, with the factual evidence supporting signs of there being fewer wars in the world these days than 10 or 20 years ago. There has never been any sign of the problems in the south spreading north.


Could you maybe interview the Burmese community here on their point of view, who they think the Rohingyas are and why the hatred? Just interesting to see from another point of view outside of the general media interviews.

Posted by May on April 15, 2013 21:59

Editor Comment:

Thanks for the suggestion. Within Burma, use of the word 'Rohingya' remains taboo. The reason why Rohingya usually work in single-person occupations (as roti sellers in Bangkok, for example) is because the resentment and conditioning do not dissipate.


Few wars? or are there just a majority lumped into one large one? Once the south is done they will spread north, its inevitable just like every where else. As for ignorant speculation, I can see where that is coming from, lol. I know you wont print this one, lol, so you just continue on your way, or in your way?

Posted by Tim on April 15, 2013 22:40

Editor Comment:

There are fewer wars throughout the world today than there were 10 years ago . . . and no sign of the troubles in the deep south provinces of Thailand spreading. You sound almost disappointed, Tim.


Suu Kyi is not uttering a word against genocide on Rohingyas ,Kachins and Muslim of Meikhtilar, Rangoon .She has been silence every genocidal killing, raping, uprooting and gross violation of Human Rights for one year. She is enjoying as VVIP status after elected MP and very busy now to be next President through flattering racist Army Generals in Nay Pyitaw. She is very difficult to be trusted by non Burman ethnics and true democratic loving people of Burma today. Nearly 100% Rohingya used to love her and protested and prayed for her release while she was in house arrest. After her release she fully forget the ethnics including the untold Rohingya sufferings. Last week on 9 april her portrait was burnt by three angry Rohingya during demonstration in front of Burmese Embassy in Bangkok. The said three activists were die-hard supporters of her. Now She is visiting Japan. Some her Rohingya supporters there tried to meet her but in vain. She is charecteristically silence of Rohingya boat people where UN says Rohingyas are one of the most persecuted etnic people in the world and their situation is DIRE.

Posted by Maung Kyaw Nu,President,BRAT Burmese Rohingya Association in Thailand on April 16, 2013 00:10

Editor Comment:

The most generous interpretation is that she wishes to become president first, then look at what changes she can bring. But the woman we believed she was has vanished with freedom and glittering prizes. Perhaps her character was always misinterpreted by the outside world. Under house arrest, nobody had the chance to ask her the 'R" question. They simply wanted to believe.


''It is quite different from what you have seen and read in the papers. (They are as ugly as ogres),'' Ye Myint Aung wrote.
. Obviously very superficial and racist . Rohingyans are not to blame with their skin color. Shame on all racists

I'd like to know what's in his mind about "Obama' too . . .

Posted by ThaiGer_Lady on July 2, 2013 14:45

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