Time Magazine Spreads ‘Misconceptions’ about Buddhism: Thein Sein

A Buddhist monk and other protesters demonstrate against Time magazine in Rangoon on June 30, 2013. (Photo: Reuters / Soe Zeya Tun)

RANGOON — President Thein Sein accused Time magazine of creating misconceptions about Buddhism, a religion practiced by the majority of Burma’s 60 million people, during his monthly radio address to the nation on Tuesday.

Burma’s reformist president said he was aware that the controversial July 1 issue of Time had caused much anguish among the public.

“The cover story of the magazine, depicting a few individuals who are acting contrary to most of Myanmar, is creating misconceptions about Buddhism, a religion practiced by the majority of Myanmar’s population,” the 68-year-old said, according to a transcript published on the President’s Office website.

Time magazine’s July 1 issue features a photo of nationalist monk U Wirathu with the headline “The Face of Buddhist Terror.”

The magazine’s cover story, “When Buddhists Go Bad,” explores the rise of aggressive, nationalist teachings among Buddhist monks in Burma and other parts of Asia, such as Sri Lanka, and the role that radical monks like U Wirathu have played in instigating unrest between groups of different faiths.

The magazine cover and story sparked a public outcry in majority-Buddhist Burma, leading to a government ban on the magazine. Hundreds gathered in downtown Rangoon on Sunday for a rally against the US publication.

In his speech, Thein Sein said he strongly believed that the right to freedom of expression should be exercised responsibly, in light of the delicate political dynamics and religious tensions currently at play in Burma.

“No matter how true a statement, it should not be said if it will not be beneficial and constructive,” he added, quoting a well-known Burmese saying.

“Therefore, I urge you to use the Time magazine article as an opportunity to focus on constructive approaches, consensus building and calming outbreaks of violence,” the former general said.

On a separate note, Thein Sein on Tuesday urged international media to take account of the relatively short 26 months that his government has had to work in assessing the success of Burma’s reform process.

“My intention is not to ignore internationally accepted democratic norms, but rather to invite constructive observations and advice,” he said.

Myint Kyaw, a Burmese journalism trainer and general-secretary of the Myanmar Journalist Network, said the president’s remarks misconstrued the media’s role in society.

“In journalism, we have to prioritize public interests,” he said. “If a situation is bad, we have to say it’s bad in order to make it better.

“He should give us a clear explanation on why they’ve banned the magazine. For example, whether there’s any positive impact on the unrest by banning the magazine.”

Myint Kyaw argued that the Time article did not create misconceptions about Buddhism as a whole, as the president claimed.

“The story doesn’t attack Buddhism but points out that there are some people who misuse the religion to create violence,” Myint Kyaw said.

23 Responses to Time Magazine Spreads ‘Misconceptions’ about Buddhism: Thein Sein

  1. Dear Ko Myint Kyaw, Times magazine , do you consider as a “responsible journalist ” had no hidden agenda and was reporting the “truth nothing but the truth”. No offense, wish you the best in imparting “real journalism ” to the new generation of Myanmar public .

  2. Vast majority of Myanmar people have very poor or no English, and have not read the article, but a vociferous few, without reading the article (they can’t read English) have been angered by the cover, and not understanding the article, have assumed it to be an accusation that Buddhism is same as terrorism. But of course, the Time article is only saying some extremist monks are inciting hatred and terrorism against Muslims. Also, Myanmar people not used to discussion where differing opinions are expressed, and therefore tend to take everything very personally and quick to anger. Most unfortunate that monks are getting involved in politics, when they have very little worldly, secular knowledge. One side effect has been Myanmar workers killed and terrorized in Malaysia.

  3. It’s totally a tactic that Time Magazine use to regain it’s Publicity’s, Time’s circulation has been dropped to a very low level and it is now risking everything to survive, we should all know how ugly the Media Industry from U.S is and who is controlling the Media Corporations.

    Have you seen U.S Media use of any phrase like ” The face of CHRISTIAN Terror” or ” The face of CATHOLIC Terror” I am sure there are people out there worst than U Wirathu during cold world when Russian (Majority Catholic) tried to rip out Muslims minority from their territory.

    Frankly speaking, I am not a racist and do not like the act of U Wirathu at all. Just want to Share my point of view here.

