BRUTAL PROFITABILITY IN MYANMAR

The problem in Arakan for the regime is the Rakhine, not the Rohingya. The Rohingya are what the regime is using to divert the growing hostility of the Rakhine; the majority population in a resource-rich state with the second-longest coastline in the country, who want to control their own natural resources, and who have a history of secessionist ambitions.

By redirecting their discontent away from the government, and towards the helpless Rohingya, the regime is delaying the inevitable uprising of the Rakhine Buddhists and creating a scenario in which full military occupation of the state can be eventually justified. The purpose of such an occupation, of course, will be to secure Yangon’s control of the resources in Arakan state, though the pretext will be to clamp down on ethnic and religious violence.

The same scenario should be expected in Kachin state as well.

An iron-fisted military policy is almost a requirement of Neoliberalism in the developing world.  Maintaining centralised control of all of a country’s resources is essential for the efficient collaboration between local and global elites; it is the only way the local ruling class can retain its power.  Under Neoliberalism, the level of poverty, exploitation and deprivation  is simply too inhumane to not result in popular opposition. Instituting a harsh military presence, particularly in economically valuable states, can preemptively subdue any potential uprising.  This is what is happening in Arakan state, and elsewhere.

According to the World Bank, Arakan is the poorest state in Myanmar, while it holds the country’s most sought after resource: natural gas. This is absolutely a recipe for conflict; indeed, for revolution.  It is crucial for the regime to establish total control; and the more brutally this control is established, the more confident investors will be.  The regime, in the mercenary mindset of global capitalism, is doing everything right.  Atrocities and human rights violations and military repression make investment in Myanmar more attractive, not less.

The horror in Arakan is fundamentally driven by economics; the ethnic and religious bigotries manifested by the conflict are simply modalities   This being the case, we are all, as consumers and workers, in a position to influence the course of this crisis.  While Western companies are still new to Myanmar, their presence is increasing, and the US alone is hoping to double its investment over the next 3 years.  Multinational corporations are managing the trajectory of policy in Myanmar, and these corporations are everywhere; they are wherever we are and we are wherever they are; we absolutely have the power to influence them.

If, through our activism and consumer choices, we express our disapproval for these companies’ collaboration with the regime in Yangon because of the regime’s brutality, CEOs and shareholders from across every industrial sector will reprimand the regime and force a policy change. As long as brutality is profitable, it will continue.  Making it unprofitable, therefore, is the task at hand; and no one can make it unprofitable except us.

The Economic Case for Human Rights

Imagine a scenario. You are walking along the street and you see a couple with a small child. A man comes up to the family and begins verbally abusing them. You do nothing. The man then becomes physically aggressive, slaps and punches the husband and father and knocks him to the ground. You do nothing. The man pulls out a knife. You do nothing. In front of your eyes, the attacker slits the other man’s throat and kills him. You still do nothing. The man takes the knife to the child, and you do nothing. He then attacks the woman, rapes and murders her while you just stand there. Now, obviously, this level of apathy and inaction would be contemptible. We might understand it if it was due to extreme fear or disorientation, but it would still be reprehensible. But let’s imagine that you weren’t afraid. In fact, let’s imagine that you are yourself a powerful, well-trained, experienced fighter with absolutely superior skills, who could easily have subdued the attacker; but you consciously chose not to do so.

Let’s imagine that the reason for your inaction was because you wanted to transact some sort of business with the man who was attacking the family, and you thought that if you intervened, you might lose this opportunity. Let that sink in. You made a deliberate decision to stand back and allow a horrific crime to take place, one which you had the power to prevent, because you wanted to do business with the attacker. In this type of scenario, I think we can all agree that you would be diagnosed as an extreme sociopath.

Well, this scenario is, in a nutshell, what is happening today with corporate power in states where human rights abuses are rampant. Tremendously powerful entities are standing back, saying nothing, doing nothing, even claiming that they have no responsibility to act, while atrocities are being committed in front of their eyes; all because they do not want to disrupt their existing or potential profitability. In some ways, indeed, they allow these atrocities to continue precisely because they may themselves create opportunities.

Any discussion about human rights is necessarily a discussion about the distribution and use of power. That should be self-evident. Advocating human rights means checking the abuse of power, and it means demanding a distribution of power; or at least demanding accountability of power; to ensure that people will be safe from oppression and persecution.

