By Michael Brice-Saddler | The Washington Post
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is under fire after posting tweets Saturday encouraging his followers to visit Myanmar, without mentioning allegations of genocide and gang rape by its military against of Rohingya Muslims – nearly a million of whom have been forced out the country.
The backlash began Saturday evening, when Dorsey posted about his 10-day trip to the Myanmar town of Pyin Oo Lwin for a meditation retreat. In the thread, Dorsey wrote about how he had isolated himself from technology to “hack at the deepest layer of the mind and reprogram it” using an intense form of Buddhist meditation called “Vipassana.”
He went on to call the country beautiful, writing “the people are full of joy and the food is amazing.” Toward the end of the thread, Dorsey encouraged his 4.12 million followers to try Vipassana for themselves, and even go to the country in the Southeast Asian nation: “If you’re willing to travel a bit, go to Myanmar.”
Vipassana is not for everyone, but if any of this resonates with you even in the slightest, I’d encourage you to give it a try. If in the US, this center in Texas is a great start: https://t.co/4Brke5RU85
— jack (@jack) December 9, 2018
Many of his critics, however, noticed that in promoting the country, Dorsey failed to speak about the accusations of mass killings and war crimes reportedly carried out by the country’s military last year.
In August, a report from the United Nations called for Myanmar’s military leaders – including its commander in chief – to be investigated and prosecuted on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The military is accused of atrocities such as raping women and killing children – driving out nearly a million Rohingya to the neighboring country Bangladesh, creating a large refugee camp.
The report found “patterns of gross human rights violations and abuses committed in Kachin, Rakhine and Shan state” that “undoubtedly amount to the gravest crimes under international law,” a statement announcing the report’s findings said.
The Myanmar military has denied reports of the atrocities, stating instead that it is responding to security challenges.
“Military necessity would never justify killing indiscriminately, gang raping women, assaulting children, and burning entire villages,” the report said. “The Tatmadaw’s tactics are consistently and grossly disproportionate to actual security threats, especially in Rakhine State, but also in northern Myanmar,” the report added, using the official name for the armed forces in Myanmar.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo referred to the Myanmar military’s actions as “abhorrent ethnic cleansing,” adding that the United States would “continue to hold those responsible accountable.”
The United States also imposed sanctions on three Myanmar military commanders for their roles in the “ethnic cleansing.”
A year ago, following deadly militant attacks, security forces responded by launching abhorrent ethnic cleansing of ethnic #Rohingya in Burma. The U.S. will continue to hold those responsible accountable. The military must respect human rights for #Burma’s democracy to succeed.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) August 26, 2018
In response to Dorsey’s thread, John Stanton of BuzzFeed wrote, “It’s actually pretty on brand for @jack to promote going to a country where they’re committing genocide as some sort of low key meditation retreat.”
It’s actually pretty on brand for @jack to promote going to a country where they’re committing genocide as some sort of low key meditation retreat.
— john r stanton (@dcbigjohn) December 9, 2018
In response to another tweet in which Dorsey wrote that the people of Myanmar “are full of joy,” a user replied: “The people are so full of joy! I suppose you didn’t visit any of the hundreds of villages burnt by government forces or talk to any of the more than half million Rohingya forced to flee the country who are now living in overwhelmed refugee camps in Bangladesh? Meditate on THAT.”
Myanmar is an absolutely beautiful country. The people are full of joy and the food is amazing. I visited the cities of Yangon, Mandalay, and Bagan. We visited and meditated at many monasteries around the country. pic.twitter.com/wMp3cmkfwi
— jack (@jack) December 9, 2018
Andrew Stroehlein, European Media Director for Human Rights Watch, wrote: “I’m no expert on meditation, but is it supposed to make you so self-obsessed that you forget to mention you’re in a country where the military has committed mass killings & mass rape, forcing hundreds of thousands to flee, in one of today’s biggest humanitarian disasters?”
I’m no expert on meditation, but is it supposed to make you so self-obsessed that you forget to mention you’re in a country where the military has committed mass killings & mass rape, forcing hundreds of thousands to flee, in one of today’s biggest humanitarian disasters? https://t.co/D7I26CPTQ8
— Andrew Stroehlein (@astroehlein) December 9, 2018
Another user quoted Dorsey’s tweet that encouraged people to travel to Myanmar, writing: “@Jack is recommending Myanmar as a hip cool tourist destination at the same time as hundreds of thousands of members of the Rohingya Muslim minority have been forced to flee the country (to Bangladesh & elsewhere) due to persecution, violence, rape, murder, & attempted genocide.”
.@Jack is recommending Myanmar as a hip cool tourist destination at the same time as hundreds of thousands of members of the Rohingya Muslim minority have been forced to flee the country (to Bangaldesh & elsewhere) due to persecution, violence, rape, murder, & attempted genocide. https://t.co/MSLujiJTYW
— Jerry Dunleavy (@JerryDunleavy) December 9, 2018
Dorsey did not publicly comment on the criticism as of Sunday afternoon. A person who said they were familiar with Dorsey’s intentions said in an interview with The Washington Post that Dorsey traveled to Myanmar because Vipassana – which has numerous adaptations – is practiced in its most traditional form only within the country.
“It’s the only place he could do this,” the person said. “No one else follows the traditional tenants of this particular practice. That’s why he went to this particular location.”
The person said they could not comment directly on the criticism but highlighted Dorsey’s final tweet in the thread, in which he wrote that he was “happy to answer any questions about [his] experience” and “will track responses to this thread.”
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The Post’s Shibani Mahtani contributed to this report.