Over 80 academics and activists say they are “disturbed” at plans by Oxford University Press to publish a paper about the Rohingya by an author who they allege is “biased” and has “close links” to Myanmar’s brutal military.
The prestigious publishing house has commissioned a Luxembourg academic, Dr Jacques Leider, to write a reference article about Rohingya identity for its Oxford Research Encyclopedias series.
Dr Leider is regarded as an expert on Myanmar and was “senior consultant” to the UN’s resident co-ordinator.
However, that official later suppressed a report criticising the UN’s handling of the Rohingya crisis, sparking outcry.
Now, in a letter to Oxford University Press, senior figures in academia say they are “disturbed” by Dr Leider’s own scholarship on the Rohingya and are urging the publisher not to run his paper.
Signatories include two Oxford Emeritus Professors, Barbara Harrell-Bond OBE and Barbara Harriss-White, as well as Professor Richard Falk from Princeton University.
Rainer Schulze, founding General Editor of the journal “The Holocaust in History and Memory” is another signatory.
The critics claim that Dr Leider, who is head of the Bangkok-based Ecole Française de l’ Extrême-Orient, is a “well-known advisor to the Myanmar military’s Armed Forces Historical Museum”.
Well-documented pattern of denials
They say that Dr Leider was the only foreign expert to speak at a conference on the Rohingya alongside former military officials in September 2017, when Myanmar’s army was reportedly killing thousands of Rohingya.
Dr Leider’s co-panelist claimed Bangladeshi men had set fire to Rohingya villages, rather than the Myanmar military. The claim went unchallenged by Dr Leider.
Dr Leider’s critics claim that he has a “well-documented pattern of denials” about the Myanmar military’s “mass violence and scorched-earth military operations against the Rohingya community”.
The critics warned: “Anything published by OUP about the Rohingya and Myanmar will be given a great deal of credibility.” Dr Leider declined to comment.
But an Oxford University Press spokesperson said it took issues of “possible scholarly bias very seriously”. It added that the article was undergoing its “review processes” and a final decision on whether to publish it has not yet been made.