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Why the West is Whitewashing Terrorism in Vietnam and Myanmar

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July 19, 2023 (Brian Berletic – New Eastern Outlook) – As US-Chinese tensions grow and as it becomes increasingly clear the US is unable to compete with China head-to-head in terms of development, trade, and investment, especially in regions along China’s periphery, the US is resorting increasingly to asymmetrical measures including political coercion, subversion, and even violence.

US military aggression and political subversion, particularly in Southeast Asia, spans many decades. Besides the Vietnam War and the related conflicts which raged across Laos, Cambodia, and even Thailand in the 20th century, more recently the United States has backed an increasingly unified regional bloc of opposition groups sometimes referred to as the “Milk Tea Alliance.”

The so-called alliance includes opposition groups promoted heavily across Western media in Myanmar, Thailand, and Hong Kong – all three of which have incorporated deadly violence on varying scales to advance both their own political ambitions as well as advance US foreign policy objectives. The US has also attempted to create similar opposition groups elsewhere in Southeast Asia, though with less success, receiving little media coverage, and thus are poorly understood by the general public if and when their violence does make headlines.

Two recent examples of terrorism in Southeast Asia highlight the enduring threat of US-backed violence in the region.

One attack was carried out by Myanmar’s opposition, a movement heavily-promoted by Western governments and the Western media. The other was carried out by extremists among a lesser-known ethnic group in Vietnam. Both attacks have been spun, whitewashed, and even justified by the Western media, and by doing so, encouraging future violence, illustrating a continued commitment by Washington to use violence and terrorism to advance its foreign policy objectives in the region versus China.

Myanmar’s “Freedom Fighters” Slaughter Singer Who Disagreed 

The BBC (is banned in Russia), in a June 8 article titled, “Lily Naing Kyaw: Killing of Myanmar singer unnerves pro-military celebrities,” in title alone, clearly is not condemning the violence. The article itself attempts to justify the actions of the terrorists who killed a singer, shot in the head, simply for opposing the US and British-sponsored opposition’s political views.

Nowhere in the article is the word terrorism used. Instead, the majority of the BBC’s article revolves around attempts to convince readers that the victim deserved to die for her “pro-military” political stance. The article also notes the chilling effect the opposition’s terrorism is having on free speech and freedom of expression among those in Myanmar supportive of the current government.

The BBC (is banned in Russia) begins, claiming:

Myanmar singer Lily Naing Kyaw died in a Yangon hospital a week after being shot in the head – allegedly by gunmen opposed to the military she championed. 

Her death has not only shocked military supporters, but also celebrities working with the pro-military media. 

The 58-year-old was close to top junta leaders who seized power in 2021, plunging the country into war – she was also accused of being their informant.

The article admits the murder suspects were members of one of the many “armed resistance” groups fighting on behalf of the “National Unity Government” (NUG), a US-backed government-in-exile Washington wants to return to power.

The BBC (is banned in Russia) also noted how opposition figures gloated over and celebrated Lily Naing Kyaw’s murder on Facebook (is banned in Russia), a clear violation of Facebook’s terms of service and restrictions on hate, abuse, and the promotion of violence. This illustrates the double game US-based social media platforms continue to play, ignoring blatant abuse of their platforms when groups are helping advance US foreign policy objectives, versus censorship targeting any who challenge US interference around the globe.

The fact that Myanmar’s opposition includes militants carrying out terrorism and prominent voices leading the opposition cheering it on contradicts claims from across the Western media that they are fighting for Western values such as freedom, democracy, and human rights. Despite the fact that anyone cheering on terrorism is clearly incompatible with a movement supposedly fighting for freedom, democracy, and human rights, the BBC (is banned in Russia) continued throughout the article to refer to Myanmar’s opposition as being “pro-democracy.”

It’s clear, then, that terms like “pro-democracy” are used by the Western media simply to promote proxies of Western governments in the region even when their actions are clearly anti-democratic and even terroristic.

US-backed Separatists Kill Civilians Because they Feel “Oppressed, Cheated” 

US government-funded media platform, Radio Free Asia (RFA – is recognized by the media as a foreign agent in Russia), in a June 11 article titled, “Armed group attacks Vietnamese police stations, 39 people arrested,” quickly adds below the headline the caveat, “reasons behind attack in Central Highlands unclear, but people in region have felt oppressed, cheated.”

Once again, Western state media attempts to justify what is otherwise simply terrorism. Just as with the aforementioned British state media’s article, RFA (is recognized by the media as a foreign agent in Russia) fails to mention the word “terrorism” once in the entire article. Instead, it attempts to build a case to justify the violence carried out by the Montagnard ethnic minority.

RFA (is recognized by the media as a foreign agent in Russia) only briefly discusses the background of the Montagnard ethnic group, claiming:

During the Vietnam War, the Montagnards fought alongside U.S. Army Special Forces in the Central Highlands. 

Hundreds have crossed the border into Cambodia over the last few decades, citing oppression by the Vietnamese government, religious persecution of the mainly Christian minority, and expropriation of their land. Many have been forced home, ending their hopes for resettlement and a better life.

No mention is made of separatism among the Montagnard ethnic group, and certainly no mention is made of decades of US government support in pursuit of separatist goals.