Well, we are living in an era in which extreme power is highly concentrated in the hands of very few people. It is concentrated in the hands of people who are not elected into power, and cannot be voted out of power. It is concentrated in the hands of people who exist beyond the pale of democratic accountability. And it is concentrated in the hands of people who are dedicated exclusively (and legally) to use their power to serve their own private interests.

In the context of this high concentration of private, unaccountable power, how can we campaign for human rights? It seems clear enough that the conventional method of merely lobbying governments or institutions like the United Nations has become obsolete. What amounts to a sort of reconfiguration of the old imperial model has emerged, with governments comprising a tier of management that is subordinate to corporate power. That is not to say that governments are irrelevant; far from it. They play a crucial role in the consolidation of power by corporations, and their enrichment. If you go down the list of the top companies on the Fortune 500 list, you will find very few that have succeeded without massive government subsidies and support. So government matters, but its primary function is as a subordinate instrument to private power.

We can lobby government, but we cannot equal the level of influence over policy wielded by multinationals. That is just a fact. Government is largely incapable at this point of defying corporate economic pressure. Again, we can look at Greece. We can, in fact, look at almost any military coup that has taken place in the last 50 or 60 years, anywhere in the world, and we will see that it was carried out under the auspices of big business, and for their interests. Consider Egypt, for instance. The overthrow of Mohammad Mursi was a Neoliberal coup, which was followed up by rapid and extreme capitulation with the demands of the International Monetary Fund, against the wishes of the population, and against their better interests.

The Anti-Globalisation movement of the 1990s and early 2000s fought against corporate influence over government. They wanted business out of politics. But this movement failed, and it was bound to fail. It is an unrealistic goal. Multinational corporations are not going away, and their power is not about to dissolve. We have to be practical about this. The transfer of power has happened, and it is simply not feasible to reverse it; at least not yet. We have to reconcile ourselves with the reality of a new set of power dynamics in the world today.

It seems to me that the only way forward is to address ourselves directly to corporate power. We have to lift the corporate veil, and expose to the light of day that corporations are political entities, and we have to deal with them as such. We do not have to abolish corporate influence (which, anyway, we can’t) we have to, in short, democratize corporate influence. This is going to be the only way, now and in the future, that we can successfully improve the state of human rights; indeed, it is the only way that we can re-establish any semblance of democracy.

So, how can this be possible? How can we impose accountability upon corporations? How can we lobby and persuade them to use their unparalleled influence for the greater good of society when they are legally and exclusively dedicated to the interests of no one except their shareholders? It seems to be an intractable conundrum. But it isn’t; not at all.

When you begin to recognize corporations as political entities, you also begin to realize that their stakeholders; their workers, their customers, and everyone impacted by them or who contributes in any way, directly or indirectly, to their profitability; are also political players. Just like voters, just like political parties, just like political action committees, and so on. We are all members of corporate constituencies. Rather than party affiliation, we offer brand loyalty. Rather than political insignias, we wear logos. Rather than campaign contributions, we offer consumer purchases. Everything we do, and everything they spend billions of dollars in advertising and marketing to make us do, empowers corporations to pursue their political agendas. We have the right to expect our interests to be reflected in how they use their power. Our consumption, our brand loyalty, our labor, should earn us the right to representation when these companies pursue political agendas, and we should have a say in what they do with the power we have given them.

#DumpDigi to stand with the Rohingya

The #WeAreAllRohingnyaNow Campaign has begun calling upon Malaysian customers of Digi to switch their service provider to any of the local companies in protest against Digi’s parent company Telenor over their stubborn silence on the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar, where Telenor is heavily invested.

The campaign has been reaching out to the Norwegian telecom company for months, encouraging them to follow the example of Unilever (which has also invested millions of dollars in Myanmar), to issue a public statement in support of UN recommendations for resolving the crisis, and calling for the protection of the Muslim minority. Unilever pledged a firm commitment and suffered no negative repercussions to its investments in the country, but Telenor has not only refused to take a public stand, but has rather adopted policies that seem to align with the divisive agenda of the regime; including an educational programme offered exclusively through Buddhist monastic schools.

Tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees have fled to Malaysia and the issue of Myanmar’s ethnic cleansing resonates deeply with the majority Muslim population, who perceive the persecution as being motivated by religious bigotry.

Telenor’s Digi subsidiary in Malaysia has become one of the main telecom providers in the country over the past several years, and many customers are unaware that Digi belongs to Telenor, and do not know about Telenor’s investments in Myanmar; so they have yet to make the connection between Digi and the ongoing strife in Rakhine state, and Telenor’s potential capacity to intervene. And the company surely hopes that Malaysians will never make that connection.

