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tv   Al Jazeera Investigates  Al Jazeera  November 1, 2015 9:00pm-10:01pm EST

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for workers, he says, is repairing machines. thank you for join us, i'll be back with another hour of news. stay tuned for "al jazeera investigates." next. next. this is a film about neighbors who'd lived alongside each other for generations. it's an investigation into why they starting killing each other
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- in the name of religion. it's about events in myanmar, once known as burma. the majority are buddhist and burmese. but myanmar is a union of more than a hundred ethnic peoples -and has a large muslim minority. the military ruled for more than half a century, myanmar was cut off from the outside world. the generals then announced a plan to release political prisoners and call elections. my name is phil rees. in this film, we discover how former military leaders - who claim to be ushering in democracy - are in fact preserving their grip on power - by triggering violence between buddhists and muslims.
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over the past year, al jazeera's investigative unit has obtained a cache of confidential documents. >> this document here could potentially incite widespread violence against the muslim population. >> so the phrase basically means? >> "dirty stinky muslims. it's just a hate speech". the most prominent victims of government policies are the rohingya, who live in western myanmar. their plight has sparked accusations that the regime is intent on destroying them as a people. we have shared our evidence with the international state crime initiative at london university. >> what these documents speak to is an organized, planned strategy. in relation to the rohingya, that's a genocidal strategy. we have also provided files and testimony to a law clinic at yale university.
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they will issue a legal judgement based on data that includes our documents and those collected by the advocacy group, fortify rights. the law school will assess whether members of the myanmar government could face charges under the international genocide convention. >> has there been a purposeful action that will result in the destruction of this group? >> all of these statements create a cumulative general tenor that points to intent. >> the international criminal court, should consider an investigation.
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as well as the border security force, police and myanmar military officers were present.
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after four decades of
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persecution, over half a million rohingya have fled myanmar. many now live as refugees in neighboring countries. >> we've been speaking to hundreds of rohingya, they felt that they had two options: stay in myanmar and face death due to the abuse of restrictions that are being placed upon them by the government of myanmar or flee the country. so they feel as though they have these two options. for over a year, professor penny green and her team have been gathering data from myanmar. the state crime initiative defines genocide as a historical progression. >> this is a process that can begin many years prior to the state of extermination. and in the case of the rohingya, it began many decades ago, with the implementation of the 1982 citizenship law, which excluded the rohingya population from burmese citizenship. the law denied the rohingya the right to live in myanmar - unless they could prove that
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their ancestors settled here before independence. it's often an impossible task - even for those with documents. khin khin lwin tried to run for office. but she failed to persuade officials that her parents were citizens. >> we received first hand evidence.. looking at testimonies... over the last eight months, a clinic at yale law school has been analyzing recent events in myanmar...in the context of the legal definition of genocide. >> we applied that evidence and those facts to the laws of genocide. >> this definition requires us to ask three questions of the facts that we've found.
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first, can the victims be characterized as a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group? the second being did the perpetrators commit any of these enumerated genocidal acts? and the third question did the perpetrator or perpetrators act with intent to destroy the group in whole or in part? >> rakhine state lies on myanmar's western coast, and its northern tip borders bangladesh. around a million muslims who identify as rohingya live here. for more than a century, burma was governed as a province of british india. hundreds of thousands of south asians were brought to the country by the colonial authorities. britain encouraged labour migration into rakhine in order to develop its rich agriculture. around two million buddhist rakhine also live in the state. they trace their roots to a
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temple complex at mrauk u. the rakhine consider themselves a distinct ethnic group - separate from the burmese. rakhine historians view the temples as a fortress against muslim aggression.... which began when the mogul empire conquered india. there is a common perception that the rohingya represent a new islamic invasion.
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the rakhine insist that the rohingya are not a separate ethnic group. instead they are illegal immigrants from bangladesh, who lie about their roots in order to claim a birthright in rakhine state. >> tough that the country gave up on me. >> look at the trauma... every day is torture.
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>> this is our home. >> nobody should have to live like this. >> we made a promise to these heroes... this is one promise americans need to keep.
