Preventing Religious Violence Is a Task for All

Two motorcycle riders, including one carrying a stick, in downtown Mandalay amid clashes between Buddhists and Muslims on Wednesday. (Photo: The Irrawaddy)

The communal violence has hit Mandalay – a city that had all along prided itself in its civic cooperation and tolerance. The frightening regularity of such cases is beginning to tell, and some community leaders are convinced that the violence is being instigated and manipulated for nefarious ends. Well, the anti-Muslim sentiments are already there and very much alive, and it only needs a spark from somewhere.

Compared to Meikthila and elsewhere last year, the police response has been swift, although the effectiveness remains to be seen. But overall, it makes the government and its commitment look weak. As for the reading that all this is to delay the next elections, that cannot be done without invoking the Constitution i.e. declare a period of emergency rule. I don’t think the establishment stands to gain by doing this. It is a measure of public distrust of the government that blame is being apportioned for its role, overt or covert.

I still think working on society is key, and for that one cannot rely on the state alone. Indeed it is doubtful whether the state as

Khin Zaw Win is the director of the Tampadipa Institute in Rangoon.

Khin Zaw Win is the director of the Tampadipa Institute in Rangoon.

the capacity or the willingness to do this. Unknowingly, Bamar Buddhist society is facing an internal crisis and Buddhist leaders – lay and clerical – do not seem to be finding a way out. Extrapolating this paralysis to other ethnic issues and the civil war does not produce a very encouraging picture.

All right, a bout of sectarian violence has happened. In its wake, interfaith groups in Mandalay and in the whole country will just have to redouble their efforts. Some political leaders have been clamouring that the present constitution is not democratic and has to be amended. But even if one accepts that, does a more democratic constitution mean that society also takes on stronger democratic values, like tolerance for minorities? Not necessarily.

Amending the Constitution is only one aspect of building a democratic Burma, and the other tasks are sadly being neglected. Too much attention is being paid to the superstructure of a democratic system and not enough to the real substance of such a system.

The government and security forces have primary responsibility for controlling the violence, but preventing it is a task for all. It shames us as a nation to see it recurring with such regularity.

Khin Zaw Win is the director of the Tampadipa Institute in Rangoon.

2 Responses to Preventing Religious Violence Is a Task for All

  1. Buddhists are super majority religious group in Myanmar. It’s many times larger than a combination of other religious groups. Islam or Christianity or Hinduism is no way near to be a threat to Buddhism in Myanmar. Unless the Myanmar regime is behind these religious riots, no one wants to harm these tiny religious groups. Religious riot started soon after NLD won 90% of the seats in 2012 by election. Using helpless Muslim community to hang on to power by USDP is inhumane. It’s so crooked and wicked that rioters make themselves as the law. If someone violates the law, law enforcement personnel have to tackle it and let him/her face trial in the court of law. Today’s riot in Mandalay is believed to be instigated by Myanmar regime.

  2. Come on , not always the same old story over an alleged rape from one to the other side, since 20 years the success pattern in Myanmar to get the crowds on the street.When there are at least 2 rapes a day officially registered , 80 % in Yangon, you can imagine how many rapes are done daily by Buddhist Burmese against whom ever, these figures are official police figures from last year.

    Was it not that the riots came together already early and were set to start early but not against Muslims but very much against the Chinese Community and the tens of thousands to over 2 million illegal Chinese in Mandalay and upper Myanmar. Was it not a bad moment having Thein Sein at same time in China….— what would be more easy than to derail the attack on the chines through just a leak of Rape Info Muslim against Buddhist and all would be OK the old style in old Burma again,— and see there it worked ,,,,, again again again and again …. and it will work again you will see sooner or later ….
    To much the Police knew already in advance to much was all pre arranged compared to the past two years …. Ah just nearly forgot Wirathu also was allowed to raise the word and did well for his people,– once again he proved him self of being what ever he wants but sure far far far away from Buddhas teachings….As per withness in Jail Wirathu never was a Monk or in any way Buddhist connected , that is a true fact ….

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