February 11, 2016

C4ADS, a non-profit, "dedicated to data-driven analysis and evidence-based reporting of conflict and security issues worldwide" has published a must-read study on the increased anti-Muslim and anti-Rohingya hate speech that has proliferated in Burma over the past half decade. The report specifically analyzes the Buddhist nationalist organization Ma Ba Tha, its leaders, as well as its online and offline presence. It details how they operate and propagate their anti-Muslim hate speech with the support of the military and the formerly ruling USDP.

To date, the Ma Ba Tha has proven itself to be an adaptive organization. It learned from the mistakes of the 969 and is continually evolving and professionalizing its messaging, activities, and narrative dissemination. Today, the Ma Ba Tha has built a strong foundation of highly active and motivated monks who oversee a vast network of ground activities and partnerships, as well as a powerful communications and lobbying apparatus, all with proven results. The Ma Ba Tha is likely to continue to retain a significant base of support because its messaging endorses a range of anti-Muslim prejudices that resonate in the broader Burmese society. Much of what is considered ‘ultra-nationalist’ in the international media is closer to ‘center-right’ in Myanmar, and core Ma Ba Tha issues such as the denial of rights for the Rohingya, enjoy popular mainstream support. No electoral outcome or new government can easily change these deep-rooted prejudices, but it is possible to better understand their core themes and develop better counter-messaging and early warning strategies.

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