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in terms of the group element? i think that's the place where the facts pretty easily match up with the definition of it. is that fair to say? >> even when the politicians and the people of myanmar are referring to them as not a group - they're in effect referring to them as a group. they're identifying them as a specific group of people that at least according to them don't belong. >> and self-identification can be sufficient to establish the group element. so if the rohingya are identifying as a common group and a common culture, common
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language, common identity, that is enough to satisfy this element. >> the first enumerated act is killing members of the group. in many ways, this is what we think of when we think about genocide. >> in 2012, rakhine state erupted in violence. rioting began after reports that muslim men had raped and murdered a young buddhist girl. over a hundred thousand rohingya lost their homes. in the rakhine capital sittwe, districts that once housed muslims were burnt and bulldozed. several hundred, perhaps more, were killed. the overwhelming majority were rohingya - though rakhine also died. >> if you look back to the reports on the violence in june
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2012, we hear a great deal about communal violence. it wasn't communal violence. it was planned violence. al jazeera has obtained this confidential, internal united nations report on the 2012 violence. it gathered testimony "implicating security, political and religious representatives in the planning and perpetration of the violence". >> it is quite clear for me. according to the testimonies and the people that i talked to while i was on mission in the country, it was clear that this, all this was organized. >> the government of myanmar wants the world to believe that the violence that took place in rakhine state in 2012 and since has been spontaneous, communal, or an unintended consequence of democratization. we know that that's not the case. >> according to the un report, there were consistent accounts that "rakhine from other areas were brought in to reinforce local communities prior to
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attacks. >> transport was arranged to take those who were going to participate in the massacres. express buses were organized. refreshments, meals were provided. they had to be provided by somebody. >> if you say that local politicians were involved, were they acting do you think on their own? >> we know that correspondence was sent to senior government officials. and next to nothing was done to prevent severe atrocities from taking place. >> the internal un report cited abuses committed not only by local rakhine but also: "state security forces, including the military, the border forces and the police." >> for the state to be complicit in genocide, they have to knowingly aid or assist perpetrators committing genocide. so there is a knowledge element that is tied to complicity. >> we have indication that military officers, security
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officers, saw these acts occurring in front of them and allowed them to occur under their watch, and that would have shown culpability of both the actors and the government officials. >> the counter-argument is the bad apple theory where you can just say, oh, there were a few rogue police officers, but if you look at what's happened... you can see that it is systematic, and it's widespread. and it's not contained to several bad actors. >> so the genocide convention explains that killing is not the only genocidal act. in fact, numerous acts that don't result in the death of the victims can constitute genocide. and so one of these is the causing of serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group. >> around 800,000 rohingya live in buthidaung and maungdaw townships in northern rakhine state- a militarized region largely closed to the outside world. rare footage from maungdaw was captured on a covert camera by al jazeera's investigative unit.
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only a small group of foreigners have visited. >> the life of these rohingya communities in buthidaung and maungdaw where you constantly fear the threatening of the government, particularly the security forces. what i found was a pattern of systematic discrimination in all areas. >> the first documented evidence of government-sponsored discrimination was revealed by fortify rights. >> these documents that we released in 2014 essentially lay out the architecture of abuse that the rohingya has faced for decades. these are documents spelling out restrictions on the rohingya muslim population, so restrictions on movement, restrictions on marriage, on childbirth. this document, obtained exclusively by al jazeera, is written by district level government officers in rakhine.
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>> its title is to control outgoing vehicles and it says all outgoing passenger vehicles must be strictly controlled to ensure that no muslim is onboard. the idea of an apartheid system, which privileges buddhists over muslims is absolutely on the state's agenda. >> with restrictions on movement that means people can't pursue a livelihood. they can't seek employment. they can't travel to a health clinic if they become sick. they can't travel to a school. it impacts every basic aspect of someone's life. >> rohingya in that part of the country face abuse at every turn. we are documenting more violent abuses, rape, forced labor, torture, arbitrary arrest and detention. >> there's a lot of evidence of straight state actor responsibility for the acts of bodily harm and the acts of
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mental harm. a lot of the testimonies and reports of rape for instance among the rohingya describe military, police, state actors raping women. the confidential un document found in just one cluster of villages "credible reports of 86 incidents of rape" "suggesting a pattern of punitive or reprisal action by state authorities... this evidence is supported by videos smuggled from the region following a later incident.
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>> it's targeted against the rohingya in a very clear fashion. it's not that anyone in the rakhine state is being raped; it's that rohingya women are being targeted. >> deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about the destruction of the group is another act that we think the evidence strongly suggests is occurring in myanmar. this can include a number of different acts. we've seen this in the idp camps in rakhine state. >> in this area over here - there were a number of bodies dumped by government trucks, dead rohingya bodies buried in a mass grave. >> matthew smith has documented human rights violations in myanmar for over a decade. many of the rohingya in this camp once lived and worked in the nearby town of sittwe.
