June 18 - 24, 2012
By Cherry Thein
PEOPLE on both sides of theconflict in Rakhine State needto show more transparencyand compassion and work toaddress the underlying issuesbehind the violence, religiousleaders said last week.The violence between theRakhine and Rohingya groupshas divided Myanmar societyand prompted fears that itcould spread to other areas. A preacher from the 59
Street mosque told
The Myanmar Times
on June15 that all people needed towork together to prevent thespread of racial or religiousviolence in all its forms.“I believe it is not only theresponsibility of religiousleaders but all people toparticipate in building peace.We talk about peace betweenthe different faiths a lot butpeople need to practise itwith their actions as well,”U Sann Aung said.“The problem is strongpersonal feelings. People can’tcontrol their anger and theyforget to try and find out thereality behind the situation.For example, when they seea house has been burnt theirfirst thought is to respondwith violence,” he said.“And although somereligious leaders talk aboutpeace and the need for calm,they also can’t control theirpersonal aggression andanger. The enemy is theirown anger, which gives themdestructive thoughts.”U Sann Aung said themedia had an important roleto play and could be both apositive and negative forcedepending on how journalistsand editors approached theissue.“The news media, includingstate media, should find outthe real voices of those whowant peace and try to healthe situation by presentingbalanced stories so thatreaders can decide on thesituation accurately,” hesaid, adding that he believedunbalanced reporting in statemedia at the start of theconflict had exacerbated thesituation.“The media is a powerfultool and can create tensionif people are not careful. Iwish all journalists wouldfind a sense of balance andbe careful not to make thesituation worse,” he said.On June 15, the head of theState Sangha weighed intothe debate, calling on peoplenot to take revenge and tosolve the conflict in RakhineState with loving kindness.The venerable KumaraBiwontha (Bhamo Sayadaw)said all people should enjoythe right to practice theirreligion freely, should showsympathy to each other andavoid violence.“If we could review theproblem with wisdom, all canseek peace and tranquility,”the venerable said in amessage published in statemedia.The message waspublished the day thatrumours suggested Muslimswould be targeted whilegoing to pray at mosques.While the violence did notmaterialise, Ko Nyi Nyi, aMuslim resident of Yangon,said the rumours had madethe situation go “from bad toworse”.“The issue is arisingbecause of the actions of theformer government but nowthe country is on the road todemocracy all people shouldseek to solve problems with justice and calm,” he said.Meanwhile, the ShwedagonPagoda board of the trusteesannounced in a statementthat they would preventany group from using thepagoda as an assemblypoint for demonstrations orcampaigns.Secretary U Win Kyaingsaid the board did not wantpilgrims and tourists to bedisturbed during their visit.“This place is one of ourcountry’s main attractionsand a holy site so we have tooccasionally introduce rulesfor the sake of people so theycan find space for inner peaceand paying respect to theBuddha,” he said. A member of the board of trustees of Sule Pagoda – afocal point for recent protests– said demonstrations werealso not allowed at thedowntown Yangon pagoda.
Religious leadersurge calm afterRakhine violence
By Nan Tin Htwe
THE international communitycan play only a limited role inresolving a long-running ethnicconflict in Rakhine State thathas in recent weeks claimed atleast 50 lives, the head of theUnited Kingdom’s aid office inMyanmar said.Mr Paul Whittingham, head of the Department for InternationalDevelopment in Myanmar, saidin an interview on June 14that the violence in RakhineState, which has also seen scoresinjured and more than 2500homes destroyed, was “verytragic”.“We have been watching veryclosely and are concerned at theloss of lives, the flaring up of tensions,” he said. “I hope thesituation can be restored veryquickly.”He said that while internationalaid could help people inRakhine State rebuild afterorder is restored, the Rakhineand Rohingya communitiesand the government needed toexchange dialogue for a long-termresolution.“That is not really a problemwhich the internationalcommunity can solve,” he said.“A process which involves unityand leaders from both sides needsto be established where peoplecan express their concerns andpriorities.”He said that the Britishambassador to Myanmar,Mr Andrew Heyn, had urgedPresident U Thein Sein to doeverything possible to preventfurther conflict in Rakhine Statewhen they met in Nay Pyi Taw onJune 12 for the visit of the PeaceDonor Support Group.He said the Rakhine Stateconflict was “another challenge”for President U Thein Sein,noting it came on the heels of almost one year of fighting inKachin State.“The Rakhine issue is grave– the loss of lives. But the bigpicture is we believe this countryis taking a new direction whichis the right direction to a betterfuture for the people here. Andwe are determined to supportthat process.”DFID provides assistanceto Rakhine State indirectlythrough United Nations agencies,international non-governmentorganisations and local groups.
Only local solution can end ethnic unrest: DFID boss
People displaced by communal violence in Rakhine State take refuge in Sittwe’s MahaZaya Thateddi Adate Htan Monastery on June 14.