"We will fence our nation with our bones": The rise and rise of Myanmar's "Buddhist" Nazism

Demostrators demand immediate passage of the nationalities protection bills at the terrace of Eindawya Pagaoda in Mandalay on Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014. (Teza Hlaing / The Irrawaddy) 


What do #Myanmar's 'defenders of race and faith sing​' on Buddha Gotama's Enlightenment Day (billed as "Metta or Loving Kindness Day) - 30 Aug 2015. 


Nazi-like song full of hatred, anger, ignorance and racism (Listening repeatedly to it for transcribing and translating it gave me goose-bumps and I felt chill down my spines for the non-Buddhists, especially Muslims). 

Watch it here in the original Burmese (the translation of the song is below):

My rough translation of the ultra-nationalist song sung as part of the national celebration, ironically, to commemorate the Day when Gotama Buddha was thought to have gained (spiritual) Englightenment.

The following fb post, a 1:31 minute video clip of a live song - at the FB account named "victorious nobel race" is "liked", so far, over 13,000 times and shared by 1,200.

I would give it the following title:

"We will fence our nation with our bones"

Buddha's Wisdom shines over our land
In defence of Bama race and Buddhist faith we will stand at the front line.
These people (the infidels/Muslims) live on our (Buddhist) soil.
They drink our water.
They break our rules.
They suck our wealth.
And they insult us the host.
They destroy our youth.
Alas, they are just one ungrateful, worthless creatures.

We are one Buddhist brotherhood, now joining hands as One.
We shall pledge to join hands as One.
We do pledege to join hands as One.
We will be loyal and faithful to our Race and our (Buddhist) Faith.

We will only do business with those who share our Buddhist faith.
We will only marry those who share our Buddhist faith.

Hey, shall we
talk about our national affairs.
Let our nationalist consciousness awake!

We will fence our nation with our bones.
If you show us your (hateful) sword
We will surely reciprocate in kind.

We will fence our nation with our bones.
If you show us your (hateful) sword
we will surely reciprocate in kind.

We will fence our nation with our bones.
If you show us your (hateful) sword
We will surely reciprocate in kind.


Dear Friends,

After the eruption of the state-backed mass violence against the Rohingya - and Muslims - in Rakhine or Arakan State of Western Burma or Myanmar in June and Oct 2012, I began using the word Nazi-like, neo-Nazi, Fascist, etc in characterizing the alarming racist developments, including violent speech and acts of violence - all carried out with the blanket IMPUNITY of the state authoties at the highest level. 

Both the sincerely naive and the witting apologists among the English speaking circles - Burma watchers, academics and journalists - wrote my characterization as simply 'hyperboles' coming from a 'spoiler'. (I am a 'spoiler' because I refused to jump on the Myanmar band wagon of lauding the 'reforms' and licking the crumbs or chewing the bones that result from this process and I bark incessantly at what I saw as a scene where vultures of all stripes and colors hover or drive on to my country - which to me seems increasingly like a decaying corpse or animal carcas). 

In September 2012, I flew from Brunie where I was living and working to Bangkok to participate in a web-cast event on the rise of "Buddhist" nationalism in Burma at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand. A long time Burma journalist Larry Jagan asked what I thought of President Thein Sein who was at the time unquestionably Myanmar's Man of the Hour, with "his" widely applauded "reforms". My answer, without any equivocation, was: "a world class liar" or to borrow The Economist's characterization of Tony Blair, "a sincere deceiver".

Sadly, some of my closest long-time friends have been involved in manufacturing and marketting Thein Sein, a graduate of the Defense Services Academy In-Take-9 (1967?), as "listerner-in-chief", "a good man", 'the best chance for peace", etc. 

Recent events have un-masked the real Thein Sein, a longest-serving loyal functionary of the aging despot Senior General Than Shwe whose soft-spokenness belies his ruthless, sinister, deceptive and calculating core. 

Within the Burma army, good soldiers do NOT get promoted. A brief detour on Thein Sein as a 'world class liar' aside, the country is definitely taking a Nazi turn: mainstreaming of Islamophobia, the active participation of the state - from local to the highest level of leadership (President Thein Sein and his office) in promoting and mobilizing anti-Muslim racism, the Legislature (the military-controlled parliament), the flagship opposition of the NLD and its Nobel Prize winning racist icon Aung San Suu Kyi, and the societally and culturally powerfully Buddhist Sangha or Order, the 

religion- and race-focused laws, etc. all point to how different "components" of Myanmar's society, religious and political establishments are morphing into Nazi-like entities.

