TIME indonesia

Fishermen Rush to Be Rescued Amid Indonesian Slavery Probe

Foreign fishermen gather during an inspection by Indonesian officials in Benjina, Aru Islands, Indonesia, April 3, 2015
Dita Alangkara—AP Foreign fishermen gather during an inspection by Indonesian officials in Benjina, Aru Islands, Indonesia, April 3, 2015

Foreign fishermen from Burma and Cambodia have rushed to be rescued from Indonesia amid an ongoing slavery probe

(BENJINA, Indonesia) — Hundreds of foreign fishermen on Friday rushed at the chance to be rescued from an isolated island where an Associated Press report revealed slavery runs rampant in the industry. Indonesian officials investigating abuses offered to take them out of concern for the men’s safety.

The men, from countries including Burma and Cambodia, began getting the news as a downpour started, and some ran through the rain. They sprinted back to their boats, jumping over the rails and throwing themselves through windows. They stuffed their meager belongings into plastic bags and rushed back to the dock, not wanting to be left behind.

A small boat went from trawler to trawler picking up men who wanted to go and was soon loaded down with about 30 men.

The director general of Indonesia’s Marine Resources and Fisheries Surveillance initially told about 20 men from Burma that he would move them from Benjina village to neighboring Tual island for their safety following interviews with officials on Friday. However, as news spread that men were getting to leave the island, dozens of others started filing in from all over and sitting on the floor.

When the official, Asep Burhundun, was asked if others hiding in the jungle could come as well, he said, “They can all come. We don’t want to leave a single person behind.”

Fishermen who are Thai nationals will remain on the island. Most of the boat captains are from Thailand.

The Indonesian delegation began interviewing men on boats and assessing the situation on the island this week, and have heard of the same abuses fishermen told The Associated Press in a story published last week. They described being abused at sea, including being kicked and whipped with stingray tails and given Taser-like electric shocks. Some said they fell ill and were not given medicine; others said had been promised jobs in Thailand and then were taken to Indonesia where they were made to work long hours with little or no pay.

The delegation said security in Benjina is limited, with only two people from the Indonesian navy stationed there. Out of security concerns they decided to move the fishermen to Tual — a 12-hour boat ride away — where they will stay at a Ministry of Fisheries compound where their identities can be verified.

“I’m really happy, but I’m confused,” said Nay Hle Win, 32. “I don’t know what my future is in Burma.”

Win Win Ko, who ended up in Indonesia four years ago after leaving Burma, opened his mouth to smile and revealed four missing teeth. The 42-year-old said they were kicked out by a boat captain’s military boots because he was not moving fish fast enough from the deck to the freezer hold.

“I will go see my parents,” he said. “They haven’t heard from me, and I haven’t heard from them since I left.”

Margie Mason and Ali Kotarumalos contributed to this report from Jakarta.

TIME Burma

Burma Army Commander Pledges Successful Elections

Burma's Commander-in-chief Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing speaks during a ceremony to mark the 70th anniversary of Armed Forces Day in Naypyitaw, Burma, March 27, 2015.
Khin Maung Win—AP Burma's Commander-in-chief Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing speaks during a ceremony to mark the 70th anniversary of Armed Forces Day in Naypyitaw, Burma, March 27, 2015.

"Any disturbance to stability of the state and prevalence of law, any armed pressure or any threats for voting won't be allowed in the general election"

(NAYPYITAW, Burma) — Burma’s powerful military commander pledged Friday to work to support successful elections in November, calling it “an important landmark for democracy implementation,” and warned that the army will not tolerate instability or armed threats.

This year’s elections will be the first to be held by the semi-civilian government that swept to power after a 2010 vote widely seen as rigged in favor of the military-backed rulers.

“The general election which is going to be held in the early days of November 2015 represents an important landmark of democracy implementation of our country,” Commander-in-chief Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing said in a speech to more than 10,000 troops at a big ceremony marking Armed Forces Day, which commemorates the day the army rose up against Japanese occupiers during World War II some 70 years ago.

“Any disturbance to stability of the state and prevalence of law, any armed pressure or any threats for voting won’t be allowed in the general election,” he said.

But critics say that even under the best circumstances it will be difficult to view the upcoming polls as free or fair. The constitution guarantees the army 25 percent of all parliamentary seats and other special political powers. And the most popular politician, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, is barred from running for presidency because her late husband and sons are foreign citizens.