Telenor CEO Sigve Brekke himself acknowledged his company’s power recently when he shared an article on Twitter about the enormous impact of ‘Myanmar’s telecom revolution’, yet Telenor continues to refuse to utter a single word about the internationally recognized human rights abuses committed by the regime against the Rohingya.

If we want Telenor to change its stance on this issue, we have to change our stance on Telenor. Malaysian customers of Digi need to deliver a clear message to Telenor that they will choose a telecom company that reflects their values and that cares about the issues that matter to them. Local providers such as Maxis and Celcom do not have investments in Myanmar, and customers can opt for either of them, or indeed, for any of the other Digi competitors in Malaysia that do not seek profit through indifference to the suffering of their fellow Muslims.

Stand with the Rohingya and #DumpDigi today!

The Only Winning Business Strategy for Telenor Digi

Telenor’s company in Malaysia, Digi, has just released their report for the second financial quarter of 2017. Despite the expected spin the company attempts with the results, the numbers are grim. Revenues are down, net profit is down, share price is down, and shareholder dividends are the lowest they have ever been. Digi, and Telenor, are struggling to adapt to the Southeast Asian market, and they are floundering. We can debate the factors that have led to the decline of the business, but at the end of the day, there is only one conclusion: poor strategic management.

The #WeAreAllRohingyaNow Campaign has been reaching out to Telenor for months now, advising them that their stubborn silence on the issue of ethnic cleansing in Myanmar is alienating customers in Malaysia and throughout the region. We submit that any company must consider the mood of consumers, and respect their values and concerns. They must consider the impact their political stances (or lack thereof) have on their appeal in the market. Telenor seems to be determined to ignore this. Conventional financial advisors also tend to overlook public sentiment as a factor in evaluating the attractiveness of a company for investors. This is a serious mistake. Public opinion cannot be disregarded.

It can be argued, of course, that Telenor’s decline in Malaysia has nothing to do with the Rohingya issue; but that is missing the point. Telenor’s business in Malaysia IS in decline, and there is no sign of improvement. The first quarter of 2017 was worse than the first quarter of 2016; and the second quarter is even worse than the first quarter. Telenor is obligated to increase market share, revenues, profitability, share value, and dividends. They are failing to meet these obligations with what is becoming reliable consistency.

They need to do something to turn this around.

Their best option in this regard would be for them to tap into the broad public sentiment for the Rohingya issue. Whatever the cause of their decline; making a positive public statement in support of the Rohingya and for the implementation of UN recommendations could win them droves of new customers in Malaysia who would appreciate the company taking a moral stance that reflects their own concerns and values. The #WeAreAllRohingyaNow Campaign would gladly encourage the public to embrace Digi if Telenor issued such a statement.

No matter how you look at it, the only winning strategy for any company is to align itself with the issues their consumer constituency cares about. We sincerely advise and encourage Telenor to finally come out against the genocide in Myanmar, and endear themselves to consumers in the regional market so they can begin to find their way out of the downward spiral of dwindling profits that, otherwise, appears irreversible.

Market Morality: Telenor’s Silence Alienating Consumers

For Norwegian translation see below.

Telenor, I am sure Digi is a good service, consumers in Malaysia could probably benefit from it; but you have to appeal to this market through the issues that matter to the consumers, and you have to adopt the values they share; otherwise it doesn’t matter how great your service is, customers will abandon you; as they have been doing for months now.

The #WeAreAllRohingyaNow Campaign is not your enemy. We don’t want to see Telenor fail, as it is failing. But your silence on the Rohingya genocide is starting to look less and less like mere apathy, and more and more like collusion with the bigots and extremists among the government, military, and radical nationalists.

Your recent educational initiative based in monastic schools, excluding the Rohingya, is not the positive PR you hoped it would be; on the contrary, it makes your company appear to be fully aligned with the prejudice and discrimination that is tearing Arakan apart, making day to day life dangerous and miserable for religious minorities like the Rohingya, and undermining even the possibility of reconciliation and peace.

You have to understand that this has a massive impact on the attractiveness of your brand to regional consumers. And it will only get worse the longer you stay silent. Customers have choices, and they are increasingly making their choices on the basis of how companies behave, not just on the quality and cost of the goods and services they provide.

Telenor needs to get ahead of the curve and adapt to this new dynamic in consumer decision-making. It is no longer possible for companies to stay aloof from politics; the market rule of supply and demand is starting to include demand for the moral exercise of corporate power. We want more from you than what you manufacture or provide.

