Rohingya Massacres, Theravada Complicity?

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Rohingya Massacres, Theravada Complicity?

Postby drifting cloud » Sat Aug 04, 2012 3:52 pm

Image



After seeing images such as the one above, I am forced to ask the uncomfortable question - to what extent are Burmese Buddhists, and the Buddhist establishment in Burma, complicit with or even encouraging the on-going atrocities against the minority Rohingya people?

Human Rights Watch has a report on the conflict. Rather than trying to ease tensions between the two communities, it appears that monks have been fanning the flames of hatred:

In the aftermath, local Arakan leaders and members of the Arakan community in Sittwe have called for the forced displacement of the Muslim community from the city, while local Buddhist monks have initiated a campaign of exclusion, calling on the local Buddhist population to neither befriend nor do business with Muslims.


How do Theravada Buddhists in Burma square their behavior with the Dhamma? Why have Theravada leaders in Burma, and around the world, been comparatively silent about this? Has anyone read or heard of any statements issued by Buddhist leaders - in particular, Theravada Buddhists - condemning the violence?
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Re: Rohingya Massacres, Theravada Complicity?

Postby David N. Snyder » Sat Aug 04, 2012 4:29 pm

This was discussed over at our sister forum, Dharma Wheel and it quickly degenerated into attacks on Islam and the thread was closed.

It appears that the incident in the OP is an isolated incident of Buddhist-Islamic violence? From all google searches I have done related to the internal strife, all I can find is ethnic conflicts and conflicts between the government junta and pro-democracy Burmese, mostly Buddhist. It does not appear the conflict is religiously oriented at all, at least not in general right now.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internal_conflict_in_Burma

There appears to be several ethnic groups who are in dispute over power, land, the usual stuff, but each group is religiously diverse and no one specific religion to each ethnic group.

Moderator note: Sectarianism, Islam bashing will not be tolerated and posts will be routinely removed and/or this thread will be closed (if that happens).
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Re: Rohingya Massacres, Theravada Complicity?

Postby drifting cloud » Sat Aug 04, 2012 4:53 pm

David N. Snyder wrote:This was discussed over at our sister forum, Dharma Wheel and it quickly degenerated into attacks on Islam and the thread was closed.

It appears that the incident in the OP is an isolated incident of Buddhist-Islamic violence? From all google searches I have done related to the internal strife, all I can find is ethnic conflicts and conflicts between the government junta and pro-democracy Burmese, mostly Buddhist. It does not appear the conflict is religiously oriented at all, at least not in general right now.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internal_conflict_in_Burma

There appears to be several ethnic groups who are in dispute over power, land, the usual stuff, but each group is religiously diverse and no one specific religion to each ethnic group.

Moderator note: Sectarianism, Islam bashing will not be tolerated and posts will be routinely removed and/or this thread will be closed (if that happens).


Hello David,

Thank you for the reminder to refrain from sectarianism, etc. To be honest I hesitated about posting this topic here, since I can see how the potential for such things exists, but nevertheless I think this is something important that as practitioners of Theravada we should face honestly.

I do have a disagreement with your presentation of the situation - the report by Human Rights Watch does specifically mention the religious affiliations of the two ethnic groups in Arakan province, the Rohingya (who are certainly overwhelmingly Muslim) and the Arakan (who seem to be, like many other ethnic groups in Burma, overwhelmingly Theravada Buddhist). While I agree that we cannot separate these events from the broader context of internal conflict in Burma over the past six or seven decades, there is at the very least a perception that religious differences are an important factor in driving this conflict (and in politics, perception often creates reality). Thus it would seem that this specific conflict, the one in Arakan Province which is resulting in Rohingya refugees flooding into Bangladesh and fleeing Burmese security forces, does have certain religious undertones to it.

Certainly the "spin" that this is receiving in the media seems to be focusing on the religious affiliations of the two groups, and I can also say that in the Islamic world there has been a lot of portrayal of this conflict as being "Buddhist vs Muslim" (this section from Al Jazeera's English website has some representative images and comments from around the web: Plight of the Rohingya).

Interethnic conflict is always a complicated situation, with roots that go back beyond any individual incident. Certainly I don't think that "Buddhism" or "Theravada Buddhism" or "Islam" is to blame for what is happening in Burma. My concern, however, is the response (or lack thereof) of Buddhists in general and Burmese and Theravada Buddhists in particular to the conflict. I understand of course that Burma is a highly repressive, authoritarian state, and that if the Burmese Buddhist establishment speaks out against the atrocities which are being perpetrated by the state they risk a backlash; however, I am especially troubled to see the role that ordained monks are playing in this. If nothing else, I think silence on this issue potentially endangers Buddhist communities around the world, particularly as the media is portraying this as a "Muslim vs Buddhist" conflict - I would not want to see tensions in South Thailand, for example, become ratcheted up in response to this.
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Re: Rohingya Massacres, Theravada Complicity?

