Ashin Wirathu, a high-profile leader of the Myanmar Buddhist organization known as Ma Ba Tha, is interviewed Saturday at his monastery in Mandalay, Myanmar. Photo: Aung Naing Soe / Associated Press
MYANMAR ANTI-MUSLIM BUDDHIST MONK: TRUMP ‘SIMILAR TO ME’
By Associated Press -
November 18, 2016
Source: Khaosod English
Source: Khaosod English
MANDALAY, Myanmar — Shunned by Myanmar’s new government and its Buddhist hierarchy, a nationalist monk blamed for whipping up at times bloody anti-Muslim fervor said he feels vindicated by U.S. voters who elected Donald Trump to be president.
Ashin Wirathu, a high-profile leader of the Myanmar Buddhist organization known as Ma Ba Tha, drew parallels between his views on Islam and those of the Republican president-elect. Trump’s campaign was rife with anti-Muslim rhetoric and proposals that included banning Muslims from entering the country and heightening surveillance of mosques. The form his actual policies will take remains unclear.
“We were blamed by the world, but we are just protecting our people and country,” Wirathu said. “… The world singled us out as narrow-minded. But as people from the country that is the grandfather of democracy and human rights elected Donald Trump, who is similar to me in prioritizing nationalism, there will be less finger-pointing from the international community.”
He even floated the idea of cooperating with nationalist groups in the U.S.
“In America, there can be organizations like us who are protecting against the dangers of Islamization. Those organizations can come to organizations in Myanmar to get suggestions or discuss,” he said in an interview at his monastery in Mandalay on Nov. 12.
“Myanmar doesn’t really need to get suggestions from other countries. But they can get ideas from Myanmar.”
Wirathu has been accused of inciting violence with hate-filled, anti-Islamic rhetoric in this Southeast Asian, Buddhist-majority country of about 55 million. Buddhist-led riots left more than 200 people dead in 2012 and forced hundreds of thousands more to flee their homes, most of them Muslim Rohingya in Rakhine state.
Anti-Rohingya sentiment remains high in Myanmar. Members of the ethnic group are widely considered to have immigrated illegally from nearby Bangladesh, though many Rohingya families have lived in Myanmar for generations.
At the same time, Wirathu’s influence has weakened in the past year. He threw his support behind the military-backed government ahead of elections in November 2015, only to see the former ruling party fall to Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy in a landslide.
In July, a senior NLD official in Yangon said that Ma Ba Tha, also known as the Committee to Protect Race and Religion, was not needed. Calls for the official to be disciplined went unanswered. In the same month, the country’s official Buddhist clergy publicly distanced itself from the group.
“Ma Ba Tha fades with barely a whimper,” read a headline in the English-language Myanmar Times in August.
Wirathu said he has no plans of fading into obscurity.
“This government doesn’t want our Ma Ba Tha,” he said, seated behind a desk in a saffron robe as several aides took photos and video of his pronouncements. But the NLD’s attempt to thwart the group will be “hard for them,” he added, as Ma Ba Tha is not breaking any laws.
“Currently, we are waiting and looking at the situation as this government has only been here a short time and they don’t know how to manage,” he said. “So we are not doing anything like campaigning or protesting to impact the government. But we will hold meetings, issue statements, help in our role.”
For example, he said, his members have been distributing food in northern Rakhine state.
Scores of Rohingya and some Myanmar troops have been killed in northern Rakhine since suspected militants attacked border posts last month, killing nine police officers. Rohingya activists say innocent villagers are being killed, but the government says it is only fighting “violent attackers.” International media and aid groups have been kept away.
Story: Joe Freeman
This Muslim purge in Myanmar is so awful you can see it from space
A satellite image from Nov. 10 shows a Muslim village burned down in an arson spree allegedly committed by Myanmar’s army. According to Human Rights Watch, at least 400 buildings in Muslim-majority parts of Myanmar have been destroyed.
