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       Comments on remarks by Secretary Blinken         

Derek Tonkin - 26 April 2022                                    Full PDF Version

In this further commentary Derek Tonkin examines in detail some of the events adduced by Secretary Blinken as creating Burma's path to genocide, and shows that some of these steps are not especially relevant, or have been misconstrued, or are simply not convincing. He concludes that both Secretary Blinken's statement and the special exhibition will do little to promote reconciliation between Muslim and Buddhist communities in Rakhine State.

  Further Thoughts on the Special Exhibition 

Derek Tonkin - 6 April 2022                                                     Full PDF Version

On Saturday 25 September 1954 Burmese Prime Minister U Nu gave what we in Britain would call a “fire-side” chat on the Burmese radio. U Nu was a devout Buddhist, and his homily that Saturday was on religious tolerance, though it had a political message as well.


In his talk, U Nu quoted from the Burmese court playwright U Ponnya (1812-1867) on the importance of fixing a centre point when building a pagoda or drawing a tattoo. U Nu gives as an example building a house on land with depressions where the earth needs to be levelled to make sure the construction does not collapse. So too, U Nu continues, the construction of the State calls for equality among communities so that the majority will not treat the minorities arrogantly and arbitrarily, which is not the sort of country that he wants to build. After referring to the Kachin and Shan States where Christians and Buddhists live along the border with China and Laos, he mentions Arakan. My unofficial translation reads:


“In the southwest of the country is Arakan Division. In Akyab District (today’s Sittwe, Mrauk-U and Maungdaw Districts combined), there are the two townships Buthidaung and Maungdaw. These two townships are on the border with Pakistan. In these townships of Buthidaung and Maungdaw, the nationals [natives] who live there are ethnic Ruhingya in the majority and they are Muslims. There is also a gang of rebels called the Mujahid. The main aim of this group is nothing less than to detach Buthidaung and Maungdaw from the Union and set up a separate Muslim state.”


U Nu continues by saying that the plans of the rebels have not yet materialized and that it is the duty of everyone in the country to defend the 2,000 miles-border. He praises the leaders of the Muslim community in Buthidaung and Maungdaw who have pledged their unshakeable loyalty to the Government. The moral lesson then follows:


“This region would have been very unruly indeed, were it not for our policy of religious tolerance.”


U Nu’s remarks were not a statement of policy but were designed to curry favour with Arakan’s Muslim population. U Nu was anxious to secure the support of Arakan Muslims to counter the insurgency launched in 1948 by the Mujahid (who were in any case also mostly Arakan Muslims).  At the time Burmese listeners would have interpreted his reference to “Ruhingya” - one of several variations of the Bengali word for indigenous “Arakaner” Muslim communities in circulation - as no more than political support from the Prime Minister to Arakan Muslims whose representatives in Parliament invariably voted with U Nu’s APFPL (Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League) against his political opponents in Arakan, the Rakhine Buddhist ANUO (Arakan National United Organisation). The ANUO leader at the time, the British-educated former Indian Civil Service officer U Kyaw Min, was well known for taking the AFPFL to task. To the best of my knowledge, U Nu never used the term “Ruhingya” again. One Ruhingya swallow during the years of U Nu’s premiership from 1948 to 1962 does not make a Rohingya summer. Read on...



                                       “Burma’s Path to Genocide”

Derek Tonkin - 29 March 2022                                                                                                           PDF Version

In his determination of genocide by the Myanmar Armed Forces delivered in the US Holocaust Memorial Museum on 21 March 2022, US Secretary of State Anthony J Blinken drew significantly on materials in the special exhibition “Burma’s Path to Genocide” set up in 2021. In a series of tweets between 20 and 26 March 2022 I drew attention to what seemed to me to be inaccuracies and distortions in the Exhibition’s presentation. Indeed, of the five Chapters in the online presentation, many of the captions do not in my view reflect historical fact, and this is particularly true of Chapters 1 and 2.

