Religious conflict in Myanmar

I. Introduction

Nowadays, conflicts take place on different religions start from misunderstandings to genocides. Conflict can be defined as “a psychological state of affairs in which the parties are aware of the incompatibility of potential future positions”. Religious conflict refers to a conflict which take place because of incompatibility between different religions. Recently in Myanmar, a religious conflict happened between Buddhists and Muslims. Myanmar is one of the world’s most heterogeneous countries in ethnic and religious terms with more than 130 different ethno-linguistic groups. The CIA World Fact Book estimates the country’s current population at around 55 million, of which the majority Buddhist make up about two thirds, the rest belonging to various ethnic minorities. Since June 2012, approximately 200 people, mostly Muslims, have died in the expanding intolerant fighting between Buddhists and Muslims in Myanmar. While the violence was still centered in Rakhine State, formerly called Arakan, in 2012, it has spread throughout the country in 2013. In March for example, at least 43 people died and another 10,000 were displaced during riots in Meikhtila in Mandalay. This resulted in a total of ten townships in central Myanmar being placed under a state of emergency.

In May, the violence renewed again in northeast Myanmar after a riot between Muslims and Buddhists in the township of Lashio, capital city of Shan State, where Buddhist mobs set fire to Muslim homes and engaged in indiscriminate killings. Seen as a sign of increasing ultra-nationalist Buddhist violence, these attacks have been associated with the ‘969 campaign’ which promotes the boycott of Muslim businesses and the segregation of Buddhists and Muslims in Myanmar. Because of the conflict, the Muslims in Myanmar are facing many issues such as loss of their homeland, displacement, unsafety and uncertain conditions of education and so on. This paper will be proved the two effects: statelessness of and discrimination, and the discrimination on business matters due to the social effect of the 969 campaign that occurs because of the religious conflict in Myanmar.

II. Problem statement

In June 2012, deadly sectarian violence erupted in western Burma’s Arakan State between ethnic Arakan Buddhists and Rohingyas Muslims as well as non-Rohingyas Muslims. In western Myanmar, there have exposed the plight of 800,000 Muslim Rohingyas who are facing a slow-burning genocide. The clashes between the Buddhist Rakhine and the Rohingyas in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar had resulted in 29 deaths, of which 16 were Rohingyas and 13 were Rakhine, and 30,000 displaced. Moreover, according to official accounts of the worst communal violence in the Southeast Asian country in years, over 2,500 houses have been burnt down and nine Buddhist monasteries and seven mosques destroyed since riots broke out. On June 3, 2012, a mob of 300 Buddhists intercepted a bus carrying Muslim pilgrims and beat 10 of them to death. The conflict left many effects on the both communities. In this paper, the two effects will be examined. The first effect is more on political aspect which is statelessness of and discrimination on the Muslims, Rohingyas, since the government of Myanmar claimed that these people are not the native of the country. Another effect is more focused on the 969 campaign by Buddhist mobs which bring social effect on the society for the Muslims in Myanmar. The 969 campaign brings some social effects on the Muslims in Myanmar.

III. Content and Development

The first effect that I would like to exam is that there is any displacement occurred because of the conflict between Rohingyas, minority Muslims, and Buddhists. According to the Citizenship Law in 1982, Rohingyas are not titled as citizens of the country. The religious conflict also suppressed the status of citizen into stateless people. The government discriminatorily considers Rohingyas to be illegal Bengali immigrants and rendered them stateless through the 1981 Citizenship Law. The Wagley ( 2013) stated that the government has long exercised anti-Rohingya policies, including restrictions on travel, employment, education, worship, construction of religious buildings, marriage, and childbearing. The government’s discriminatory policies have served to legitimize attacks and massacres against Rohingyas, and since March 2013, against other Muslims throughout Burma. The Equal Rights Trust states that a stateless person is one “who is not considered as a national by any state under the operation of its law”. After the religious conflict, the President U Thein Sein announced Rohingyas people, most of them are Muslim, as the people who do not belong to the country. Inside Myanmar, a kind of circularity exists whereby systemic discrimination renders the Rohingyas stateless, while their status as a stateless population acts as validation for further discrimination and persecution by the state and its citizens (Zawacki, 2013). Therefore, based on these researches, we can conclude that Rohingyas people are being not only by the government of the country, but also by the society.

Because of the religious conflict, not only Rohingyas become stateless people, but also they are smuggling to other country. According to the Human Rights Watch Ad Hoc and Inadequate (2012), October each year marks the start of the annual six-month sailing season, wherein Rohingyas flee persecution in Myanmar via smugglers on boats that are often unseaworthy. Moreover, this religious conflict leads to different forms trafficking since the Rohingyas people has nowhere to go and survive for their lives. The Equal Rights Trust (2013) stated that, from immigration concerns, economic incentives or constraints, or questionable claims of national security, all of these countries have resorted to detention, forced repatriation, the deprivation of basic necessities on the high seas, informal deportation to traffickers, or direct participation in trafficking.