The difference amongst these components are in degree, not in kind.

With that most disturbing backdrop, I have put together a small collection of deeply disturbing stories which point to an emergence of a soiety and a political system that can only be described as Nazi-esque. No two historical incidences of Fascist developments are identical. 

However, the idelogical pattern, the uses of law, violence, mass culture, dominant religion, patriotism, mainstream politics of difference (racism), democratic process, demagoguery, mobilization of public frustration towards political/strategic ends, etc. and the instrumental role of state organs, etc. 

Three years on, I stand by my choice of characterization of my own birthplace - once the anchor of my consciouness and existence as neo-Nazi "Buddhist" country and its Nazi-like racism and racist society and politics. 

It takes an extraordinary degree of delusions and self-deception to use the word 'progress' in reference to my country. 

The worst is as yet to come.



1) Buddhist And Muslim Relations Underly Southeast Asia Refugee Crisis
US National Public Radion, 31 Aug 2015

2) Buddhist And Muslim Relations Underly Southeast Asia Refugee Crisis
August 31, 2015 5:38 AM ET, Myanmar Times

3) ationalists mark anniversary of divisive state religion bill

By Aung Kyaw Min | Tuesday, 01 September 2015

4) Anti-Muslim Buddhist group moves toward Myanmar's mainstream

YANGON, Sept 1 | By Timothy Mclaughlin and Hnin Yadana Zaw

5) Myanmar President Signs Off on Law Seen as Anti-Muslim

Reuters, 31 Aug 2015

6) In Myanmar, Rohingya candidates barred from election

John Zaw, Mandalay
Myanmar, August 31, 2015

September 1, 2015

7) NLD Blocked Muslim Candidates to Appease Ma Ba Tha: Party Member

8) Myanmar's backsliding leads to doubt about U.S. diplomacy strategy

9) The Wall Street Journal

Buzz over post-sanctions Myanmar fades for many U.S. investors

August 31, 2015

Many people thought this would become one of the hottest new markets for American capital a few years ago, when the country began opening to the West after decades of military rule.

Instead, Myanmar has been a letdown for many investors—especially Americans. Many have already pulled out after opportunities failed to materialize.

It was “not worth risking our reputation” in Myanmar, said Ryan Manicom, a head of business development for Holloman Corp., a Houston oil & gas services firm. His company shut its country office this year after it took longer than expected for the government to open more natural gas to foreign players. Holloman also worried about local safety standards, he said.

Disenchantment with the business climate comes as concerns are spreading about Myanmar’s political future.

Although officials say a national election planned for early November will be free and fair, doubts have deepened since the main military-backed party this month purged a presidential hopeful who was linked to democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.

Ms. Suu Kyi is barred by Myanmar’s constitution from becoming president, even though she is widely regarded as the most popular politician.

Numerous construction projects for new hotels, offices and condominium buildings in Yangon have stalled, as investors wait for clearer investment rules and to see how the dust settles after the November election.

Officials in Myanmar, also known as Burma, say the government is learning how to implement market overhauls and that the investment climate will improve.

This “is the transition period from military government to democracy government,” and from a centrally planned economy to a market economy, said Soe Thane, minister in charge of economic affairs in the office of President Thein Sein.

Still, disappointment with the way Myanmar has played out since its former military junta stepped down in 2010 is palpable among many U.S. business leaders.

The U.S. began easing sanctions—first imposed in the 1990s—in 2012. Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on U.S. companies to “invest in Burma and do it responsibly,” adding, “let’s all work together to create jobs, opportunity, and support reform.”

The economy has grown relatively rapidly since then and people have gained more civic freedoms, including the right to protest. A more robust media developed as harsh censorship laws were lifted.

Yet leaders dragged their feet on fully opening some sectors that Western investors wanted, including financial services and real estate. Officials say they’ve had to strike a balance between protecting domestic enterprises and welcoming foreign companies.

Other challenges include Yangon rents that spiked to levels on par with Singapore, one of the world’s richest cities, because of a shortage of modern space. Lack of financial services like wire transfers forced companies to bring cash in by truck or air.

Washington, meanwhile, has in many ways made it hard for U.S. firms to do business in Myanmar, even as it encouraged U.S. companies to go there.

The Obama administration added requirements that forced U.S. firms to make extensive public disclosures if they invested more than $500,000. It also kept some sanctions in place in case the government backtracked on its promised overhauls.

The U.S. Treasury maintained its blacklist prohibiting Americans from doing business with an estimated 200 individuals and entities linked to the former military junta. Any U.S. firm needing a local partner had to make sure no one involved was on the list.

