Genocide Opponents Protest Myanmar Horrors

 

Amid continuing government-sponsored mass atrocities in the Southeast Asian nation of Myanmar, human rights activists are ramping up anti-genocide advocacy nationally this month, particularly in Washington, DC.

myanmar flagThe Interfaith Coalition To Stop Genocide In Burma is calling on the U.S. government to more aggressively intervene in the situation and to enact tough sanctions against the government of Myanmar, which was formerly known as Burma.

Faith Coalition spokeswoman Nicolee Ambrose travelled to the region this spring and opened a news conference on July 9 at the National Press Club  with reactions from her recent visit to Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh.

"Since August 2017," the coalition leaders said in their overview, "more than 700,000 Rohingya refugees have fled Burma due to horrific conditions of torture, rape, and murder at the hands of the Burmese government. The Kachin Christians are now facing the same treatment as the genocide continues."

aung san suu kyi 2011 myanmar The Rohingya are primarily Muslims from the country's western province Rakhine on the Bay of Bengal. Kachin, a northern province, is overwhelmingly Christian, stemming from long-ago missionary work.

Authorities claim that they are using security measures that are necessary against what they call rebels mingled with civilians.

Complicating the situation is the widespread perception that Myanmar's leader, Aung San Suu Kyi (shown above), is widely regarded in some circles as a reformer following her years of imprisonment for her human rights advocacy.

But that view was contradicted this month by a 162-page report by the human rights group Fortify Rights. The New York Times summarized the report in Myanmar’s Military Planned Rohingya Genocide, Rights Group Says, which reported that the military pre-planned the slaughter and forced expulsion of about 700,000 Rohingya Muslims from the nation.

nicolee ambrose myanmar interfaith coalition npc july 9 2018 IMG 5216 Small

"We cannot sit and do nothing," says the Rev. Bob Roberts, Jr., Senior Pastor at the Northwood Church in Dallas, Texas and co-chair of the Faith Coalition. He is at center above in the Justice Integrity Project photo of the July 9 news conference. Ambrose is at right and Kachin National Organization USA President Sut Nau Ndayu is at left.

"We are calling on President Trump to help the people of the region," continued Roberts (shown at right on his Twitter photo). "Our brothers and sisters cannot keep suffering at the hands of these thugs. Kachin and Rohingya people need to be repatriated to their bob roberts jr twittercountry and villages with full rights."

Last week's news conference featured two other natives of the Myanmar's Kachin province, which has experienced especially horrific oppression recently. They were: Dr. Khan Naw, a Kachin Baptist minister; and Bamai Nhkum, another representative of the national organization and currently a student in Iowa.

They protested the horrific mass rapes and other atrocities by the Buddhist dominated government (including military) against Christians in Kachin along with similar crimes against Rohingya from other parts of Myanmar. Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have fled to adjoining Bangladesh, already one of the world's poorest nations.

After the July 9 news conference members of the Faith Coalition visited members of Congress. Their anti-genocide campaign is occurring amid other efforts that raise serious concerns about religious and ethnic persecution in Myanmar.

The problems include the impending trial of two Reuters reporters detained for more than 200 days. As reported in Decision to try two Reuters reporters shows Myanmar court is following orders, the reporters, Wa Lone and Kuyan Soe OO, face 14-year prison sentences on charges of violating the country's Official Secrets Act by investigating the Rohingya massacres.

Shown below is a photo and story published in February that led to the arrests of the two journalists. The story, Massacre in Myanmar: A Reuters Special Report, is further excerpted below.

myanmar execution reuters photo

Execution: This photo was taken on the day the 10 Rohingya men were killed. Paramilitary police officer Aung Min, left, stands guard behind them. The picture was obtained from a Buddhist village elder, and authenticated by witnesses (distributed by Reuters).

Myanmar's Leadership

Suu Kyi holds the title of State Counsellor, regarded as her country's highest non-military office. Another top political leader is Win Myint, 66, her close confidante in Myanmar's ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party,

Suu Kyi is the Oxford-educated youngest daughter of Aung San, the nation's modern founder. She won the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize "for her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights."

antónio guterres 2012 us missionUnited National Secretary General António Guterres (shown at right in a U.S. State Department 2012 photo) published an oped on July 11 in the Washington Post entitled The Rohingya are victims of ethnic cleansing. The world has failed them.

