I am your host richard rjskow and joining us now is uh our friend um, and to talk about a topic that is uh, sadly not covered nearly enough in uh in the media uh, as so many topics or not. This is the ongoing tragedy of the rohingya and what what is now known as the nation of myanmar, simon villanus, is the executive director of the international campaign for the rohingya, and he joins us once again now. So, first of all, simon welcome back to the program. Thank you for having me, secondly, and um more to the business at hand. Am i right in feeling that the tragic situation of the rohingya has disappeared to a large extent for media coverage? Well, it has slipped somewhat out of the media, though it’s uh, no less serious. I mean the rohingya are still um the subject of an ongoing genocide uh by myanmar and as many people remember, there are well over a million rohingya refugees in bangladesh right now. So you have a situation where uh and for those who who may not know, i think most people do, but the rohingya are a muslim minority in what was once known as burma. A buddhist majority uh nation now called myanmar uh. There is a great deal of ethnic nationalism underway in myanmar. Of course correct me if you feel that anything i’m saying here is wrong and uh a horrific genocide has been ongoing against rohingya for years now.

As you say, more than a million uh are now refugees and i believe, perhaps as few as 600 000 remain in the country at this uh, their their uh home country of myanmar. At this point is that correct, that’s, correct. There are now more rohingya in bangladesh than uh. They remain in burma and you know as you as you described, uh the situation is one where you have a uh: a corrupt, unpopular uh, uh, ineffective, uh, uh military that’s. You know essentially ruled burma since a military coup in 1962 and like a lot of corrupt military dictatorships, uh they’ve uh, they claimed to be the uh champions of the country’s dominant ethnic group and dominant religion. In this which case uh in burma. We’Re talking about the majority uh ethnic burmans and uh and and buddhism, and so the military has used pervasive prejudice against the rohingya and against muslims in general to uh gain some modicum of popularity, particularly in the lead up to the uh elections in november. When again, there are, there are military, backed candidates, uh fighting it out against aung san tsuchi’s national league for democracy, and also a number of uh political parties, and one of the to me, simon bill, is one of the disappointments and for i think, a lot of People is that longsun tsukiki spent many years in lockdown and home arrest was considered. I hear a democratic hero for for her political views as well as political prisoner.

I believe she got the nobel peace prize and yet um has not chosen in any way to condemn forcefully condemn either the genocide or the mystery treatment before that of the rohingya minority or the karen christian minority. Is that right, that’s correct? I mean – and you know earlier this year, aung san tsuchi traveled to the hague, where she defended the myanmar army as it faced charges of genocide at the international court of justice and she sat there and she she led the defense of the myanmar military in. Despite the uh overwhelming evidence of uh the military’s war crimes, crimes against humanity and also um genocide against the rohingya, which we saw, you know really clearly when it came to a head in august of 2017. You know that was when over 700 000 rohingya were forced out of myanmar into bangladesh, and you saw at that same time, if i recall correctly, uh slaughters, burnings of villages ray, i mean generally the whole horrific palette of what uh. What genocides look like i mean it was extremely, as i recall, violent and inhumane right. Exactly i mean there was um, there was uh assaults and rapes of rohingya women. Villages were burned down and, after you know, a number of these uh rohingya villages, where they’ve driven out all of the inhabitants they’ve now been bulldozed and uh, and those areas that have been taken over by uh by new settlers. So you know we have a.

We have a situation where um we’ve we’ve had the most. You know recent eruption of genocide that we’ve seen for for over a decade, we’ve seen the the largest forced, uh uh. You know example of of of forcible relocation of refugees uh when it comes to the rohingya, and so you know, we’ve been at the international campaign to the hinga we’ve been working with a broad range of other groups, including amnesty international, including human rights watch refugees international To uh put pressure on myanmar in particular, put pressure on the myanmar military to uh to end this genocide of the rohingya and uh and uh. Put pressure on myanmar to create the conditions under which uh the rohingya refugees in bangladesh would want to uh return to burma, and you know when you talk to rohingya refugees in bangladesh, they’re very clear: they don’t want to return to burma uh unless uh they are Guarantees of safety from further acts of violence, they’re allowed to uh return to their old villages and homes and um, though they want to return as long as their their rights are restored, so they can uh. You know, vote in elections and participate in civic life. So you know, none of these conditions have been met so far but uh. You know we continue to put pressure on the burmese military and, in particular on the burmese military’s business empire, uh uh, in the form of sanctions and with boycotts in the form of a whole range of campaigns, and that that business empire extends to a great deal Of trade with the united states, as i understand that trade with, for example, the japanese beer manufacturer kieran, i believe uh.

