Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Myanmarism is Buddhist fascism

Myanmarism or Buddhist fascism has been the face of new Myanmar. With the passage of 4 racist and bigotry-ridden laws aimed at minorities, esp. the Rohingya and other Muslims, there is nothing to feel good about the direction Myanmar is heading. Non-Buddhist religious leaders and human rights groups have condemned the bills. (Click here for an example) The role of Ma Ba Tha, the terrorist Buddhist monks associated with terrorist monk Wirathu, is obvious in writing into law such discriminatory bills.


Already all but one Muslim candidate has been cleared to run the election; the rest of the Muslim candidates have been disqualified without any valid reason. Their only problem - they are Muslims, who represent anywhere from 5 to 10 percent of the population inside Myanmar. But even that small percentage is deemed a threat to Buddhism or what it has become under the toxic influence of terrorist and fascist Buddhist monks like Wirathu and their supporters within the general population.
Muslims, in spite of their birth and continuous ancestral ties to the land of Arakan (Rakhine) state of Burma, have been stripped of their citizenship, and forced to now reapply for residential permits, which is the usual process for outsiders who had come to settle in Myanmar. Thus, Muslim minorities of Myanmar are without any rights in this den of hatred and intolerance called Myanmar. With a clear objective of eliminating them from the political process, their representatives can't even run in the election (although many of them had contested and won in all the previous elections), and thus, their fate is doomed, or so it seems.
As hinted above, rights groups meanwhile dismissed the whole candidate scrutiny and appeals process as a sham.
“The right to stand for election is as fundamental as the right to vote itself. Rejecting Shwe Maung’s candidacy directly undermines the credibility of the upcoming elections,” said Son Chhay, a Cambodian lawmaker and head of the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights, who yesterday accompanied U Shwe Maung to the commission office.
According to the US-based Carter Center, which is monitoring Myanmar’s election, the exclusion of Muslim residents and the growing anti-Islamic hate speech could undermine the looming polls, and lead to more flare-ups of violence.
Myanmar's future seems sealed now with fascism, the same curse that only saw death, and serious abuses of human rights in the previous century. The role of Buddhist monks, sadly, is a matter of grave concern in this Myanmarism - the toxic cocktail of Buddhist fanaticism and bigotry and racism.


Here is a report from Reuters.
Swathed in crimson robes, 77-year-old Ashin Tilawkar Biwonsa shuffles through a crowded conference room with the help of an aide, his supporters standing in respect as he takes a seat at the head of a table under a portrait of his own image.
It is from here, at an unremarkable roadside monastery just outside the city of Yangon, that the abbot is propelling the radical Buddhist group he co-founded into the mainstream of Myanmar's politics.
Four bills drafted by his Committee for the Protection of Race and Religion, better known as Ma Ba Tha, have been passed by parliament and signed into law. Critics say the new laws effectively legalize discrimination against women and the country's minority Muslims.
Along with political clout, Ma Ba Tha is also ratcheting up its public image ahead of elections in November that will be the first free vote in Myanmar in the last 25 years. The radical Buddhist group has regular programming on one of the country's most popular satellite TV channels and has launched a magazine.
"There should be lawmakers in parliament who are reliable for the country," Ashin Tilawkar Biwonsa said in an interview. "There might be some people, especially Muslims, who are working on weakening Buddhism, so we need strong people for our religion."
Ma Ba Tha has shown no signs of contesting elections itself but says it will "remind" the public of candidates who opposed its four laws. These include Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and her opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), which is going head to head with conservatives and military figures in the polls.
Established two years ago, Ma Ba Tha sprang from the "969" movement, a loose collection of monks linked to a wave of violence against the country's Muslim minority in 2012 and 2013.
Senior Ma Ba Tha officials said the 969 movement had raised awareness about threats to Buddhism from a burgeoning Muslim population, but was disorganized and lacked leadership.
"It was (concerned with) only the symbols of Buddhism," said Ashin Tilawkar Biwonsa.
Now, a growing number of professionals are offering their expertise on everything from media relations to legislation, helping to shape Ma Ba Tha into a slick organization with popular support and real political clout.
One such expert is Aye Paing, who spent two decades toiling as a lawyer in Myanmar's musty courtrooms before finding a dramatic new use for his legal skills.


Aye Paing and a team of Ma Ba Tha-linked lawyers drafted the protection of race and religion bills, the last of which was signed by President Thein Sein on Monday.
Lawyers, economists, IT experts and other professionals had made Ma Ba Tha "very efficient, systematic and legal" said Aye Paing, 52, who wears a black "taik pone", a short collarless jacket worn over a shirt that is common among Myanmar's legal professionals.
"We discuss, give advice and share our visions," he said.
   
INTERNATIONAL VISITORS
In another sign of its growing influence, foreign diplomats regularly visit the group's monastery headquarters.


