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Myanmar’s junta shuts down publisher for distributing book on Rohingya genocide

Myanmar’s military regime has shut down a well-known publishing house in Yangon for importing and distributing a book on the 2017 Rohingya genocide, junta-controlled state newspapers said Wednesday.

The regime accused Lwin Oo Sarpay Publishing House of violating the country’s 1962 publishing law by distributing and selling the book titled Myanmar’s Rohingya Genocide: Identity, History and Hate Speech by Ronan Lee, an Irish-Australian researcher at Loughborough University London. The junta shuttered the company’s book distribution center on May 28.

State-owned media reported said Lwin Oo Sarpay was closed because it was distributing the book via Facebook.

Since taking over Myanmar in a February 2021 coup, the junta has shut down media outlets critical of its regime and shuttered publishers that distribute books not in line with its own narrative. In recent weeks, the junta has shut down two other publishing houses, Shwe Lat and Yan Aung Sarpay, and the Win To Aung printing press.

Human rights groups have produced a trove of credible reports based on commercial satellite imagery and extensive interviews with Rohingya about the military’s clearance operations in Rakhine state in 2017, including arbitrary killings, torture and mass rape. The violence drove more than 740,000 people to neighboring Bangladesh where they now living in sprawling refugee camps.

Lee, a former member of Parliament for Queensland state, Australia, researched Rohingya refugees, including through field work in Bangladesh, Myanmar and Thailand, as part of his doctoral studies.

His book, published in 2021, presents new evidence that the government of Myanmar enabled a genocide in Rakhine state and the surrounding areas, where most of the country’s Rohingya live.

Drawing on interviews and testimony from the Rohingya, it assesses the full scale of the genocide of the Muslim minority group, including human rights violations, forced migrations and extrajudicial killings in 2017 under the previous leadership of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

In March, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken issued an official determination that Myanmar’s military committed genocide against the Rohingya in 2017, going a step further than the U.S. government’s previous findings that the military had committed ethnic cleansing.

A resident of Yangon who reads books distributed by Lwin Oo Sarpay told RFA that the closure of the publishing house was politically motivated because the junta does not want citizens to know what really happened to the Rohingya.

“Lwin Oo Sarpay has been distributing books on politics and history by local and foreign authors,” said the resident who did not want to be named for safety reasons. “Now that it is closed down and its [operating] license has been withdrawn, people will not learn what they should know.”

The military has accused Lwin Oo Sarpay of violating Section 8 of the Printing and Publishing Law, which imposes restrictions on the content of publications and websites run by publishers and bans the import or distribution of foreign publications that contain banned content. In this case, the prohibited content was deemed as causing harm to an ethic group or among ethnic groups.

RFA could not reach Lwin Oo Sarpay for comment. 

Translated by Khin Maung Nyane for RFA Burmese. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.