Burmese-Rohingya: Ugly race riots and consequences

Having seen various reports, including one compiled by the Burma Campaign UK, I am still not getting satisfactory explanation about these anti-muslim riots that took place in Meikhtila. Sure, there have been record of muslim residential quarters in that town were burnt down to the ground. But why was that Burmese mobs in Meikhtila inflamed so quickly? As the ICG observer put it (see AFP report), "systematic and methodical way in which Muslim neighborhoods were razed to the ground is highly suggestive of some degree of advance planning by radical elements". I do not think these pamphlets reportedly produced by the 'religious extremists' alone could be the cause of such an outrage. Why this muslim neighborhoods in Meikhtila so were razed to the ground?


Following that riots in Meikhtila, Burmese mobs attack on Muslim neighbourhoods in other towns like Pegu and few other places in which the crowd behaviour were suggestive of going beyond anti-muslim religious context. There, the crowd tendency is to become participating in the 'opportunistic looting' and to cause 'lawless destruction' on Muslim neighbourhoods. Unfortunately, when these things happen, it has to be acknowledged certain 'undesirable elements' came into the scene.

Are the Buddhist monks responsible in organising these anti-muslim pamphlats? Are these provokers, as Burmese government said, only of the 'political opportunists and religious radicals'? Or are they such aimless individuals -- like some of those on internet nowadays -- trying to make waves? Or do they have other sinister plots to de-stabilize U Thein Sein government? I don't think so. Burmese government should better stop its 'witch-hunting' over these anti-muslim riots.


Any violence perpetrated by any group, either majority or minority, will have certain consequences. Look at the death of 8-Burmese fishermen in Indonesian Immigration Detention Centre as an example. The 100 Rohingyas boat-people have beaten up the 10 Burmese fishermen to death in Indonesian goal. This is lending a great dis-service to the 'gentle & most persecuted minority in Burma' image for Rohingyas.

One would asks who cares about public image of any social or ethnic group? The general public does. Once you have lost public sympathy, it will not get recovered for a very long time. In this days and age, news are getting traveled very fast and very far. Once a group (ethnic or religious) is perceived as 'violent', it certainly loss political capital in advocating for causes on their behalf and in their interest.


How any type of violence can become dis-service to the cause, we can just look back two instances of that in Thailand. To my observation, the public (&press) support for the Burmese exiles were not that bad in the 1990s. The first turning point was in the armed siege of Burmese Embassy in Bangkok. Though that siege was resolved without bloodshed, the Burmese democracy exiles' public image had suffered. The second fatal mistake was the siege of hospital by God's Army. I think the Thai's public support for Burma democracy exiles were evaporated ever since, and never being recovered to this day.

With best regards, U Ne Oo.

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AFP - Religious 'radicals' driving Myanmar unrest: experts
March 31, 2013, 2:30 pm

BANGKOK (AFP) - Two years after a repressive junta ceded power, Myanmar is grappling with a surge in religious extremism that experts trace to anti-Muslim "provocateurs" including radical Buddhist monks.

At least 43 people have been killed while mosques and Muslim homes have been destroyed over the past fortnight in central Myanmar, in a wave of violence that witnesses say seems to have been well organised.

"It is clear that there are some agents provocateurs with radical anti-Muslim agendas at work in the country -- including influential Buddhist monks preaching intolerance and hatred of Muslims," said Jim Della-Giacoma, a Myanmar expert with the International Crisis Group think-tank.

"Also, the systematic and methodical way in which Muslim neighbourhoods were razed to the ground is highly suggestive of some degree of advance planning by radical elements," he added.

Monks -- once at the forefront of the pro-democracy movement and viewed with reverence in this devout Buddhist-majority nation -- have been linked to the unrest.

Some members of the clergy have been involved in the violence, while others are spearheading a move to shun shops owned by Muslims and only visit stores run by Buddhists, identified by stickers showing the number "969", which has become a symbol of their campaign.

"When the profit goes to the enemy's hand, our nationality, language and religion are all harmed," said Wirathu, a monk from Mandalay whose anti-Muslim remarks have come under recent scrutiny.

"They will take girls with this money. They will force them to convert religion. All children born to them will be a danger to the country. They will destroy the language as well as the religion," he said in a speech put online.

More moderate voices among civil society activists and religious leaders are calling for the country to defuse violence that has cast a shadow over the Buddhist-majority nation's political reforms.

"We need to fight this incitement by a group of bad people," said Thet Swe Win, a human rights activist who co-organised a recent "Pray for Myanmar" peace event in Yangon.

"We must prevent racial and religious disputes," he added.

The apparent spark for the recent violence was an argument in a gold shop in the town of Meiktila on March 20 that escalated into a full-scale riot.

Since then armed gangs have roamed from town to town in central Myanmar razing mosques and Muslim homes.

It follows Buddhist-Muslim clashes in the western state of Rakhine last year that left at least 180 people dead, mostly minority Muslim Rohingya who are viewed by many Burmese as illegal Bangladeshi immigrants.

A wave of hate has swept across social media websites targeting the Rohingya, who have long been denied citizenship by Myanmar's government, which -- like many Burmese -- refers to them as "Bengalis".

Recently, however, the violence has also targeted Muslims with Myanmar citizenship, some of whose families came to the country more than a century ago from India, Bangladesh or China.

Speaking to AFP, monk Wirathu denied that he was against all Muslims, and said the "969" movement was unrelated to the recent unrest.

"We just targeted Bengalis who are terrorising ethnic Rakhine (Buddhists)," the 45-year-old said.

"We are just preaching to prevent Bengalis entering the country and to stop them insulting our nationalities, language and religion," he added.

In an effort to stem the violence, the government has declared a state of emergency and deployed troops in the worst-hit areas.

The United Nations' human rights envoy to the country, Tomas Ojea Quintana, has said the reluctance of security forces to crack down on the unrest suggests a possible state link to the fighting -- comments rejected by Myanmar.

On Thursday, President Thein Sein appeared on national television to address the nation, warning unidentified "political opportunists and religious extremists" that their actions "will not be tolerated."

It was a "courageous" speech, according to independent analyst Mael Raynaud.

"A Myanmar president addressing the nation directly and talking about religious extremism clearly aimed at Buddhist monks -- that's never been seen before," he said.

In contrast, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who many believe has her sights set firmly on the next election in 2015, has not yet spoken publicly about the recent clashes.

"Now is the time for political leaders to rise to the challenge of shaping public opinion, rather than just following it," Della-Giacomo said.
Suu Kyi "must be prepared to vocally and unambiguously take the side of peace and tolerance", he added.