28 February 2014
The religious violence that erupted in Western Myanmar in 2012 and quickly spread to other parts has inspired countless analyses on the plight of the stateless Muslim Rohingya and the underlying causes of the conflict. Regarding the causes, much emphasis is placed on the actions of Buddhist nationalists and a controversial group of extremist monks called the 969 Movement.
Analysts also attribute the violence to the loosening of military control and of censorship, weak rule of law, and disgruntled factions within government. President Thein Sein’s administration has also been accused of inaction and even involvement in the attacks. While these are recent factors behind the violence against Muslims in Myanmar, other critical issues have been overlooked , especially a long-standing siege mentality among the populace that draws on Buddhist millenarianism and a sense of being demographically besieged.
There is a widespread belief in the country that Buddhism will disappear in the future. While international coverage discredits fears of Islamic encroachment by pointing to Myanmar’s Buddhism-majority demographic, local Buddhists have a starkly different worldview in which their faith is besieged by larger, well-funded and better-organised faiths. This millenarianism can be traced to a scripturally unsupported but widely believed prophecy that Buddhism will disappear 5,000 years after its founder’s death. As 1956 is considered the halfway point, the belief is that Buddhism is now declining irreversibly.
… Kyaw San Wai, a Myanmar national, is a senior analyst at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University.
RSIS / Print
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