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Monks to set up Buddhist radio station in Myanmar

Ma Ba Tha is in the process of trying to get a broadcast license and searching for a place to establish the radio station

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Buddhist monks and people from western Myanmar's Rakhine state shout slogans during a protest against boat people in Sittwe, June 14, 2015. Image: AFP
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A group of nationalist Buddhist monks in Myanmar plan to set up a radio station to protect and disseminate their religion, despite fears that they will use it as a platform to foment anti-Muslim sentiment.

Members of the Committee for the Protection of Nationality and Religion, better known as Ma Ba Tha, want to use the station to spread the Buddha’s teachings in the predominantly Buddhist country, said the group’s senior monk Parmaukka.

“It [setting up the radio station] is according to our discipline or code of conduct because we are doing this to protect and spread our religion, not to get involved in conflicts and hatred,” he told RFA’s Myanmar Service.

He added that Ma Ba Tha is in the process of trying to get a broadcast license and searching for a place to establish the radio station.

Buddhists monks from Thailand have thrown their support behind the project, offering to set up the station for them because they like what Ma Ba Tha has done for Buddhism in Myanmar, Parmaukka said.

Ma Ba Tha has pushed for controversial “protection of religion” laws in Myanmar and protested against ethnic minority Rohingya Muslims, whom the government refers to as “Bengali” because it views them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

In May, more than 1,000 monks and other activists staged a protest in the commercial capital Yangon, urging the government not to accept the stateless Rohingya, some of whom were among the boatloads of migrants found adrift in the sea near Myanmar.

Related article: In Myanmar, monks protest over US Embassy using “Rohingya’ term for Bengali Muslims

The United Nations estimates that about 130,000 ethnic Rohingya have fled Myanmar by sea since a violent and deadly clash with majority Buddhists in mid-2012. Others, who were displaced by the violence, remain housed in camps in the country’s western Rakhine state.

At the time, Parmaukka had told RFA that the monks were repeating  their call for the government to never accept the Rohingya and other boat people.

No policy of hatred

When asked if the group would use the radio station as a platform to speak out against other religions, Parmaukka said the monks do not harbor a policy of hatred, which would go against Buddhist teachings.

“We don’t have any policy of hatred,” he said. “According to Buddha’s teachings, we can’t even kill an ant. Our policy is a nonviolent one, and it prohibits us from killing anyone. Even when we have conflicts in our society, our policy is to resolve them in a peaceful manner. That’s why we can’t have any conflicts because of this radio station.”

But Ye Htut, the information minister and presidential spokesman, said the government would not permit the monks to create a radio station.

“No, no way. We can’t allow them to do it because we don’t have a broadcast law yet,” he told a Myanmar newspaper last week, when asked whether the government planned to grant the monks a radio license.

The country’s current seven FM radio stations have joint-venture business agreements with state-owned Myanmar Radio, which is under the purview of the Ministry of Information. (RFA)

 

 

 

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Drone and Satellites Expose Myanmar’s Pain

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Rohingya refugee
An Oct. 5, 2017 image taken from a video released by Arakan Rohingya National Organization shows villagers preparing to cross a river towards the Maungdaw township in the Rakhine state that borders Bangladesh.

London- The Rohingya refugee crisis is an age-old tale of displacement and suffering, but technology is providing new tools to tackle it, rights groups and charities said on Wednesday.

Powerful drone and satellite images are bringing to life the urgent needs of more than 800,000 Rohingya refugees who fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar, while also providing strong evidence of abuses, which could be used to lobby for justice.

“We can describe for hours the large numbers of refugees crossing the border and how quickly existing camps have expanded, but one image captures it all,” said Andrej Mahecic, a spokesman for the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR).

More than 600,000 Rohingya have fled to neighboring Bangladesh since the military in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar launched a counter-insurgency operation after attacks on security posts by Rohingya militants in late August.

The UNHCR is using videos and photographs shot with drones to show the scale of the displacement crisis and bring it to life to spur action from the public and donors.

It is also using satellites to count and identify refugee families by their location in the Bangladesh camps to target assistance to those most in need, Mahecic told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an email.

The use of drone footage of refugees entering Bangladesh has boosted donations for medical care, water and food, according to the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), an alliance of 13 leading British aid agencies.

Rights monitors also hope satellite images can provide evidence that to help bring perpetrators to justice.

Satellite photos were used in the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) to prove mass executions in 1995 in Srebrenica.

But the technology has yet to achieve its potential because of limited budgets and a lack of standardised methodologies accepted by courts, experts say.

Human Rights Watch has shared satellite images showing the burning of almost 300 villages in Myanmar, refugees’ mobile phone footage and their testimonies with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

“We have found the debris field in satellite imagery where people were executed, corroborating multiple eyewitness statements,” said Josh Lyons, a satellite imagery analyst with the U.S.-based rights group.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein has called the violence against Rohingya in Myanmar “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing,” and his office is working to determine whether it meets the legal definition of genocide.(VOA)

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