Postby drifting cloud » Tue Aug 07, 2012 2:01 am

I am a little disappointed that this thread has garnered so little interest - I had thought that orders of ordained monks advocating ethnic cleansing in Burma's Arakan State might have evoked some kind of reaction - I realize, of course, there are finer points of Pali translation to be endlessly debated without conclusion, but surely the posters here have some thoughts? Is any one at all troubled by the association of Theravada instituions in Burma with the forced displacement and terrorization of nearly a million people?

Speaking for myself, I think these passages from the Dhammapada more or less summarizes my view of the situation:

Hatred is never appeased by hatred in this world.
By non-hatred alone is hatred appeased.
This is a law eternal.


Whoever being depraved,
devoid of self-control and truthfulness,
should don the monk's yellow robe,
he surely is not worthy of the robe.


One who, while himself seeking happiness,
oppresses with violence other beings
who also desire happiness,
will not attain happiness hereafter.

One who, while himself seeking happiness,
does not oppress with violence other beings
who also desire happiness,
will find happiness hereafter.
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Re: Rohingya Massacres, Theravada Complicity?

Postby Ben » Tue Aug 07, 2012 2:15 am

Greetings drifting cloud,

I think the situation is far more complicated than what is generally reported and that there is also a lot of information and context not reported.
kind regards,

Ben
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Re: Rohingya Massacres, Theravada Complicity?

Postby Dmytro » Tue Aug 07, 2012 3:17 am

drifting cloud wrote:After seeing images such as the one above, I am forced to ask the uncomfortable question - to what extent are Burmese Buddhists, and the Buddhist establishment in Burma, complicit with or even encouraging the on-going atrocities against the minority Rohingya people?


I have read some of these reports, and they are strongly biased and lop-sided. Even the language of reports is often farfetched, presenting accusations as if they were facts.
Evidently this reflects a larger political campaign against Myanmar. USA government is desperate to influence the Myanmar by any means, and spends a lot of resources to strengthen USA presence - from several radio stations near the borders of Myanmar, to the financial and political support of opposition.

I would be ready to discuss the question if the first-hand opinions of the both sides were presented.
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Re: Rohingya Massacres, Theravada Complicity?

Postby drifting cloud » Tue Aug 07, 2012 5:54 pm

Hello Dmytro,

Dmytro wrote:I have read some of these reports, and they are strongly biased and lop-sided. Even the language of reports is often farfetched, presenting accusations as if they were facts.


Can you please elaborate? Which "accusations" are being presented as facts?

There has certainly been distortion of facts among users on the internet (most famously with images of Tibetan monks following an earthquake being labeled as Burmese monks surrounding destroyed Rohingya houses), but can you identify these "biased, lop-sided and farfetched" reports? Are you referring to the media in general, specific media outlets, the report by Human Rights Watch?

Dmytro wrote:Evidently this reflects a larger political campaign against Myanmar. USA government is desperate to influence the Myanmar by any means, and spends a lot of resources to strengthen USA presence - from several radio stations near the borders of Myanmar, to the financial and political support of opposition.


Do you have anything to back your assertion that the reports of killing and ethnic-cleansing has anything to do with the United States? It seems to be the case of a longer standing conflict, one that goes back at least to the Burmese government's decision to strip Rohingya people of Burmese citizenship in the 1980s. I don't see how reporting of these incidents reflects an American bias, especially since other news outlets (Russian, British, Chinese, Arabic) all seem to be reporting the same incidents of violence.
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Re: Rohingya Massacres, Theravada Complicity?

Postby Alex123 » Tue Aug 07, 2012 7:10 pm

Just because some monks can do bad things it doesn't mean that all monks are bad.
I was not; I was; I am not; I do not care."
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Re: Rohingya Massacres, Theravada Complicity?

Postby Dmytro » Tue Aug 07, 2012 7:28 pm

Hi,

I wouldn't involve in political debates, especially since this isn't a political forum. Just a short clarification.

drifting cloud wrote:Do you have anything to back your assertion that the reports of killing and ethnic-cleansing has anything to do with the United States? It seems to be the case of a longer standing conflict, one that goes back at least to the Burmese government's decision to strip Rohingya people of Burmese citizenship in the 1980s. I don't see how reporting of these incidents reflects an American bias, especially since other news outlets (Russian, British, Chinese, Arabic) all seem to be reporting the same incidents of violence.


Russian, Chinese and Arabic news outlets present quite a different picture, with mostly plain facts, for example:

http://europe.chinadaily.com.cn/world/2 ... 497684.htm
http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/world ... 743610.htm

And why do you you think that there was "the Burmese government's decision to strip Rohingya people of Burmese citizenship in the 1980s"? AFAIK, they were never granted citizenship, as illegal immigrants.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/internatio ... 703383.ece

IMHO, the bias of the Western media is obvious.

