• Myanmar Buddhists’ Beef Paid Member

    Last year a Muslim businessman called Lwin Tun set up a factory in Labutta, a town in Myanmar's Ayeyarwady Delta. He spent $330,000 on buildings and cooling systems, but couldn't buy the product his factory was meant to process: meat. That's because Labutta's seven cattle slaughterhouses, also Muslim-owned, had suddenly gone out of business. In January 2014 they had tried to renew their licenses, but local authorities had already sold them to an association led by members of the radical Buddhist group Ma Ba Tha. The Muslim slaughterhouses went bust—and so, after just three months, did Lwin Tun's meat-processing factory. More »
  • Why Are Myanmar Nuns Not Granted the Same Respect as Monks? Paid Member

    A young Buddhist nun rides Yangon's circular train in June 2015. Born of Buddhist parents and raised in a Buddhist environment, I grew up as a typical Myanmar Buddhist girl. Under the care of my grandmother, it was hammered into my brain that we should worship and pay the utmost respect to Buddhist monks in all circumstances. My grandmother instructed me, for example, to never sit on the same level as monks, but place myself at their feet. Yet in all the years of my childhood she never said a word about how to behave in front of Buddhist women who had become nuns. More »
  • The Rise of Political Buddhism in Myanmar Paid Member

    A Buddhist monk adjusts his robe at a monastery affiliated with the Ma Ba Tha (Organization for the Protection of Race and Religion) on the outskirts of Yangon. The Ma Ba Tha organization, mainly active in Yangon and the northern city of Mandalay, promotes hardline Buddhist nationalism in Myanmar. The Organization for the Protection of Race and Religion, known by the Burmese acronym Ma Ba Tha, is gaining ground in Myanmar. It has also been receiving increased international attention—last month for its proposal to ban Muslim headscarves in public schools.  More »
  • Theravada Buddhism’s Muslim Problem Paid Member

    Buddhist and Muslim leaders meet to discuss peace initiatives at the Yogyakarta meeting in Indonesia, March 2015.  Buddhist radicalism is on the rise in countries like Myanmar and Sri Lanka. Since 2012, both countries have witnessed severe violence against their Muslim minorities. Attacks take place in an atmosphere of strong anti-Muslim rhetoric put forward by certain monk-led nationalist groups, and the (largely unknown) orchestrators and perpetrators of these attacks operate with impunity. More »
  • Not Playing Nice Paid Member

    Myanmar's parliament building It’s election year in Myanmar, the big test for the country’s aspiring democratic transition. Among the spirited national debates there are four controversial pieces of legislation currently under consideration in Myanmar’s Assembly of the Union parliament (the Pyidaungsu hluttaw). These reportedly aim to protect race and religion. But in truth, the bills represent a setback for religious freedom and women’s rights and—if adopted—are likely to deepen existing religious divides, threaten the reform agenda, and stir violence prior to the elections. More »
  • Myanmar's Cosmic Theater Paid Member

    Buddhist Art of MyanmarFebruary 10–May 10, 2015Asia Society, New York A Pyu period copper statue of a seated Buddha from the 8th or 9th century. Four years ago, Burma, now known as Myanmar, ended its decades-long isolation from much of the world. Now the Asia Society has mounted the first-ever museum show of Burmese Buddhist art in the US. The works included are fantastically varied in appearance, and for good reason. Until British rule in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the region comprising present-day Myanmar was a collection of separate kingdoms whose names, borders, and populations changed over the centuries. Providing a common thread among these disparate cultures was Buddhism, still practiced by 90 percent of the population of Myanmar. More »