The Labyrinth of the Rohinga Conundrum
Derek Tonkin PDF Version
There is indeed more than enough good reason for the Museum
to organise a special exhibition on the matter. Yet as I have already
shown, I am concerned that the special exhibition is being used as a
propaganda platform to disseminate a particular historical narrative of the kaleidoscope of
Muslim communities, Indian and Indo-Burman, who have in recent years coalesced into the
“Rohingya” community, an ethnicity in the making. Most Myanmar citizens, I
believe, would find the exhibition controversial. It will not help to promote
reconciliation between the Buddhist and Muslim communities in Rakhine State.
Its implicit portrayal of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as somehow complicit in genocide
is unfortunate and widely disputed, however naïve and
ill-informed she may well have been
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
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. Jacques Leider has presented a seminal paper on “Chittagonians in Colonial Arakan”.
Notes on the decision by the Brighton and Hove City Council to
revoke the “Freedom of the City” award made to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in 2011
Derek Tonkin writes: On 19 October 2023 the Brighton and Hove City Council revoked the
Freedom of the City awarded to Daw Aung Suu Kyi in 2011. Their decision was
based on allegations that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi had acquiesced in, if not
supported, the ethnic cleansing and genocide of the Rohingya Muslim population
in Rakhine State. In this memorandum I analyse the in-house briefing
prepared for the Council and show how it was seriously flawed. I examine what Daw Aung San Suu Kyi actually said and did in the context of the Rohingya crisis. Few if any Council members or officials are
likely to have more than a superficial knowledge of the Myanmar reality, of
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s precarious situation in Myanmar politics and of her lack of any influence at all over the Myanmar. military who were totally independent of the civilian administration in their operations.
It has yet to dawn on the Council that the only people to
have benefitted from this sorry saga are the military junta themselves. For if a
British institution like the Council, claiming the moral high ground yet exhibiting misguided, self-righteous delusion,
can indulge in ruthless criticism of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on the basis
of biased and fabricated misinformation, then so too can the military junta. It
is to be hoped that the Council, on reflection, will realise the extent of the injustice
which they have done to this ailing, aged and arbitrarily detained political
prisoner. This has not been their finest hour.
Message sent on 5 November 2023 to Brighton and Hove City Councillors who spoke at the Special Meeting on 19 October 2023
remarkable, indeed unprecedented, that a UK Government body, in this case the
Brighton and Hove City Council, should sanction a political prisoner, an elderly
lady of 78 years of age, whose younger son, Kim Aris, told Richard Lloyd Parry in an interview in the 'The Times Magazine' of 4 November 2023 that he fears he will never
see his mother again. Daw
Aung San Suu Kyi has been detained virtually incommunicado for over 30 months
in a cell house 5m x 8m (see satellite photo below) in a central Myanmar jail by a despotic military
regime condemned for its human rights abuses. The Australian academic and
economist Sean Turnell, who was a prisoner in the same jail for 650 days, has
promised to give a graphic description of her living conditions in his book “An
Unlikely Prisoner” to be released shortly. Her immediate
and unconditional release has been demanded by the UN General Assembly
in their Resolution of 14 June 2021 (Paragraph
The action taken
by the Council is callous and indefensible, for several Councillors were
informed of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s predicament by email on 17 October 2023, two
days before the Special Council meeting on 19 October 2023.
Myanmar Coup Two Years on: Neighbours' Pragmatism
Economist Intelligence - EIU 4 May 2023
- EIU does not expect outside actors to meaningfully alter the course of conflicts in Myanmar, given limited political and economic leverage over junta leaders and armed resistance, and the lack of a unified approach.
- Pragmatism underpins Myanmar's neighbours' approach to the country. China, Thailand and India will not rescind tacit support for the junta given practical concerns closer to home, such as border security and natural resources trade.
- Indonesia, the 2023 rotational chair of the Association of South‑East Asian Nations (ASEAN), has steered the bloc towards promoting dialogue. However, ASEAN's capacity to mediate conflicts is ultimately constrained by its institutional structure.
Violence and Belonging: Conflict, War and Insecurity in Arakan 1942-1952
SEATIDE : CRISEA : Silkworm Books - March 2023
Jacques Leider writes: "The decade from 1942 to 1952 was a period of abrupt political and social change in Burma’s province of Arakan. Power and political agency shifted and were redistributed in a context of warfare, transition from colonization to independence, and struggles for autonomy. Devastation, bloodshed, and rampant poverty were features of this troubled period where regionally dominant Buddhist and Muslim populations went through a process of increased self-awareness and a reshaping of ethnohistorical identification. The present chapter, a contribution to this volume on identity formation in Southeast Asia, looks at the interaction of multiple forms of violence with the consolidation of belonging. Violence and belonging were underpinned by the politics of community formation which persisted and hardened during the following decades, engendering new intercommunal strife."
Critique of the Allegations of Electoral Fraud made by the UEC
Derek Tonkin writes: The Union
Election Commission in Myanmar has presented no evidence of alleged election
fraud which they say was committed at the 8 November 2020 elections. There is a
world of difference between anomalies in the voter lists and the alleged criminal
exploitation of these anomalies by over 40% of those who actually voted. The
allegations defy common sense and are an insult to the Myanmar people.
Notes on progress towards Self-Government and Independence 1945-47
Derek Tonkin writes: The Notes examine appointments made to the Executive Councils formed on (a) 3 November 1945 by Governor Sir Reginald Dorman-Smith, and on (b) 28 September 1946 and (c) 20 July 1947 by Governor Sir Hubert Rance, as well as the latter's appointments to the Council of Ministers on (d) 1 August 1947. The Notes draw mainly on Professor Hugh Tinker's two-volume "Burma: The Struggle for Independence 1944-1948", reports in "The Times" of London and debates in the UK House of Commons.**