Eric Rose, a U.S. lawyer who opened a branch of his firm, Herzfeld & Rubin, in Yangon, says about half of Myanmar’s economy is controlled by the military and another 20% is dominated by blacklisted cronies, effectively making 70% of Myanmar off-limits.

Wary of Washington’s mixed signals, American banks kept blocking some transactions involving the country. Citibank Inc. and others made exploratory trips but decided not to do more there.

Six foreign banks have branches in Myanmar and dozens more have representative offices, but none are American.

A Citigroup spokesperson says it has assisted clients making payments into Myanmar “after ensuring full compliance” with U.S. rules and will keep monitoring the situation.

Europe, by contrast, lifted all its sanctions by 2013.

Carlsberg A/S and Heineken NV invested in breweries there, while Nestlé SA and Unilever PLC set up manufacturing plants. Adidas AG and Hennes & Mauritz AB are sourcing garments from the country. Britain’s BG Group is investing more than a billion dollars in oil exploration with an Australian partner.

A few big U.S. companies have entered, including Colgate-Palmolive Co. and Coca-Cola Co., which intends to spend up to $200 million here over the next few years. Gap Inc. has started sourcing garments from Myanmar and a two-story KFC outlet opened in June.

These U.S. multinational brands have large compliance teams to guide them in extreme-frontier locations. As early movers some were able to lock up relationships with local partners who aren’t on U.S. blacklists.

But Rehan Khan, Coca-Cola’s country manager, said the company is still having trouble delivering its product in many places because of supply-chain problems.

Gap has kept its sourcing small in Myanmar, limiting it to two factories outside Yangon. It sources “more than 100 times” more clothing from Vietnam, a spokesperson said.

The U.S. has declined to lift import duties, meaning companies like Gap have to pay as much as 17% in tax when bringing goods home. The European Union in 2013 granted Myanmar products duty-free and quota-free access to Europe.

Officially, U.S. firms have invested just $2 million in Myanmar since 2011, according to Myanmar government statistics, though that doesn’t include an undetermined amount spent through regional offices in Singapore.

China has invested $5.2 billion since 2011. The U.K. has spent $1.3 billion and the Netherlands $312 million.

“It is almost like (Washington is) telling us to invest with a wink and a nod,” said Dave Peck, the American chief executive of Arrow Technologies, a Singapore-based company that sells laboratory equipment in Myanmar. He said he has handled his business through a non-Western bank.

A U.S. Treasury Department spokesperson said remaining sanctions aren’t intended to hurt American business but to “put pressure on bad actors.”

It isn’t unusual for investors to overhype markets when they open to Western capital. Many foreigners abandoned Vietnam when it failed to live up to expectations in the 1980s and 1990s, though many global firms eventually located there.

Myanmar has also proved frustrating for some.

Holloman of Houston set up shop in 2013 when Myanmar was signaling plans to open more natural gas to foreign players. But the government delayed. When authorities awarded exploration blocks in 2014, the global market was facing an energy glut. Many international firms Holloman hoped to team with lost interest, leaving little for Holloman to do.

Mr. Rose, the lawyer, said he’s struggling to keep his business afloat.

A balding 60-year-old who wears a pin of the Myanmar and American flags on his suit, he started planning the venture when he heard Ms. Suu Kyi was freed from house arrest in 2010.

Mr. Rose, who fled to the U.S. from Communist Romania in his youth, had worked for American Standard Brands when it introduced bathroom fixtures into Myanmar before U.S. sanctions in the 1990s.

He assembled a 65-page budget to start a law office in the country and convinced Herzfeld & Rubin partners to go in 50-50. He hired a former armed rebel who had a law degree from Indiana, and the chief legal counsel of Ms. Suu Kyi’s political party.

He kicked off his venture with a party at a five-star hotel attended by ambassadors and a famous Myanmar singer.

Business was initially robust, he said. Clients included American firms exploring opportunities and a pair of New Yorkers injured in a Myanmar plane crash.

“There was just more and more good news every day,” Mr. Rose recalled. “I felt like a guy who just bought a new car, and keeps seeing reviews of how amazing the car is in magazines.”

Several months later, business “literally fell off a cliff,” he said. American firms were losing interest. He laid off half his staff of 15 after sinking $200,000 of his own money into the venture.

In May, Mr. Rose said, he got a reprieve when he signed an American not-for-profit as a client.

Still, he’s recalibrating his expectations.

“U.S. companies are severely handicapped by our government’s unclear policy” in Myanmar, he said. “When even the banks stay away…our clients will stay away.”


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