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Burma’s monks call for Muslim community to be shunned

A monk shows an anti-Rohingya slogan on his hand

A monk shows an anti-Rohingya slogan on his hand


Burma’s monks call for Muslim community to be shunned

Monks who played a vital role in Burma’s recent struggle for democracy have been accused of fuelling ethnic tensions in the country by calling on people to shun a Muslim community that has suffered decades of abuse.

In a move that has shocked many observers, some monks’ organisations have issued pamphlets telling people not to associate with the Rohingya community, and have blocked humanitarian assistance from reaching them. One leaflet described the Rohingya as “cruel by nature” and claimed it had “plans to exterminate” other ethnic groups.

The outburst against the Rohingya, often described as one of the world’s most oppressed groups, comes after weeks of ethnic violence in the Rakhine state in the west of Burma that has left more than 80 dead and up to 100,000 people living in a situation described as “desperate” by humanitarian organisations. As state-sanctioned abuses against the Muslim community continue, Burma’s president Thein Sein – credited by the international community for ushering in a series of democratic reforms in the country and releasing political prisoners such as Aung San Suu Kyi – has urged neighbouring Bangladesh to take in the Rohingya.

“In recent days, monks have emerged in a leading role to enforce denial of humanitarian assistance to Muslims, in support of policy statements by politicians,” said Chris Lewa, director of the Arakan project, a regional NGO. “A member of a humanitarian agency in Sittwe told me that some monks were posted near Muslim displacement camps, checking on and turning away people they suspected would visit for assistance.”

The Young Monks’ Association of Sittwe and Mrauk Oo Monks’ Association have both released statements in recent days urging locals not to associate with the group. Displaced Rohingya have been housed in over-crowded camps away from the Rakhine population – where a health and malnutrition crisis is said to be escalating – as political leaders move to segregate and expel the 800,000-strong minority from Burma. Earlier this month, Thein Sein attempted to hand over the group to the UN refugee agency.

Aid workers report ongoing threats and interference by local nationalist and religious groups. Some monasteries in Maungdaw and Sittwe sheltering displaced Rakhine people have openly refused to accept international aid, alleging that it is “biased” in favour of the Rohingya. Monks have traditionally played a critical role in helping vulnerable citizens, stepping in to care for the victims of Cyclone Nargis in 2008 after the military junta rejected international assistance.

Many have been shocked by the response of the monks and members of the democracy movement to the recent violence, which erupted after the rape and murder of a Buddhist woman, allegedly by three Muslims, unleashed long-standing ethnic tensions.

Monks’ leader Ashin Htawara recently encouraged the government to send the group “back to their native land” at an event in London hosted by the anti-Rohingya Burma Democratic Concern. Ko Ko Gyi, a democracy activist with the 88 Generation Students group and a former political prisoner, said: “The Rohingya are not a Burmese ethnic group. The root cause of the violence… comes from across the border.” Mark Farmaner, director of Burma Campaign UK, said: “We were shocked to have [Ashin Htawara] propose to us that there should be what amounts to concentration camps for the Rohingya.”

Ms Suu Kyi has also been criticised for failing to speak out. Amal de Chickera of the London-based Equal Rights Trust, said: “You have these moral figures, whose voices do matter. It’s extremely disappointing and in the end it can be very damaging.”

The Rohingya have lived in Burma for centuries, but in 1982, the then military ruler Ne Win stripped them of their citizenship. Thousands fled to Bangladesh where they live in pitiful camps. Foreign media are still denied access to the conflict region, where a state of emergency was declared last month, and ten aid workers were arrested without explanation.

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  • murmurha

    all communities should be vigilant against the new world order!,,
    all ethnic faultlines in some areas,religious and cultural disputes in the world are instigated,actively stirred!!,,
    just look at the map and see Chinese and American arm wrestling,Myanmar as a whole and especialy Rakhaing region is in the geographical exit of China,which is US’s biggest competitor!,
    US is controlled by zionist bankers and corporatist elite mob,and it must control China’s energy corridors!,and all conflicts in the world are related to it at the moment!,,
    China is building gas and oil pipelines,large sea ports in this area,you can assume this conflict is directly related to this arch-rivalry!,,
    they wont care about innocent peoples life at all!,,

  • how can a government and community and human are cruel and wild for the other human and community ?
    people should prey for Burma Muslim and united nation should ply positive role in stop this violence.

  • Pingback: In Buddhist Burma, monks gone wild | Wildmind Buddhist Meditation()

  • Ana

    I am a buddhist and as a buddhist I cannot understand those monks’ attitude.
    What a shame! What a disappointment…
    Where did the teachings on love, compassion, tame your mind go to???


  • apathetic

    i have already admitted that the conditions of the malawis AND the preference accorded to white and indian communities in the arab states is a point of view held by the expats living in the arab is not something that i can or will contest because,yes it is essentially a point of view and might be exaggerated.but the godhra riots,you say!for one there origin is controversial and even if they were perpetrated by the muslims i can argue that they were in response to the babri masjid riots which were carried out merely to satisfy hindu fanaticism,i doubt u will find any previous muslim action which might be THEIR cause,unless of course,u begin to go back to the days of the mughals.and you talk of the kashmiri pandits,well what about the kashmiri muslims who have actually been waiting for the promised plebiscite since acquaint yourself well with one side of the coin,but do u really think that the infamous black law and the wave of young men and women disappearing in kashmir is merely a fairy tale told by the muslim media to keep fanning the flames of muslim extremism?.if u suppress a community,they will eventually turn their anger to hate,and can u blame them?it isn’t just me, human rights activists even from india have admitted that the condition of the kashmiri muslims is worse than pitiable and that too from the what wrong did the kashmiri muslims commit against their wonderful dogra rulers to have in ur words ‘ enraged the Hindu community ‘.and i repeat yet again that i offer no defence against the current condition of minorities in muslim states except to plead guilty to a surfeit of illetracy,backwardness and poverty in muslims communities,so much so that most of our religious scholars,even,merely learn the Quran by heart and fail to grasp eithet it’s meaning or essence and for their acts of ignorance there are many of us who feel shame!but again it is not the fault of islam but their ignorance from it which is at the root of this problem!but truly,yes,as Ilisha has said that to justify one carnage with another is never acceptable and i merely ask you to consider that a muslim suffering persecution demands as much of your compassion as a christian or a hindu or a jew for they too ARE human beings and atleast the Rohingyas,i m sure,even considering your exacting standards,would come out of the inquisition innocent and blameless of all wrongs!

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