Meanwhile, the government has been unable to reach a conclusive peace agreement with armed ethnic minority groups fighting in border regions. And members of the long persecuted Rohingya population — labeled by the government as illegal migrants — will most likely not be allowed to vote.

Army chief also said the Burmese army is “risking the lives and limbs” of its military officers and troops to achieve stability in border areas.

Ongoing clashes with ethnic Kokang rebels in Burma’s northeast, close to China, has killed hundreds of government troops and caused tension with neighboring China after stray shells reportedly fell into China and killed 5 people.

TIME Burma

Seventy Burmese Students, Activists Charged for Taking Part in ‘Illegal’ Rally

Burmese activist on March 21, 2015, at the bank of Innya Lake in Yangon, Burma.
Khin Maung Win—AP Burmese activist on March 21, 2015, at the bank of Innya Lake in Rangoon, Burma

They face up to six years in prison for protesting an education bill they saw as regressive

Dozens of protesting Burmese activists and students are facing jail time on charges of insulting civil servants and refusing to disperse at an illicit demonstration.

The 70 protesters face up to six years in jail after violence broke out during a march from Mandalay to Rangoon calling for educational reforms, reports the BBC.

Although it was technically illegal, authorities had let the rally pass until they reached the town of Letpadan. There, incensed by the presence of a police line, the group attempted to break through.

Scores of students were injured in the ensuing confrontation. In one photo, four police prepare to strike an unarmed, prone man with their batons.

The quasi-civilian government of Burma, officially now known as Myanmar, insists it is legitimately prosecuting participants in the mid-March protests. However, critics see the case as proof of the Southeast Asian nation’s lingering authoritarianism despite the much-lauded transition from junta rule.

“People’s expectations are high because we’re a country in transition, but you can’t fulfill everything in one term,” said Burmese President Thein Sein told the BBC.

More charges relating to the protests are expected in coming weeks.

[BBC]

TIME Burma

Burma Jails New Zealander for ‘Insulting Buddhism’ in Facebook Post

Phil Blackwood, a bar manager from New Zealand, comes out of court after being sentenced to two and half years in prison, at Bahan township court in Yangon on March 17, 2015.
Soe Zeya Tun—Reuters Phil Blackwood, a bar manager from New Zealand, comes out of court after being sentenced to two and half years in prison, at Bahan township court in Yangon on March 17, 2015.

Two Burmese were also jailed in what critics deem the latest instance of spiraling religious intolerance in the Southeast Asian nation

A Burmese court sentenced a New Zealand citizen and two Burmese nationals to 2½ years in prison with hard labor for posting a promotional advert on social media that depicted the Buddha wearing headphones.

State prosecutors claimed the image posted last year on the Facebook page of V Gastro bar, where Phil Blackwood worked as the general manager, was an insult to the Buddhist religion.

The establishment later issued an apology for causing offense, but Blackwood, along with the bar’s Burmese owner Tun Thurein and manager Htut Ko Ko Lwin, were arrested on Dec. 10 and have been held in Rangoon’s notorious Insein Prison ever since.

Ahead of Tuesday’s decision, the visibly disheveled Blackwood still appeared optimistic.

“Well, hopefully a bit of justice is going to happen,” Blackwood told the BBC as he was frog-marched into court by police.

Hours later, activists panned the decision that they say further erodes freedom of expression and promotes growing religious intolerance in the former military state.

“That these three men acted in a culturally insensitive way by posting the Buddha with headphones image on Facebook is obvious, but that is nothing they should have been hauled into court for, much less sent to prison,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch.

Burma has been rocked by myriad bouts of ethnosectarian violence pitting Buddhist extremist against the nation’s tiny Muslim minority since the country’s ruling military junta unveiled political reforms in late 2011.

The nationalist movement, known locally as 969, has helped bolster a growing wave of Buddhist chauvinism throughout the country. Nevertheless, over 90% of respondents to a poll conducted by local media outlet DVB said the V Gastro trio did not deserve to be jailed.

Analysts say Tuesday’s court decision may also be used to shore up political capital for potential candidates ahead of Burma’s national elections later this year.