The main problem is that the Exhibition reflects not an independent analysis of who the Rohingya are, their origins and identity, but an idealised, ideology-based narrative which ignores the reality that they are mainly descendants of British-era (1824-1948) agricultural migrants from the Chittagong Region of Bengal. Some studies have highlighted the several waves of migration over the centuries from which today’s Rohingya are descended, while other studies have concentrated on migration from Bengal. Jacques Leider has presented a seminal paper on “Chittagonians in Colonial Arakan”.

Rohingya activists have long denied that their community absorbed any substantial migration from Bengal and beyond after the Burmese invasion of 1784. But the weight of evidence of British colonial archives shows beyond any reasonable doubt that by the time of the 1931 decennial Census, British-era migrants and their descendants in Arakan outnumbered the descendants of indigenous Muslims by a ratio of 4 to 1. The activist lobby variously contends that no credence should be attached to British archives because they reflect colonialist designs, or that British-era migrants were in fact the descendants of returnees who had fled from Arakan decades previously in the wake of the Burmese invasion of 1784. I am not persuaded by these arguments.

Closer to the truth is Wai Wai Nu, a 2020 Simon-Sklodt Centre Genocide Prevention Fellow, who has reportedly argued that: “The British used a divide and rule strategy, which brought other ethnicities into colonies, to stir conflict and sustain their control. This strategy compelled the British to bring Indians into the Rakhine state, the area of residence for most Rohingya Muslims. The relocated Indians faced much discrimination and hate from the local Burmese population”. The British certainly encouraged Chittagonian migration to Arakan with tax and land rental incentives, but only in a very few cases were Chittagonians individually recruited and their passages paid. The vast majority arrived in Arakan under their own steam, first as seasonal labourers and later as settlers. If the British can be criticised, it is on the grounds that they upset the demographic balance in Arakan between Buddhist, Muslim and other communities.

For the record, the figures recorded in the 1931 Census are that in Arakan migrant British-era Chittagonians and their descendants numbered 186,327 and other immigrant British-era Bengalis and their descendants 15,585, a total of 201,912, while the descendants of indigenous (that is, pre-1824) settlers (Yakhain-kala, Kaman, Myedu, Zerbaidis etc.) numbered only 56,963. (Yakhain-kala means “Stranger-Arakan” and was the description used by Rakhine Buddhists. The interplay of Rooinga/Yakhain-kala/Arakan Muslims is discussed in detail at this link.) The Exhibition makes anachronistic use of the term “Rohingya” which is not to be found in any British-era or post-independence Burmese primary or secondary legislation. International use of the designation dates only from the 1991-92 exodus. The origins of the designation, in a score or more variations, may be found at this link.

I am also indebted to the Israeli scholar and diplomat Moshe Yegar, with whom I was in touch in 2020, for his writings on the Rohingya whom he identifies as the indigenous inhabitants of Arakan in contrast to what he describes as the migrant “Chittagongs”. Quotations from his writings may be found at this link. It is both ironic and poignant that I need to refer to an Israeli scholar to highlight misleading and erroneous captions in a specialist Exhibition held in the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in order to establish historical truth.

It will be evident from my brief presentation above that, in my view, most of the captions in Chapters 1 - 5 of the specialist Exhibition need revision by a panel of independent historians. I would however expect the Museum’s own experts and advisers to cling passionately to their own interpretation. The synthesis of contending narratives though is fundamental to reconciliation among the communities in Rakhine State.

It is sadly the case that the present Exhibition is less than supportive of the Rohingya themselves who have suffered so grievously from victimisation and persecution over the years; indeed, a properly appointed national or international court of law might well deliver a judgement of genocide against the Myanmar Armed Forces. The Exhibition is counterproductive in that it promotes an ideological narrative of the Rohingya which is anathema to most non-Muslim Burmese because the “path to genocide” is based on contested historical fact. At this critical time it is so important that avenues of reconciliation between the Muslim and Buddhist communities in Rakhine State should be explored and pursued. A divisive narrative can only increase tensions and engender confrontation.

At the same time, the Museum should be aware that the website which I have created contains abundant materials for study and dissemination on such issues as the 1978 and 1991-2 exoduses, the 1982 Citizenship Law and illegal post-independence immigration. The website aims to provide research materials from a range of perspectives, Muslim, Buddhist and non-denominational.