  4. Which misconseptions concretely?

  5. The President Thein Sein and nationalist monk U Wirathu they are twin brother.

  6. U Thein Sein back up wirathu monk and 969 movement, wirathu is doing anti Muslims violence and promotion of U Thein Sein government and election campaign 2015 for USDP . They are not shameful. How people are suffering ,look at their daily life they have to find money for their survival daily basic. How many are our new generation on the roadside, how many are percentage of young people drug addict, how many are young girls doing prostitute and answer of all of these questions are poverty. Who are making of our country is poor and poor,who are more rich and rich. Why they could not give up power because of they are more and more greedy.

  7. Calling yourself Buddhist but acting against the Buddha’s teaching, what should we call you then? Sure you can say that Buddhism is under threat but not by outsiders or other religion but by those within your own. Buddhism has spread to Afghanistan, Indonesia and there’s no doubt about it. It’s almost non in existence in its birth place – India. When those who were supposed to be the vanguard of the faith were more keen on power and non-permit vehicles then what can we say about the religion itself. It’s all bollocks!

  8. That’s my impressions,too. I read the TIME article written by Hannah Bleech. That woman journalist might turn it as she wants: She definitely takes the Islamic side and subliminal is campaigning against Buddhism and Buddhists . Mrs. Bleech obviously wrote the article under someone’s influence, at least referred to (very) onsesided information sources. It is a dialectic propaganda story and SMELLS like having cooked somebody’s darling “favourite dish”. Does that reflect WESTERN PRESS ETHICS ? Nobody should feel the need for such “ideological-democratic products”. Shame on the writer and on TIME magazine !

  9. Mr. Thein Sein you are silently supporting Buddhist terrorism in Burma by ordering the law enforcement people to turn a blind eye to violence, killings and looting of minorities by those terrorists who claim that they are doing in the name of Buddhism. When was the last time you tell these terrorists that lord Buddha never asked his followers to kill, loot and rape people of the other religion?

    • Gerald, you herald bold words which sound propagandistically and aggressively. There is no organized Buddhist terrorism in Burma. But definitely there is organized and VERY wide spread ISLAMIC TERRORISM. And that daily, even worldwide ! Please, take note of it before hitting out against others.

  10. Most Buddhist monks in Myanmar have 4 years or less of secular schooling, and their knowledge of English is limited to “yes, no, belly good, no good”. So what would they understand of an article in Time magazine? Monks should stay in their monasteries, study Buddhist texts, or meditate on loving kindness. Or just watch fKorean movies and football matches on TV. BUT KEEP OUT OF POLITICS AND MAKING MARRIAGE LAWS!

  11. The government probably ought to read the article before laying out claims about its content.

  12. For once I readily agree with him. They might have a hidden agenda too. They are all too happy that they at last find a stick to hit Buddhism with. That the resistance against islam is world wide and against their agression (like the killing in South of Thailand, the covert activities against Buddhism in Sri Lanka, etc.) is silenced!

    • President Thein Sein is a very reasonable man and it is justified what he said. Some of his harsh critizers just show what kind of persons they are.

    • @Concerned

      Definitely an international Islamic campaign is taking place against Buddhism and Buddhists in Myanmar. If you would read international media (Islamic & partly western media) you are surprised of the almost identic pattern of propagandistic-like articles. It can be assumed that the information come from sources within Myanmar. As most articles are onesided pro-Islamic there are good reasons to suspect certain NGOs and their Moslem staff members as main sources. They easily can distribute their stories & reports via corresponding networks, e.g. NGO head offices, Islamic OIC-offices, political organizations, media, journalists etc.). But Burmese people should stay cool-headed and in no case bow to Islamic and their few allies’ pressure.

  13. Agreed with Myint Kyaw….Time magazine did not create misconceptions as a whole about Buddhism.

  14. You should know that truth has no taste.You might feel it bitter or tasty, but the truth is you fear the truth. Why are you so mad at the report if it was not true. Stay busy with your daily work as they don’t reflect your true identity. But you are really scared that world has come to knew the fanatic burmese-stan and burmese buddhist-bin-laden…

  15. This Magazine got big Saudi, qatari,Turkish ad OIC donation to pubblish thi kind of distorted påropaganda about Buddhism !

  16. In the eyes of Burmese Buddhists, Wirathu may be a nationalist monk. But to others, he is an idiot monk. Thein Sein and his USDP are believed behind this propaganda and attacks.

    • @Peace Lover,

      You should speak for yourself but not using unqualified phraseologies of others, probably for the simple reason not taking a risk, but enjoying the effect of malicious gossips.

  17. Oh! He still doesn’t get it.

  18. Pat Robertson and his mission should be published in the media. His mission is; manifest destiny, supremacy, and conspiracy, but he is a religious leader of Christians.

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