“This is an election year and religion is already being used for political purposes,” Matthew Smith, executive director of the Fortify Rights advocacy group, tells TIME. “It’s become a race to the bottom to determine who is a stronger defender of conservative Buddhism, and that’s dangerous territory to be entering.”

TIME Burma

China Accuses Burmese Military of Fatal Bombing Across Border

Rebel soldiers of Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) patrol near a military base in Kokang region
Reuters Rebel soldiers of Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army patrol near a military base in Kokang region, in Burma, on March 10, 2015

Fighting between Burma's border-dwelling ethnic rebels and the central government is making Beijing increasingly tetchy

A sugarcane field in southwestern China became an unlikely battle zone on March 13 when five Chinese were killed by a bomb that fell out of the sky. Two days later, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang blamed the deaths on a Burmese military aircraft that had strayed over Chinese soil while skirmishing with the Kokang ethnic insurgency native to the borderlands between China and Burma, which is officially known as Myanmar. “We have the responsibility and the capacity to firmly safeguard the security and stability of the Chinese-Myanmar frontier,” said Li during his annual press conference, while also calling the strike in Yunnan province’s Lincang region “deeply distressing.”

In a statement released to TIME on Monday, the Burmese government insisted it was “maintaining [military] operations within the territory of Myanmar and respecting the territorial integrity and friendly relations between Myanmar and China.” And while expressing “deep sorrow for the death and injuries of Chinese nationals living in border areas,” and noting that a joint Sino-Burmese task force would be investigating the deaths further, the Burmese government also questioned “whether the Kokang insurgent group is involved in this incident to [create] a negative impact on the friendship between Myanmar and China and to create instability along the border area.”

Beijing, which is Burma’s largest investor, is surely not pleased by the latest tensions on its southwestern flank, which is the conduit for the many natural resources — jade, natural gas, timber, to name just three — that flow northward from Burma to a voracious China. Fighting, though, is nothing new along this volatile frontier. For generations, the Burmese military has battled various ethnic rebel groups that crowd the hills rising up toward the Chinese border. Despite promises of an imminent national cease-fire from Burma’s quasi-civilian government, which took over in 2011 from a long-ruling junta, clashes continue.

Recent hostilities involve the Kokang, the Kachin, the Shan and the Ta’ang, among other ethnic groups. The Kokang are ethnically Chinese and have long maintained political ties across the border. Some in the opium-tainted region once aligned themselves with the Kuomintang, the Chinese nationalist government that lost to the Communists during China’s civil war and fled to Taiwan. Other Kokang residents rallied around the communists and, like many other ethnic armies in northern Burma, received financial and tactical support from the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.

These days, Beijing no longer openly backs rebel groups in Burma. Still, the Sino-Burmese boundary, some 2,000 km long, remains porous. When fighting occurs in Burma, ethnic refugees — not to mention their military leaders — escape to China’s Yunnan province, which is home to many of the same minorities. People flows are even more significant in the opposite direction. Tens of thousands of Chinese have crossed into Burma to access the nation’s treasure trove of natural resources. In parts of northern Burma, the Chinese currency is accepted and signs in Mandarin hang from storefronts.

The preponderance of Chinese businessmen in northern Burma has bred some ill feeling among locals, even if the Chinese are among the few investors willing to devote money to such an unstable region. One of Burmese President Thein Sein’s earliest — and most popular — directives was to suspend construction of a controversial dam in northern Kachin state that was being built by a Chinese state-owned firm. (Critics contend that construction is, in fact, ongoing.) Earlier this year, dozens of Chinese loggers were detained by Burmese authorities for working illegally in Kachin.

Chinese have long been quietly — and, on occasion, illegally — working in Burma. Last year, in a virtual no-man’s land between the Burmese army and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), which controls territory on the border with China, a crew of Chinese mine workers operated heavy machinery, tearing up the earth in search of gold. The Chinese foreman of the mine, which is being run by a state-owned enterprise from the Yunnan county of Tengchong, said there was no need for passports or visas or any such conventions of international travel to work the land in Nam San Yang. “We’re only a little bit over the border,” he said, as his men gathered for lunch in a bamboo shack overlooking a patch of earth that was the scene of fierce fighting between the Burmese army and the KIA. Today, the area is nominally controlled by the rebels, while the Burmese front-line positions are staked on a nearby hill. “Myanmar people, Kachin people, who knows, who cares about all those politics,” said a mine worker surnamed Chen, who earns $480 a month. “I’m just here to make money to take home to my family.” Such ambitions know no national boundaries.