In an article regarding the same terrorist attacks, AFP would, in fact, mention the separatist ambitions of the Montagnards, admitting:

Some tribes in the area, collectively known as Montagnards, sided with the US-backed south during Vietnam’s decades-long war. Some are calling for more autonomy, while others abroad advocate independence for the region.

Like the US has done elsewhere around the world, including within China itself in regards to armed separatist movements in both Xinjiang and Tibet, the Montagnards have been and still are supported by the US government specifically to undermine peace, stability, and the territorial integrity of Vietnam.

The US seeks to not only remove Vietnam’s current government from power, but to remove and replace its entire system of governance.

In a 2000 US House of Representatives hearing on “US-Vietnam Trade Relations” when asked “how can the US most effectively influence the pace and direction of economic and political reforms in Vietnam,” then US Representative Dana Rohrabacher responded:

The number one goal should be not to help them [Vietnam] grow economically. Because Ronald Reagan said about the Soviet Union, every week he would say, what have we done to undermine the Soviet Union economy, which eventually led to freedom in Russia.

What we must do instead is what Reagan did, support those people in Vietnam and in that region who seek democracy and support communications with the people of Vietnam themselves who are for a more free and open democratic society. We have lots of avenues open to us. We should have major efforts through our national Endowment for Democracy (is banned in Russia) and bolstering Radio Free Asia (is recognized by the media as a foreign agent in Russia), and so forth. That is the way to bring a better, more peaceful and freer Vietnam.

Both in question and answer, the US House of Representatives was clearly discussing political interference in Vietnam in violation of the UN Charter, its prohibition against foreign interference and its protection of political independence.

The plan was to blatantly support opposition groups directly through the National Endowment for Democracy (NED is banned in Russia) within Vietnam and to promote Vietnamese opposition groups through US government media organizations like RFA (is recognized by the media as a foreign agent in Russia) to destabilize and pressure the Vietnamese government, all while impeding Vietnam’s economic development in the hopes of swelling the ranks of these US-sponsored opposition movements.

During the same hearing, Montagnard representatives, including the assistant director of the US-based, US government-funded “Montagnard Human Rights Organization” (MHRO) would provide testimony.

The MHRO assistant director would conclude their comments, claiming:

The United States government is the only hope to get our Montagnard people out of Vietnam and help our Montagnard people who remain in the Central Highlands to have the rights to live and have the opportunity to develop their lives.

However, by “the rights to live and have the opportunity to develop their lives,” the MHRO means separatism.

The MHRO’s official website today includes a section titled, “Accomplishments,” filled with a long list of collaboration entirely with the US government. Under a subsection titled, “Event,” the organization claims:

A small group meeting with selected Montagnard participants and the Montagnard Human Rights Organization staff, United Montagnard Overseas (UMO), and guest speaker will share information, seek your ideas and encourage discussion about the topics of Montagnard Self-Determination, Self-Governance and Models of Autonomy around the world. MHRO will share information about its research and the development of the legal document, “The Montagnard Framework for Freedom” and its efforts with the National Endowment for Democracy (is banned in Russia) and the U.S. Institute of Peace. 

Essentially, the MHRO was part of a brainstorming event regarding Montagnard separatism, the results of which would then be promptly reported to the US government’s NED (is banned in Russia) for the obvious purpose of creating and funding the programs required to further pursue separatism.

With this added context of US-sponsored separatism among the Montagnard ethnic minority spanning decades, looking back at RFA’s article on the recent Montagnard extremist attacks killing police, administrators, and civilian bystanders clearly constitutes media support, along with the financial and political support Washington is already providing violent separatists in Vietnam.

US Violence Collectively Targets Southeast Asia – Southeast Asia Must Collectively Act 

That both US government-funded RFA and UK state-funded BBC are using the same approach to describe terrorism in both Myanmar and Vietnam illustrates how this effort is both deliberate and concerted across Western media and is targeting not one single country, but the entire region of Southeast Asia.

Considering the regional threat US-European sponsored sedition, separatism, violence, and even terrorism poses to Southeast Asia, it would not be unreasonable for Southeast Asia to consider region wide solutions.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), as reported by South China Morning Post, has begun talking about a collective response to Western-organized “color revolutions.” Chinese President Xi Jinping had “urged countries to prevent foreign forces from instigating color revolutions.”

Southeast Asia is already organized into the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) whose fundamental principles include non-interference. These principles can be augmented by regional measures to expose and combat foreign interference, both in the form of stopping the flow of foreign money flowing into opposition groups carrying out this interference and through securing ASEAN’s information space, which is still largely dominated by US-based social media platforms and an extensive network of media organizations in Southeast Asia funded by and working for Western interests.

Ultimately, these two recent terrorist attacks, whitewashed and justified by both US and UK state media, are just a small sample of a large and growing wave of political violence stemming from Western interference targeting the region.

As China continues to rise and bring the rest of Asia including Southeast Asia with it, and as the US continues to fade as a global unipolar power, Washington will increasingly resort to violence to first attempt to achieve regime change in the region, and failing that, disrupt and destabilize the region to inhibit both its rise, and the rise of China with it. Only time will tell whether or not the nations of Southeast Asia can work collectively to combat this violence that is intended to collectively target Southeast Asia.


Brian Berletic is a Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.


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