Ex-US Diplomat: Ayatollah Khamenei’s statement on Myanmar entirely correct

Tasnim – An American author and former diplomat from Washington hailed Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei’s stance against some Islamic countries that are keeping silent on the massacre of Rohingya Muslims as “entirely correct”.

“My view of the statement by the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei is that he is entirely correct,” Michael Springmann, the former head of the American visa bureau in Saudi Arabia, said in an interview with the Tasnim News Agency.

“Islamic governments, indeed, all governments, ought to take immediate and substantive action against the merciless Burmese (Myanmarese) government,” he added.

J. Michael Springmann served in the US government as a diplomat with the State Department’s Foreign Service, with postings in Germany, India, and Saudi Arabia. He left federal service and currently practices law in the Washington, DC, area. Springmann’s works and interviews have been published in numerous foreign policy publications, including Covert Action Quarterly, Unclassified, Global Outlook, the Public Record, OpEdNews, Global Research and Foreign Policy Journal.

The following is the full text of the interview:

Tasnim: Myanmar’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has canceled her trip this month to the UN General Assembly (UNGA) as she faces mounting criticism over the systematic killings and displacements of Rohingya Muslims in the western Rakhine state. More than 400,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh to escape violence since August 25, according to the United Nations, an average of almost 20,000 a day. What is your assessment of the Aung San Suu Kyi’ decision not to attend the UNGA? She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. What’s the use of having a Nobel prize? Why does not she make an appropriate move to prevent the tragedy in her country?

Springmann: Aung San’s stated justification for avoiding UNGA, according to CNN, is “terrorism” and the  “possibilities of terrorist attacks” in Burma. She believes these necessitate her physical presence in her country. While this might be a valid excuse for a head of state or head of government for missing the General Assembly’s annual meeting, she is neither. Her official title is state counselor.

My assessment of her avoiding the world stage in New York City is that she fears two things: close, hard questioning of her failure to speak out against Burma’s treatment of the Rohingya; and the possibility of re-arrest should she openly and publicly oppose her government’s handling of them.

One high level assessment of Aung San’s performance, or lack thereof, came from Tom Malinowski, former US assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor. He asserted he’s “very sad” about Su Kyi’s response to the Rohingya crisis.

It is not inconceivable that Aung San fears reprisal from her government for speaking out against its policies toward the Rohingya.  After all, in the past, she spent 15 years under house arrest for opposing military rule of Burma.

But Aung San Su Kyi’s apparent volte-face on her Nobel Peace Prize is just another example of people who are awarded that lofty honor–and fail to perform in accordance with its principles. Henry Kissinger, the world’s oldest unindicted war criminal, received the prize in 1973–but continued the Vietnam War for another four years after the Paris Peace talks collapsed in 1968.

Barack H. Obama, former president of the US, also received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 for doing nothing more than being elected and talking about peace. He subsequently involved the United States in more wars against Arabs and Muslims than his two predecessors combined.

Tasnim: The Rohingya Muslims has long been a victim of systematic violence and religious discrimination. The members of the 1.1 million population in Rakhine state have limited rights and are classified as illegal immigrants rather than citizens. Reports of violence and massacre of the Rohingya Muslims have prompted international human rights groups to call for urgent foreign intervention. Many of the Muslims are living in makeshift camps in neighboring countries where there are not enough water or sanitation facilities for the growing number of refugees. What do you think about the ongoing tragedy in the Southeast Asian country?

Springmann: I am appalled at the ongoing tragedy in that unfortunate country. CNN says refugees are streaming across the border into Bangladesh at the rate of 20,000 a day. They assert apparently true tales of “murder, rape, and devastation” by the government of predominantly Buddhist Burma.

“Some have been injured by landmines they accuse Myanmar (Burma) of planting along the border, while others described people being tortured to death or burned alive.”

According to ABC news, “Families [are] fleeing with just the clothes on their backs; tearful children baring famished bellies; the able carrying the injured, the weak, the old…” There are already “65.6 million people forcibly displaced from their homes by war, violence, and persecution.” These, until recently, were mostly Syrians, Afghans, and Sudanese. Now, we’re having to count the Rohingya, a people stripped of their rights and listed as illegal aliens in their own country.  This is more than a little surprising since Burma is 88% Buddhist, a religion noted for its concept of karma.  As the Encyclopedia Britannica commented, “According to the doctrine, good conduct brings a pleasant and happy result and creates a tendency toward similar good acts, while bad conduct brings an evil result and creates a tendency toward similar evil acts.”

The Rohingya have faced persecution, oppression, and violence for decades. Today’s ethnic cleansing is nothing new. Their voting rights have been revoked and they have little access to basic health care and education.

Tasnim: Last Tuesday, Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei decried the muted response to the ongoing violence against Rohingya Muslims, urging the Islamic governments to take practical measures to force the “merciless” Myanmarese government to stop the persecution of Muslims. What is your take on that? Why are the international community and some Muslim countries keeping silent on the sufferings of Muslims in Myanmar? 

Springmann: My view of the statement by the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei is that he is entirely correct. Islamic governments, indeed, all governments, ought to take immediate and substantive action against the merciless Burmese (Myanmarese) government. There is no reason or need to persecute Muslims or any other people because of their religion or ethnicity.

I believe that the so-called international community, including some Muslim countries, are silent on the matter is because the Rohingya are a world away.  They are an obscure group in a mysterious part of the world. A good bit of the blame for this silence can be laid at the feet of the international news media. Now, after decades of Burma’s Buddhists persecuting the Rohingya Muslims, ABC, CNN, and other news organizations are just discovering the group. And, it’s likely only because 400,000 of them have poured across the Bangladeshi border.

Even the United Nations is just waking up to the situation. Its refugee agency has now become involved.  UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund) now asserts that the lack of pure water in refugee camps in Bangladesh places “children at high risk of water-borne disease. We have a monumental task ahead of us to protect these extremely vulnerable children.”

The Rohingya are no different than the millions of Arabs and Muslims being driven out of their homes and into Europe from the Middle East and North Africa by American policy.  It is just that they measure in the hundreds of thousands and not more than they are ignored.