TIME Burma

Washington Condemns Burma’s Violent Student Crackdown

Police hit a student protester during violence in Letpadan
Soe Zeya Tun — Reuters Police assault a student protester in Letpadan, Burma on March 10, 2015.

Students and monks were peacefully calling for changes to the country's education bill

The U.S. State Department condemned Monday the brutal suppression of a protest by students and monks in the Burmese city of Letpadan.

The demonstrators were calling for educational reform in the former military state.

Video captured by local journalists shows police officers and what appear to be vigilantes using batons, fists and kicks to round up dozens of activists, only hours after student leaders and officials appeared to have reached a deal that would allow the protesters to travel to the country’s largest city, Rangoon.

“Freedom of assembly is an important component of any democratic society,” State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters on Monday. “We condemn the use of force taken against peaceful protesters.”

The Letpadan protest erupted just days after President Barack Obama paid homage to an earlier student movement in Burma that was crushed by the country’s ruling junta in 1988.

“Young people in Burma went to prison rather than submit to military rule,” declared Obama during a soaring address commemorating the U.S. civil rights marches in Selma on Sunday.

Students from across Burma, which is formally known as Myanmar, have been participating in widespread protests for months, calling for changes to the National Education Bill. Critics of the legislation say the law severely hampers students’ abilities to form unions, forbids institutions from lecturing in local languages and overly centralizes power in government hands.

Monday’s crackdown followed a brutal episode last week, when pro-government thugs assaulted activists rallying near Rangoon’s city hall in solidarity with the students in Letpadan.

The use of vigilante groups was common during the days of military rule in Burma, and their continued existence underscores fears for the future of Burma’s democratic reforms.

“Burma’s reforms are looking increasingly shaky day by day,” stated Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, in response to the crackdown on the Letpadan protests

The heavy-handed police action is also embarrassing for the country’s European partners. Last year, the European Union sponsored a multimillion-dollar initiative to train Burma’s police force in crowd-management techniques, supposedly to help protect the “democratic rights of citizens.”

“Whilst training can be given, the E.U. cannot make decisions on the ground,” said the E.U. Delegation to Myanmar. “We have discussed recent events with the Minister of Home Affairs and the Myanmar Police Force, emphasizing the need for negotiation, mutual understanding and compromise.”

TIME Burma

Thousands of Refugees Are Pouring Into China to Escape Fighting in Burma

People who are displaced by the fighting in Laukkai move towards a rescue convoy
Soe Zeya Tun — Reuters People displaced by the fighting in Burma's Laukai approach a rescue convoy on Feb. 17, 2015

Hopes for a prolonged truce appear to be fading in the war-torn nation

Burmese President Thein Sein granted the nation’s military wide-ranging powers this week to take the fight to ethnic Chinese rebels, after ongoing skirmishes in the country’s northeast sent thousands of refugees fleeing into neighboring China.

On Wednesday, the state-backed Global New Light of Myanmar ran two notices on its front page signed by the President announcing the imposition of a state of emergency and martial law in the country’s embattled Kokang region.

Burma’s military chief Min Aung Hlaing, who largely made a name for himself after trouncing Kokang militants in 2009, will now be charged with bringing the insurgents to heel in any manner he sees fit.

Fighting continues to rage near the Chinese border with the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MDNAA), a Kokang militia, who commenced a brazen offensive against government positions near the town of Laukai on Feb. 9, days ahead of the country’s Union Day celebrations.

The Burmese government had previously hoped to sign a highly vaunted nationwide cease-fire with the country’s myriad rebel forces on the national holiday.

President Thein Sein spent much of the last week visiting wounded soldiers, where he promised to not lose “an inch” of the country’s territory to Kokang “renegades.”

Analysts say the timing and the high-level of coordination among major rebel militias from across northern Burma who participated in the offensive suggests that the peace process has hit the rocks.

“The idea was to make a very loud point that there are a significant number of powerful factions in the north who are not interested in mealymouthed promises,” Anthony Davis, an analyst with IHS Jane’s, tells TIME.