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until their homes were burnt in 2012. >> this isn't a typical situation of an internally displaced person camp. this is not only a situation in which conditions of life are being created to destroy people, but in some cases people see no other option but to flee the country. >> in the dar pien camp, many of the internally displaced persons do not receive food rations because they remain unregistered. and no one wants to register them. >> they have formally submitted correspondence to state level
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officials here and they have been rejected every single time. so this is a community that has been going out without rations since they were burned out of their village in 2012. >> so the food is available? >> right. >> but they're not being given it deliberately. >> right. there is also a lack of emergency health care. there are no doctors in the camp. mohammed trained only as a pharmacist. this woman lost her child while giving birth. she went to the hospital but was sent back to the camp.
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>> in this case, this woman clearly still has not been diagnosed as far as we can tell. she appears to have a very serious condition and needs to see a doctor urgently as with a lot of people around here. so it is deliberate. it is avoidable. this situation doesn't have to be this way. >> they are being confined to these camps and being deprived of food and those two together are what really leading to the destruction. >> and deprivation of healthcare is something again that comes up in the daily reports from ngos on conditions in the idp camps. >> even if these conditions have not yet led to the mass death of rohingya members, they may still meet the requirement of this
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element. >> the rakhine and burmese have a very different view of conditions in the camps. coming up on genocide agenda. the government agencies spark communal unrest. is this evidence of a mindset? >> we're here to fully get into the nuances of everything that's going on, not just in this country, but around the world.
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>> what, as if there were no cameras here, would be the best solution? >> this goes to the heart of the argument. >> to tell you the stories that others won't cover. how big do you see this getting? getting the news from the people who are affected. >> people need to demand reform... >> we're here to provide the analysis... the context... and the reporting that allows you to make sense of your world. >> ali velshi on target. the only way to get better is to challenge yourself,
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and that's what we're doing at xfinity. we are challenging ourselves to improve every aspect of your experience.
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and this includes our commitment to being on time. every time. that's why if we're ever late for an appointment, we'll credit your account $20. it's our promise to you. we're doing everything we can to give you the best experience possible. because we should fit into your life. not the other way around. >> the fourth act that we analyzed that counts as an act of genocide is imposing measures intended to prevent births within a group. people have also talked about this act as biological genocide. and we see this directed in two ways against the rohingya - one is prohibition on marriages and extreme restrictions around marriages of rohingya, and the
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second is extreme restrictions on births in the rohingya group. >> this is one of the areas of persecution of the rohingyas where the state has been even more explicit than usual about its intent in perpetuating these measures. >> the law clinic was confident that sufficient evidence existed of government involvement in four genocidal acts. but there remained a large hurdle to cross. >> we should start by saying that intent is the most difficult element to prove. >> it's always difficult to get past the threshold of intent because with the acts, we can look at the evidence. but with intent, it's this analysis of a mindset. over the past year, i've gathered interviews and confidential documents that indicate the government is deliberately inciting unrest between buddhists and muslims. it's a policy of 'divide and rule' it feeds into a pattern of
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conduct that may point to "intent". it's a world of dirty tricks and deception. a former officer in the country's military intelligence service witnessed the use of agent provocateurs. >> these people secretly entered >> to understand the violence and abuses taking place against the rohingya population, we can't look at it in a vacuum. this fits into a bigger context in myanmar, and that's the context of political power manipulating the fears of the population and other acts that state operatives are doing overtly but also behind the
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scenes. in the late 1990s, myanmar faced sanctions and its rulers and businessmen travel bans. the opposition leader aung san suu kyi became an unshakable thorn in the military's side. myanmar's rulers then tried to sow dissent in her party, the national league for democracy. a u.s. diplomatic cable released by wikileaks, described how the regime tried "to instigate a rift between buddhist and muslim nld members" in 2005. fake letters - supposedly written by monks - 'pitted muslims against buddhists within the party'. but it failed - nld members knew it was a "ruse on the part of the regime."
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>> they are very good propagandists. spreading rumor and sabotaging is their missions... >> ..they make the people worry, spread the fear, hatred and create conflicts. in this way they influence the policy of the country. in 2013, anti-muslim violence spread from rakhine state to cities in central myanmar. it began in meiktila. >> what happened in meiktila was a targeted attack on muslims,
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not, not rohingya but muslims who had been a part of the community in meiktila. >> this woman was hiding with her family. a mob was outside. they demanded that she send out her husband. police and army officers looked on from their vehicles.
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>> perhaps the strangest and the most revolting part of this massacre was that it was filmed. it was filmed by perpetrators themselves to show how proud they were of what they were doing. >> another women watched the mob attack her father, who was with a group of students.
