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Following the first outbreak of violence in June, on October the 23rd Buddhist mobs attacked Muslim towns and villages in Rakhine displacing approximately 22,000 people (mainly Rohingya), and inflicting eighty casualties including seventy Rohingya Muslims in a Rakhine township.(8) Based on numerous interviews from Muslim and non-Muslim victims who fled the violence in Rakhine, the report concludes there was little doubt that the violence was planned and organized by Buddhist monks and ‘local Arakan political party operatives’ who were in some instances supported directly by the state’s security forces.(9) Since June, the total number of people displaced is estimated to be 125,000.(10) Several clashes between the Buddhists and Muslims have occurred since then, most notably in March 2013 when forty people were killed after an argument broke out in a gold shop, which then led to whole neighbourhoods being razed.(11) In June 2014, rumours spread through a Facebook post that a Muslim man had raped a Buddhist woman in Mandalay, leading to riots and the destruction of Muslim businesses, which left two people dead.Due to being constant victims of violence and displacement, leading human rights organizations have called the treatment of Burmese Muslims, especially of the Rohingya Muslims, an ongoing ethnic cleansing project.In the west, the treatment of the Rohingya and Muslims in Burma has not received the level of urgent attention that would be expected.(26) Aside from statements condemning the treatment of Rohingya and Muslims in Burma from President Obama and the US State Department, there has been no firm action to push the Burmese government into a response.Suu Kyi’s muted reaction to the crisis has not been addressed by her supporters in the west, for whom she was a key player in their efforts to push Burma towards democracy.According to the law titled ‘Myanmar Buddhist Women’s Special Marriage Law’, Buddhist women under the age of twenty were to obtain their parents’ permission when choosing to marry a non-Buddhist man.Phil Robertson, deputy director of the Asia division of Human Rights Watch said, "They set out the potential for discrimination on religious grounds and pose the possibility for serious communal tension”.(23) For many the biggest disappointment has been the relative silence of Kyi, the leader of the NLD.Kyi, hailed a champion in the west, has been relatively quiet on the Rohingya issue, offering vague condemnations during her stint as opposition leader in the last government.During her party’s run for election in 2015, she banned any Muslims running on the party platform, a move that made the NLD the first party in Burma’s political history to have no Muslims running for political office.(24) In June this year, Suu Kyi rejected the use of the term Rohingya, a move most likely calculated to please nationalists in her government.(25) This step is, however, unlikely to calm the tense relations with the country’s Muslim population, while it further discredits the Burmese government and its most celebrated personality, Suu Kyi.

This report will explore the increasing violence against Muslim minorities by the Buddhist majority in the past few years, using Burma and Sri Lanka as case studies.

It will focus on the main actors involved in the conflict and their objectives, their association with their respective governments, and the response of the international community to this surge in xenophobic Buddhist nationalism across Asia.

Buddhist violence in Burma Although the violence in Rakhine in 2012 besieged all Muslim communities, the primary target was the Rohingya, who consist of 4% of the total population and are the largest Muslim group in the state.(2),(3) According to human rights organizations, the Rohingya are one of the most persecuted populations in the world.

The group’s large public gatherings, frequent media appearances and religious conferences have put them in the spotlight.

The movement, whose headquarters are located in the monastery in Moulmein in southern Burma, has one objective: curbing the alleged spread of Muslim influence in the country that is supposedly undermining the Buddhist character of Burma.

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