If a country does not belong to the US area of influence, dares to conduct an independent policy or differs in political system from western-style 'democracy", it comes under continuous pressure for offences, real and imagined, or even becomes invaded and occupied by armed forces.

It's very hard to find a single Western media report, for example,
- about apartheid in some African countries, where white people are forbidden to have property;
- about Islamic fundamentalism and religious oppression in Saudi Arabia;
- about limited rights of immigrants in USA;
- about judicial prejudice in the favor of women in USA;
- about the attitude to illegal immigrants in USA and Europe.

These subjects are not 'politically correct', so the Western news campaign centers around the good brave West with satellites versus the 'axis of evil' with non-conforming countries.

The Rohingya issue is complex and hard to solve, and IMHO, Western pressure on Myanmar only complicates the matter. Myanmar people treasure their independency and won't give up to brute force media campaign.

http://www.mmtimes.com/2012/news/638/news63817.html

Best wishes, Dmytro
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Re: Rohingya Massacres, Theravada Complicity?

Postby David N. Snyder » Tue Aug 07, 2012 8:44 pm

drifting cloud wrote:I am a little disappointed that this thread has garnered so little interest -


Perhaps it is because there is little wholesome things to say regarding this subject. It is not that everyone or anyone is condoning violence or massacres, but these things are happening all over the world. Of course it is not good, but what good is there in condemning the monks, the Burmese, the Muslims, or the ethnic groups involved? It is a complicated issue as others have posted here. It seems the OP and the request for more responses is just inviting something unwholesome to be said or debated here.
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Re: Rohingya Massacres, Theravada Complicity?

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Tue Aug 07, 2012 10:30 pm

Dmytro wrote:If a country does not belong to the US area of influence, dares to conduct an independent policy or differs in political system from western-style 'democracy", it comes under continuous pressure for offences, real and imagined, or even becomes invaded and occupied by armed forces.

Are you somehow implying that the government in Burma is not responsible for the continued oppression and exploitation of ethnic minorities and political dissidents? You're correct that Western media is replete with biases, but that does not mean that the dictatorship in Myanmar is free from blame for the ethnic cleansing, rape, torture, imprisonment, and abuse of thousands of innocent people.

I have great respect for Burma, Burmese citizens, and Burmese culture. I mean to attack no one. But we can't let our reasonable skepticism of the American media take us too far in the other direction, where we turn a blind eye to the abuse that non-Western governments do perpetrate.
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta

Stuff I write about things.
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Re: Rohingya Massacres, Theravada Complicity?

Postby Dmytro » Wed Aug 08, 2012 4:50 am

LonesomeYogurt wrote:Are you somehow implying that the government in Burma is not responsible for the continued oppression and exploitation of ethnic minorities and political dissidents?


Current government did not commit such offences.

You're correct that Western media is replete with biases, but that does not mean that the dictatorship in Myanmar is free from blame for the ethnic cleansing, rape, torture, imprisonment, and abuse of thousands of innocent people.


There's indeed a lot of blame and accusations. One of them is to call anything which differs from western-style 'democracy' a 'dictatorship' or other derogatory term. Careful look reveals that the situation is more complex.

Myanmar is undergoing a liberalisation process similar to what Singapore did, and the stereotypes of the past need to be left behind.

I have great respect for Burma, Burmese citizens, and Burmese culture. I mean to attack no one. But we can't let our reasonable skepticism of the American media take us too far in the other direction, where we turn a blind eye to the abuse that non-Western governments do perpetrate.


Where's a single documented fact of governmental abuse towards Rohingya? AFAIK, the government acted swiftly and decisively, preventing the further bloodshed.
I wouldn't place much trust into unverifiable and contradictory reports from parties with vested interests.

The humanitarian crisis in Rakkhine state affected all the people, regardless of faith or nationality. But somehow the international aid comes only to Rohingyas.
IMHO, if the purposes of this aid were completely humanitarian, it would come to all displaced people.

Evidently Rohingyas demand the creation of own autonomy in Myanmar. Even if such autonomy would be created under pressure, this would lead to the escalation of conflict between Rakkhines and Rohingyas. In the multinational situation of Myanmar, the balances are very subtle, and there are no simple solutions.
What could really help is the dialogue between involved parties, mediated by independent specialists (perhaps from UN).
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Re: Rohingya Massacres, Theravada Complicity?

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Wed Aug 08, 2012 5:13 am

Dmytro wrote:
Current government did not commit such offences.

That's simply not true. While the current president is somewhat of a moderate, the government of Burma has been and continues to commit these acts.

There's indeed a lot of blame and accusations. One of them is to call anything which differs from western-style 'democracy' a 'dictatorship' or other derogatory term. Careful look reveals that the situation is more complex.