One was U.S. ambassador Derek Mitchell, who went there twice in May to discuss "the need for increased interfaith dialogue" and "the importance of keeping religion out of politics", according to a statement from the U.S. embassy in Yangon.
Myanmar's revered and influential monks led many pro-democracy protests during nearly half a century of military rule in the Buddhist-majority nation. But after a quasi-civilian, reformist government took power in 2011, some outspoken monks claimed Islam was eclipsing Buddhism and weakening the country.
Now, Ashin Tilawkar Biwonsa says Ma Ba Tha has 250 offices nationwide. He couldn't estimate how many supporters it has, but in June more than 1,500 people attended the group's annual conference in Yangon.
Ma Ba Tha recently struck a deal with Myanmar's popular satellite television provider, SkyNet, to broadcast its sermons.
The broadcasts would help the public "know the truth" about Ma Ba Tha, said Khine Khine Tun, 25, an articulate former teacher and interpreter who heads the group's international relations department.
Through media training courses, she said, she has learnt to speak to visitors with a smile, confounding expectations of the abrasive and sometimes confrontational style for which the group is known.


The television deal bolsters an information campaign that already includes a bi-monthly magazine with a circulation of 50,000 that contains sermons delivered by Ma Ba Tha monks nationwide.

RACE AND RELIGION
In contrast to long-delayed legislation on banking, mining and property, the Ma Ba Tha-backed "race and religion" bills moved swiftly through parliament.
One bill requires some women to wait at least three years between pregnancies. Another requires Buddhist women to seek official permission before marrying a non-Buddhist man.
This will stop Muslim men "torturing and forcing (Buddhist women) to change religion," Ashin Tilawkar Biwonsa said.
Suu Kyi and her NLD opposed the laws. But government officials and politicians rarely criticize Ma Ba Tha, because they either sympathize with the group's views or fear upsetting its many supporters during an election year.
"They are afraid of Ma Ba Tha," said May Sabi Phyu, the director of the Gender Equality Network, a women's empowerment group that opposed the bills.
Any plans to sway voters would be "violating the law," said NLD spokesman Nyan Win, adding: "It's the government's responsibility to control and stop them."
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Here below is a disturbing report about fascist activities of Ma Ba Tha.
Myanmar’s radical monks this week staked a claim as a political force, pledging to urge the public to vote with a “nationalist spirit” as the country enters the final months before all-important elections.
The monk-led Organization for the Protection of Race and Religion, or Ma Ba Tha, has grown in influence since it was formed two years ago this month, an anniversary marked by a conference this weekend at a monastery in northern Yangon’s Insein Township.
Large video screens showed supporters the face of Myanmar’s best-known nationalist monk, U Wirathu as he delivered a speech. Books by the monk were on sale alongside other nationalist literature, and copies of a news journal published regularly by Ma Ba Tha.
U Wirathu told the crowd of at least 1,300 monks — plus scores of lay people — that the group would continue to lobby the Myanmar government to protect Buddhism and Buddhists against a perceived threat of expansionist Islam.
The government must not allow people rescued from the Bay of Bengal in the past month to stay in the country, he said.
Following international and regional pressure, Myanmar rescued two boats carrying in total more than 900 people, some from Bangladesh but many thought to be Rohingya born in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state. The government has deported more than 150 people to Bangladesh, but it is not clear what will happen to the rescued Rohingya, who are not Myanmar citizens and are labeled “Bengalis”.
“They might let them just go into the villages,” U Wirathu warned. “If they do that, then they will launch a jihad against the local Rakhine Buddhists.”
U Wirathu’s brand of extreme Buddhist nationalism and anti-Muslim rhetoric are growing forces in the country’s politics, with monks treated with deference by the Buddhist majority. Myanmar is expected to vote in November in what could be its freest elections in decades, with Aung San Suu Kyi’s popular opposition, the National League for Democracy, expected to compete.
At the end of its conference, Ma Ba Tha issued a 12-point policy statement, which addressed the approach the group will take to the elections.
It called on the government’s Union Election Commission to hold free and fair polls, and insisted that Ma Ba Tha will not throw its support behind a particular political party. But Ma Ba Tha will encourage the public to consider alleged threats to race and religion when voting, it said.
Ma Ba Tha will “urge the people to vote for MPs who protect race and religion, instead of emphasizing a particular party or people,” the statement said, adding that the highly controversial amendments to the country’s 2008 constitution should also take into account the group’s goals.
“It [constitutional amendments] needs to be done with national security in mind, instead of looking at one particular person and particular party.”
The current charter, drafted under military rule, bars Aung San Suu Kyi from becoming president because her two sons are British citizens. It also guarantees the military a prominent role in national politics, with a quarter of parliamentary seats reserved for uniformed officers.
Ma Ba Tha also pledged to step up its lobbying to have a set of laws on race and religion passed.
Four such laws — on population control, interfaith marriage, religious conversion and polygamy — have been drafted by the government at the monks’ behest, with only the population control law so far passed.

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