‘Myanmar’s Killing Fields’ is a horrifying look at ethnic cleansing

The phrase “man’s inhumanity to man” is oft traced to a Robert Burns poem, but, leaving the man/woman issue aside for the nonce, one of the leading current examples of inhumanity stems from Myanmar, which is led by not only a woman but a Nobel laureate. I refer to the persecution/ethnic cleansing/mass slaughter of the Rohingya of Myanmar, despite the fact that Myanmar is presided over by Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, who is implicated in the crime.

The latest revelations about this crime against humanity is the subject of a documentary, “Myanmar’s Killing Fields,” that premieres tonight at 9 on PBS (KTCA-Channel 2 in the Twin Cities) as part of the great “Frontline” series.

The details the emerge from the film, which I’ve previewed, certainly do nothing to restore Suu Kyi’s halo. It is a smart, tough overview of the Rohingya persecution and slaughter, so tough that I would not recommend watching it with small children or a soft heart.

The Rohingya are a mostly Muslim ethnic/religious minority in mostly Buddhist Myanmar (which westerners used to call Burma). Apparently, according to the film, the fashionable position among apologists for this slaughter is the nonsensical claim that there is no such thing as the Rohingya.

This claim, made by several in the film, is a way of suggesting that Myanmar cannot have been slaughtering or ethnic cleansing the Rohingya people because there are no such people. According to the denialists, the dead bodies of women and children are the result of Myanmar’s struggle to fight terrorism.

Before the ethnic cleansing that occurred starting in 2016, an estimated 1 million Rohingya lived in Burma. Many have been slaughtered and many more have fled, mostly to Bangladesh. The U.N. estimates that more than 600,000 have fled Myanmar.

A “Frontline” film crew made it to the scene of some of the massacres and spoke to survivors. They heard of live children, ages 3-5, being torn from the arms of their parents or grandparents and thrown into burning buildings (that the attackers had set on fire).

The film contains many disturbing images of survivors, many very graphic descriptions of brutality meted out to Rohingya, a lot of testimony about soldiers raping Rohingya women.

“This is ISIS-like stuff,” says Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the United Nations high commissioner for refugees, who cites evidence of Rohingya children aged 5 or 6, found with their throats cut. He calls the overall operation a “classic case of ethnic cleansing.” He calls the various bizarre innocent explanations by Myanmar officials “utter rubbish.” On camera, he urges Aung San Suu Kyi to “let us in. What are you hiding?”

Yanghee Lee, who was appointed U.N. special rapporteur for Myanmar, directly demanded of President Aung San Suu Kyi access to the places in Myanmar where the slaughters occurred.  to which, Lee says, the Nobel peace laureate told her: “If you continue to take the U.N. line, you won’t get access.”

Bill Richardson, the former U.S. congressman who served as U.N. ambassador during the Clinton administration, became friendly to Aung San Suu Kyi during her heroic rise as a human rights crusader. He visited his old friend and tried to discuss the Rohingya with her, and she simply repeated the party line, denying that anything bad was happening. After the visit, he told “Frontline,” of his old friend:

“She had gone from being a human rights heroine, a beacon of democracy, to a politician who wants to cater the military, wants the military to support her; she wants to be re-elected. She likes the seat of power. She is walling herself off from reality.”

The documentary is a horrifying and heartbreaking testimony to man’s inhumanity to man.

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Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Misty Martin on 05/08/2018 - 10:28 am.

    So horribly, unbearably tragic.

    Since I am of the “soft heart” variety that you spoke of, Eric, I believe I will skip this documentary. My son has described me as an “empath” who feels others’ hurts much more severely than other people sometimes do, but seriously, something needs to be done for these people and soon.

    This is akin to the article I read recently by Nicholas Kristoff of The New York Times, entitled “Me Too Goes Global” and it involved the multiple rape and murder of a little 9 year old girl, named Asifa Bano, in northern India, by extremist Hindus who were trying to send a message to a minority Muslim community. It was so sad, and as of late, I do not believe that justice has been served in this case, though there are those who are actively seeking it for this little girl’s sake, whose life was violently snuffed out too soon and too tragically.

    Still, we need documentaries like “Myanmar’s Killing Fields” to alert the Christians and others in our American society that something needs to be done to aid these desperate people, and we need to make our politicians aware of their plight. Perhaps we need to focus less on our present POTUS’ obvious lies, etc., and more on human rights in other areas of the world. It has to start somewhere.

    Thank you, Eric, as always for continuing to enlighten your readers to the truth, harsh though it may be.

  2. Submitted by Misty Martin on 05/08/2018 - 11:57 am.

    A correction on the above comment of mine. I made an error.

    The little girl that I referred to earlier, whom Nicholas Kristoff of The New York Times, wrote about in his article, “Me Too Goes Global” was eight years old, not nine, when she was raped and murdered.
    Innocence snuffed out in a horrible, tragic way, just like the Rohingya people of whom you wrote about in the documentary to be aired tonight, who have been heartlessly and shamefully slaughtered in what amounts to ethnic cleansing.

    I pray that tonight’s documentary will bring about these people’s deliverance from some source, somewhere from this intolerable, horrifying situation. Could the United Nations step in and help?

  3. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 05/08/2018 - 03:09 pm.

    Suu Kyi

    There’s a good OpEd with some context in today’s NYT:

  4. Submitted by Pat Terry on 05/08/2018 - 11:35 pm.

    Human history

    Is basically a 10,000 year crapshow. War. Genocide. Starvation. There are occasionally brief periods of enlightenment and then its back to normal.

    Never again? More like again and again and again. I’ll never understand how people have the capacity for such cruelty, but they always have and probably always will.

  5. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 05/09/2018 - 08:29 am.

    Religion + politics + limited resources + target group = ethnic cleansing

    A very old recipe that still works today.

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