Sept 22, 2017
The world is being deceived by fake news and biased analysis of the conflict in Rakhine State. The international community is constantly bombarded with stories that demonize security personnel and humanize terrorist groups. These fake and biased stories are more dramatic than factual. While the truth has not got the attention it deserves, it cannot be hidden forever. The truth must prevail.
The well-planned attacks by the extremist Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) terrorist group, with the support of terrorist Bengali groups in northern Rakhine State, sends a clear signal about their intentions and pursuit of violence against the efforts by the Myanmar government and international community to solve the conflict peacefully.
The attacks came a day after the August 24 presentation of the final report by the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State led by Kofi Annan and the Myanmar government’s pledge to carry out the panel’s recommendations on conflict prevention, humanitarian aid, reconciliation, institution-building and development.
The international mainstream media’s misinformation and disinformation about Rakhine have destroyed the international community’s ability to tell the difference between the villains and the victims, and the propaganda by the extremist terrorist groups has blinded the world to the real masterminds behind the conflict and terror attacks. As a result, international policy and investment are supporting the villains and fertilizing terrorist breeding grounds. Most importantly, it critically undermines humanitarian and human rights values, which Myanmar shares with the international community, and provides a smoke screen for the activities of terrorist groups.
The international community needs to reassess the information it gets from traditional and social media and ask who is who in the conflict, what the big picture is, and what organizations are behind ARSA.
The mainstream media is exaggerating the exodus of Bengalis from Myanmar to Bangladesh while failing to report on the trauma and misery of ethnic Rakhine and Hindu families who have been displaced by the terrorist attacks and threats.
It has ignored ARSA’s slaughter of innocent ethnic Rakhine and Hindu civilians in the conflict zones. The extremist terrorist group’s brutal attacks have left a lasting trauma in these peace-loving communities. Ethnic Rakhine and Hindu villagers have recounted with trembling voices how ARSA terrorists killed their loved ones as they watched.
ARSA terrorists have burned tens of thousands of houses to the ground, driving their own people to the other side of the border. Meanwhile, moderate Bengalis are threatened and forced to lie to the media that the human rights abuses and destruction were committed by security personnel. Terrorist groups always lie as a way to fish for international sympathy. It’s no big deal to them.
ARSA also planted landmines in conflict zones, trapping hundreds of innocent civilians, and its continuing attacks have forced ethnic Rakhine and Hindu people to flee their homes and seek refuge in bigger towns in Rakhine.
The extent of their ordeal and their feelings of insecurity are borne out by their timid response to and refusal to accept aid from international agencies. This shows their loss of confidence in the global community and their doubts about its sincerity toward the Myanmar people.
The terrorists’ control of the media has kept the international community in the dark about the recent events in Rakhine and made it see the villains as the victims and security personnel as the perpetrators of human rights abuses.
What has gradually been revealed by all this is a plan by terrorists to shift their theatre of operations to Asia, which Myanmar’s security forces have long suspected.
The international community should ask itself whether it is wise to pressure the Myanmar government and accuse its security forces of human rights abuses based on these manipulated media reports.
The recent events in Rakhine also disclosed some disturbing facts about international aid agencies, such as, for example, humanitarian aid and food being found by security personnel in seized terrorist camps, which must come as a shock and disappointment to taxpayers in the countries that fund these agencies. This shows that the international money being spent on aid to alleviate human suffering is actually ending up in the hands of terrorists.
These revelations have come with a heavy price, paid with the lives and livelihoods of vulnerable ethnic Rakhine and Hindu people, public servants, police and security personnel in Myanmar.
The global fight against terrorism needs a strong and united Myanmar as a partner of the international community. The long-misguided policy of the rest of the world toward Myanmar must be re-evaluated and recalibrated to fight against ARSA and other terrorist groups. More money should be given to support Myanmar’s efforts to eliminate terrorists, to overcome ethno-religious division and for long-term development of all social classes.
The international community needs to pay careful attention in order to differentiate between fact and fiction in the media. In this way, its policies toward Myanmar will be sound, its money will support peace-loving people, and our shared values of humanitarian aid and human rights will be saved from the terrorist threat.
*Daw Khin Thidar Aye is a Myanmar diplomat and a PhD. candidate in international relations at the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, Australian National University.