In the Telegraph, John Simpson, a journalist since 1966 with the BBC, and its World Affairs editor since 1988, upon whom all sorts of awards have been lavished, writes a more-in-sorrow article about Aung San Suu Kyi. What interested me was not his denunciation of her, or his complete disregard of how the Buddhists in Myanmar see the threat of Islam, but a statement he made about how, during World War II, the Rohingya had fought the Japanese. This of course puts them in a good light. But what actually happened is that the retreating British forces gave weapons to the Rohingya, on the assumption — or perhaps the promise — that they would use them against the Japanese. They did not. Instead, they used the weapons in 1942 to massacre tens of thousands of Buddhists, members of the Rakhine ethnic group, in Northern Rakhine State. The Buddhists then retaliated, and thus began decades of inter-communal, and intermittent, violence.
Despite fifty years as journalist specializing in foreign affairs, apparently John Simpson could not be bothered to find this out, though a minute’s googling would have produced that information. He was determined to denounce Aung San Suu Kyi, taking her to task for her refusal to say exactly what the U.N., and the O.I.C., and the BBC, and John Simpson himself, thought she should say. Her failure to condemn her fellow Buddhists outright, because she knew their history of conflict with the Rohingya, including that 1942 massacre, and the repeated attempts of the Rohingya to join the Northern Rakhine State to Pakistan, beginning in 1946 with an approach made to Mohammed Ali Jinnah even before Partition, and because she understood the Buddhists’ fears of the seeming unstoppable Muslim presence in Europe, and their long memories of how Islam effaced Buddhism in India — all this was beyond Simpson’s knowledge or understanding or sympathy. His mind was made up: Aung San Suu Kyi could only be either a prisoner of the Burmese military or a “monster.” Nuance is not John Simpson’s strong suit.
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