Footage of Monk and Foreign Reporter Goes Viral

By The Irrawaddy 10 February 2017

RANGOON — Footage has gone viral of a BBC correspondent questioning a Buddhist monk in Rangoon on Thursday in a manner netizens deemed impolite.

Jonah Fisher—the first resident correspondent in Burma for the British news outlet—questioned a monk protesting the arrival of a ship from Malaysia carrying aid to the troubled Maungdaw Township in northern Arakan State as it docked at the Myanmar International Terminals port in Thilawa near Rangoon.

Several dozen Buddhist monks and nationalists—including monks from the Ma Ba Tha-aligned National Coalition Group—demonstrated against the use of the name Rohingya, which is commonly used by a group of Muslims in northern Arakan State to describe their ethnicity.

Viral footage and pictures showed the correspondent questioning the monk about the Rohingya with his hands on his hips—a stance considered disrespectful in Burma especially when talking to religious persons of any faith and people older than you.

“You can’t talk to a Buddhist monk like that in Burma, boy. You are insulting us too much!” one Facebook user said and shared a photo of the correspondent with his hands on his hips.

U Zayar Hlaing, the General Secretary of Myanmar Journalist Network and editor of Mawkun (Chronicle) magazine, told The Irrawaddy that journalists should be careful about their posture as well as their questions when talking to religious persons.

“If you don’t have understanding of the culture and tradition of the country you are covering, there will be problems and it can harm your profession,” he said.

The reporter’s manner evidently riled the monk and he asked, “Is he [the correspondent] being hostile to me or interviewing me?”

“He needs to have some respect. He can ask anything he wants to know, politely. We can’t accept his manner with arms akimbo or with hostility. Tell him, if he doesn’t have any respect, don’t ask questions,” the monk told the correspondent through an interpreter.

The correspondent asked the monk what he was upset with: his questions or his stance. The monk replied that his posture was “rude.”

“You are upset by my questions when I asked you about Rohingya? You don’t like me asking you direct questions?” Jonah Fisher asked. The monk replied he just didn’t like his posture, not his questions.

“He can ask me any questions but please change your posture,” the monk told the correspondent through the interpreter.