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>> you can see police there present at the scene where people are being killed and they're armed as police are they're not doing anything. you see people watching and sometimes cheering when people are being killed. it is so eerie and so revolting that there was so little response to protect people. >> around fifty died. one buddhist monk - the rest almost all muslim. similar events were to unfold in other cities - after the arrival of a mob. >> the survivors said that they weren't even sure who they were, all of them, but that a lot of them had identical weapons, which is very odd. it seems like if a mob were to spontaneously come together, it wouldn't have happened like that. >> the un special rapporteur spoke to members of one mob who'd been briefly detained. >> it was clear for me according
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to those testimonies that it was organized. these were people out of the town. they were brought to the area and suddenly they were asked to start this kind of violence. >> well, who asked them? >> well, it was impossible. they wouldn't say at all. so one of the problems to assess these incidents is to establish where this is coming from. but the first step, it is there. it is clear that it was organized. >> a monk renowned for his anti-muslim rhetoric visited meiktila a week before the massacre. he claims that muslims provoke the unrest. >> why should they start the violence when they seem to suffer in the end more than the buddhist in these communities?
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>> bold... >> he took two m-16's, and he crawled... >> brave... >> ...do what you gotta do... >> then betrayed... >> why do you think you didn't get the medal of honor? >> a lifetime without the honor they deserved... >> some say that it was discrimination... >> revealing the long painful fight, to recognize some of america's bravest... >> he say.. be cool...be cool... >> ...proudest moment in my life.. >> honor delayed a soledad o'brien special report only on al jazeera america
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in 2007, the monkhood in myanmar was involved in a very different conflict. it posed the most serious threat to the military's power for decades. it was the saffron revolution.
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a year after crushing the rebellion, the generals announced a plan for greater political freedom and elections. they crafted a new constitution. it reserved a quarter of the seats in the state parliament for the military. control of the police, army and security services would also stay with the generals. they also created a political party for former officers. with myanmar opening to the outside world - the military also needed new ways to manage opposition from the monkhood.
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as part of the transition to democracy, the regime released thousands of political prisoners, including monks that led the saffron revolution. some fear speaking openly. generals mynt swe and la tay win retired from the military and are now part of the inner circle of president thein sien's ruling party. another former prisoner was ashin wirathu. he wasn't arrested during the saffron revolution. he was jailed in 2003 for hate
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speech that led to the deaths of muslims. after wirathu and his supporters backed government policies toward the rohingya, he gathered wealth and influence. our investigation reveals how wirathu helped transform the monkhood - from challenging the generals - to becoming their cheerleader.
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>> so how much money did wirathu offer you? wirathu was recruiting leaders of the saffron revolution for his soon to be formed organization - the committee for the protection of race and religion, known by its burmese acronym ma ba tha.
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the ma ba tha reinforces long-held fears that islam is a threat to the survival of myanmar. >> the present regime of thein sein is prepared to use the hate speech for the government's own
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ends. and that is to marginalize, segregate, diminish the muslim population inside burma. it's part of a genocidal process. wirathu has hailed president thein sein as the protector of the burmese race. al jazeera has obtained confidential government files, which provide a glimpse into the inner-workings of the regime. this document was sent to local
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government officers. it shows how the regime contrives to stir-up communal tensions. it issued a warning that worshippers in a yangon mosque planned: "countrywide communal violence between muslims and burmans. >> we have here a statement that in order for the creation of the violence, activists will be chosen from the students of arabic orphanage schools and ask to carry out activities unacceptable to buddhists. it is fomenting a sense that muslims are your biggest concern. you should be frightened. muslims... "would torch either their own houses or the houses of other muslims" and "take photographs and video records for immediate worldwide circulation". >> this is absolutely propaganda issued by the state. what these documents speak to is an organized, planned strategy. >> when i look at that document what i see is government
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officials essentially trying to create a threat where a threat doesn't actually exist. when we see a document like that, we get very concerned that various authorities are working to incite violence against the muslim population. i took the document to the mosque in yangon that was accused of plotting the violence. it's run by the tablighi jamaat, a movement that follows a strict interpretation of the faith but avoids involvement in politics. no rioting occurred, during the months mentioned in the government document. mosque leaders say they told the security services about the exact event, which the document claimed was plotting nationwide violence.
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far from fearing the worshippers, it seems the security services have a close relationship with mosque elders. they were coy at answering questions about who was behind the document. >> could this be sent without central government having approved it in your understanding of the way that burma works? >> i would be very surprised if a document like this did not originate with a national level agency.
