Posts Tagged ‘Conflict’

Since the Rohingya riot last year in June, the nation’s tragedy has drawn the world’s attention. The repeated riots leaves the world with doubt on the effectiveness emerging reforms. But recently, more violence – this time in Meikhtila, in the middle of Myanmar’s Mandalay Division – has captured headlines. Human rights watchdogs, Rohingya advocates and reporters have all rushed to condemn Buddhist extremists as the source of the tension.

The background of the latest clash between Muslims and Buddhists, however, is not as clear cut as is reported. Although it is reported to be sectarian in nature, the characteristics of the latest flair of violence are utterly atypical, and at worst, planned. An insecure public, the nature of the extremists and the announcement of a state of emergency are indicative of a regression from the still-ongoing transition towards democracy.

The immediate root cause of the riot was an argument over a broken gold piece at a goldsmith’s shop belonging to a Muslim man. After the owner had reportedly beaten up the Buddhist sellers, who were from a different town, the sellers cried for help. A crowd gathered, and the town erupted.

Propaganda spread both online and offline was swift and atrocious. Not only were false reports and fake images of dead bodies propagating, but also hateful anonymous comments towards Muslims poured in. Fake anti-Muslim (and some anti-Buddhist) accounts dedicated to spreading propaganda sprang up overnight. Several extremists inflamed the situation with racist content by linking the current flare-up back to last year’s riot between the Rohingya and Rakhine. Pro-military accounts worsened the situation by calling Aung San Suu Kyi and the leaders of the 88 Generation Students Group irresponsible.Curiously, riots coincidentally tend to occur in Myanmar during inbound and outbound trips of Myanmar leaders and important foreign guests. The infamous unrest in Rakhine State was sparked right before Aung San Suu Kyi’s trip to Europe on June 13, 2012. The Latpadaung Copper Mine crackdown, on the other hand,

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