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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.
In 1978 the military government led violent campaign in Arakan to push out Rohingya insurgents resulting in over 200,000 Rohingya being displaced, many seeking refuge in neighbouring Bangladesh.(7) In 1982 the Rohingya were officially declared as illegals and remain so to this day, whilst also facing periodic violence over the following few decades.
The past four years have arguably been the worst period in Buddhist-Muslim relations in recent memory.
Prior to taking a leading role in the 969 movement, the military government jailed Wirathu in 2003 for 25 years for his role in inciting anti-Muslim hatred.
Wirathu was released nine years later in 2012 as a new civilian-led administration came to power.(15) During the 2012 riots and violence, he became the face of the movement with his inflammatory speeches.
Professor Ronan Lee at Deakin University asserts that in the aftermath of the democratic transition, media reforms and liberalization has afforded Wirathu and others the means to spread their message more widely.(16) Wiratu’s speeches and sermons are readily accessible on social media channels such as Facebook and You Tube.(17) "We are being raped in every town, being sexually harassed in every town, being ganged up on and bullied in every town," Wirathu said to the Guardian in 2013 in an interview from his home monastery in Mandalay.(18) Furthermore, he said, "In every town, there is a crude and savage Muslim majority." Wirathu has also called for the Buddhist majority to boycott Muslim-owned businesses.
Whilst the former Sein government did not explicitly endorse the 969, some state officials have professed support for the two anti-Muslim groups. It is up to the consumers." The report contends that the origins of the movement can be ‘traced back to an official’ in the former dictatorship preceding the government of Thein Sein.As a result, they oppose mixed marriages between Muslims and Buddhists and encourage the boycotting of Muslim businesses.The most prominent figure leading the movement is Ashin Wirathu, a controversial monk who is known as the ‘Burmese Bin Laden’(14).In an interview with Reuters, former religious minister Saan Sint said, “Wirathu's sermons are about promoting love and understanding between religions".(21) Furthermore, he added, "It is impossible he is inciting religious violence.” Sint also admitted that he found no issues with the call to boycott Muslim businesses. The report asserts that the 969 also enjoys the support of some of the members of the incumbent government of the National League for Democracy, the party of Nobel Peace Prize-winner Aung San Suu Kyi.The controversial ‘interfaith marriage bill’ was passed by the Burmese parliament in June 2015 and signed in August(22); it comprises of a set of four laws supported by the 969 movement.