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>> who could? well, i mean who knows? >> but given the powers of the military, the police here, it's not just wayward individuals who would have organized? >> it's not. it's not individuals. someone, some important group is organizing this. in general a pattern in all these incidents, the pattern is that the police stood by. they were not protecting the people, which is their responsibility according to the rule of law. and this is a pattern so clear we may have an answer. >> so the police are responsible, the home minister? >> exactly, who give orders to the police not to intervene and protect the people?
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>> given that we don't have any documents or any evidence of a specific written plan to destroy this group we really are trying to see whether we can infer a genocidal intent from the facts on the ground. >> we don't need to have a smoking gun document that says, "we are doing all these things because we want to wipe out the rohingya" that's simply not required by law. instead the law says "one has to show a pattern of conduct exists that the cluster of circumstances could only point to the existence of such intent." >> there are a couple of documents that, taken together with the actions, lead us to believe that there is a strong likelihood of intent there.
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>> the document that i'm looking at now is a public lecture given from the naypyidaw military headquarters. it's from october 2012 and it does describe that sentiment. the power point lecture, obtained by al jazeera, is part of a training course for army officers. >> fear of extinction of race. it's particularly concerning that members of the military and other armed forces would have their deepest fears, unreasonable fears about islam being perpetuated in a training program. >> this document is all about schooling those soldiers who are going to be spread throughout the country in islamaphobia. it's teaching those soldiers to be racist. >> included in this appears to be allegations of a population explosion. this is a feature that's been consistent in genocides throughout history, that the
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targets of genocidal acts are regarded as a group of persons whose population's expanding rapidly and somehow poses a threat because of that. >> it's terrifying actually to see it in an official government document because we can well imagine the impact it has on the young recruits, the soldiers who are listening to this powerpoint presentation. the document refers to the rohingya using the burmese phrase "kowtow kalar". >> so the phrase basically means... dirty, stinky muslims. >> in this document, we have a very, very clear example of hate speech, in an official document training burma's military. this document is from the naypyidaw divisional military headquarters, this is absolutely the responsibility of the military-backed government of thein sein.
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>> now we're at a point where we can take the evidence that we've been given and draw legal conclusions from those facts. >> assuming that that evidence is credible, that it's comprehensive, that it accurately reflects what is going on on the ground, we think we have strong evidence to believe that genocide is occurring. >> given the scale of atrocities being committed and the way that people and politicians talk about rohingya, we think it's hard to avoid a conclusion that intent is present. >> there is a strong case to be made that there are political forces at play, state forces at play fomenting the anti muslims sentiment, fomenting violence, and, in the case of rohingya, fomenting violence that could amount to the crime of genocide. several of the most powerful people in the country should
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reasonably be the subject of an international investigation into this situation of rakhine state. >> you have the minister for home affairs. you have the minister of immigration planning policies that are impacting on the life of the rohingyas and of course, we also have the president of myanmar because overall it's the president who appoints the ministers. while meaningful power in myanmar remains in the same hands. the lifes of many burmese are improving. they are enjoying greater freedom. the country is no longer a dictatorship in the traditional sense. opposition parties are contesting seats in parliament. but aung san su kyi - the icon of myanmar's new democracy - has ignored the fate of the rohingya. along with many world leaders. they have chosen to engage with
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myanmar's former military rulers, rather than seek justice for a powerless people. >> we are now reaching the point that the international community has to find a way to really raise serious concerns about the situation of rohingya. otherwise, the situation of rohingya will really reach what we are warning, which is the stage of genocide. >> bold... >> he took two m-16's, and he crawled... >> brave... >> ...do what you gotta do... >> then betrayed... >> why do you think you didn't get the medal of honor? >> a lifetime without the honor they deserved... >> some say that it was discrimination... >> revealing the long painful fight, to recognize some of america's bravest... >> he say.. be cool...be cool... >> ...proudest moment in my life..
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>> honor delayed a soledad o'brien special report only on al jazeera america al jazeera america gives you the total news experience anytime, anywhere. more on every screen. digital, mobile, social. visit aljazeera.com. follow @ajam on twitter.
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and like aljazeera america on facebook for more stories, more access, more conversations. so you don't just stay on top of the news, go deeper and get more perspectives on every issue. al jazeera america. >> america takes bravery to heart... >> that's a code that we live by... you leave no brother behind. >> ...and honors it's heroes with medals. >> ...bullets were hittin' everywhere. i said i was going in...

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