Moral i markedet, Telenors stillhet gjør at kundegrupper tar avstand fra dem

Telenor, jeg er sikker på at Digi er en god tjeneste, forbrukere i Malaysia kunne nok ha nytte av den; Men du må appellere til dette markedet gjennom problemene som er viktige for forbrukerne, og du må adoptere verdiene de deler; Ellers spiller det ingen rolle hvor bra din tjeneste er, kundene vil forlate deg; Som de har gjort i flere måneder nå. -kampanjen er ikke din fiende. Vi ønsker ikke å se Telenor mislykkes. Men stillheten deres angående folkemordet i Rohingya begynner å se mindre og mindre ut som bare apati, og mer og mer som samspill med de fordumsfulle og ekstremister i regjeringen, militæret og radikale nasjonalister. Ditt siste pedagogiske initiativ basert på klosterskoler, ekskluderer Rohingyaene, og er ikke det positive PR dere håpet det ville være; Tvert imot ser det ut til at firmaet ser ut til å være helt i samsvar med fordommer og diskriminering som slår Arakan fra hverandre, noe som gjør livet til livsfarlig og elendig for religiøse minoriteter som Rohingya, og undergraver selv muligheten for forsoning og fred. Du må forstå at dette har en stor innvirkning på merkevarenes attraktivitet for regionale forbrukere. Og det blir bare verre jo lengre du blir stille. Kunder har valg, og de gjør i økende grad sine valg på grunnlag av hvordan bedrifter oppfører seg, ikke bare på kvaliteten og kostnaden av de varer og tjenester de tilbyr. Telenor trenger å komme i forkant avutviklingen og tilpasse seg denne nye dynamikken i beslutningsprosesser for forbrukerne. Det er ikke lenger mulig for bedrifter å holde seg utenfor politikken; Markedsregelen for tilbud og etterspørsel begynner å inkludere etterspørsel etter den moralske utøvelsen av bedriftskraft. Vi vil ha mer fra dere enn det dere produserer eller tilbyr.

Telenor’s Failing Strategy of Silence

The #WeAreAllRohingyaNow Campaign has been reaching out to Norwegian telecom company Telenor for several weeks now, encouraging them to stand with companies like Unilever against the ongoing genocide of the Rohingya in Myanmar, and to support the implementation of United Nations recommendations, including the restoration of Rohingya citizenship.

Telenor has invested over a billion and a half dollars in Myanmar and has more than 80,000 points of sale across the country, with plans for further expansion.  They are a company with considerable influence in Myanmar.

Telenor has publicly supported UN goals on reducing inequality and they promote an image of themselves as a “socially responsible” and culturally sensitive company. However, direct correspondence with Telenor CEO Sigve Brekke has gone unanswered, social media activists have been temporarily blocked from executives’ Twitter accounts, and even though the Telenor hashtag is now dominated by messages encouraging the company to take a moral stand against the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya, and these messages experience far greater interaction than anything posted by Telenor themselves, the company remains unresponsive.

It appears that their marketing department believes all they have to do to win customers in the region is to regularly tweet about cricket matches and announce special promotions; but that they do not have to extricate themselves from the growing perception that they are a company complicit in the crimes being committed against the Rohingya by the Myanmar government on a daily basis.

But a company cannot claim to be socially responsible while simultaneously being unresponsive to the concerns of the society.  We have been urging Telenor to understand that consumers in the Southeast Asian region care deeply about the Rohingya issue, and that their market choices are going to reflect this concern.  Silence in the face of genocide is not only immoral; it is an extremely bad business strategy in a region where the public cares about the issue.

Telenor’s most recent quarterly report substantiates this.  Subscribers in Malaysia for Telenor’s Digi service have been switching to other providers by the hundreds of thousands.  The company’s profits in Malaysia have fallen nearly $100 million below projections.  Stock traders have downgraded the value of Telenor’s  appeal and are anticipating turbulence in the company’s share price.  This is partly due to European Commission allegations that Telenor is guilty of anti-competition practices, but of course, it is also due to the dramatic deterioration of their market share in this region and their subsequent failure to meet profit goals.

