This week, we discuss the 9-6-9 campaign which fuels the religious tensions and ongoing violence in Burma. We also inform you about Cyclone Mohasen, which is predicted to reach Burma on May 16. Finally, we question the historical and political reasons behind the terms “Burma” and “Myanmar”.
Burma seems resolutely set on the path of development and an easing of political tensions. However, it is still a long way to go. Violent clashes arise and spread like wildfire. For nearly a year, Burmese Muslims are the target of ethnic violence, which is increasingly deadly.
Our first article describes the shock felt by Geoffrey Hiller following the violent outbreak in Mekhtila at the end of March, where rioters spent three days destroying and setting fire to mosques, shops and houses belonging to Muslims. More than 40 people were killed in the riots. Geoffrey Hiller visited Mekhtila one month before the violent outbreak. His story of a peaceful trip leads us to view these deplorable events with a new, more critical eye! We also encourage you to discover his stunning photos of Burma here!
The next article describes how the anti-Muslim sentiment is, worryingly, exploited in recent months by a Buddhist nationalist movement, the “9-6-9 campaign”. This nationalist campaign disseminates signs with the numbers 9-6-9 on shops and businesses around Burma. These numbers espouse Buddhist beliefs and symbolize the Three Jewels (cardinal virtues) of Buddhism. “They show that a shop or business is run by Buddhists and is pro-Buddhist – and that Muslims are not welcome.” With strong popular support, the “9-6-9 campaign” is also broadcasted on social networks where it helps to strengthen the impact of ethnic violence.
Our third article on this topic portrays in more details the very worrisome expansion of this anti-Muslim campaign supported by Wirathu, a Buddhist and nationalist monk, who describes himself as “the Burmese bin Laden”. “The spread of this new radicalism has been helped by the very reforms it threatens to derail. New freedom of speech and assembly soon followed, which have made it easier to disseminate radical views. Wirathu himself was unleashed in early 2012 as part of widely praised amnesty for political and other prisoners.” Since then, he became the leader of the movement “9-6-9”.
This article also reviews the impacts on Buddhist and Muslim communities. Thus, for instance, “one Muslim shopkeeper in Yangon says his sales have fallen by two-thirds since a video of Wirathu preaching began circulating a month and half ago. Buddhists, he says, stopped coming to his shop.” Like many other Muslim retailers, he goes over the edge financially. While the human rights NGOs continue to denounce this “bloody campaign of sectarian violence”, it seems necessary that the government take urgent measures to protect the most vulnerable and prevent those who incite hatred and violence from doing it.
Five years after occuring, one of the worst natural disasters in the country’s history is still very present in our memories. The toll in human suffering has been devastating. Indeed, in 2008, Cyclone Nargis killed more than 140,000 people and severely affected 2.4 million others in the Irrawaddy Delta and the city of Yangon, the former capital. In the aftermath of the cyclone, the Burmese military government has delayed and hindered international relief effort and even increased its repression.
This explains why “a tropical cyclone headed towards Bangladesh and western Myanmar is raising fears of a potentially devastating humanitarian crisis” in Burma’s Rakhine State, where 140,000 Rohingya refugees displaced by sectarian violence are living in makeshift camps.” According the Department of Meteorology and Hydrology, Burmese Cyclone Mohasen is expected to make landfall on the west of the country from May 16.
On Sunday, May 12, sparked by the fear that the hurricane will cause a humanitarian disaster given that Rohingya refugees live in makeshift huts in very precarious conditions, the authorities began to move them to a safer location. However, despite these precautions, Burma still lacks the resources to coordinate a large-scale evacuation. The government’s official messages urge fishermen from Rakhine State not to take to sea until further notice.
High winds and significant rainfall, warnings of the cyclone, are expected to affect Burma before May 16.
Burma or Myanmar ?
“Some people refer to the country as Burma while others call it Myanmar. Sometimes, it is referred to as “Myanmar (Burma).” Why it is that some Southeast Asia nations possess two different names? What should it be called?”
Opposition dissidents refused to use the name “Myanmar” imposed by the junta. Now that the country is committed to the path of reforms and democratization, many are more inclined to use it. This article describes and explains both historical and political reasons behind the use of these two names. We encourage you to read it further for a better understanding of this quite controversial and sensitive issue!
Have a good week!