The Board of Trustees of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum might wish to take note of my views and encourage, as they see appropriate, a revision of the materials in the Exhibition. I would be happy to recommend independent scholars of international repute, Burmese as well as non-Burmese, who might be willing to assist the Museum.





                     Determination by US Secretary of State Blinken on Genocide 

Derek Tonkin - 24 March 2022                                                                                                          PDF Version

On 21  March 2022 US Secretary of State Anthony J Blinken issued a formal determination that the Myanmar Armed Forces, known as the Tatmadaw, were responsible for genocide against the Rohingya minority population in Rakhine State. The determination is a political statement and has no international legal authority. The evidence adduced in the determination (unless a fuller formal statement is intended) is open to discussion. Its timing may well have been influenced by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and allegations of genocide made in this context.

The pages on this website concerning Citizenship and the Exodus in 1978 and 1991-92 provide a more nuanced and detailed explanation of these events than appears in Secretary Blinken’s statement. Some of the evidence presented by Secretary Blinken, seemingly taken from exhibits at the US Holocaust Museum in Washington, is factually incorrect, for example, the statement that: “In 1962, when the military staged its first coup, it canceled all Rohingya-language programming on the state-run broadcasting service”. A Rohingya-language programme of ten minutes only twice a week existed between 15 May 1961 and 30 October 1965 when it was terminated, along with other broadcasts in such minority languages as Lahu and Pa-O, on the closure of the Frontier Areas Administration Programme set up by General Ne Win during his 1958 caretaker administration, with the support of the Rohingya community in the Mayu Frontier District which existed from 1960-64 - see Footnote 65 at this link.

The reference by Secretary Blinken to remarks by C-in-C Min Aung Hlaing about an "unfinished job"  needs to be considered in the context of the “Alethankyaw” incident of 1942. See especially in this context paragraph 1336 of the Final Report on the UN Fact-Finding Mission and Page 16 of the treatise “Killing Fields of Alethankyawby the (Rohingya) Kaladan Press. I am personally doubtful that this evidence is conclusive of genocidal intent, any more than are the excerpts from social media accounts presented by Secretary Blinken, but I would welcome this evidence being subject to detailed examination in a properly appointed national or international court of law. There is unfortunately little prospect that the US would be successful in persuading the UN Security Council to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court. However Secretary Blinken noted that the US has been sharing information with The Gambia in the context of their case at the International Court of Justice.

David Steinberg: Myanmar: Words like "genocide" have consequences - PacNet #19  12 April 2022

Military Coup in Myanmar - 1 February 2021


Notifications and Announcements


GNLM: Notification No. 1 of the Commander in Chief - 1 February 2021

GNLM: Office of the President Order No 1 - 1 February 2021

GNLM: Meeting of the National Defence and Security Council - 1 Feb 2021

GNLM: Miscellaneous Appointments - 1 February 2021

Information for the People': Office of the C-in-C - 2 February 2021

MFA Statement and diplomatic briefing: GNLM - 6 February 2021

Announcement of the Union Election Commission - 7 July 2001

Announcement of the Union Election Commission - 8 July 2021

Announcement of the Union Election Commission - 26 July 2021

Order No. 152/2021 of the SAC - 1 August 2021



Statement to the UK House of Commons

Minister of State Nigel Adams - 2 February 2021


Security Council unity 'crucial' to support democracy in Myanmar

UN News: "Consultations" among UNSC Members - 2 February 2021

Text of Remarks by the UNSG's Special Envoy Christine Burgener 

UNSC VTC Consultations on Myanmar - 2 February 2021

Myanmar coup on the pretext of a constitutional fig leaf

Melissa Crouch: East Asia Forum - 3 February 2021

Message to the People of Myanmar

Cardinal Charles Maung Bo: Religions for Peace - 3 February 2021

The Coup in Myanmar: What do we know?