Despite years of negotiations, trust between the ethnic insurgents in the country’s far north and the government has been in steady decline since an artillery assault by the Burmese army on a Kachin Independence Army training camp in November killed 23 cadets.

The resurgence of the MDNAA also raises fresh questions over how a militia that had been routed five years ago was able to raise the material and tactical support within earshot of the Chinese border to launch a major offensive.

Analysts have long suspected Beijing of providing sophisticated weaponry to ethnic Chinese insurgents along its border as a way of leveraging power against Burma as it seeks to foster new relations with the West.

An editorial published in a Chinese state-linked media outlet on Tuesday sought to shoot down any notions that Beijing has been propping up Burma’s ethnic Chinese forces in the same way that Russia has been helping separatist rebels in southeast Ukraine.

“There are no grounds for comparing Kokang to Crimea. Those who are stuck in such comparisons are either spouting nonsense, or have ulterior motives,” read an editorial printed in the Global Times on Tuesday. “Peace and stability in the border regions are in China’s utmost interest.”

TIME Burma

The Last Days of the Yangon River Ferry

A ferry's story reflects Burma's tumultuous journey

On a warm Friday in mid-November, the old Yangon Ferry shuddered across the riverbank in Burma for the last time.

The next morning, commuters boarded three shining new boats donated by the government of Japan. The moan of the old engines was gone, but the orange sunlight, the weary faces, and the frenzied commerce remained the same.

Since 2011, Burma’s government has worked to shed its international pariah status. Memories are short, and foreign money is washing over one of the world’s last untapped markets.

From the ferry pier, you can see the changes coming to Burma. It’s not just new boats. Tourists follow investment dollars, and children sell faded postcards in broken snatches of at least three European languages. A rickshaw driver holds a long, semi-coherent conversation in English. “I didn’t go to school,” he says. “I learned from you.” His finger points my way, but he refers to my fanny-pack saddled forbearers. The ferry has been updated, too—it still costs ten cents for locals, but four bucks a ride for tourists.

In the video above, follow the rhythm and warmth of the historic ferry crossing in its final days.

TIME Photojournalism Links

Photojournalism Daily: Jan. 7, 2015

A compilation of the most interesting photojournalism found on the web, curated by Mikko Takkunen

Today’s daily Photojournalism Links collection highlights Adam Dean‘s work on opium poppy farming in the valleys of eastern Burma. The country, which used to be the world’s largest supplier of heroin until the 1980s, is experiencing a resurgence in cultivation. Conflict, corruption and poverty have driven an increasing number of farmers back to growing the plants’ opium sap, the key ingredient of the drug. The United Nations is trying to persuade them to switch their focus to other crops such as coffee, but it faces a difficult task: opium is far more profitable and an easier way for smalltime farmers to pad their incomes. Dean’s photographs offer a poignant glimpse to the boom that gives so many of Burma’s poor a hard fought livelihood, one that they know isn’t good for society but one that they aren’t eager to give up.

Adam Dean: Poppies Bloom Again in Myanmar (The New York Times)

Timothy Fadek: Rebuilding Haiti (Bloomberg Businessweek) These pictures take a different look at Haiti by showing how five years after the massive earthquake, businesses are working to rebuild the country

Muhammed Muheisen: Young Survivors of the Peshawar School Attack (TIME LightBox) Portraits and words of the students who survived

Glenna Gordon (BBC Radio 4 World at One) Gordon talks about photographing the clothes of missing Nigerian school girls.

Jane Bown obituary (The Guardian) The English photographer known for her portraits, died in December 2014 aged 89

TIME Burma

A New Zealander Is Facing 4 Years in a Burmese Prison for ‘Insulting Buddhism’

New Zealander bar manager on trial for insulting Buddhism
Lynn Bo Bo—EPA New Zealand citizen Philip Blackwood, center, is escorted by Burmese policemen after his hearing at a court in Rangoon on Dec. 18, 2014

His trial is the latest example of growing religious intolerance in the country

A bar manager from New Zealand and two Burmese nationals are spending Christmas Day in Burma’s notorious Insein prison and will go on trial Friday, charged with insulting the Buddhist religion.

