Inside the 969 Movement - The Myanmar Buddhist Radicals

Collection with 31 media items created by Ruom

04 Jul 2014 04:00

There is renewed tension between Buddhists and Muslims in parts of Burma. In March 2014 targeted violence, towards the Muslim minority in Myanmar, claimed the 45 lives and led to many homes being burnt to the ground.

In the Burmese streets, stickers sporting the numbers “969” are seen on taxis, shop windows, betel nut carts. These three ominous numbers are the symbol of a fast-rising Buddhist pride movement, presenting itself as a return to Buddhist roots and the teachings of the Lord.

But, in the new Myanmar, 969 is actually a vehicle of anti-Muslim hatred and Buddhist brainwashing.

“Muslims are fundamentally bad. Mohammed allows them to kill any creature. Islam is a religion of thieves, they do not want peace”, declares Ashin Wirathu the saffron-robed monk nicknamed the “Burmese Bin Laden.”

Far from the iconic images of the 2007 “Saffron Revolution”, popular Buddhist monks like Wirathu are travelling the country, preaching in front of thousands, urging Buddhists to boycott Muslim businesses, to avoid marrying them, hiring them or to sell property to them. The 969 movement is appealing to a deep anti­‐Muslim resentment implanted in Buddhist minds by fifty years of military propaganda. Burmese activist Maung Zarni recently confessed in a blog post: “Like millions of my fellow Burmese Buddhists, I grew up as a proud racist. For much of my life growing in the heartland of Burma, Mandalay, I mistook what I came to understand years later as racism to be the patriotism of Burmese Buddhists”.

By depicting a Myanmar on the verge of an Islamist invasion, the 969 movement is creating a framework for the wave of Islamophobic violence that has swept through Myanmar in the last months. In March, the bloodiest clashes to-date claimed the lives of forty-five people in the town of Meiktila. “At night, we sleep terribly. We are wondering when they will be coming. It is dark, it is scary. Our ears pay attention to every little noise”, said a Muslim resident of the city. Throughout the country the Muslim communities are living in the constant fear of new attacks.

Currently, 969 has seen little resistance from local or international governments. The movement is currently drafting a law proposal that would ban interfaith marriage, and four 969 monks have been working on a curriculum aimed at educating lay people and children about the ins and outs of protecting Buddhism from Islam. Set to take place in a Sunday school manner, the monks hope this new form of education will save their faith in this majority Buddhist nation but what implications will this have on cross-religious relationships? And will it instigate more religious violence?

Afraid of alienating the Buddhist vote for the 2015 elections, the democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi is staying silent on this subject. Many see, behind 969 and the religious riots, the hand of hardliners from the army trying to destroy the fragile change Myanmar is going through as the country stumbles towards democracy.

Myanmar Burma 969 Movement Buddhist Monk Buddhism Extreme Budd... Nationalists Nationalism Burmese Burmese Army Anti Islam Islam Muslims Religious Mi... Religious Co... Sectarian Vi... Sectarian Cl... Burmese Elec... Saffron Saffron Revo... Military Pol... Asia Clashes Violent Clashes Civil War Aung San Suu... Politics

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Inside 969 Movement 20
By Ruom
12 Jun 2013

June 12, 2013
Meiktila, Burma

Muslim men can now only pray at home in Meiktila after all the mosques have been either closed or raised to the ground because of the religious violence that took place in the town at the end of March.

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Inside 969 Movement 26
By Ruom
17 Jun 2013

June 16, 2013
Mawlamyine, Burma

Supporters of 969 movement gathered to discuss the draft of law to regulate inter-religious marriages in a monastery in Mawlamyine. The law, inspired from the inter-faith marriage law in Singapore, hopes to limit the number of Buddhist women who marry Muslim men.

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Inside 969 Movement 16
By Ruom
12 Jun 2013

June 12, 2013
Meiktila, Burma

Women walk through Chan Aye's area, that was completely destroyed by the religious violence that took place in Meiktila at the end of March.

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Inside 969 Movement 23
By Ruom
10 Jun 2013

June 9, 2013
Mandalay, Burma

A Buddhist shop in Mandalay. The owner has chosen to display the 969 sticker. It is sold and distributed through out Myanmar to label shops and business as being Buddhist own and run.

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Inside 969 Movement 03
By Ruom
08 Jun 2013

June 8, 2013
Mandalay, Burma

Young monks living in the Masoeyein Monastery.

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Inside 969 Movement 02
By Ruom
08 Jun 2013

June 8, 2013
Mandalay, Burma

Young monks shave their heads in Masoeyein Monastery.

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Inside 969 Movement 21
By Ruom
12 Jun 2013

June 12, 2013
Meiktila, Burma

Families are escorted back by police to a refugee camp that holds Muslims who have been displaced by the violence that took place at the end of March in Meiktila.

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Inside 969 Movement 09
By Ruom
08 Jun 2013

June 8, 2013
Mandalay, Burma

Monk Wirathu is interviewed by a German television network in his pagoda.

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Inside 969 Movement 18
By Ruom
12 Jun 2013

June 12, 2013
Meiktila, Burma

One of the areas destroyed by religious violence that took place at the end of March in Meiktila.

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Inside 969 Movement 12
By Ruom
07 Jun 2013

June 7, 2013
Mandalay, Burma

The family of the Imam prepare to leave their home near Joon Mosque in central Mandalay.

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Inside 969 Movement 19
By Ruom
13 Jun 2013

June 12, 2013
Meiktila, Burma

One of the Mosques destroyed by religious violence that took place at the end of March in Meiktila.

