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Asia Centre highlights Myanmar’s alarming erosion of religious rights in new report

The 2021 military coup in Myanmar has heightened the erosion of religious freedoms of ethno-religious communities via the deployment of post-colonial policies of Burmanisation and Buddhisation, according to a report from Asia Centre.

Asia Centre, a Bangkok-based research institute with Special Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council, has recently completed a study titled “Burmanisation and Buddhisation: Accelerating the Decline of Religious Rights in Myanmar.”

The report provides a detailed analysis of the evolving situation in Myanmar.

The study found four main oppressive practices against ethno-religious minorities:

  1. Targeted violence and military attacks against pro-federalism ethno-religious communities by the Tatmadaw, the official name of Myanmar’s armed forces.
  2. The desecration, destruction, and occupation of religious sites by junta forces, with a significant portion of damaged sites located in areas heavily populated by ethno-religious minorities.
  3. Arbitrary detentions of minority group members on religious grounds, due to their perceived opposition to the junta. These detainees often face torture due to their religious affiliations or practices.
  4. The escalating persecution of the Muslim Rohingya population, leading to ethnic cleansing, detention, or displacement.

Dr James Gomez, the Regional Director of Asia Centre, highlighted that Burmanisation and Buddhisation have been advanced under the guise of addressing national security threats. “There has been a resurgence of new factions and renewed commitment to insurgency by well-established ethnic armed groups since the 2021 coup. This has resulted in intense clashes in regions that have been peaceful for years,” Dr Gomez said.

He further explained the junta’s perspective, “These ethno-religious minorities pose a perceived threat to national unity, leading to proactive measures to prevent their radicalisation, particularly among Muslims who are often labelled as terrorists.”

However, the cost of these policies on minority groups is enormous. “These groups are facing a rapid decline in their religious rights and overall well-being, especially after the 2021 coup,” Dr Gomez cautioned.

He also pointed out that the Bamar people and Buddhists aren’t immune from persecution, “Even Buddhists and their temples aren’t spared if they are viewed as pro-democracy supporters or part of an anti-junta movement.”

This policy report is a key component of Asia Centre’s FoRB Knowledge Hub’s initiative to publish evidence-based research and amplify advocacy for religious rights in Southeast Asia.

This report is available for download here:

The official launch of the report, along with an online discussion, is slated for 13 June 2023.

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