Human Rights Watch/Courtesy
November 15, 2016
By Patrick Winn
If Myanmar’s notorious army is to be believed — that’s a very big if — its soldiers are facing a highly deranged adversary.
Along Myanmar’s marshy coastline, villages keep going up in flames. All of them belong to the Rohingya, a horribly persecuted Muslim group. The arsonists? Muslims themselves, according to the army.
The Rohingya, we are told, are burning their own homes to attract well-armed government platoons — and then sprinting at them with knives, berserker style, so that they can get mowed down by the dozens.
This narrative defies logic. But it’s hard to challenge directly — and that’s how the army likes it.
Myanmar’s military has turned much of the Rohingya’s homeland into a no-go zone for aid workers and non-compliant journalists. It has become, in the words of one expert, an “information black hole.”
Relieved of prying eyes, the military is aggressively purging Muslim villages that have been infiltrated by an “extremist violent ideology.”
These raids began shortly after the October emergence of a poorly armed Rohingya militant group numbering in the hundreds. According to government reports, a series of clashes have killed about 17 officers and more than 65 militants.
Simply not plausible that villagers "burned their own houses". https://t.co/NYrqOqyUNS— Richard Horsey (@rshorsey) November 13, 2016
The military is now in a highly advantageous position. It brings superior firepower — columns of troops and attack choppers — to combat a ragtag group that is mostly armed with “small guns, swords, spears and sticks.”
Furthermore, Myanmar’s predominately Buddhist citizens appear to broadly support the army’s purges. In one of Asia’s most ethnically diverse nations, no group is as denigrated as the Rohingya.
Even fresh claims of soldiers gang-raping Rohingya women at gunpoint have stirred little domestic outcry. One official, speaking to the BBC, has refuted the claims by insisting Rohingya women are too “dirty” to arouse troops.
The army is operating in a void, free of critical onlookers who might defy the official narrative. However, technology offers a few ways to illuminate the facts.
Using satellite images, Human Rights Watch has monitored the remote region where the army’s purge is ongoing. Their findings: a widespread torching of villages that has incinerated at least 400 buildings.
“These satellite images of village destruction could be the tip of the iceberg given the grave abuses being reported,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director with Human Rights Watch.
In addition to cameras orbiting the Earth, mobile phone cameras are also helping to reveal Rohingya suffering. Shaky footage, allegedly capturing the aftermath of air strikes, appears to show the corpses of children sprawled out on the grass.
The exact nature of these videos is hard to verify. But they suggest the Rohingya death toll is not limited to wild-eyed terrorists rushing suicidally at soldiers.
The story is always the same. Troops enter Rohingya village on "clearance operations". Discover "violent attackers". Arrest or shoot.— Jonah Fisher (@JonahFisherBBC) November 15, 2016
The plight of the Rohingya, already among the world’s most tormented groups, appears to grow increasingly dire.
About 10 percent of the population of approximately 1 million already lives in bleak internment camps controlled by the army. Food and medicine is scarce. Travel outside is restricted. Hunger is rampant.
As for the nation’s much-celebrated pro-democracy crowd that swirls around Myanmar’s iconic, de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi? They have seemed largely dismissive of Rohingya woes for years.
The emergence of inept militants, vowing to liberate their Rohingya people, has only legitimized the public’s distrust of Muslims. But there are signs that their tragedy could worsen from here.
Myanmar’s government now plans to arm and train an all-Buddhist militia in the same state the Rohingya inhabit. This new armed wing would be composed of ethnic Arakanese, Buddhists who are also native to the area.
One international monitoring group, the International Commission of Jurists, has called this a “recipe for disaster.” But the plan is favored by one of the loudest anti-Rohingya organizations, the Arakan National Party, which favors “inhuman acts” to rid their homeland of Muslims.
Last week, as the army stormed Muslim villages, the group found time to congratulate Donald Trump for winning the US presidential election.
“Being engulfed in Islamization and illegal immigration problems,” the party wrote, “we the Arakanese people look up to you as a new world leader who will change the rigged system being infested with jihadi infiltrators.”