"Small children butchered in front of their parents," Guterres wrote. "Girls and women gang-raped while family members were tortured and killed. Villages burned to the ground. Nothing could have prepared me for the bone-chilling accounts I heard last week in Bangladesh from Rohingya refugees who had fled widespread killings and violence in Rakhine state, Myanmar."

"The burden of helping desperate refugees," he concluded, "should not fall to front-line countries such as Bangladesh."

Why Won't A 'Reformer' Reform?

myanmar map

Myanmar is shown on the map above, located between China and Indochina on the right and India and Bangladesh on the left

In response to questions, the press conferences speakers offered a blunt view of why Suu Kyi has permitted such widespread crimes against religious minorities. Years ago, Time Magazine had named her one of the "Children of Gandhi" and his spiritual heir to non-violence. She is shown below at left in a portrait at the time of her prize,

aung san suu kyi 1991 nobel peace prizeBut last March, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum revoked her Elie Wiesel Award, awarded in 2012. The museum cited her failure "to condemn and stop the military's brutal campaign" against Rohingya.

Speakers at the news conference said that Myanmar's military is the dominant power in its political life. not just an important part of the country's political governance by mandate of the nation's constitution.

In addition, such commentators as BBC reporter Jonah Fisher have reported that Suu Kyi's silence over human rights issues is because of her need to obtain support from the majority, which is of Bamar ethnicity.

Recent Atrocities

Among recent commentaries, the Christian Post reported findings by Roberts, the Faith Coalition's co-chair, as follows in a column by Samuel Smith headlined, Myanmar Bombs 60 Churches in 18 Months, Replaces Some With Buddhist Pagodas: The column, excerpted below, cited points that Roberts would revisit this month with his colleagues at the Press Club news conference:

Myanmar's military forces have destroyed about 60 Christian churches and have turned some of those properties into Buddhist pagodas amid renewed attacks over the last year-and-a-half, an American pastor who recently traveled to the region said.

Bob Roberts, the founder of the Northwood Church in Keller, Texas, who is known for working with interfaith leaders to promote religious tolerance around the world, returned last week from his trip to the Kachin state of Myanmar (formerly known as Burma).

The evangelical pastor traveled there to see for himself the horrors that have escalated inside the state in recent months, as the Myanmar army has ramped up its attacks on the Kachin Independence Army and the predominantly Christian Kachin people.

As the Myanmar military has been fighting a civil war for decades, Roberts warned that since a ceasefire ended over seven years ago with the Kachin rebels, over 450 Kachin villages have burned down.

More recently, however, there has been an even more severe treatment of the Kachin people, 95 percent of whom are Christian.

"In the last 18 months, they have bombed 60 churches. Of the 60 churches they have bombed, they have put Buddhist pagodas in 20 of those sites to reclaim them. It is a pretty severe thing," Roberts told The Christian Post in an interview. "[To] be clear, most of it is about ethnic cleansing."

The organizers said that 405 villages have been destroyed in Kachin during the period between 2001 and 2018 in Kachin, creating 130,000 IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons). During that period 3011 churches have been destroyed, 57 of them since 2017.

They said a serious problem has been that the Obama administration lifted sanctions against Myanmar during the fall of 2016 in the mistaken belief that conditions were getting better — and would continue to get better without sanctions.

Dr. Khan Naw, the Baptist minister and a recent graduate of the Andover Newton Theological School in Newton, MA, said, "Look at the facts and realize that Burma did not get better after the lifting of sanctions by President Barack Obama."

benjamin rhodes oThis editor asked a question regarding who precisely in the administration they regarded as most responsible for the decision.

We heard in response: "There was a lot of debate in the Obama administration 2011 to 2016. In the end [Deputy National Security Advisor] Ben Rhodes (shown at left) thought the way to hasten full democracy was to lift sanctions."