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Inside 969 Movement 11
By Ruom
08 Jun 2013

June 7, 2013
Mandalay, Burma

Young muslim students in a Madrasa, near the Joon Mosque in central Mandalay.

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Inside 969 Movement 01
By Ruom
08 Jun 2013

June 8, 2013
Mandalay, Burma

Young monks wash themselves in the Masoeyein Monastery, home of 969 activist Monk Wirathu.

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Inside 969 Movement 04
By Ruom
09 Jun 2013

June 9, 2013
Mandalay, Burma

Daw Kyim Myaing a prominent member of the 969 civil movement, she chose to serve Monk Wirathu and makes breakfast every morning in the monastery.

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Inside 969 Movement 08
By Ruom
08 Jun 2013

June 8, 2013
Mandalay, Burma

Monk Wirathu supervises an exam at the Masoeyein Monastery in Mandalay. Since publicly promoting the 969 movement on social networks, Wirathu has been labeled as the 'Buddhist Bin Laden'.

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Inside 969 Movement 30
By Ruom
23 Jun 2013

June 23, 2013
Mandalay, Burma

A student collects an award at a Sunday School in Mandalay. To ensure its principles mould fresh minds, 969 representatives teach at Sunday schools and prayer halls to educate Buddhist children. Wirathu in the background is writing a new curriculum to teach in schools that are planning to open throughout the country.

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Inside 969 Movement 27
By Ruom
17 Jun 2013

June 17, 2013
Mawlamyine, Burma

Monk Wimala, one of the founders of the 969 movement, shows a map in his Monastery in Mawlamyine. The map illustrates the group's belief that some arabs countries are financing the Burmese Muslims in order to overcome the Buddhist majority.

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Inside 969 Movement 15
By Ruom
11 Jun 2013

June 11, 2013
Meiktila, Burma

Muslims return to their destroyed homes, under police protection, and start a 7 days clean up process after the March riots in Meiktila. According to Human Rights Watch, more than 820 buildings were completely destroyed and 44 people were killed.

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Inside 969 Movement 25
By Ruom
22 Jun 2013

June 16, 2013
Yangon, Burma

Young Buddhist nuns board the ferry crossing the Hlaing river over to downtown Yangon.

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Inside 969 Movement 28
By Ruom
17 Jun 2013

June 17, 2013
Mawlamyine, Burma

Daw Thida, one of the leading supporters of Mawlamyine's 969 movement. She's actively involved in the creation of the Sunday schools, aimed at educating lay people and children about the ins and outs of protecting Buddhism from Islam.

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Inside 969 Movement 14
By Ruom
11 Jun 2013

June 11, 2013
Meiktila, Burma

Muslims who return to their demolished home start a 7 day clean-up process, under a strict police protection in Meiktila. A nearby street vendor displays a 969 sticker.

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Inside 969 Movement 31
By Ruom
24 Jun 2013

June 23, 2013
Mandalay, Burma

Wirathu gives an anti-muslim sermon in front of hundreds of supporters, just four blocks away from the Dhamma Tharlar Hall, in which several local organizations and civil society activists, organized a peace event to prevent future riots.

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Inside 969 Movement 13
By Ruom
08 Jun 2013

June 7, 2013
Mandalay, Burma

Muslims leave the Joon mosque after prayer time. For security purposes and fear of more religious clashes, the gates to the neighborhood, surrounding the mosque, are closed at night time.

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Inside 969 Movement 05
By Ruom
08 Jun 2013

June 8, 2013
Mandalay, Burma

Monks and lay people look at anti-muslim propaganda posters in front of Monk Wirathu's home at the Masoeyein Monastery.

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Inside 969 Movement 06
By Ruom
08 Jun 2013

June 8, 2013
Mandalay, Burma

Monk Wirathu is welcomed by supporters at this pagoda in Mandalay. Since publicly promoting the 969 movement on social networks, Wirathu has been labeled as the 'Buddhist Bin Laden'.

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Inside 969 Movement 07
By Ruom
08 Jun 2013

June 8, 2013
Mandalay, Burma

Monk Wirathu supervises an exam at Masoeyein Monastery in Mandalay.

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Inside 969 Movement 17
By Ruom
11 Jun 2013

June 11, 2013
Meiktila, Burma

A woman, who returned to her destroyed home in Meiktila, recovers pieces of a burnt Hindu book explaining the teachings of Islam. The Muslim community started a 7 day clean up program escorted by armed police.

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Inside 969 Movement 10
By Ruom
10 Jun 2013

June 9, 2013
Mandalay, Burma

U Kamasara, head monk of Thita Sa Waita Gu Monastery, near Mandalay, regularly preaches about the 969 movement.

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Inside 969 Movement 22
By Ruom
13 Jun 2013

June 14, 2013
Meiktila, Burma

More than 200 Myanmar Buddhist monks gather to discuss how to solve inter-religious conflicts between Buddhists and Muslims. The conference, held in a monastery on the outskirts of Yangon, was dubbed by local and international media, less as a resolution to conflict but more as an opportunity to discuss the inter-faith marriage law that the 969 movement is hoping to present to the government.

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Inside 969 Movement 24
By Ruom
16 Jun 2013

June 16, 2013
Yangon, Burma

A street shop in Downtown Yangon sells the 969 stickers. They are sold and distributed throughout Myanmar to label shops and business as being Buddhist-owned and run.

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Inside 969 Movement 29
By Ruom
20 Jun 2013

June 17, 2013
Mawlamyine, Burma

Thaddhamma, one of the leaders of the 969 movement, teaches a group of business men, from Yangons biggest whole sale market, about patriotism and Buddhism.