Religion: A Tool of Dictators to Cleanse Ethnic Minority in Myanmar?


Author: Mang Hre, Victorian Chin Baptist Church, Australia
Published: October 2013

Citation: Hre, M. (2013). Religion: A Tool of Dictators to Cleanse Ethnic Minority in Myanmar? IAFOR Journal of Ethics, Religion & Philosophy, 1(1).


Religion plays a vitally important role among the people of Myanmar. In this paper, I will use the name “Myanmar” as a country name and “Burma” for the ethnic Barma people. Buddhism was first introduced around 241 BC but it was only in the time of King Anawrahta who unified the Burmese kingdom in 1044 AD that Buddhism in Myanmar began to influence political events (Guruge, 2004, pp. 105–107). From this time Theravada Buddhism was considered the State religion. Today, the Therevada Buddhism is practiced by the Burman, Mon, Shan, Rakhine, and some Karens, peoples. In 1962, General Ne Win, who ruled the country from 1962 to 1988, promised that the government would not involve itself in mixing religion and politics. Against his promise, his government had clamped down on all forms of organization, including many Buddhist organizations (Houtman, 1999, p. 269). All of the foreign Christian missionaries were expelled from Myanmar and their properties and mission schools became the property of government. Religion for the Ne Win regime only means Buddhism. When the Ne Win regime was ousted in the 1988 uprising, General Than Shwe succeeded in power to control the country. Like Ne Win, Than Shwe declared that there would be no discrimination in regard to religion. In practice, however, the military government has increasingly taken to representing itself as both piously Buddhist and of the Burma ethnic group. General Than Shwe has said, "As you know, I am a soldier, but at the same time, I am also a Buddhist. I faithfully try to follow the Buddhist teaching" (cited in Houtman, 1999, p.269). Buddhism then becomes a tool of dictators to demolish ethnic minorities and it has been used as a form of legitimacy to maintain their power. In this paper, I will try explore the situation in regard to the ethnic minorities in Myanmar and will focus upon the pain and suffering inflicted by the military government.


Myanmar, ethnic minorities, Buddhism