The Obama administration is not alone in this. The Washington Post reported earlier this month in a story headlined McConnell once pushed sanctions against Myanmar. Now he’s blocking a new round that:

Mitchell McConnellSenate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (right), who spent over a quarter century promoting human rights and democracy in Myanmar, is now the principal senator holding up fresh legislation pressuring the country to improve its treatment of the Rohingya.

Ambrose said, "Obama put 100 percent faith on one person [Suu Kyi] to transform a nation of 50 million people....We have to educate the American people."

Ambrose, who runs The Ambrose Group, a Baltimore-based public strategies firm, is experienced and well-connected politically. She was a presidential appointee in the Bush Administration from 2002 to 2008 and is the current elected statewide Republican National Committeewoman for Maryland.

Ambrose spent about a month visiting Rohingya refugee camps this spring in Bangladesh. She a published an oped on Fox News, where she is a Radio Political Analyst and regular commentator on several TV shows, Her column was entitled, "My visit to the world's largest refugee camp; The incredible stories I heard in Bangladesh."

Her commentary includes a video about the trip available here and excerpted below. Derek Allen produced and directed the video.

What's Next?

Last week, Myanmar's leader held a five-day conference as part of a series to rectify human rights problems. The Associated Press reported details in Myanmar opens peace conference with ethnic rebels, with reporters quoting Suu Kyi as telling attendees myanmar flag“I am worried that any delay in the peace conference could affect our people’s chance to get peace.” 

In the meantime, various groups in the United States and around the world have committed to keep up pressure and advocacy. The Faith Coalition advises these types of actions:

  • Call your Senator and Representative. Tell them to strengthen Senate Bill 2060 and House Resolution 4223 to impose full sanctions (except food, shelter and medicine) on Myanmar/Burma rather than only targeted sanctions on its military.
  • Tell them that the Rohingya cannot be forced back to Myanmar when the threat of persecution and violence is more present than ever.  
  • Share these resources with your Pastor, Rabbi, Imam or religious leaders
  • Write an opinion piece on the Rohingya Muslims.

The Justice Integrity Project will be covering these matters closely, including at a rally scheduled for 5 p.m. on July 24 at Edward Kelly Park on 21st and Virginia Avenue, NW near the U.S. Department of State. Details here.

 

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Related News Coverage

myanmar map

Sept. 3

National Press Club, Club condemns convictions of Reuters reporters in Myanmar, John Donnelly, Sept. 3, 2018. The National Press Club on Monday condemned the jail terms handed down to two journalists who exposed a genocide in Myanmar and committed to work to free them. The reporters, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo of Reuters news service, are this year’s winners of the club’s international John Aubuchon Press Freedom award.

“When the Press Club extends the Aubuchon Press Freedom award to journalists it means we are committed to standing by those reporters until they are free and returned to their loved ones,” said National Press Club President Andrea Edney.

The two men were arrested while investigating a mass murder of 10 Rohyingya Muslims aided and abetted by Myanmar’s military. Reuters published the reporters’ story while they were in prison.

“We are heartbroken to learn these two wonderful journalists, husbands and fathers, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, will continue to be unjustly detained for their outstanding investigative work.” Edney said. “We believe they did nothing wrong and call for their immediate release and return to their colleagues and families.”

“The National Press Club plans to bestow our international John Aubuchon Press Freedom Award on these two brave journalists at our Fourth Estate Award Dinner on Nov. 29. We understand that an appeal of this wrongful conviction will be filed and we look forward to welcoming these reporters in person at our dinner,” Edney added.

Aug. 27

ny times logoNew York Times, Myanmar Generals Should Face Genocide Charges Over Rohingya, U.N. Says, Nick Cumming-Bruce, Aug. 27, 2018.  Myanmar’s army commander and other top generals should face trial in an international court for genocide against Rohingya Muslims and for crimes against humanity targeting other ethnic minorities, United Nations experts said on Monday after a yearlong investigation.

Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the commander in chief of Myanmar’s army, is one of six generals named as priority subjects for investigation and prosecution by a United Nations Fact Finding Mission on Myanmar in a report detailing military campaigns involving atrocities that “undoubtedly amount to the gravest crimes under international law.”

