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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs