Burma Burns

The Buddhist led attacks on Myanmar Muslims has expanded beyond the initial targets of Royhinga, coastal people with imputed and real connections to Bangladesh.  Last week, mobs went after Chinese Muslims in the 2nd largest city, Mandalay.

Two men died.  Died ugly.

 The body of the Muslim man was identifiable by his wife only by a distinctive blemish on one of his toes.

More deaths were prevented by the intervention of a Buddhist monk, urging the club-wielding young men to go home.

A Buddhist monk, Galonni Sayadaw, approached the roving bands of young Buddhist men and urged them to return to their homes. The monk also publicly exhorted the chief of police, who as in previous bouts of religious unrest did not immediately intervene, to disperse the crowds.

In an interesting insight, a few are claiming, this is not simply spontaneous violence, or even something directed by the hate mongering  monk, Wirathu and his 969 movement.

Tin Tin Kyaw (centre) cries near the body of her husband Soe Min, a 51-year-old man who was killed in the riot, at a mosque in Mandalay. Photo: Reuters

Tin Tin Kyaw (centre) cries near the body of her husband Soe Min, a 51-year-old man who was killed in the riot, at a mosque in Mandalay. Photo: Reuters

David Scott Mathieson, an analyst with Human Rights Watch in Myanmar, wrote after the Mandalay riots that it appeared that the “violence was not just an organic eruption of communal resentment” and noted that it may have been linked to a planned visit to Mandalay on Sunday by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the opposition leader. Burmese analysts have speculated that the violence might be associated with efforts to slow her ascension in politics and ultimately derail her attempts to become president.

NY Times: Fuller

State of Emergency Declared in Thailand

Thailand’s government on Tuesday declared a state of emergency in Bangkok and surrounding areas to cope with protests that have stirred up violent attacks.

Labor Minister Chalerm Yubumrung announced that the measure would take effect Wednesday and continue for 60 days.

Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, in a speech to followers, questioned whether the declaration was justified, saying the demonstrators had peaceful.

“Is it right for them to use the emergency decree to declare a state of emergency to come and deal with us? Come and get us,” he declared to an enthusiastic crowd of hundreds at a park in downtown Bangkok. Thousands more are encamped at other locations in the capital.

Thailand Police

The emergency decree greatly expands the power of security forces to issue orders and search, arrest and detain people, with limited judicial and parliamentary oversight. The areas covered had already been placed under tougher-than-normal security under the country’s Internal Security Act.


Bangkok Rally: 28 Wounded in Grenade Attack

The Victory Monument rally site was rocked by two grenades Sunday, wounding 28, the second such attack in two days The bombs were of the same type as the one used in yesterday’s bombing and this time there is a clear CCTV image of the assailant. Bangkok Post more at BBC.

Chinese Embassy in SF Set on Fire

The F.B.I. is leading an investigation into a fire that was set Wednesday night at the main entrance of the Chinese Consulate General in San Francisco, the authorities said Thursday. No injuries were reported. NY Times

Chinese Embassy in San Francisco. Fire in entryway Jan 1, 2014

Chinese Embassy in San Francisco. Fire in entryway Jan 1, 2014

‘Buddhist’ Thugs Make Their Comeback

Having just returned from a week in Myanmar, the news from there is brighter to me than previously. Especially troubling is what we hear about on-going attack-and-burn raids on Muslims, reportedly led by Buddhist monks.    In an opinion piece in The Irawaddy Magazine from the founder, Aung Zaw:

“There is no doubt that the violent attacks on Muslims in Meiktila, a garrison city in central Burma, were politically motivated. It has been a gruesome spectacle. Muslims were beaten, dragged out into the streets, doused with petrol and burned alive.  Read more of this post

News in the Traveler’s Eye

Still getting my feet under me after five weeks in Southeast Asia — Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.  It’s strange once again, after 37 mornings of 6 a.m. wake-up calls and eating around hotel tables with traveling friends, to be  quiet with the morning NY Times and brief exchanges with the dear reader across from me.

As is usual, places that we’ve been leap out from the pages. Sadly, this morning, it is the rioting in Myanmar, and not just along the coast where it has occurred in recent month, but inland, at Meiktila– the scene, as it happens, of the last enormous battle between the Japanese and the Allies at the near-end of WW II.  If the reporting is right, the saddest of sad things is that the anti-Muslim rioting, and threats against reporters, are being lead by Buddhist monks with sharpened weapons.


Having been with a guide in Burma who was not shy about voicing his quarrels with the government — as well as his hope– and having just seen Luc Besson’s fine movie, The Lady, about Aung San Suu Kyi and her fifteen year struggle it is strange indeed to see the red neckerchiefed police acting as police are supposed to act — stopping communal rioting and making space for cooler heads….

Rioting and arson attacks spread on Friday to villages outside Meiktila, as mobs of Buddhists, some led by monks, continued a three-day rampage through Muslim areas. Witnesses reached by phone said security forces did little to stop the violence.

“Mobs were destroying buildings and killing people in cold blood,” said U Nyan Lynn, a former political prisoner who witnessed what he described as massacres. “Nobody stopped them — I saw hundreds of riot police there.”

News services, which had reporters in the city, said that Buddhist homes had also been set on fire and that while thousands of Muslims had fled to a stadium for safety, at least some Buddhists were also taking shelter outside their homes, in shrines.

Images from Meiktila showed entire neighborhoods burned to the ground, some with only blackened trees left standing. Lifeless legs poked from beneath rubble. And charred corpses spoke to the use of fire as a main tool of the rioting mobs.  NY Times


In Thailand’s north west, which we didn’t get to, but heard of quite often,  Karen refugees have piled up in make-shift camps, fleeing from fighting between the Myanmar army and Karen separatists.  A fire broke out yesterday, killing 30.  Likely started from the slash-and-burn farming which takes place all over Southeast Asia and is much in evidence in the air almost everywhere, as we did experience.

NY Times