Myanmar is undergoing a liberalisation process similar to what Singapore did, and the stereotypes of the past need to be left behind.

It's undergoing a process in which the visible actions of the government most likely to be praised by western media are being liberalized. That's about it.

Where's a single documented fact of governmental abuse towards Rohingya? AFAIK, the government acted swiftly and decisively, preventing the further bloodshed.
I wouldn't place much trust into unverifiable and contradictory reports from parties with vested interests.

The humanitarian crisis in Rakkhine state affected all the people, regardless of faith or nationality. But somehow the international aid comes only to Rohingyas.
IMHO, if the purposes of this aid were completely humanitarian, it would come to all displaced people.

Evidently Rohingyas demand the creation of own autonomy in Myanmar. Even if such autonomy would be created under pressure, this would lead to the escalation of conflict between Rakkhines and Rohingyas. In the multinational situation of Myanmar, the balances are very subtle, and there are no simple solutions.
What could really help is the dialogue between involved parties, mediated by independent specialists (perhaps from UN).

I'm not referring to this situation. I'm speaking in general, but specifically with reference to the Shan people as well as pro-democracy advocates, non-Buddhists, and women.
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta

Stuff I write about things.
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Re: Rohingya Massacres, Theravada Complicity?

Postby Ben » Wed Aug 08, 2012 6:05 am

Greetings LY,

Having stayed in Myanmar and having some knowledge of the idiosyncratic relations between State, Sangha and Laity, I am inclined to disregard just about every news report on activities in the country. My observation has been that material offered as news is, through ommission or commission, often fictional. Anything you hear needs to be taken with a grain of salt.
kind regards,

Ben
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Re: Rohingya Massacres, Theravada Complicity?

Postby Mr Man » Wed Aug 08, 2012 6:44 am

Ben wrote:Greetings LY,

Anything you hear needs to be taken with a grain of salt.


Ben


So was Aung San Suu Kyi held under house arrest for many years? It's your opinion that most of the reports of human rights abuses in Myanma are fictional?
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Re: Rohingya Massacres, Theravada Complicity?

Postby pilgrim » Wed Aug 08, 2012 7:54 am

I agree with Dymtro that the international news agencies have been one-sided and reporting from the perspective of oppression of the Rohingya only. The issue is, as remarked by many, quite complicated and the media paints it as though the Rohingya have always been the victims. The other side of the story has been pretty much ignored.

The Rakhine try to live peacefully in Arakan but have been consistently terrorized by gangs of Rohingyas who pillage isolated Rakhine villages. Over the decades the Rohingya numbers have swelled and crimes have become increasingly violent and brazen. In the eyes of the Rakhine, the Rohingya who have no legal status in the country, are illegal immigrants who use their overpowering numbers and violence to displace the Rakhine from their villages and homes. Buddhist or not, these are poor people living in a agrarian community with little support from their government. Their options for facing up to this problem is pretty limited.

In the ensuing riots, the Rohingya have run to the international community and the middle east countries playing the victim card. Pakistani media even reported a ridiculous number of 50,000 Rohingya were massacred. The Burmese government, on the other hand have few friends, and most countries are already pointing accusing figures of genocide, when facts indicate they have brought a measure of control and calm to the region.
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Re: Rohingya Massacres, Theravada Complicity?

Postby Ben » Wed Aug 08, 2012 8:02 am

Mr Man wrote:
Ben wrote:Greetings LY,

Anything you hear needs to be taken with a grain of salt.


Ben


So was Aung San Suu Kyi held under house arrest for many years? It's your opinion that most of the reports of human rights abuses in Myanma are fictional?


Be assured that there are very powerful vested interests at work behind the scenes and manufacturing consent via the stories you are reading or learning about via the media (btw, which includes the ex-patriot organs for the Burmese opposition - The Irriwaddy and the Democratic Voice of Burma - and Amnesty International).
Question everything and follow the evidence.
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Re: Rohingya Massacres, Theravada Complicity?

Postby Mr Man » Wed Aug 08, 2012 8:13 am

Ben, of cause there are vested interests at play but that does not negate the culpability of a despotic regime. to "disregard just about every news report on activities in the country" is, in my opinion, ostrich like. :)
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Re: Rohingya Massacres, Theravada Complicity?

Postby Ben » Wed Aug 08, 2012 8:23 am

As I said, Mr Man, question everything and follow the evidence.
If that makes me 'ostrich like', then so be it.
kind regards,

Ben
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Re: Rohingya Massacres, Theravada Complicity?

Postby Mr Man » Wed Aug 08, 2012 8:32 am

Ben you also said "I am inclined to disregard just about every news report on activities in the country". Not sure how easy it is to follow the evidence.

-----

Here is a news report from Phucket: http://phuketwan.com/tourism/phuket-mil ... ves-16364/
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