The Mad Monks of Myanmar

The Mad Monks of Myanmar


Myanmar is home to a growing wave of anti-Muslim sentiment, as seen in the troubling 969 movement. The numerical significance of the digits is rooted in Buddhism’s Three Jewels (Tiratana), which comprise 24 attributes: nine special attributes of Lord Buddha, six core Buddhist teachings, and nine attributes of monkhood.

Coopted by members of Myanmar’s nationalistic Buddhist majority, the number has become a symbol of religious division that has led to both discrimination and violence. Even the government, under President Thein Sein, has taken controversial actions that seem to align with its anti-Muslim stance, from its ongoing purge of the nation’s Muslim minority Rohingyas to its highly contentious two-child policy, applied solely to the same group.

While the movement has infiltrated the country’s mainstream over a long period of time, a prominent Buddhist monk, Ashin Wirathu, has recently become its unofficial leader. A photograph of Wirathu in crimson robes, with the words “The Face of Buddhist Terror”, made the cover of the July issue of TIME Magazine, causing a furor in Myanmar and drawing international attention to the country’s heated religious tensions.

In this photo essay, The Diplomat gives an exclusive look at the 969 movement from the inside, including up-close images of the monk who has made international headlines.

In the first image (above) Wirathu is welcomed by supporters at his monastery in Mandalay. Since publicly promoting the 969 movement on social networks, he is often referred to as the “Burmese Bin Laden”. The number “969”, are seen everywhere in the nation’s streets: on motor taxis, shop windows, betel nut carts. In a country keen on numerology, 969 officially presents itself as a return to Buddhist roots and the teachings of the faith’s founder. However, it is widely accused of being a vehicle of religious hatred and extremist brainwashing.

“If Myanmar wants to live in peace, Buddhists and Muslims have to live separately”, Wirathu told The Diplomat.

March 19, 2014 at 20:46

Can The Diplomat dare to say the same of the Islamic cleric as being MAD???

July 18, 2013 at 09:48

No people or religion is immune from violence, leading to senseless deaths.

Ever heard of the *killing fields*?   The genocidal murders took place in a Buddhist nation — Cambodia.

The Holocaust –  the slaughter of six million innocent Jewish people — happened in Christian Europe.

All religions are built on myths and fables, according to Thomas Jefferson. Prove him wrong.



Kyaw Zwar
July 15, 2013 at 18:19

But u names when did a Muslim bombed in Burma or a Burmese Muslim did such an act …. Moreover why kill the children what bcos u assume when they get old they will marry Buddhist girl… N wait I believe u want democracy in Burma n that is the Burmese version of democracy …. Think again n Buddhist should realise now that you are open international bussiness if u a tally did decelare war against Muslim u will loose

Elvis Kaparnasks
July 15, 2013 at 09:03

Time for an insurgency?

Perhaps arm the rebels for a separate state like in Syria.

tin maung lwin
July 14, 2013 at 19:02

We , Budhists want only peace but if someone insult you, your religion & your society, how will you response. You should throughly learn the teaching of Buddha & The nature of Myanmar.

February 15, 2014 at 23:03

That is true also to the Muslim, we never wanted to be insulted. We will fight until the last death if that happened. The Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar captured and caught the attention of the Muslim around the world, as such we were condemning you and your government not to be racist and violator of human rights, your country is a signatory of UN yet still, you didnt observe peace which was the main mandate of the said org. If you the buddhist feeled hatred toward Muslim, why not giving them (Rohingya) sovereignty over their own territory, it is just a terribly numbed ideas for not giving them a freedom as this could may be resulted to a lasting peace both in your land.

Chitranjan Sawant
July 14, 2013 at 15:38

AUM.            MONK OF THE MASSES LEADS FROM FRONT  By Chitranjan Sawant from INDIA.

Monk Ashin Wirathu of the Buddhist Church of Burma is a leader of common man and woman and they love him, they adore him because he keeps society before self.When Monk Ashin found that the Muslims of Bangladesh who had migrated to the Arakan area of Myanmar were harassing the Burmese Buddhist girls, kidnapping them, sexually brutalising them, the selfless monk led a movement against Rohangiya Muslims united the native Burmese people and ensured that justice was done to the aggrieved. Monk Ashin Wirathu was successful and became the blue-eyed boy of the downtrodden. Now no one dare harass no one, thanks to the people's muvement led by the Buddhist monk,Ashin Wirathu.



July 13, 2013 at 20:59

You lost the argument the moment you categorized an entire community as "terroristin". In any case, Myanmar have an atrocious human rights record to begin with and your genocidal actions further portray you in a bad limelight.

July 12, 2013 at 22:15

It can’t be possible to live with the terroristin our community.We want to live in peace but they are not.

July 12, 2013 at 10:12

It is not "only the black spot in the very large white paper of the Buddhist monks" it is either few black spots in very large Brown or Gray" because all those 969 monks preach "hate" against other religions while vast majority of Burmese Monks supported by being silent on terrorizing the small community. Only few great monks say to Stop the Violence. When someone support the terrorism either knowingly or not, that perosn becomes accomplice in those hate-crime. Also It is not right to judge the religion based on some paticular monks or people did bad deeds. In fact it is very rude. People don't indict any religion for some fools unless you literally read and understand their scriptures. In our Burmese history, there were alot of killings n bloodshed among very same religion. Does it make that religion bad??? no Absolutely not. It is the people, not the religion. Try not to Sterotype. It doesn't come out healty community. We cannot afford our county going backward this time arround. Nationalism is only good when we don't mixed with religion. It is "N A T I O N A L I S M" not one particular religion. Have a brain n heart. Peace out.

Lauren Garza
July 12, 2013 at 00:41

So much for the peace of the buddah


Xiao Ma
December 10, 2013 at 21:03

And for the religion of peace, Islam?

Sann Lwin
July 11, 2013 at 22:26

The Media used to know the major events, or the main reason but pick up only the black spot in the very large white paper of the Buddhist monks. But they closed their eye to see the large black page within the Muslims particularly in the Burmese religiouse crises. Sorry the Diplomat– Blind Guys, Bye.

July 11, 2013 at 16:31

Nothing is perfect, even humanism itself. Humanism has made people in Irak, Libya suffered. Too, humanism is inherently evil. It is politicized, ony a tool. the tenets are good enough to affect people. Like religion used to be..

So, evil or not is unfixed. Sometimes we just take only the good things from the so-called evil one.

Share your thoughts

Your Name
Your Email
required, but not published
Your Comment

Sign up for our weekly newsletter
The Diplomat Brief