Saturday, the 9th of September
A historic shift is underway. Centuries of frustration and racial tensions between two groups in Myanmar are boiling over in horrendous fashion. The government is turning a Nelson's eye to the actions of roving Buddhist militias (yes, you read that right) as they ethnically cleanse Rakhine State by killing or driving out the resident Rohingya Muslim population. 

The latest violence was sparked by a Rohingya guerrilla attack on police stations in August. The response since then has been, in a word, asymmetrical. Tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims are trudging toward Bangladesh. A quarter of a million have left in the last fortnight alone. They must now navigate the scarred remains of torched villages and land mines laid by the government-backed militias.

As her people die in vast numbers, burned alive in their homes, gunned down while trying to escape, or drowned in overcrowded boats crossing the Naf River, you may well ask - how did this happen under the de facto leadership of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi?
Dying to leave: there's no turning back for the Rohingya.
The Rohingya count amongst the most persecuted groups on earth. Stateless in their own country, denied basic rights, forcibly displaced, and now massacred. Understandably, much of the recent coverage has focused on the atrocities in Rakhine State. But in order to really understand the situation, one must start by looking at why many in Myanmar believe that the recent events are a historical correction.

The Rohingya, a Muslim Indo-Aryan ethnic people, don't look, sound or pray like their neighbours the ethnically Arakanese Buddhists. Their migration into Myanmar has occurred over centuries. But when the region was subsumed by British India the pace of migration quickened and the new arrivals quickly became a useful labour force for British administrators. Soon the Rohingya were being associated with British rule and becoming the targets of anti-colonial animosity. 

Then the Second World War broke out, and this muddied the waters even further. Many locals actively supported Japanese efforts to dislodge the British. In fact, Japan even trained and armed Burmese insurgents to fight against British rule, including the revolutionary Aung San and his anti-colonial activists. And when the Japanese Imperial Army finally expelled the British from Myanmar (or Burma as it was then known) in 1942, they did so with the blessings of many Burmese, particularly the Rakhine people.

As a rearguard action the retreating British army decided to heavily arm the Rohingya - hoping to use them as a buffer between Japanese forces and the rest of India. What followed next is one of the least-known massacres of the 20th century. In 1942 Rakhine State witnessed an extraordinarily brutal campaign of inter-communal violence between the Rakhine and the Rohingya. Each, armed by a foreign empire, killed and displaced the other - by the tens of thousands. The best estimates suggest that at least 50,000 Rakhine and perhaps as many as 40,000 Rohingya were killed.

As the war turned and Allied forces gained the upper hand, Aung San switched allegiances. The storied revolutionary and activist had only one aim: to see a free and united Burma. He correctly calculated that British rule could not outlast the war by much. So in the shadow of the war he strove to unify Burma's patchwork of ethnic groups and eventually negotiated a British handover. But he never got to see his vision realised - Aung San was assassinated six months before Myanmar's independence, leaving behind a fractious country.

Today, his oldest surviving daughter Aung San Suu Kyi is a world-reknown leader and the winner of the 1991 peace prize for her non-violent protests in support of democracy. The state her father had tried to build had fallen in a coup in the 1960s ushering in a half-century of military rule. During bloody riots in 1988, Aung San Suu Kyi became a symbol of peaceful resistance. For her role she then spent 15 years under house arrest. But her popularity never dropped, and international pressure on the junta kept building. She was finally released in November 2010 and went on to lead her party to form a majority government in 2015. 

But the pro-democracy movement never did bring the Rohingya under its wing. In 1982 they were stripped of their right to citizenship, a move that meant they were now foreign infiltrators with a history of killing Burmese. The fact that some Rohingya have been waging a low-intensity insurgency against Naypyidaw (the capital of Myanmar) hasn't helped either. Perhaps this is why, to the dismay of her followers, Aung San Suu Kyi has responded to their persecution with silence, lies and equivocation. 

The disaster today is vast. Myanmar's Rohingya population numbers 1.1 million. Nearly half of them are crowded into refugee camps in Bangladesh. Any respite they get there will be a miracle since their new host country is inundated by floods and is too poor to feed even its own citizens. Now, the United Nations has been banned from sending either aid or observers to the conflict zone, further compounding the humanitarian crisis. And ASEAN is powerless to intervene. 

