‘Burmese’, ‘Bamar’, ‘Religion’ and ‘Buddhism’

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In a study summarised by Poll Finds Burmese Public Linking Citizenship to Buddhism’ it is reported how Burmese equate being Burmese or ‘Myanmar’ with being Buddhist. The study was done by the ‘Myanmar Egress’ a Rangoon based organisation and has been published as ‘Citizenship in Myanmar: Contemporary Debates and Challenges in Light of the Reform Process’.

The report is based upon a survey of over 2000 Burmese form across the country. The basic conclusions are that ‘a very large number of respondents within the Buddhist ethnic groups—i.e. not only Bamar respondents, equate citizenship with religion.’

A ‘Bamar, Buddhist’ responded: ‘Myanmar is Buddhist and patriotic,’ while a ‘Rohingya, Muslim’ stated: ‘[Myanmar is] “The person who is Buddhist.”‘

A spokesperson for Myanmar Egress suggests that ‘This religious nationalism, if not dealt with carefully, could serve to alienate other groups with a different religious identity.’

2 thoughts on “‘Burmese’, ‘Bamar’, ‘Religion’ and ‘Buddhism’

  1. As I don’t see the sampling method and question sets, I can’t determine the validity of results from the scientific standpoint. Nonetheless, I think there is serious conflict of interest; Myanmar Egress is the one led by President Thein Sein’s advisor, Kyaw Yin Hlaing who is also in the Rakhine investigation commission . This org. was in the past, perhaps the only so-called civil society to be allowed to officially stand during the military reign. Last year, there were also reports their members promoted hate movements (but not conclusive; people inside Burma will know).

    So normally, validity of this organization’s research findings can’t be accepted. Unless an independent organization can do social survey on sensitive issues carefully under scientific research methods and ethical standards, we should not trust these findings. Another verdict is why asking such pretty complex questions to ordinary Burmese ? If somebody asks this question even to a highly educated person, the respondent may be confused what does it mean by connection between “nationality and religion”, or may be surprised as he has not thought it before or become even irritated if he doesn’t consider the religion as a prominent social affair.

    I think such people are not few. I imagine if I sample with my Burmese friends: it will be almost zero response to that question ( a large number of missing responses) as they think the question doesn’t make sense.

    So let’s say if they get 1,000 responses, “yes”, and the missing responses are 5,000, simply the result can’t be taken as a “positive” reflection as this organization claims.

  2. Thanks Nyo Tun. I was not aware of the background of Myanmar Egress. I guess what I found of interest was the framing of the question and in fact the way this has been reported. Even if not true there is this assumption to link nation and religion. The motivations of whoever lays behind this to want to push these ideas to the forefront at this point. It is almost going back to the ideas of U Nu and the need for Buddhism to be at the heart of Burma, and the basis for Burmese national identity.

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