Phil Blackwood, 32, is the general manager of V Gastro, a bar and restaurant in the country’s commercial capital Rangoon. He, along with the bar’s owner Tun Thurein and manager Htut Ko Ko Lwin, were arrested on Dec. 10 after posting a promotional advert on the establishment’s Facebook page showing the Buddha wearing headphones.

Though the post was removed and an apology issued, it quickly drew scorn from local Buddhists who found the image offensive.

The trio were refused bail and have been in custody since their arrest. Blackwood has had trouble finding legal representation and is being kept in a separate cell to his colleagues. He is also not allowed to see visitors.

If found guilty, the three face up to four years in prison.

David Mathieson, senior Burma researcher at Human Rights Watch, criticizes the severity of the charges.

“It shows a massive injustice — the lack of access to lawyers and consular support,” he tells TIME. “Even by their own legal procedures, [the legal system] has completely failed to uphold the rule of law.”

These charges are the latest example of rising religious chauvinism in the country. A group of hard-line Buddhist monks, called the Association of Protection of Race and Religion, or Ma Ba Tha in Burmese, is pushing hard-line Buddhism into politics and espousing an anti-Muslim rhetoric.

“There is evidence indicating that Ma Ba Tha and 969 [another ultra-nationalist Buddhist group] have strong alliances with political parties including members of the ruling party. There is a visible pattern of bias in government departments acting in favor of these groups,” says Htuu Lou Rae from interfaith group Coexist.

Earlier this month, Ma Ba Tha submitted a series of bills to the country’s legislature. The so-called Laws on Protection of Race and Religion include tough regulations on religious conversion and interfaith marriage. A marriage bill would require Buddhist women to seek permission from local authorities before marrying a man of another faith.

Rights groups, including advocates for women and ethnic minorities, have fiercely criticized the bills, saying they restrict religious freedom. “This so-called marriage law, or ‘protection law for women,’ is not only threatening women’s rights to make a decision for [themselves] but is also threatening women’s security and safety,” a spokesperson from the Burmese Women’s League tells TIME.

But despite the recent surge of anti-Muslim discourse in the country, Ma Ba Tha’s desire to protect the dominant Buddhist religion has deep historical roots dating back to the last of the Burmese kings in the early 20th century, when anticolonial sentiments were high.

“Once the British were about to depose King Thibaw, he issued a call to arms, telling people to rise up and defend not just the country, but also the Sasana [the Buddhist religion],” says Matthew Walton, a Burma scholar from the University of Oxford.

Insecurities over the opening up of the country after five decades of military rule could be driving the resurgence in nationalism today. “In times of uncertainty, the ‘protection’ of Buddhism can get reconfigured against an external threat,” says Walton.

For many hard-line Buddhists, the “external threat” in Burma right now is the perception that the Muslim population will take over the country.

And these extreme ideas do have an audience, “because of underdevelopment, a lack of critical humanistic education, wrong information from the media and from unreliable history books,” says Phyo Win Latt, a Ph.D. student at the National University of Singapore who focuses on Buddhist nationalism in colonial Burma.

Meanwhile, moderate members of the clergy do not feel that V Gastro’s promotional material warrants imprisonment. Ottama Thara, a monk from Mandalay who teaches Buddhist texts, says Buddha practiced forgiveness and therefore so should they.

“Whoever insults one particular religion, if they apologize for their actions, I think we should forgive them,” he says.

Instead of bowing down to intimidation from extremist groups, some feel there needs to be a clearheaded public debate about extreme nationalist ideas and religion’s role in politics.

“The bigger picture is that the government is completely unwilling to stand up to rising nationalism,” Mathieson says. “It demonstrates a collective failure of political leadership on the entire country that they are not calling this out.”

Those who do speak out are met with hostility and jail time. Htin Lin Oo, a member of Aung San Suu Kyi’s opposition party, the National League for Democracy, was sacked from his position and faces up to four years in prison after being charged with conducting “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings,” the Irrawaddy reports. He had delivered a speech criticizing how Buddhism was being used as a tool for discrimination.

Htin Lin Oo’s dismissal from his own party shows that even a moderate opposition is reluctant to address the tide of growing nationalism in the country.

If Burma’s leaders continue with their unwillingness to deal with the rise of Buddhist extremism from nationalist groups, the country could be set on a dangerous course toward more intolerance and it could jeopardize the future of the reform process.

“It’s only going to get more heated,” says Mathieson.

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