The outrage at Aung San Suu Kyi's abandonment of the Rohingya has been absolute. Columnists around the world have demanded that her Nobel prize be rescinded. Even Malala Yousafzai and Desmond Tutu have lined up to condemn her. But such commentary seeks low-hanging fruit. While we are not exonerating Suu Kyi for her lack of response, it is very apparent that the problem in Myanmar is not just about one person - no matter who she may be.
Irma tears through the Caribbean.
Hurricane Irma crushes St Martin - The strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic is on its way to Florida as we speak. Irma has broken records by maintaining wind speeds of 185mph (just shy of 300kmph) for 24 hours straight. It ripped power lines and trees out of the ground, flipped cars and crumpled homes.

Many of the small Caribbean islands that it visited have been laid low. Officials from Barbuda have reported that 95% of the residences have been either damaged or completely destroyed. One person died there and the island is now uninhabitable. St Martin fared just as poorly; the monster storm killed four and wounded another 60. Across the islands of Turks and Caicos the storm uprooted trees and collapsed roofs, but thankfully there have been no reported deaths. Half of Puerto Rico is without electricity. To make matters worse, another hurricane, Katia, is bearing down on it now. 

Cuba will bear the brunt of Irma but hopefully its extensive emergency plans will see it through the storm. The same cannot be said for Florida where half a million people are evacuating in a rush. Food and oil are running low. While Irma is expected to drop in intensity by the time it hits Key West, it is still likely to cause tens of billions of dollars in damage to the low-lying state.
Paolo Duterte and Manases Carpio give evidence.
Presidential embarrassment - Philippine strongman Rodrigo Duterte has built his presidency on a brutal crackdown against drug users and criminal elements. The official death toll stands at 3,800 dead but activists believe that it may be over 13,000. Exact figures are difficult due to the police habit of dumping bodies in Manila Bay. While many drug users and dealers have been gunned down, it's widely accepted that the president and his allies are using the war on drugs to disguise politically-motivated killings.

Now the spotlight has swung back on the president's own family. His oldest son Paolo Duterte and son-in-law Manases Carpio have been implicated in the trafficking of a $125m shipment of drugs from China. It's believed that Paolo Duterte, the vice-Mayor of Davao, helped a ship pass by customs officials in Manila. The allegations have incensed the country's opposition. The few outspoken critics of the president (who have not been threatened or killed) have seized the opportunity. It's yet to be seen whether they can land a telling blow. 
Trump courts McConnell, Schumer and Pelosi in a rare expansive mood.
  1. Tech CEOs opposed Trump's decision on DACA
  2. Trump sided with Dems on raising the debt ceiling
  3. Economic advisor Gary Cohn may be on thin ice
  4. Federal Reserve Vice Chair Fischer resigned
  5. Penniless, FEMA sent prayers to Florida
  6. FBI’s Wray sees no interference in Mueller probe
  7. Donald Trump Junior finally testified
  8. Trump offered to mediate the Gulf crisis
  9. The US settled the first Muslim ban lawsuit
  10. Putin said US and N Korea would not go to war
Worshippers climb Mount Arafat on the outskirts of Mecca.
A successful Hajj - Saudi Arabia allowed Iranian worshippers to take part in the annual pilgrimage to Mecca this year. (They were excluded last year amongst high tensions over the Yemen conflict). But Riyadh and Tehran have both expressed cautious optimism over future talks.

Going electric - Not to be outdone by Volvo, Jaguar-Land Rover have pledged to produce only electric cars by 2020. They've become just the latest major car company to enter the race to go fully electric. At this speed we're not sure whether internal combustion engines will keep getting a green light for much longer.
What happened to all the beaches?
Global sand deficiency - No joke, the world is running out of sand. We use quite a lot of it, especially in construction across south east Asia. In fact, Vietnam is actually on course to run out of building sand in the next few years. Ubiquitous, yes. Infinite, no.

Slippery slope - Cambodian strongman Hun Sen has taken his next step towards outright autocracy this week by jailing the country's opposition leader. The arrest of Kem Sokha on treason charges was ridiculed by the international community but the outcome is no laughing matter. It appears as though the government may completely bar the opposition from taking part in the 2018 elections.
Your weekend long read... An absolute ripper from the FT. Stem cell research is beyond the cognitive abilities of most people, but this article does an amazing job of explaining an extremely ambitious Japanese project with great clarity. 

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