The three-member panel leveled the most serious charge, genocide, over the ferocious campaign unleashed by the Buddhist-majority security forces against Rohingya Muslims a year ago. That campaign, in the state of Rakhine, sent more than 700,000 fleeing across the border to Bangladesh.

Aug. 21

washington post logoWashington Post, A year after the assault on the Rohingya, Myanmar’s generals are unapologetic, Shibani Mahtani and Wai Moe, Aug. 21, 2018. A year ago, the Myanmar military embarked on a sweeping crackdown in restive Rakhine state — driving out almost a million Rohingya to Bangladesh and creating one of the world’s largest refugee camps while allegedly raping women, killing children and beheading men in the process.­

Today, even as sanctions mount and the U.S. State Department and the United Nations ready reports that are likely to detail premeditated efforts by the military to effectively rid the state of Rohingya Muslims, generals remain defiant. They believe they essentially eliminated a threat that was “growing bigger and bigger,” according to one account of conversations top Myanmar military leaders have had with counterparts from Southeast Asia.

“There was a sense that their problem in Rakhine had been solved, that this was their solution,” said a person familiar with the conversations, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. Militants, the military alleged, had embedded in villages and towns, and they had to be stopped.

ap logoAssociated Press via Washington Post, Verdict scheduled for next week in Myanmar reporters’ trial, Aung Naing Soe, Aug. 20, 2018. A judge in Myanmar said he will issue a verdict next Monday in the trial of two Reuters.

Interviews with a half-dozen former Myanmar generals and those familiar with their thinking indicate they have also grown irritated by de facto civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s efforts to quell international outrage — believing she defends them in public while working to undermine them by driving sanctions in private.

A judge in Myanmar said he will issue a verdict next Monday in the trial of two Reuters journalists accused of possessing secret state information, a case that has become a key test of media freedom in the former military dictatorship.

Closing arguments were heard Monday in the trial of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who are charged with illegal possession of official documents and face possible jail terms of up to 14 years under a law dating back to British colonial rule, when the country was called Burma.

The defendants say they were framed by police, and did not solicit or knowingly possess any secret documents.

“The evidence before the court is clear: Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo are two honest reporters who did not commit a crime,” the Reuters news agency said in a statement Monday. “Imprisoning them for even one more day would be unlawful retribution for their truthful and important journalism. We look forward to the court’s acquittal, which will be an important step towards demonstrating Myanmar’s commitment to rule of law, freedom of the press, and democracy.”

July 19

ny times logoNew York Times, Myanmar’s Military Planned Rohingya Genocide, Rights Group Says, Hannah Beech, July 19, 2018. Myanmar’s military systematically planned a genocidal campaign to rid the country of Rohingya Muslims, according to a report released on Thursday by the rights-advocacy group Fortify Rights based on testimony from 254 survivors, officials and workers over a 21-month period.

myanmar flagThe 162-page report says that the exodus of around 700,000 Rohingya Muslims to Bangladesh last year — after a campaign of mass slaughter, rape and village burnings in Rakhine State in Myanmar — was the culmination of months of meticulous planning by the security forces.

Fortify Rights names 22 military and police officers who it says were directly responsible for the campaign against the Rohingya and recommends that the United Nations Security Council refer them to the International Criminal Court.

“Genocide doesn’t happen spontaneously,” said Matthew F. Smith, a former Human Rights Watch specialist on Myanmar and China who is chief executive officer of Fortify Rights. “Impunity for these crimes will pave the path for more violations and attacks in the future.”

Fortify Rights, 'They Gave Them Long Swords; Preparations for Genocide and Crimes Agianst Humanity against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State, Myanmar, Staff report, July 19, 2018. The Myanmar military’s ostensible trigger was on August 25, 2017, when Rohingya militants, armed mostly with sticks and knives, attacked several police outposts in northern Rakhine State, reportedly killing 12 officials. Members of ARSA explained to Fortify Rights their  involvement in and knowledge of these attacks.

