erikwdavis

Posts Tagged ‘burma’

The Rohingya, Buddhism, and anti-Muslim sentiment

In comment on March 27, 2013 at 11:47 am

I’ve been constantly checking my twitter feed lately. #RohingyaNOW Why? Because it’s almost the only place I can find news about what appears to be a straight-up genocidal attempt by some Burmese fascists. I’m not using that word metaphorically or rhetorically; I believe they qualify as fascists under most standard definitions of the word. These people are attempting to provoke a mass movement to expel or murder all non-Burmese and non-Buddhists from the country. Facing its own long-running Muslim minority problems in the South, Buddhist Thailand is doing its bit, too. Long the cooperative beneficiary of human trafficking from Burma into Thailand, security forces from both Thailand and Burma have attacked boats full of Muslim refugees fleeing the violence, sometimes drowning all those on board, other times pushing them away from Thailand’s coastlines, refusing them the obligatory offerings to refugees under International Law.

I do not have time at the moment for an extensive commentary on these issues, but want to add my voice to those who are pleading with the media, the United Nations, and others, to increase coverage, stand up for the victims of communal violence, and begin a process of restoration for victims of genocidal violence. A few points:

1. These are indeed “Burmese Buddhist Fascists.” They are opposed, apparently, first to the Rohingya, an ethnic minority and Muslim group largely in Western Burma.  The fascists consider them illegal immigrants, though they have been in the area for many generations. They are not opposed to the Rohingya solely for reasons of ethnic difference, either: they are explicitly opposed to Muslims in general. Moreover, much of the most vocal leadership, and according to pictures from the most recent riots and murders, much of the on-the-ground leadership, is by Buddhist monks. Here’s Buddhist monk Wirathu, founder of the newly-formed Buddhist Fascist group “969”, sermonizing against Muslims and encouraging a financial boycott of Muslim enterprises, while stoking fears of a Muslim takeover of Burma. It’s chilling:

Additionally, while the violence against Burma’s Rohingya and Muslims existed prior to the recent steps toward democratization indicated by the new participation of Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD in politics (so lambasted in the monk’s speech, above), it seems to have worsened significantly since then. I do not have enough knowledge of the situation first-hand to confirm this, and am basing my perception here on discussions I had with various people who study Burma (both Burmese and non-Burmese) recently. If correct, it would be interesting to read Burma’s current case against the recent work of sociologist Michael Mann, Democracy’s Dark Side: Explaining Ethnic Cleansing. In that book, Mann (whose companion volume on Fascists is also compelling) argues that sudden democratization, mediated by a number of other necessary preconditions, can actually drive ethnic cleansing. I don’t necessarily endorse his views in either book, though I have found much of them compelling and very “good to think with.”

Regardless, Aung San Suu Kyi has been almost completely silent about the multi-year attack on Burmese Muslims. Some reports point out the great overlap between the primary sources of her political support (Buddhist monks) and the primary sources of these anti-Muslim fascists (Buddhist monks), such as this article, headlined, Myanmar: Aung San Suu Kyi’s “Saffron Monks” Stalk Streets With Machetes – Mass Slaughtering Refugees.

2. This is a political conflict about ethnicity and religion, not a religious conflict that has become political. This is a key distinction. When it is presented as ‘ethnic violence,’ or ‘communal violence,’ in the international media, or by UN officers, we imagine different lines than may actually exist.  Watch the following video, which covers the aftermath of the anti-Muslim pogrom that took place in Meiktila on March 22. You’ll see two Burmese Buddhist laypeople interviewed. Read the rest of this entry »

Sounding Death for November 17, 2011

In sounding on November 17, 2011 at 9:23 am

Ahh, mid-term season, when all individual research writing shrieks to a halt in the face of grading, grant-writing, recommendation-letters, etc., etc. Perhaps that’s what makes us think of death so frequently in this season, and not merely the traditional association of Autumn with death and renewal. Whatever causes it, the interwebz have been throwing a lot of death-related material out there for us to enjoy.

