Thr hopes raised by the 2015 elections and elevation of Aung San Suu Kyi have been “dashed”, as genocide and crimes against humanity — rather than democratisation — have occurred in Burma, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) warned this week.
“Abuse of human rights continue, and peace seems further away than ever,” a new report by CSW, Burma’s identity crisis: How ethno-religious nationalism has led to religious intolerance, crimes against humanity and genocide, concludes.
The report was launched at an event inside the Palace of Westminster on Tuesday evening. Members of the Burma Human Rights Network, Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK, and Kachin National Organisation were present.
Besides documenting the plight of Rohingya Muslims, the report draws attention to other examples of religious intolerance and religious-motivated hatred and violence — trends that few in the international community have noticed, it says.
“The wider Muslim population in Burma, who are not Rohingyas, have been targeted by a widespread campaign of hatred, including the preaching of hate speech by Buddhist monks, and sporadic outbreaks of violence,” it says.
In Kachin and northern Shan State, the conflict between the military and ethnic-armed resistance has led to “a significant rise in egregious human-rights abuses against ethnic minority Christians” — some of the country’s poorest inhabitants — and the displacement of more than 120,000 people.
A detailed account of the rise of “Burman Buddhist nationalism” is provided. The report argues that “an anti-Muslim, anti-Christian Buddhist nationalism has been encouraged by authorities and peddled with impunity by extremist monks.” This has increased since 2015, it says. Facebook is cited as a platform that enables the spread of hatred — something echoed by the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar last year (“I’m afraid that Facebook has now turned into a beast, and not what it originally intended”).
CSW notes that it was also monks who peacefully protested against the military regime, and who have “helped to foster peace and unity in the new political landscape”. But, it says, the government must do more to challenge extremist elements.
Among the examples it cites of a discriminatory legal framework are the four “race and religion” laws, passed in 2015, which include restrictions on the right of children to convert, and regulations concerning the marriage of Buddhist women to men of other faiths. It notes that U Ko Ni, a prominent Muslim legal reformer, was assassinated in 2017.
The report recommends, among other things, that the government of Burma review the education system: it warns that “the history textbooks still used in government schools are highly inaccurate and often portray ruthless Bamar kings as ‘heroes’, ethnic minorities as ‘rebels’ and ‘savages’, and Muslims and anyone of South Asian descent as ‘intruders’”.