Almost immediately after these attacks, the Myanmar authorities moved into Rohingya villages and evidently activated groups of non-Rohingya residents, some of whom had earlier received arms and training by the Myanmar military. Armed with guns, swords, and
knives, these groups of civilian perpetrators joined state security forces in using lethal force against Rohingya civilians in villages throughout northern Rakhine State.

“We know the people who came with the army,” said “Abdul Rahman,” 41, an eyewitness and survivor of a Myanmar Army-led massacre in Chut Pyin village — also known as So Farang — in Rathedaung Township on August 27, 2017. “They were Rakhine from a neighboring village. I know them well. I could recognize them. The army shot people and then the Rakhine cut them.”

For several weeks, the Myanmar Army, Police, and non-Rohingya civilians raided hundreds of Rohingya villages, committing massacres of men, women, and children, systematic rape of women and girls, mass arbitrary arrest of men and boys, and widespread and systematic
arson attacks. More than 700,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh in a matter of weeks, resulting in the fastest refugee outflow since the Rwandan genocide.

“Rashida,” 50, watched as Myanmar Army and Lon Htein soldiers dragged her two adult sons from her home in Kha Maung Seik village — also known as Fora Bazaar — in Maungdaw Township on August 27.

“I was watching the whole time,” she told Fortify Rights just days after the incident. “The soldiers made them lay down on the ground, and then they cut their necks. We were shouting and crying.”

Conservative estimates suggest that in the span of a few weeks, soldiers and police with the support of armed non-Rohingya civilian-perpetrators killed at least several thousand Rohingya civilians—if not tens of thousands—from hundreds of villages throughout the three townships of northern Rakhine State.

An annex to this report provides extensive documentation of similar crimes perpetrated against Rohingya in upwards of 40 villages in Maungdaw Township during military-led “clearance operations” in 2016. Fortify Rights documented a chilling continuity of killings
by state security forces from 2016 to 2017, differing only in scale.

July 16

ny times logoNew York Times, Jailed Reporter in Myanmar Challenges Prosecution’s Version of His Arrest, Mike Ives, July 16, 2018. The journalist, U Wa Lone, and his colleague, U Kyaw Soe Oo, each face up to 14 years in prison under Myanmar’s colonial-era Official Secrets Act if convicted.

A Reuters reporter jailed for months by Myanmar’s government has challenged the prosecution’s account of how he and a colleague were arrested, the latest twist in a closely watched trial that highlights the government’s tense relationship with the news media.

The testimony on Monday by the journalist, U Wa Lone, came more than half a year after he and a Reuters colleague were arrested in Yangon, Myanmar’s major city, while investigating violence against the persecuted Rohingya ethnic minority, Reuters reported. It was the first time the defense had a chance to present its case to the court.

The prosecution has said the two reporters were detained during a routine traffic stop, Reuters reported. But Mr. Wa Lone told a Yangon court on Monday that the arrest occurred after he and his colleague, U Kyaw Soe Oo, met two police officers in a Yangon restaurant.Mr. Wa Lone said that one of the officers, Naing Lin, had arranged a meeting for the same day, insisting that it was urgent because he was about to be reassigned to another region.

July 11

ap logoAssociated Press via Washington Post, Myanmar opens peace conference with ethnic rebels, Min Kyi Thein and Victoria Milko, July 11, 2018. Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the country’s military commander on Wednesday opened a major conference with representatives of ethnic minority groups to try to move toward a lasting peace after seven decades of strained relations and armed conflict.

myanmar flag“I am worried that any delay in the peace conference could affect our people’s chance to get peace,” said Suu Kyi in a speech to the attendees. “That is the reason we are trying today to solve the problems politically by this peace conference.”

The third session of the 21st Century Panglong Conference is scheduled to last five days and follows meetings held in August 2016 and May 2017. Those sessions failed to make much headway in resolving differences between the government, the military and ethnic rebel groups seeking greater autonomy.

In his speech on the conference’s opening day, military commander Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing urged all stakeholders in the peace process to swiftly reach an agreement, citing the delay in the peace process as contributing to the lagging development of the country.

“Bold steps must be taken without delay in implementing the peace process,” he said, urging groups to prioritize peace over political demands. “The sound of guns will become silent if all the groups with the true wish for peace observe the agreement.”