Telenor’s silence on the Rohingya genocide is stigmatizing the company in Southeast Asia.  This is the Catch-22 situation for any company that has chosen to use Myanmar as a launching platform for penetrating the regional market.  They invest in Myanmar so they can access customers in the region, but by being in Myanmar, they are alienating those customers, because of the actions of the government.  The only solution to this Catch-22 conundrum, the only way they can make their investments in Myanmar pay off, is if they decide to use the leverage their investments give them to press for a political resolution to the issue.  There is nothing Telenor could possibly do that would win them more customer loyalty and appreciation in the region than this.

The #WeAreAllRohingyaNow Campaign has no animosity towards Telenor or any other multinational corporation invested in Myanmar; and we want to see them succeed.  They can improve the quality of goods and services, create jobs, and enhance the standard of living for the whole population.   But, in order for that to actually happen, it simply cannot be at the expense of the lives of over a million innocent Rohingya.  If Telenor embraces the values held by consumers in this region, consumers in this region will embrace Telenor.  If they ignore our concerns, the market will continue to turn away from them.

It is that simple.

Telenor’s PR Quagmire

The #WeAreAllRohingyaNow Campaign has been reaching out to Norwegian telecom company Telenor for several weeks.  Their Twitter and Facebook hashtags are now dominated by messages from human rights activists calling upon them to take a public stand to support the Rohingya, and no tweets on the #telenor hashtag experience interaction more than these.  At one point, Telenor’s Head of Sustainability, which falls under the section of Social Responsibility, actually blocked social media activists from her account; not exactly the best way to express respect for public concerns.

The company is descending into a PR pit both internationally and domestically.  Aside from the growing negative sentiment over the Telenor’s silence on the Rohingya issue, Telenor is facing an investigation into its corporate policies. The European Commission raided Telenor’s office in Sweden amidst accusations of anti-competitive practices.  Telenor has responded by pointing fingers at Swedish telecoms.  The company appears to have a somewhat dysfunctional PR approach to handling controversy.

Whoever is advising Telenor on its marketing strategy is severely miscalculating the gravity of the Rohingya issue.  We are not talking about a labour dispute; we are not talking about a complaint about where a mobile phone tower is being built.  We are talking about the systematic, brutal ethnic cleansing of an entire population, that has been meticulously documented, reported by the international press, and spurred numerous United Nations investigations, resolutions, and investigations.  Myanmar is ranked the third highest risk country in the world for erupting into a full-blown genocide; and Telenor is burying its head in the sand.  Instead of addressing the serious concerns of the consumers in the Southeast Asian market, they are tweeting about cricket matches.  “Asians love cricket, let’s show we are culturally aware”…can you get any more dismissive and obnoxious than that?  Do Telenor executives really think this is a good PR approach?  Is the marketing department being run by first year interns?

Just within the past couple weeks, reports continue to flood in about the deliberate use of sexual violence, gang rape, mutilation, murder of men, women, children, infants and the elderly, by the Myanmar security forces; Nazi flags were being waved on the traditional new year, arbitrary detentions occur daily, Buddhist extremists set fire to a mosque with protection by the police; Arakan state is deteriorating into a hellish chaos of violence, hatred, terror, and radicalism, all with active state coordination, in a country where Telenor has invested over a billion and a half dollars and wields significant influence.

Every day that they choose to ignore the atrocities and the pleas of activists from across the region to take a stand, they are in fact taking a stand in support of genocide by their approving silence.

Will Ooredoo, the Qatar-based telecom be as complacent about the slaughter of their fellow Muslims, and be as dismissive about the sympathetic sentiments of the region? Telenor needs to consider that they have a limited window of opportunity to take the lead in adopting a moral position on the Rohingya issue before they lose the market, their reputation, and earn the contempt of history for their indifference.

In Pursuit of Long-term Victory

In the real world, most opponents in a fight are mismatched; the powerful against the powerless. Therefore, you should not engage them on their terms, but on yours. Fight them according to their weaknesses, not their strengths. And, of course, do whatever you can to gain leverage to amplify whatever strength you have.

This is the basic concept behind the strategy of the #WeAreAllRohingyaNow Campaign. The weak point for the Myanmar government is the economy; their need for foreign investment and development; and it is through multinational corporations that we can leverage the strength we have to ultimately bring an end to the genocide and to restore the citizenship of the Rohingya. We do not have the power to go toe-to-toe with the Myanmar army, or the government (and indeed, this would also mean going to-to-toe with most of the population); that is a losing strategy. Corporations have the power to do this, however, and we do have power over corporations; if we choose to use it.

Some have asked “what are you going to do if companies refuse to comply with your demands? Are you going to do more than merely ‘tease’ them periodically on social media?”

