Ashin Wirathu

Ashin Wirathu (b. 1968) is a Burmese Buddhist monk and the leader of the 969 nationalist Buddhist movement. He has received international notoriety for his anti-Muslim rhetoric and was described on the cover of Time in July 2013 as “The Face of Buddhist Terror.” He was jailed for eight years by the military government in the early 2000s and has repeatedly stoked Burmese fears of the Muslim minority since his release. Although Wirathu asserts that his speeches do not explicitly advocate violence,...

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Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Myanmar

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is a political association founded in 1967 in Bangkok, Thailand. It was originally comprised of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, but grew to include Brunei (1984), Vietnam (1995), Laos and Myanmar (1997), and Cambodia (1999). Its declared aims are the support of economic growth, cultural development, and “social progress” in its member states, the promotion of regional security and rule of...

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Buddhism in Myanmar

Close to 90% of people in Myanmar today are Buddhist, and virtually all of them practice Theravada Buddhism. This branch of Buddhism adheres most closely to the oldest texts in the Buddhist tradition and generally emphasizes a more rigorous observance of the monastic code than other schools of Buddhism. Theravada Buddhists ultimately aim to be released from the cycle of suffering, samsara, and to achieve nirvana. To achieve success in this world—and to advance to enlightenment in subsequent rebirths—they must build positive karma, or merit.

Lay people...

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Burma Citizenship Act, The

The Burma Citizenship Act of 1982 granted citizenship to individuals residing in Burma who could trace their family residency to prior to 1823, that is, the year of the first British military campaign on Myanmar and with it, a wave of immigration from India and China. The law was deeply problematic, as for many families of various ethnic groups, transnational ties were common and there was rarely documentation to prove whether a person had deep roots in Myanmar.

The law was part of a series of actions taken by the nationalist Burmese government meant to shore up Burmese ethnic...

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Burma or Myanmar?

Is it called Burma or Myanmar? In 1989, the SLORC government mandated that their country should henceforth be known in English as Myanmar instead of Burma. (In all, several hundred place names were changed; another prominent example was the renaming of Rangoon to Yangon). This name change has not been accepted by all members of the international community. Some, such as the United States and the United Kingdom, did not recognize the legitimacy of the...

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Burma Socialist Programme Party (BSPP), The

The Burma Socialist Programme Party (BSPP) / National Unity Party took over the government of Myanmar in a military coup in 1962 and held power until 1988. During this time, it was led by General Ne Win and called for government ownership of all forms of production. Under the BSPP, the government largely cut itself off from the rest of the world, discouraging tourism and foreign investment. After civilian uprisings in 1987 and 1988, power was transferred from the BSPP to a new military-led government,...

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Burmans (also known as Bamar) are the largest ethnic and linguistic group in present-day Myanmar, accounting for approximately two-thirds of the population. They live primarily in the Irrawady Basin and speak Burmese. A distinction must also be made between Burman and Burmese; the latter term refers to any citizen of Myanmar, not just those of the Burman ethnic group.

Almost without exception, Burmans are Buddhist, a fact that has influenced its relationships with other ethnic groups for...

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Catholicism in Myanmar

Roman Catholicism arrived in Myanmar with the Portuguese in the 16th century. Burmese descendants of the Portuguese, known as Bayingyi (derived from the Persian farenji, “foreigner” a term used widely throughout the Indian Ocean region and a legacy of the Crusades), make up the oldest Catholic community. 90% of Burmese Catholics come from the Karen, Chin, Kachin, Chin, Shan, and Kaw ethnic minorities and are a legacy of Catholic proselytization under...

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Chinese in Myanmar

Precise numbers of Chinese living in Myanmar are difficult to come by; most sources give an estimate of 3% of the population, although such a figure does not necessarily take into account the large numbers of Chinese migrant workers living in Myanmar at any given time....

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