Since 2015, the government has promoted a cease-fire agreement that several ethnic minority groups have signed. However, some other major rebel groups, especially in the country’s north, are wary of committing to the deal until political terms are made clearer. They also have accused the government of provocative armed aggression.

“If we are expecting peace in the whole union, we need to work on the cease-fire process first,” said Doi Bu, a member of the Unity and Democracy Party of Kachin State, where clashes between Myanmar’s military and armed ethnic groups have displaced thousands. “(Peace) is urgently needed to solve the problems. If not, there will be no development. War needs to stop immediately back in our states.”

The event is named after the original 1947 conference convened by Suu Kyi’s father, Gen. Aung San, who was head of an interim government while his country — then called Burma — prepared for independence from Britain. An agreement brokered by Aung San and signed by several major ethnic minority groups granted minorities significant autonomy and the right to secede if they joined a post-independence federal union. But Aung San was assassinated shortly after and the deal fell apart.

washington post logoantónio guterres 2012 us missionWashington Post, Opinion: The Rohingya are victims of ethnic cleansing. The world has failed them, António Guterres, July 11, 2018 (print edition). António Guterres (shown at right in a U.S. State Department 2012 photo) is secretary-general of the United Nations.

The burden of helping desperate refugees should not fall to front-line countries such as Bangladesh.

July 9

Reporters Without Borders (RSF), “Decision to try two Reuters reporters shows Myanmar court is following orders,” Staff report, July 9, 2018. A Myanmar judge announced today that the journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo are to be tried under the Official Secrets Act.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns this morning’s decision by a Yangon judge to go ahead with the trial of two Reuters journalists on a charge of possessing secrets and calls again for their immediate release.

After more than 200 days in detention and months of preliminary hearings, Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, are to face the possibility of up to 14 years in prison for investigating an army massacre of Rohingya civilians in Inn Din, a village near the Bangladeshi border in Rakhine state, in September 2017.

Arrested on 12 December after being lured into a trap by police and given supposedly classified documents, they are to be tried under Myanmar’s colonial-era Official Secrets Act, which the military uses whenever they want to prevent journalists from covering certain subjects.

“The refusal to dismiss the case against the journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo is indicative of a judicial system that follows orders and a failed transition to democracy in Myanmar,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.

“As a result of the decision to proceed with this trial, despite the many inconsistencies and the undeniable evidence of the two journalists’ innocence that came to light in the preliminary hearings, the chances of seeing a free and independent press emerge in Myanmar have declined significantly.”

RSF regards the detention of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo as patently arbitrary and calls for their immediate and unconditional release. Myanmar fell six places in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Indexand is now ranked 137th out of 180 countries.

July 6

Christian Post via Genocide Watch, Myanmar Bombs 60 Churches in 18 Months, Replaces Some With Buddhist Pagodas, Samuel Smith, July 6, 2018. Myanmar's military forces have destroyed about 60 Christian churches and have turned some of those properties into Buddhist pagodas amid renewed attacks over the last year-and-a-half, an American pastor who recently traveled to the region said.

Bob Roberts, the founder of the Northwood Church in Keller, Texas, who is known for working with interfaith leaders to promote religious tolerance around the world, returned last week from his trip to the Kachin state of Myanmar (formerly known as Burma).

As the Myanmar military has been fighting a civil war for decades, Roberts warned that since a ceasefire ended over seven years ago with the Kachin rebels, over 450 Kachin villages have burned down.

More recently, however, there has been an even more severe treatment of the Kachin people, 95 percent of whom are Christian.

"In the last 18 months, they have bombed 60 churches. Of the 60 churches they have bombed, they have put Buddhist pagodas in 20 of those sites to reclaim them. It is a pretty severe thing," Roberts told The Christian Post in an interview. "[To] be clear, most of it is about ethnic cleansing."

The world's attention last year was captured by the refugee crisis caused by violence committed by the army against the Muslim Rohingya people in Myanmar's Rakhine state. People were horrified to hear stories of babies being chopped in half and stories of mothers and daughters being gang-raped. Many human rights activists labeled the atrocities as a "genocide."

myanmar flagBut since so much international attention was placed on the Rohingya crisis, the army has scaled back its efforts in the Rakhine state and transferred many of those same military units to the Kachin state.

