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Barbara O'Brien

Violence Escalates in Burma

By April 1, 2014

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Recent news stories from Burma say that  "Buddhist mobs" are attacking foreign aid workers, and that shots fired by police to break up rioters may have been responsible for the death of an 11-year-old girl.  Last week  40 buildings were attacked and 70 foreign aid workers were evacuated for their own safety.

The latest round of anti-Muslim violence in Burma was touched off last week when a foreign aid worker removed a Buddhist flag from in front of their offices. This was done the agency said, to express neutrality. There are warnings of a "humanitarian crisis" if the situation continues to spiral out of control.

I had hoped matters would calm down after a while but it seems they are getting worse.

Comments
April 2, 2014 at 6:51 am
(1) n. yeti says:

I would like to make a comment here which is not intended in any way to minimize this situation. However, as someone who has spent considerable portions of my life in places recovering from the distortions of military rule, I can understand how long it takes to restore something resembling health to society after it has been smashed by an iron fist for many years. Military dictatorship is, some argue, a corrective measure, and it may even perhaps be necessary at times (in Western terms of course we would not say our military rule is a dictatorship, we would call it an act of Patriotism enshrined in law, shredding the Constitution, but it is the same phenomenon of government sweeping away liberties and consolidating power to achieve a desired end); but, almost inevitably, prolonged dictatorship causes deep problems of its own, not the least of which is a spasm of disorder when the authoritarian policies are finally loosened. Crime, violence, corruption and so on. So I would not discount Buddhism’s role in this violence by any means, but I would also point to the political ambience and reality in Myanmar (not Burma please, that’s a colonial term), which has actually been improving quite impressively over the past couple of decades relative to its nadir. But, alongside this infusion of greater social liberty and opening to outside influences (i.e. the world outside its borders) has been what seems to be an unintended unleashing of social discontent within Myanmar’s still fragile social framework. This seems to have been directed against perceived outsiders (i.e. foreign aid workers, in this case) that tragically, and predictably enough for those who have experienced such a thing, has led to violence. Also it must be said that whatever aid worker who removed the symbol in question clearly did not comprehend its significance to the culture in which he or she has entered.

April 2, 2014 at 12:56 pm
(2) Barbara O'Brien says:

n. yeti — thank you for your comments. I appreciate your insight into this situation.

April 2, 2014 at 10:25 am
(3) Mila says:

also not intended to minimize the situation in anyway …. but the post in combination with n. yeti’s comment brings to mind the physics joke:

“There has been too much action in reaction to political scandals. Please write to your congressman to repeal Newton’s third law.” :)

April 2, 2014 at 2:49 pm
(4) n. yeti says:

We really appreciate your blog too, Barbara. Who else is writing about this stuff?

April 3, 2014 at 8:47 pm
(5) george deane says:

It seems that the outbreak of violence is common when the hard fisted rule of dictatorship is lifted. One might cite Iraq and Yugoslavia as other examples. Self discipline and self restraint might be admirable qualities but when the human ego – the love of self and the hatred toward others – the not-me, is lamentably all too often absent in average human conduct

April 7, 2014 at 3:33 am
(6) Tara says:

I am shocked and deeply saddened to read of such horrifying behavior, especially from so-called Buddhists. Just reading the short Metta sutra should make one stop acting this way.

Such actions are inhuman by any standards, but especially against the basic message of the Buddha. What sort of ‘Buddhists’ are these people?

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