Ashin Wirathu is the nationalist Buddhist monk of the religious organisation Ma Ba Tha.
Since 2012 there have been clashes between Buddhists and Muslims in Myanmar. Ma Ba Tha is a Buddhist organization which is responsible for much of the unrest; and in 2016 supporters of Ma Ba Tha campaigned against the Rohingya on Facebook. Ashin Wirathu is one of the prominent leaders of MaBaTha.
mizzima.com - Ashin Wirathu is the subject of a new documentary showing at France’s Cannes Film Festival (May 2017).
frontiermyanmar.net - A shadowy group of “patriots” nostalgic for junta rule is exploiting religion in the hope of creating a national emergency that would justify a Tatmadaw takeover.
www.bbc.com - BBC background: How Aung San Suu Kyi sees the Rohingya crisis (25 January 2018).
www.newmandala.org - Assessing the Rohingya crisis. And some solid background articles on the political events in Myanmar (13-june-2018).
A quote from the venerable monk U Uttara: "All suffering in Myanmar is man made. What we need is a mind change. If we don’t change the way we think, the suffering in this country will never end." (September 16, 2015, frontiermyanmar.net)
The hotel situation in Myanmar
Hotel prices in Yangon have doubled in 2012 and tripled in 2013, but in recent years the hotel rates have been declining. The overall picture is that the steep rise in the number of tourist arrivals has slowed down since 2016, because of the Rakhine unrest.
The hotel and tourism situation:
The hotel situation (15 Sep, 2019)
New sunset viewing hills in Bagan.
On 24-aug-2016 Myanmar was hit by a 6.8-magnitude earthquake; the quake damaged almost 400 temples in Bagan.
In 2017 the government has built new sunset viewing hills, and once these were finished all major sunset pagodas were closed.
In 2019 Bagan has been awarded World Heritage status. More information hotels, tourism and visitor numbers in Bagan:
There are some tourist traps and scams in Burma; though much less than in other asian countries. There used to be money changing scams in Yangon when people changed on the black market; before 2012. The latest popular scam is the Dala ferry tour Scam. If you take the ferry across the Yangon river to Dala (Dallah), some rickshaw drivers offer a guided tour for "whatever you want to pay". Turns out to be quite expensive (some end up paying 100$ or more). You will be asked to buy a bag of rice at 50$ for orphans or victims of the Nargis cyclone or such things.
And get your Myanmar E-visa ONLY at the official goverments' site! It is very easy, though you need to enter your data carefully. Do not enter a wrong passport number and make sure you don't forget your own name - some people manage to do so.
More on Burmese tourist traps and E-visa:
2018: Facebook or Hatebook?
And Facebook is finally taking measures, maybe a few years too late. Researchers and human rights activists say they cautioned Facebook for years that its platform was being used in Myanmar to promote racism and hatred of Muslims, in particular the Rohingya. Facebook has grown tremendously in Myanmar, with an estimated 20 million users out of 53 million citizens.
As of June 2018, Facebook had over 60 Myanmar language experts reviewing content and will have at least 100 by the end of this year. This is mainly done through a secretive operation in Kuala Lumpur that’s outsourced to Accenture, a digital information company, and codenamed "Project Honey Badger." Facebook told Reuters it was "investing more in the teams who are working on Myanmar" as it seeks to "understand and respond to Myanmar’s unique technical challenges." It has designated a radical Buddhist group, Ma Ba Tha (Wikipedia), and several prominent monks known for vitriol toward Rohingya as "hate figures and organizations", and blocked them from the platform. This has led to the removal of a lot of harmful and violating content.
If the Facebook measures are effective remains the question; a detailed Reuters article on Facebook in Myanmar: www.reuters.co
The Myanmar restaurant scene.
And finally something about the Burmese cuisine that is strongly influenced by China and India. Burmese curry is very different from the Indian curries - a Burmese curry is usually a few pieces of chicken floating around in a bowl of oil. So it can be a bit difficult to find a good, creamy curry; but the regular dishes like Thali, Samosas, Masala dosa, Dal, and so on are easy to find.
Things have been improving rapidly the last few years; new restaurants have been opening up left and right. The value of the Kyat has also tumbled because of the high inflation in Myanmar; which helps to bring dinner prices down - except in the few high-end restaurants that are priced in dollars (e.g. L'Opera, Le Planteur and The Strand). The pricing range is huge; for example a large bottle of Mandalay beer can be 2000 to 3000 Kyat, but in a resort on Inle lake they sometimes charge up to 9000 kyat for the exact same beer.
If you're a Foodie then you should try Shan noodles, and the Lahpet Thoke or Burmese Tea Leaf Salad is really worth a try. And if you're quite bold and interested in exotic food then you might like Ngapi (a fermented fish paste) or fermented beans (Pè Ngapi).
More on the new Inle lake eateries:
Inle lake eateries
And what about Ashin Wirathu?
YANGON (Reuters, 29-5-2019) - A court in Myanmar has issued an arrest warrant for a nationalist Buddhist monk, Wirathu, on a charge of sedition. He seems to have made defamatory remarks about the nation’s civilian leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. (Sedition means inciting people to rebel against the authority of a state).
At recent rallies, Wirathu has accused the government of corruption and criticised it for trying to change the constitution in a way that would reduce the power of the military.
“This sedition accusation is bullying him,” Thu Saitta, an ally of Wirathu, told Reuters. “We won’t say what we will do if he is arrested, but it is certain that we won’t be calm.”
- Tourism news archive from 2011 to 2019.