Old Blighty

It would be wise to study Burmese history, particularly the period of British Colonial rule and World War II, rather than circulating articles about Rohingya fighting for the British during World War II and invoking it as a special relationship.

Myanmar’s 70 year-long civil war between its various ethnic groups and the government stems in large part from British policies prior to independence.

British policies encouraging Indian migration into the Arakan region and later arming the Muslims to create a buffer zone against the invading Japanese army (or rather the native groups allied with them and others) sowed seeds of resentment that has lasted decades.

Against this background, what can British intervention achieve, other than further strengthen local suspicions that the Muslims are a proxy in an imperial game of divide and conquer, exasperating decades-old tensions?

Myanmar’s political landscape is of course vastly more complex than the legacy of British policies. There were periods when the Rohingya enjoyed stability and representation in government. But the nationalist mythology fostered by the military during its long and brutal rule included the sentiment that the Burmese people were victims of British imperialism, and those that allied with the British were aliens and traitors.

Hence the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army is viewed not as a liberation front, defending its people against government brutality, but as a well-armed separatist group funded and supported by foreign powers.

Unfortunately in the age of the internet when unverified information, propaganda and lies are so prevalent (and high speed Internet access is now commonplace in Myanmar), these old legends are given new urgency and force, resulting in an upsurge in violence and communal tensions.

Sadly Myanmar’s 70 year long civil war shows no sign of abating, as it rages on in several states, with thousands dead and hundreds of thousands displaced.

It is a tragedy of epic proportions that needs a solution, but I am not sure that invoking myths of a special relationship with the British will help, whatever it’s post-Brexit Empire 2.0 pretensions.

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