News / Asia

    Religious Leaders in Burma Tackle Issue of Hate Speech

    Buddhist monk Wirathu (C), leader of the 969 movement, greets other monks as he attends a meeting on the National Protection Law at a monastery outside Yangon, June 27, 2013.
    Buddhist monk Wirathu (C), leader of the 969 movement, greets other monks as he attends a meeting on the National Protection Law at a monastery outside Yangon, June 27, 2013.
    VOA News
    This week's Time Magazine cover bearing the image of Wirathu, a monk who has come under international scrutiny for spreading anti-Muslim hate speech was banned in Burma. Has hate-speech on the internet and in sermons delivered by Buddhist monks led to religious violence, and has the government fulfilled its responsibility in dealing with hate speech?  

    Burma has only just recently stopped censoring print news media, but when Time magazine ran a cover story detailing the anti-Muslim hate-speeches of influential Buddhist monk Wirathu, the issue was banned because the information ministry feared it could incite further violence.

    Since June of last year, five separate incidents of communal violence perpetrated against Muslims across the country have left scores dead, and over 150,000 displaced.

    Watch related video of the U.S. Embassy in Burma hosting a workshop:

    Watch related video about Burma preventing hate speechi
    X
    June 28, 2013 7:37 PM
    The U.S. Embassy hosted a workshop Friday on preventing hate speech in Burma which has more than 100 minorities, as well as a large community of Rohingya Muslims who do not have an official status. The U.S. ambassador, Derek Mitchell, emphasized the importance of free speech in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious democratic society. He said it is important to clarify what is hate speech because what some consider hate speech, others may consider as an expression of appreciation for their own race, faith or ethnicity and a form of defense from outside danger.

    At a workshop on preventing hate speech in Burma on Friday U.S. ambassador Derek Mitchell delivered opening remarks in which he stated that the government's ability to deal with hate speech will determine the country's future, and cautioned against the potential for uncontrolled hate speech to incite violence.

    "This country has been at war with itself.  For decades the talk has been one of enemies within," he said. "This attitude has been a major cause of this country's underdevelopment. As a close observer who cares deeply about the future of your country, it is very sad to see that talk continue and take new forms."

    Wirathu's rhetoric includes calls for Muslim blood at public sermons where audiences number several thousand.

    Deputy Minister of Information Ye Htut believes it was necessary to ban the magazine, and blamed social media like Facebook for spreading hate speech. He blamed Burma's tight media controls in the past for contributing to people's inability to effectively deal with newfound freedoms, and said he doesn't believe Wirathu's speeches qualify as hate speech.

    "We have to differentiate between what is a strong opinion and what is a hate speech," said Ye. "We have to allow the freedom of speech and also we have to make clear guidelines on what is hate speech. That's why one of the monk reminded U Wirathu to control his emotion."

    Wirathu was jailed in 2003 for inciting violence, and released in 2011. He has continued to make speeches without interference from the government.

    Many citizens feel dissatisfied with the government's response to controlling anti-Muslim sentiment, among other reasons because Burmese courts that have convicted Muslims after incidents of communal violence have yet to convict a single Buddhist with incitement.

    Thet Ko Ko, a Muslim from Moulmein, home to the monastery from which the anti-Muslim "969" movement originated, traveled to Rangoon to attend the workshop, and says he's very disappointed in what was said at the workshop.

    "My religion faces discrimination from the state and the majority especially some Buddhist monks. I'm not satisfied," said Ko Ko. "We need government to prevent hate speech in Myanmar [Burma], especially by law. I mean public speeches, there are a lot of information in many villages they distribute. Why they didn't prevent this activities is the main point. Very weak [in not preventing this] prevent in this."

    Next week, the Ministry of Religious Affairs is expected to make an announcement about the controversial drafting of a new law that would prevent interfaith marriage between Buddhist women and Muslim men.

    You May Like

    Russian-Backed Offensive in Syria Pushes War to Tipping Point

    As threat to Aleppo and rebel forces grows, US plan to negotiate becomes less and less appealing for Syrian government, says one military analyst

    IS Runs Timber Smuggling Business in Afghanistan, Officials Say

    Government turning blind eye to smuggling, according to tribal leaders; Afghanistan's forest cover dropped by 50 percent in three decades, experts say

    Video White House Seeks $1.8 Billion to Combat Zika

    Obama administration says funding would 'support essential strategies to combat the virus' such as rapidly expanding mosquito control programs, accelerating vaccine research

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.