A new Pyu burial site found in Sri Ksetra, Burma/Myanmar, and consists of “urns collected in a brick structure.” (via Southeast Asian Archaeology Weblog) This urban settlement thrived from 4th-9th centuries CE. The Pyu are one of the major four ethnic groups considered indigenous to the regions, the Khmer, Pyu, Cham, and Mon. One of the many interesting things about the burial site, to me, is the existence of grouped urns, as is still standard practice among the Khmer.

The “Kola” group are an ethnic Burmese group that used to thrive in the Pailin region of Cambodia, especially as gem miners and merchants. Although sometimes described as ‘disappeared,’ it might be better to say that the Kola in Pailin have been supplanted: it’s still possible to find people who describe themselves as Kola, but I have not heard of a
“Kola community.” Regardless, a Kola Stupa in the region has just been restored, and it looks AWESOME.

Buzzfeed had a nice photo essays on the Bolivia’s “Day of the Skulls.” Perhaps a bit focused on the ‘transgressive’ aspects (transgressive especially to the presumed Norteamericano viewer, I think), but still a number of very nice photos.

Or perhaps you’d like to take a peek at a lovely necropolis? (surprisingly high property values!)

Atlas Obscura finally got around to profiling the Choeung Ek Memorial Stupa. Pretty much the sort of detail you’d imagine.

In the Czech Republic, Atlas Obscura also profiled the ossuary of Křtiny, in which the skulls of approximately 1,000 people are (mostly) painted with a black laurel-wreath design.

Some of the links and images in the posts above are taken from the newly-published book, The Empire of Death: A Cultural History of Ossuaries and Charnel Houses, by Paul Koudounaris, which looks grimly beautiful.

A fascinating new mortuary practice in South Korea is catching press; it’s being cast as a new way to mourn, but I wonder if that’s the whole story. And if so, why now? Interesting stuff. The practice? Turning the remains of loved ones into prayer beads.

New (mashable) documentary on Burma: “Happy World: Burma, the Dictatorship of the Absurd.”

In notice on July 8, 2011 at 8:40 pm

I would really love to hear what my Burma-oriented friends think of this:

Sounding Buddhism for June 6 2011

In sounding on June 6, 2011 at 12:04 pm
  • Steven Collins’ new book on ordained and lay nuns in South and Southeast Asia
  • Steven Collins’ June seminar in Paris on “the status of the subject”
  • Daniel Veidlinger’s book on textuality, orality, and scriptural transmission in Thailand, featured on New Books in Buddhist Studies; interview!’
  • Trafalgar Meditation Flashmob
  • Derek K. Miller’s last blog post before he died
  • Skateboarding video in Burma is great
  • My current fascination (for 5 years now): Göbleki Tepe.
click through for the actual content Read the rest of this entry »

Sounding on Buddhism, April 13, 2011

In sounding on April 13, 2011 at 12:14 pm

I’m pushing forward with my new schedule for Sounding posts, where I collect a variety of links on a shared topic (“Cambodia, Buddhism, or Religion,” e.g.) and make a few comments about them.  Today is Buddhism day.

  • Aung San Suu Kyi’s son to temporarily ordain as a Buddhist monk
  • Meditation “Better than morphine?”
  • “New Books in Buddhist Studies” online service
  • Separation of Church and State, Equal Treatment, issues in Stupa on National Park Service land
  • Why Hollywood should just stop making movies about ‘other people’s’ religions as backdrop.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s son to temporarily ordain as a Buddhist monk

Did you hear that Aung San Suu Kyi’s son is going to ordain as a Buddhist Monk?  Apparently.  The son, whose heartthrob status will probably only be increased by this honorable, celibate, act (he is a heck of a good-looking young man), will ordain, but the explicit purpose of his ordination is unclear.  Very often, novitiate ordination is understood primarily as an act which makes merit for one’s mother, so it’s very clearly direct towards his mother.  But the act also dovetails with a sense of opening possibility for a renewed National League for Democracy political party (NLD).