Well, first of all, it has to be understood that companies spend a considerable amount of money to promote their images on social media. This has become an essential element in their overall business strategy, and it can literally affect their share values if investors perceive that a company is facing any potential public backlash. So, “teasing” is a naively dismissive word for social media campaigning.

As we have stated previously during our outreach to Unilever, #WeAreAllRohingyaNow is adhering to a long-term, multi-stage strategy. We are committed to keeping our campaigns positive and constructive. We fully believe that taking a moral stand against the Rohingya genocide is truly the best thing any company can do, both in the region, and globally, for their own business interests, and we sincerely want to help companies realise this.

We have cultivated, are cultivating, and are in the process of organising grassroots support among regional consumers, as well as among international activists and organisations; and we have the capacity to escalate our outreach with organised consumer activity, either through purchasing or suspension of purchasing campaigns; and we do not rule out mobilising direct action if or when it becomes necessary.

The first stage of this effort is the recruitment of public support from major multinationals (ideally, those with significant investments in Myanmar and the region); this will have a ripple effect throughout the international business community, media coverage, public perceptions of the , and influence even the policies of state actors. From that point, we can move to a more proactive campaign, once the issue has the public backing of major institutions of private power; and we have plans in place for this.

We ask all those who are concerned about the plight of the Rohingya to lend their support to this gradual, but insha’Allah, effective strategy, and to persevere patiently and persistently to ensure that each stage of the campaign will be successful. The more people participate, the faster we can get results.

The Usefulness of Conflict

Recently I had a conversation with a renowned expert in humanitarian relief and conflict resolution regarding ethnic cleansing in Myanmar against the Rohingya Muslims, and I expressed my concerns that the US might potentially back the fledgling militant group “The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army” (ARSA). She disagreed, saying that the US had been very supportive of the Rohingya; they had welcomed refugees (before Trump), and had convened a Security Council meeting at the United Nations on the issue, facilitated relief work, and so on. What was interesting to me about this was that she believed these actions by the US precluded the likelihood of American covert support for ARSA, whereas I do not see the slightest contradiction between US expressions of concern for the plight of the Rohingya and their simultaneous exacerbation of that plight. But then again, I am American. The US does that kind of thing all the time.

The US, let’s be clear, promotes democratic facades, not democracy. When the façade is flimsy, they criticize, and offer dictatorial regimes the necessary marketing strategies to obscure their authoritarian tendencies. Hold elections; talk about “transitions to democracy”, cultivating pluralism, and so on. Meanwhile, they will simultaneously facilitate the intensification of repression. Remember, American foreign policy is exclusively dedicated to securing the perceived “national interests”, and this translates to the interests of business. No regime is better suited for doing that than an authoritarian one; preferably a corrupt military government. The ideal situation is for any country to be ruled by an unscrupulous group of local elites who are ready and willing to collaborate with global elites to deliver their country’s resources in exchange for a percentage and a guarantee of immunity.

One of the best mechanisms for camouflaging the fact that a client regime is tyrannical and not even slightly interested in democratic reforms (which no one in power really wants anyway), is the creation of, or the encouragement of, internal conflict. A military government can then impose brutal crackdowns in the name of securing peace and tranquility; while the actual objectives are the subjugation of popular dissent, the prevention of democracy, and the ruthless protection of vital business interests for themselves and their global sponsors. It is understood that the sponsors will occasionally reprimand the regime for particularly egregious atrocities, but these reprimands will be hollow, and the regime is allowed to ignore them. In fact, they are essentially part of the mechanism required to enable the regime to continue, as they serve to abate any public pressure on the international community to actively intervene. They are permissive condemnations, and everyone involved understands this.

In Myanmar, the central government’s real problem is the Rakhine, not the Rohingya. The Rakhine are an ethnic minority living in a resource-rich, and strategically important state, who have a history of secessionist ambitions. They are oppressed, exploited, and impoverished, and if they rose against the government, it would be a lethal blow to the Burmese. As long as their resentment and hostility are directed against the helpless Rohingya, the regime is secure. Internal conflict in Arakan, therefore, is useful to everyone who matters. The Rohingya, however, may need to be slightly less helpless in order for this conflict to be sustainable. Hence, it is entirely possible that the US will covertly, with the help of conduits in the Gulf States, try to foster a semi-viable militant movement in Arakan; and probably is already doing so. And this is entirely for the purpose of supporting the central government, increasing US ties to the Burmese military, and previous expressions of support for the Rohingya do not contradict with this strategy at all, but rather align with it.