World Bulletin / News Desk
Rampant Buddhist nationalism in Myanmar risks alienating minority religions in the country, according to the authors of a new survey.
The majority of the 2,000 people polled by the Myanmar Egress think-tank "equate citizenship with religion" and believe that for a person to be Burmese they must be Buddhist.
The report, Citizenship in Myanmar: Contemporary Debates and Challenges in Light of the Reform Process, is based on polling across the country's various ethnic regions.
It includes responses from Rohingya Muslims, a persecuted minority who are denied citizenship by Myanmar's government.
According to scholars, the link being established by Burmese between religion and citizenship was a consequence of British colonization in the 19th century.
“British and American brought Christianity among some ethnic minorities in the 19th century and Muslims started to come also under the British,” Gwen Robinson, a Myanmar expert at the Institute of Security and International Studies at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University told the Anadolu Agency on Friday.
“It reinforced the notion of Burmanness, which is a fairly modern concept. Before the British, there was a stronger sense of unity.”
At the end of March. Myanmar is set to hold its first census for over 30 years, after which accurate data on the number of people adhering to each religion will be available.
There are fears the new figures could inflame religious tensions by revealing that there are more Muslims in Myanmar than previously thought.
The last census, conducted under a brutal military dictatorship in 1983, is regarded as unreliable by some groups. It puts the number of Muslims at 4 percent of the population.
But the International Crisis Group says the figure is likely to be closer to 10 percent, while the Burmese Muslim Association believes it is between 8 and 12 percent.
The Myanmar Egress report recommends that citizenship and religion be kept separate under law.
The country's constitution cites the "special position of Buddhism as the faith professed by the great majority of the citizens of the Union/”
“Technically, Myanmar is a 100 percent secular state, but there are deeply ingrained attitudes. When he travels, President Thein Sein always visit Buddhists places but I doubt very much he would attend the inauguration of a mosque," Robinson told AA.
A recent campaign to introduce laws that severely restrict interfaith marriage has been backed by a petition signed by 1.3 million people.
The proposed legislation is cheerleaded by a far-right Buddhist nationalist movement called 969.
The group has achieved global notoriety since a reformist government came to power in 2011 and relaxed restrictions on freedom of expression.
Its most famous leader, a monk named Wirathu, is adored by many of Myanmar's Buddhists but condemned internationally for allegedly fomenting violence with his anti-Muslim hate speeches.
He has stoked Buddhist fears that Muslims "breed quickly" and are bent on overrunning the country.
The advocacy group Burma Campaign U.K. has called for the census to be postponed, citing the potential for more anti-Muslim violence as a key reason.
Since ethnic violence erupted in Myanmar in 2012, hundreds of people have been killed and tens of thousands displaced, mostly Muslims.
The Myanmar Egress survey, conducted between February 2012 and June 2013, focused on middle and lower middle-class people on the grounds that they would be "able to articulate their views" on the reform process.
Japan will be providing Australia with classified data, with the National Security Council in Japan releasing the information in May.
Australia's foreign minister announces grant during Pakistan visit
South Korea will pressure UNESCO about Tokyo’s move to have wartime slave labor sites officially listed by United Nations agency.
Muslims in the Uighur region of China have been ordered by authorities to sell alcohol. Those who resist will have their shops closed and have legal action taken against them.
The tanker had set sail from Karachi and three Pakistani men from the southwestern province of Baluchistan had been arrested for drug trafficking, police said.
An Indian court convicted Bollywood star Salman Khan on Wednesday of culpable homicide for the death of a homeless man in a hit-and-run, a verdict that could derail several big-ticket movie projects.
Both Philipines and Japan staged an anti-piracy drill, with the drill the first one since signing a strategic partnership pact in 2012.
The US envoy to India, Richard Verma has said there was concern that “regulatory actions that are being taken could have a chilling effect on speech and expression”.
Four men were sentenced to death and were convicted of murder, with evidence partly based on mobile phone footage of the mob attack on a woman in March.
In a rare rebuke between the two nations, Pakistan has accused India's intelligence agency RAW of whipping up terror in Pakistan
Rohima Khatun, 25, fled the jungle camp in Thailand close to where the mass migrant grave of Rohingya muslims was discovered.
Indonesia has banned its nationals from working in the Middle East after Indonesian domestic workers were executed in April after they were found guilty of murder.
A new solar park in Punjab province produces 100 MW of power, which will be increased to 1,000 MW by next year.
India and Iran agreed in 2003 to develop a port at Chabahar on the Gulf of Oman, near Iran's border with Pakistan, but the venture has made little progress because of Western sanctions on Iran.
US drone strike in eastern Nangarhar province kills at least 17 suspected Taliban insurgents.
A second migrant grave site has been found in the south of Thailand.