Read the rest of this entry »

Sounding on Southeast Asia for February 23, 2010

In sounding on February 23, 2010 at 10:11 am
  • Do a search for Mekong and Naga lately – lots of news.  Here’s a review in the Nation (Thailand) of a new book relating the Mekong and the Naga.  Good stuff, want to read.
  • I’ve got a couple of students who are writing a grant to go work and study with the awesome group in Cambodia Tiny Toones.  Tiny Toones is an organization founded by Cambodian Deportee K.K., who was one of those young Khmer Americans forcibly deported from the US (usually the only home and dominant culture they’ve ever known) because he never applied for citizenship and got into trouble with the law.  Sounds like he had a pretty rough life, but he’s making a seriously positive difference in Phnom Penh, where he teaches breakdancing, life skills, and literacy to street children.  Here are a couple of mass-media articles about the group. Time Magazine | NYT

And oh yes, this is what this web site sounds like if it were music.

The Buddha's Father was cremated

In Uncategorized on November 27, 2008 at 11:02 am

I’m writing the ethnographic description chapter of my dissertation on Cambodian funerals, and was looking for images of the cremation of Suddhodana, Siddhartha Gotama’s father.

In Cambodia, the Buddha is often shown lighting the cremation fire, an image which occasionally causes some controversy, since it is understood that Buddhist monks are not to light fires, especially those for cooking (note the correlation between cremation fires and cooking fires).

And I found this lovely image from a Burmese mural of the Buddha presiding over Suddhodana’s funeral (but not explicitly lighting it.)

via Buddhist eLibrary :: – The Buddha’s Father was cremated

Ass-Headed (Buddhist) Demons

In Uncategorized on November 10, 2008 at 11:15 am

A great photo of a glazed ceramic tile from 15th century Burma, in the British Museum’s collection, along with a very nice description of these gents, and their place in the story of the Buddha’s enlightenment.

But the reason I looked into it? The hilarious title on a posting of it over at Texas Liberal, called “Ass-headed Demons. Do You Have Them In Your Life?

Yes I do, TL, yes I do.

Read This – "Let Us Not Praise Coups"

In Uncategorized on July 4, 2008 at 6:31 pm

In addition to Andrew Walker’s inventory of some of the surprising accomplishments of the Thai state in achieving its Millenium Development Goals, this post by wonderful journalist Awzar Thi (a pseudonym), over at his blog, Rule of Lords is today’s must-read.

Responding to Paul Collier‘s half-baked, militarist suggestion that what countries in crisis (specifically, Zimbabwe) should hope for are military coups, Awzar Thi runs down the actual history of coups, and shows how awful they are for those over which they rule, no matter the high hopes of the populace (and international imperialists), nor the horrendous state of affairs prior to the coup. He concludes

Let us not praise coups, and let us certainly not wish them upon people who are already acutely suffering their iniquities. They are not a way out of trouble but a way into more of it. No better advertisement of this exists than Burma today.

Please, go read it.

Go Read the LA Times Article on Burma's Continuing Catastrophe…

In Uncategorized on May 29, 2008 at 3:27 pm

I was alerted to it by New Mandala, which in turn was made aware of it by a reader of theirs. That reader summed up the article nicely:

The article seems credible, the reporter pretty thorough, the LA Times fairly reputable. If the same content were on a rebellious blog site, it would be almost unbelievable, incomprehensible, but my opinion is that this reporter is working hard to report what is actually going on.

The article itself outdoes that description. There are references to attempts to glean the odd red chile pepper or onion out of mud stinking of corpses, and for comfortable computer users who dislike unnecessary drama, it can be appealing to assume that this is mostly emotional reportage. On the other hand, consider the level of devastation wrought by Nargis in Burma, compounded by Burma’s insane rulers and their refusal to allow people to help survivors directly, and the mounting public health crisis, and this seems thoroughly reasonable.

The article is also notable for reporting on the clandestine (and apparently rather effective) aid efforts organized by heroic monks. Here’s a relevant quote on that front, but please go read the original article here.: Read the rest of this entry »

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