"That is one of the reasons for big alarm because they are the exact same units," Roberts said. "Already, there has been murder, there has been rape, there has been all of these things. It has not yet gotten to the level of the Rohingya. But there is concern that it could real easy."

He added that there is "a tremendous amount of fear that things are about to seep up pretty dramatically."

While over 700,000 Rohingyas fled their homeland and are seeking refuge in Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh, the Kachin people are not able to flee the country because authorities in border countries China and India will not let them cross over.

Roberts said that as many as 130,000 Kachin people are now seeking refuge as internally displaced persons inside Baptist churches throughout the state.

"Nearly every Baptist church — I don't care if it is little or big and most of them are not all that large — has between 400 and 2,000 refugees now in the Kachin state," he said. "The Kachin Baptist Convention is the one that is doing the relief and they are the ones that are trying to help them."

Because the Kachin state is so isolated, major aid organizations are not able to provide support, leaving the Kachin Baptist Convention to carry most of the aid load.

"I was at many churches that would have a mini chapel that would hold a couple of hundred people, maybe 300 at most," he continued. "And they have literally tents built with bamboo. There are literally hundreds of people there."

July 1

washington post logoWashington Post, McConnell once pushed sanctions against Myanmar. Now he’s blocking a new round, Shibani Mahtani, July 1, 2018. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who spent over a quarter century promoting human rights and democracy in Myanmar, is now the principal senator holding up fresh legislation pressuring the country to improve its treatment of the Rohingya.

Mitchell McConnellMcConnell (R-Ky.) was the architect of harsh economic sanctions against the former military junta, which were dropped in 2016. His current stance has surprised human rights advocates in Washington who once viewed the senator as their most powerful ally in regard to Myanmar, also known as Burma. They characterize him now as an obstructionist who remains loyal to Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi even as others sour on her over her response to the Rohingya crisis.

“It is very surprising given Sen. McConnell’s history, and the seriousness of this crisis,” said a congressional staffer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. “This is not on a small scale — this is ethnic cleansing.”

May 3

Townhall, Opinion: The Rohingya Crisis Demands Justice. What's the Holdup, Senator McConnell? The Rev. Bob Roberts (shown below at left), May 3, 2018. Over the course of my missionary experiences around the world, I have visited many poor and desperate places. However, nothing prepared me for the almost total loss of hope I saw in the eyes of refugees when I recently visited Bangladesh as a participant in a major interfaith delegation.

bob roberts jr twitterThe horrific stories of atrocities committed against a minority Muslim population within Myanmar (also known as Burma) named the Rohingya are slowly but surely making headlines around the world. The Rohingya have been subjected to violent persecution and forced displacement for years at the hands of the Myanmar government led by its military forces.

Yet, until one personally witnesses their unending misery and despair as I and my delegation colleagues did, it is unfathomable to imagine the depth of reality for this innocent people group. When faced with such reality, it is hard for your conscious not to be jolted with some natural, common-sense reactions, namely, questions such as what can I personally do to help these innocent people, and what can my country do as well?

April 13

nicolee ambrose fox analyst

Nicolee Ambrose, above, spokesperson for the Faith Coalition to Stop Genocide in Burma, shares stories of rape, murder and other atrocities committed by the Burmese government against the Rohingya Muslims who have fled to refugee camps in Bangladesh to escape the genocide of Myanmar.

Fox News, My visit to the world’s largest refugee camp -- The incredible stories I heard in Bangladeshm, Nicolee Ambrose, April 13, 2018. fox news logo SmallEyewitness accounts from the world's biggest refugee camp. 

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” This call to action by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. rang true when I was visiting the largest refugee camp the world has ever known with an estimated 700,000 to 1 million people.

Bangladesh has taken in the people fleeing genocide of Myanmar (formerly Burma), who are being slaughtered by the Burmese military. This army is systematically working to eradicate anyone who is not like them: Rohingya Muslims, Christians, Hindu, other tribes…the list goes on.

Traveling with a U.S. delegation of interfaith leaders from every religion, we visited the camps in eastern Bangladesh. After taking-in the chaotic situation, there is no way to comprehend how this militarized Myanmar government can commit such heinous acts of brutality – such evil. In speaking with the refugees, these are the stories I encountered in the camps that I never expected to bear witness to, and that must be told:

1. A sweet 13-year-old girl in a princess dress, who told me she had been raped repeatedly alongside her mother, by over 10 men. Today, Moriom is treated regularly for STDs. Her mother and father and three siblings are all dead.

2. A woman who desperately clung to her 1-year-old baby, as soldiers stabbed her in the head and chest, and tried to slit her throat. When they finally wrestled her baby from her, the soldiers smashed the baby’s head into the ground and the baby died instantly. All of Rashida’s children were killed by soldiers, and every night she contemplates suicide.

3. The story after story of women systematically being put into groups of 5-6, and then repeatedly raped for a day by 10 soldiers. If these women lived through this brutality, they were lucky to wake up before the house around them burned down.

April 8

South China Morning Post, Will Myanmar’s new president Win Myint tip the scales in Aung San Suu Kyi’s favour? Rik Glauert, April 8, 2018. Win Myint is known to be assertive and ambitious, but to rule with authority he will have to work against both Suu Kyi’s well-known micromanagement of her party members as well as the powerful military.

Nearly 30 years ago when Win Myint sat in a jail cell after he was elected in Myanmar’s 1990 election, which was nullified by the junta, the military offered him the chance to be free to see his critically ill son. All he had to do, the regime said, was sign a declaration promising to renounce politics.

Win Myint refused, missing his son’s funeral as well.

“I couldn’t accept it as my constituents believed in me and voted for me,” he said in 2016 after being elected speaker of the lower house of parliament. “I do not bear a grudge [against the military], but I want my son with me on a day like this.”

Now, the former lawyer and pro-democracy activist stands in position to challenge the military head on as the country’s new president, part of an unsuspected reshuffle that could upset the delicate balance of power between the nation’s mighty generals and the country’s de facto leader, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.

Feb. 8

myanmar execution reuters photo

Execution: This photo was taken on the day the 10 Rohingya men were killed. Paramilitary police officer Aung Min, left, stands guard behind them. The picture was obtained from a Buddhist village elder, and authenticated by witnesses (distributed by Reuters).

Reuters, Massacre in Myanmar: A Reuters Special Report, Wa Lone, Kuyan Soe OO, Simon Lewis and Antoni Slodkowski, Feb. 8, 2018. How Myanmar forces burned, looted and killed in a remote village. On Sept. 2, Buddhist villagers and Myanmar troops killed 10 Rohingya men in Myanmar's restive Rakhine state. Reuters uncovered the massacre and has pieced together how it unfolded. During the reporting of this article, two Reuters journalists were arrested by Myanmar police.

INN DIN, Myanmar – Bound together, the 10 Rohingya Muslim captives watched their Buddhist neighbors dig a shallow grave. Soon afterwards, on the morning of Sept. 2, all 10 lay dead. At least two were hacked to death by Buddhist villagers. The rest were shot by Myanmar troops, two of the gravediggers said.

“One grave for 10 people,” said Soe Chay, 55, a retired soldier from Inn Din’s Rakhine Buddhist community who said he helped dig the pit and saw the killings. The soldiers shot each man two or three times, he said. “When they were being buried, some were still making noises. Others were already dead.”

The killings in the coastal village of Inn Din marked another bloody episode in the ethnic violence sweeping northern Rakhine state, on Myanmar’s western fringe. Nearly 690,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled their villages and crossed the border into Bangladesh since August. None of Inn Din’s 6,000 Rohingya remained in the village as of October.

The Rohingya accuse the army of arson, rapes and killings aimed at rubbing them out of existence in this mainly Buddhist nation of 53 million. The United Nations has said the army may have committed genocide; the United States has called the action ethnic cleansing. Myanmar says its “clearance operation” is a legitimate response to attacks by Rohingya insurgents.