Andrew Selth: The Interpreter, Lowy Institute - 3 February 2021

Aung San Suu Kyi is flawed but needs our Support

Baron Darzi of Denham: The Times - 4 February 2021

Press Statement on the Situation in Myanmar by Security Council President

UN Press Centre - 4 February 2021

Myanmar needs a new kind of democracy

Thant Myint-U: New York Times - 5 February 2021

China does not like the coup in Myanmar

Enze Han: East Asia Forum - 6 February 2021

Myanmar's coup: Reversion to Type

The Economist: Briefing - 6 Feburary 2021

Ghosts of coups past in Myanmar

Mary Callahan: East Asia Forum - 7 February 2021

Post legalism and Myanmar’s contradictory coup

Nick Cheesman: ABC Religion and Ethics – 9 February 2021

Myanmar, still escaping the shackles of the past

Alan Doss: Passblue - 9 February 2021

Measure of the man who stole Myanmar's democracy

David Scott Mathieson: Asia Times - 10 February 2021

Behind the coup: what prompted Tatmadaw's grab for power?

Hunter Marston: New Mandala - 12 February 2021

Myanmar's youth holds the country's future in their hands

Thant Myinyt-U: Financial Times - 12 February 2021

Responding to the Coup

International Crisis Group: Briefing No 166 - 16 February 2021

China addresses rumours, urges Myanmar to settle political differences

Ambassador Chen Hai: Myanmar Times - 16 February 2021

Statement by Concerned Businesses in Myanmar

Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business - 19 February 201

Statement by the President of the Security Council (US) on Myanmar

US Mission to the UN: 10 March 2021

Debate in the UK House of Lords on Protests in Myanmar

Hansard House of Lords: 10 March 2021

What Next for Burma?

Thant Myint-U: London Review of Books Blog - 18 March 2021

Who Failed Myanmar?

Kavi Chongkittavorn: The Irrawaddy - 31 March 2021

Statement by the President of the Security Council (Vietnam) on Myanmar

Vietnamese Mission to the UN: 31 March 2021

Can Myanmar's Democracy be rescued?

Interview with Derek Mitchell: Bloomberg - 18 April 2021

Is Burma's Army in Trouble?

Vijay Nambiar: PassBlue - 19 April 2021

Myanmar and the Lessons of History

Andrew Selth: Asia Link - 23 April 2021

ASEAN Chairman's Statement and Five Point Censensus

ASEAN Website: 24 April 2021

Aung San Suu Kyi's uncertain fate

Andrew Selth: Asia Link - 13 May 2021

Myanmar's Military struggles to control Virtual Battlefield

International Crisis Goup - 18 May 2021 

Taking Aim at the Tatmadaw: The New Armed Resistance 

International Crisis Group Briefing - 28 June 2021

The Domestic and International Implications of the Military Coup

Andrea Passeri: IKMAS (Malaysia) Working Paper - September 2021

Myanmar's Military Mindset: An Exploratory Survey  

Andrew Selth Griffith Asia Institute - September 2021

The Deadly Stalemate in Post-Coup Myanmar

International Crisis Group - 20 October 2021

Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw [CRPH] - NUG

Website of the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw

Website of the National Unity Government

Online Burma Library - CRPH Documents

Online Burma Library - NUG Documents

Federal Democracy Charter- Parts I and II - 2021

Policy Position on the Rohingya in Rakhine State - 3 June 2021

Formation of the National Unity Government of Myanmar - 16 April 2021

Myanmar's NUG: Counteracting the coup: ISEAS - 28 January 2022

Myanmar’s Representation at the United Nations 2021

The Battle for Myanmar’s Seat at the UNGA

Catherine Renshaw: The Lowy Institute - 10 August 2021


Briefing Paper: Myanmar’s Representation in the United Nations

Special Advisory Council for Myanmar - 11 August 2021


Briefing Paper: Recognition of Government

Special Advisory Council for Myanmar - 23 August 2021

Briefing Paper: The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) in Myanmar

Special Advisory Council for Myanmar - 1 September 2021

Briefing Paper: The Response of UN Political Bodies to the Coup

Special Advisory Council for Myanmar - 9 September 2021

Legal Opinion: The Representation of Myanmar at the UN

Myanmar Accountability Project - 14 September 2021

Report of the UNGA Credentials Committee

to the UNGA - 1 December 2021

Resolution 76/15 of the UNGA

adaopted by consensus - 6 December 2021