Moreover, the United States Department of State (2012) report on religious freedom in Myanmar states that Muslims across the country, as well as ethnic Chinese and Indians, often were required to obtain permission from township authorities to leave their home towns. Authorities often denied Rohingyas and other Muslims living in Rakhine State permission to travel for any purpose; however, permission was sometimes obtained through bribery. Muslims in other regions were granted more freedom to travel, but still faced restrictions. For example, Rohingyas living in Rangoon needed permission from immigration authorities to travel into and out of Rakhine State. Muslims in Rakhine State, particularly those of the Rohingyas minority group, continued to experience the severest forms of legal, economic, educational, and social discrimination. There were reports that Buddhist physicians would not provide Muslims the endorsement required by the Ministry of Health that permits Muslims to travel outside Rakhine State to seek advanced medical treatment. Hence, Myanmar’s Rohingyas have been deprived of a nationality, they are rendered stateless.

The second effect that needed to be proved is social discrimination on business matter because of the 969 campaign. The Muslims in Myanmar are also facing many problem in doing businesses for their survival. The main cause of in the effect was the 969 campaign. The 969 campaign is the promoting process of the boycott of Muslim businesses and the separation of Buddhists and Muslims in Myanmar. The number 969 represents the three jewels: the nine attributes of the Buddha, the six attributes of his teachings, and the nine attributes of the Sangha, or monastic order. Because of this campaign, the Muslims’ properties as well as the Buddhists’ properties were being destroyed by the Buddhist mobs. The Summary of a Human Rights Watch (2012) stated that mobs from both communities soon stormed unsuspecting villages and neighborhoods, killing residents and destroying homes, shops, and houses of worship. Without or with little government security, however, present to stop the violence, people armed themselves with swords, spears, sticks, iron rods, knives, and other basic weapons. The property from both communities were flattened. The conflict was waved by provocative anti-Muslim media accounts and local propaganda.

Not only Muslims’ houses were being destroyed, but also they have lost their assets to do businesses for their survival. The 969 campaign promoted no to deal with the Muslims in any form of business matter. The 969 campaign calls for Buddhists to only do business with other Buddhists and exclude Muslims who have a strong tradition as merchants in Myanmar. Sayadaw Wirathu, a Buddhist mob, who leads the 969 campaign claims that Muslims control Burma’s economy. While it is true that some Muslims have achieved substantial wealth in certain sectors such as construction the notion that they are economically dominant is laughable. None of the cronies closest to the military and the oligarchs who truly dominate Burma’s economy are Muslim (Bookbinder, 2013).

Religious and dietary customs prohibit Muslims from frequenting Buddhist restaurants, for example. Muslims also dominate some small- and medium-sized business sectors. The names of Muslim-owned construction companies namely Naing Group, Motherland, and Fatherland are winning extra prominence now that Yangon is experiencing a reform-era building boom. However, the biggest construction firms those involved in multi-billion-dollar infrastructure projects are run by tycoons linked to members of the former dictatorship. They are Buddhists (Marshall, 2013). Buddhist clients have canceled contracts with Muslim-owned construction companies in northern Yangon, fearing attacks by 969 followers on the finished buildings, said Shwe Muang, a Muslim MP with the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party. Not only that this campaign affected the big firms, but also small shop is facing problems. One Muslim shopkeeper in northern Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, says his sales have fallen by two-thirds since a video of Sayadaw Wirathu preaching began circulating a month and a half ago. Therefore, the 969 campaign promoted to the Buddhists not to deal with the business matters Myanmar.

IV. Conclusion

Therefore, Muslims in Myanmar are facing these two effects from the religious conflicts which stated in June, 2012. From my point of view, I believe that the problems in the Rakhine state can be solved by tie cooperation of the various parties namely Government of Myanmar, the Muslim Associations of Myanmar with the rule of the law as vital importance. Government of Myanmar and international community must also be granted to the people in the affected areas of the country in support of resettlement and rebuilding efforts. The human rights effects of this both for Rohingyas inside Myanmar and those living abroad as refugees are substantial. Along with ending systemic discrimination in Myanmar, a solution to the Rohingyas problem would be significantly advanced if Myanmar and its regional neighbors abided by the human rights provisions pertaining to stateless persons and refugees. Moreover, the boycott for the business can be diminished by making awareness and take course of actions on the peaceful living with diversity on religions and racial groups.

V. References

Bookbinder, A. (2013, April 9). 969: The Strange Numerological Basis for Burma’s Religious Violence. Retrieved December 18, 2013, from The Atlantic: Marshall, A. R. (2013, June 27). Special Report: Myanmar gives official blessing to anti-Muslim monks. Retrieved December 18, 2013, from Reuters: Wagley, R. (2013, October 26). Top ten human rights abuses in Burma 2013. Retrieved December 18, 2013, from US Campign for Burma: Thailand’s Treatment of Refugees and Asylum Seekers. (2012). Human Rights Watch Ad Hoc and Inadequate, 75-79. Retrieved December 18, 2013, from’s-treatment-of-refugees-and-asylum-seekers/ The goverment could have stopped this: Sectarian violence and Ensuing Abuses in Burma’s Arakan state. (2012, August 1). Retrieved December 18, 2013, from Human Rights Watch: Thai navy of opening fire at a boat of Rohingyas, killing two. (2013, February 1).Retrieved December 20, 2013, from Human Rights Watch: Zawacki, B. (2013). Defining Myanmar’s “Rohingya Problem”. The Human Rights Brief, 20(3), 18-25. Retrieved December 15, 2013, from


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