So, although any form of sanctions could have a significant effort in uh relieving the suffering of the rohingya couldn’t, they indeed i mean they. By having such a large business empire, the the burmese military has created, um numerous targets for uh consumer pressure, shareholder pressure, media pressure, and so one of the campaigns we’ve we’ve been waging is focused on the japanese beverage giant kirin. That makes the kirin ishiban beer, but here in the united states they also own new belgium brewery, which makes the uh the uh the noted uh fat, tire beer, voodoo, ranger um. You know karen also owns a big chunk of the brooklyn brewery uh. They also own uh, four roses: bourbon uh based in kentucky – and so you know, the the company as a whole has been buying up craft brewers across the world, not just in the united states, but in the uk, in australia and new zealand and so we’ve been Actually been organizing lots of beer drinkers to boycott kieran and boycott to korean brands, and has been very effective in putting pressure on kieran to pull out of these joint ventures that they have with the burmese military, which um include two of the largest uh brewers inside Burma that’s interesting and um. Are there any other? Well, let me put it this way and again: we’re talking with simon villanus executive director of the international campaign for the rohingya. Are there any other things people should know or perhaps do in terms of boycotting? Should they boycott karen products at this point, should they write to kieran? Are there other brands that they should be uh aware of yeah? If you, if you go on our website for the uh international campaign for the rohingya um, the action that we have there is our petition to kiran um, which concludes a boycott of all of kieran’s brands.

We’Ve. All the the burmese military dominates, the the mining and trading of gems from burma, most notably rubies and also jade, and so we’ve been putting pressure on uh major major jewelers, including uh, the luxury jeweler harry winston, which is owned by swatch of switzerland um. Also the online jeweler, angara and um. You know we found in that on their online catalogues, uh examples of burmese, gems and we’ve been uh, organizing people to contact uh. These companies also post on their social media on their facebook accounts um to urge them to uh. Stop buying these uh these genocide, gems that uh profit, the myanmar military you’re, also uh assignment billiness uh you’re also, i believe, uh engage in a campaign of writing to the us government to declare this uh genocide against the rohingya. What it is, which is a genocide is that correct, that’s correct i mean the um, the u.s state department um. You know hired researchers to um investigate whether the the myanmar government’s trust is against the rohingya. Constitute you know, war crimes constitute crimes against humanity or constitute genocide, and the state department’s own investigation. Own report found that that this just does indeed constitute uh genocide and so we’ve been um. You know we launched a petition uh to uh call on uh secretary of state, mike pompeo pompeo, to reach a determination. This is this is in fact genocide against the rohingya and there’s been a lot of pressure in congress.

A group of four senators led by ed markey, have a uh bill in congress right now. That would direct the state department to make this genocide determination and to and to mobilize all the uh the efforts the u.s government can do in these cases to uh to end these kinds of mass trustees. And it seems to me that, beyond the very obvious moral uh clarion call to end this horrific treatment of the rohingya there’s, another principle of work here too, which is if one nation is allowed to commit a genocide against its own people, a minority group within it. Then it seems to me it creates the precedent within the international community that you can do that get away with it. Maintain your business relationships, your trade relationships, your diplomatic relationships that the world’s uh dominance power, the united states – will do nothing will shake his shoulder and look away. So it seems to me that not only to save lives and restore uh, a decency uh and to protect a vulnerable people must we do this, but it seems we. We also must do this because otherwise we’re uh we’re setting a precedent, that’s too horrific to consider when it comes to the future. Absolutely – and this is why we’ve we’ve come together with a variety of groups to form a coalition and campaign that we call no business with genocide and the what we do with the no business with genocide campaign is we’re.

Putting pressure on companies to adopt a policy that they will not do business with governments that engage in genocide or crimes against humanity and it’s it’s a starting point to put a broad range of media, consumer and shareholder pressure on on these companies. Um we work with a group of shareholders and chevron, which is uh the largest u.s investor in burma and has been for uh for over a couple of decades uh to pressure everyone to adopt this policy and, as a result of this pressure, you know chevron. Uh has publicly said that they’re raising human rights issues directly with the myanmar government, which is exactly uh the point of the campaign um and um and we’ve, also been using this campaign again to to go after the burmese military’s business interests. To make it very clear that um companies should not have as their business partner uh a military that’s currently on trial on charges of genocide at the international court of justice, uh and um. So that’s has been, you know, i think, very effective in in making the uh the burmese military’s uh business, uh interests, uh radioactive to a broad range of investors and now we’re we’re going after those uh companies that you know entered into the these business partnerships of The myanmar military um, you know before the uh, the august 2017 uh uh attacks against the rohingya and uh, and so we’re, going on we’re now going after existing business.

That didn’t mean my military does and since these generals i think, are uh profit personally from from these business interests is getting them where they live, so to speak so simon. Where can people go to find out more about your work and perhaps do something about this? Absolutely check out our website uh at the international campaign for the rohingya it’s at a rohingya, campaign.org and you’ll, find there you’ll find there the uh a link to the petition to kieran. If you sign that petition put in your email address, you’ll get on our email list and you’ll receive uh tailored actions of of uh actions. You can take whether it’s lobbying congress, whether it’s uh boycotting specific companies uh whether it’s uh uh uh, whether it’s, you know you know uh checking out. You know new uh new reports and uh and uh new interviews shed light and what’s going on in inside burma and what’s happening with the rohingya well it’s such important work simon. I thank you for doing that again. We’Ve been talking with simon villanus executive director of the international campaign for the rohingya uh. Thank you for all your efforts in this area and thanks for coming on the program, thanks for your time and we’ll, be right back after this, i am richard r.