In an interview with Shia Followers, Tim King, a former U.S. Marine, said “The goal of those who sponsor terror against the Rohingya is to achieve a Buddhist-only nation.”
“Islamophobia is key to keep the more ignorant and less violent aspects of Myanmar’s population remain sufficiently angry about the Muslim population, even though they tend to understand very little about the Muslim people,” he added.
Following is the full transcript of the interview:
Some would argue that the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar is a result of the global powers’ greed to control the region. What’s your take?
Tim King: The interesting thing about Burma/Myanmar is that until recent years, it truly has been protected from outside exploitation as a military junta. I know U.S. corporate interests have long had their eye on it, the virgin region must whet the appetite of those hungry to take advantage of unspoiled land. Hillary Clinton, then Secretary of State, was actually visiting the country in the early stages of the Genocide against Rohingya people.
I think global powers are always looking for new opportunities, but I believe Myanmar is as anxious to exploit as the outside interests.
Does the conflict have any specific beneficiaries?
Tim King: I suppose among the Rakhine Buddhists, those of a violent nature benefit, particularly the followers of Wirathu and the 969 movement. As the people they target die, they benefit by sheer numbers as the tragedy worsens. As the human catastrophe surrounding Rohingya Muslims mounts, more land that was in the hands of Rohingya people, for long periods of time in many cases, falls into the hands of the ethnic cleansing Buddhists.
The conflict has seen the massive destruction of mosques and other places of worship, the effort to build a nation of one single religion, Buddhism in this case, greatly benefits from the destruction of Muslim places of worship. In some cases, mosques were burned down with children inside who were blocked from escaping fiery death.
What’s the role of racism and Islamophobia in the humanitarian catastrophe in Myanmar?
Tim King: Racism is the core issue as Rohingya Muslims were long ago identified by the United Nations as, “The most persecuted people in the world,” a title easy to understand for anyone who examines the magnitude of the suffering of Rohingya Muslims in this Asian country.
Even though many Rohingya people have demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that their ancestry dates back hundreds of years in Burma, the title, “illegal immigrant” is used to describe these indigenous people who are targeted for simply being members of the “wrong” religion and culture.
The goal of those who sponsor terror against the Rohingya is to achieve a Buddhist-only nation. Islamophobia is key to keep the more ignorant and less violent aspects of Myanmar’s population remain sufficiently angry about the Muslim population, even though they tend to understand very little about the Muslim people.
As you said, the Rohingya are sometimes referred to as immigrants from Bangladesh who entered the country illegally. Could you elaborate on this point?
Tim King: This goes back for a number of years, the fact that these natural born citizens of Burma/Myanmar are regarded this way is part of the dehumanization process that the Rakhine Buddhist religious leaders rely upon to further remove them from Myanmar. They borrow the word and the move itself from hateful Americans who rally against immigrants moving to the U.S. Claiming that people do not belong in a certain place and denying their basic human rights, even though they were born there, is a system that exists completely outside of international law.
How has the conflict in Myanmar changed since the rise of Aung San Suu Kyi? What role is she playing in this regard?
Tim King: All of us who care about this community have lost our respect for Aung San Suu Kyi, who so many believed was a representative of peace. Her position toward the Rohingya is void of truth and understanding.
In a 2012 article I wrote titled, Aung San Shoot Thee? (www.salem-news.com/articles/november032012/aung-san-shoot-tk.php) I wrote of this so-called political leader, “One after another in this life, I watch my heroes show their true colors, and they are often saturated in bloody tones of red. I think that when we lose faith in the superstar peace brokers like Aung San Suu Kyi we might be losing it for good.”
How relevant is Islam or what the Burmese government describes as “Islamic terrorists” in this conflict? Is the conflict rooted in religious difference between Muslims and Buddhists?
Tim King: The conflict is rooted in Genocide versus survival. For many years under a more intense military/political rule, people didn’t walk around murdering their neighbors the way they today. In past years, many of the people the government targeted were peaceful Buddhists. It is as an ally of the U.S., as a supposedly reformed nation, that the violence has blown up, endless murder, villages being burned and razed, women and girls being sexually attacked. Then there are the machete crimes, where Buddhists roam the countryside on mopeds looking for Muslim people to attack; people whose limbs will be chopped off in the name of Buddhist conquest.
Over the years, armed conflict has been discussed, but to me this would be the farthest thing from Islamic terrorism, as it would simply be a matter of people trying to survive. In the case of the Rohingya in Burma, or the Tamils in Sri Lanka, or the Palestinians in Israel, armed conflict is almost always a last resort, it is inevitably labeled as “terrorism” but it is a result of what happens when minority groups are exploited beyond the boiling point.
Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native has served as Salem-News.com’s Executive News Editor. Tim spent the winter of 2006/07 covering the war in Afghanistan, and he was in Iraq over the summer of 2008, reporting from the war while embedded with both the U.S. Army and the Marines. Tim holds numerous awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing, including the Oregon AP Award for Spot News Photographer of the Year (2004), first place Electronic Media Award in Spot News, Las Vegas, (1998), Oregon AP Cooperation Award (1991); and several others including the 2005 Red Cross Good Neighborhood Award for reporting.