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Selective Memory: The Curious Case of Dr. Win Myat Aye, NUG Minister
From Denial to Deflection to Downright Dubious
I present to you a quartet of tapes — each a testament to the enigmatic journey of Dr. Win Myat Aye, the NUG minister who recently “apologised” to the Rohingya. Each video offers a lens into the narrative of a man seemingly unable to deal with his role in the Rohingya genocide
1. Blame the Victims: The BBC Saga (2017) Our series starts with Dr. Win Myat Aye in an interview with the BBC. As if blaming the Rohingya for the burning of their own homes wasn't audacious enough, he makes a pointed correction to the interviewer: "The Muslim people. No Rohingya." With a straight face, he pins the blame on the very victims of the catastrophe, and in the same breath, denies their identity. Such statements are more than just bold; they place the onus squarely on the victims, while simultaneously erasing their identity. Click the video below (or see the full clip here).
2. Boris Bemused: In a revealing clip from Channel 4, we see Dr. Win Myat Aye conversing with the UK's then Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson. Challenged on the assertion that the Rohingya set fire to their own homes, Dr. Win Myat Aye doubles down. Later, Johnson remarked to Channel 4, "We had this farcical account that the villagers themselves had set light to their own homes." Even for Boris, no stranger to questionable remarks himself, this audacious claim by Dr. Win Myat Aye was just too outrageous. See the Channel 4 report here.
3. The PBS Paradox (2018): Journeying to 2018, we delve into PBS Frontline’s documentary, "Myanmar's Killing Fields," where an interview with Dr. Win Myat Aye stands out as an exemplar of selective amnesia. Dr. Win Myat Aye feigns ignorance of the grim specifics (read murder and mayhem) of the military operation. However, the accompanying footage tells another story. There he stands, shoulder to shoulder with frontline troops in Rakhine State during the height of the crisis (August 27th) – likely troops from the infamous 33rd or 99th Light Infantry Divisions, or perhaps both. Was it a lapse in memory of his journey or a convenient oversight of the company he was in?
4. The VOA Voyage (2023) Fast forward to 2023, in an interview with VOA (there is no video sadly), we encounter a new Dr. Win Myat Aye. The sharp edges of blame have softened into the rounded corners of collective responsibility. Gone is the individual; in its place, the ubiquitous "we". The minister distances himself from the fray, bundling responsibility with the wider civilian government.
By using the first-person plural, Dr. Win Myat Aye becomes a master of the artful dodge. The government failed, the "we" fell short — but the minister himself? He remains curiously absent from personal responsibility.
From 2017's staunch defence of the clearance operations to 2023's remorse-laden tales, Dr. Win Myat Aye's sudden pivot mirrors the classic flip-flopping of a seasoned opportunist. Is it an authentic change of heart, or just another sleight of hand in tune with global outcry and Myanmar's ever-shifting political quicksand?
Throughout his appearances, there's a common refrain: it was the military's shadow, their deception, their overwhelming influence. But as the PBS clip highlights, he wasn't merely an observer from afar; he was on the ground.
Dr. Win Myat Aye acknowledges the pain, the events, the government's stumbles. Yet, personal accountability remains elusive, like a mirage on the horizon. Why the reluctance to own up?
Nevertheless, the potency of acknowledgment in the quest for justice is undeniable. Figures like Tun Khin, President of the Burmese Rohingya Organisation United Kingdom (BROUK), acknowledge the progressive undertones in Dr. Win Myat Aye's apology (see between 3.53 minutes and 4.34 minutes). Tun Khin says that it hints at a vision for a more inclusive federal democracy that welcomes all of Burma's diverse populations. Tun Khin not only values the public recognition but also underscores the deeper importance of accountability. He further invites Dr. Win Myat Aye to testify at the ICJ, drawing attention to the minister's firsthand witnessing of the Myanmar military's crimes against the Rohingya.
Yet, as I have said, without a clear acceptance of personal responsibility, a looming cloud of doubt remains.
The evolving narrative of Dr. Win Myat Aye, as chronicled in these four interviews, offers a window into the complex dynamics at play in Myanmar. Although there are steps toward acknowledgment, the road to genuine reconciliation seems long and winding.
In all these interviews and public appearances, it's the voice of the Rohingya people that needs to ring the loudest. During Dr. Win Myat Aye's 2018 visit to the Rohingya camps in Bangladesh, the oppressed community sent a piercing message that speaks volumes more than any television appearance.
A banner prominently displayed by the Rohingya refugees read (see image at the top):
"Dr. Win Myat Aye: As a medical doctor who has taken the oath of 'First Do No Harm', you should be ashamed of yourself for defending the child murderers Myanmar Military, the rapists of Rohingya girls and women, and the throwers of ailing older persons and children into the fire while lying that we have burned our own houses."
This resounding message from the very victims of the atrocities serves as a stark reminder: The truth, no matter how deeply buried, will always find its way to the surface. Words are just words, but actions, memories, and the cries for justice from an entire persecuted community are undying echoes that no PR move can quell.
Here's hoping for a sequel where the NUG minister completes his journey towards full accountability.
Note re video usage: The videos featured in this article are utilised in accordance with 'fair use' principles. This allows for restricted usage of copyrighted content without needing consent from the copyright owners, intended for activities like commentary, critique, news coverage, research, education, or academic pursuits.