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Lions Roar : September 2014
and “the Buddha’s teaching” that some- times violence is needed to protect the nation. This dangerous situation needs some explanation. The biggest source of conflict is the unsettled situation of the Rohingya Mus- lims in Burma’s westernmost state. Rakhine is a beautiful land bordering Bangladesh that was for centuries a great seafaring kingdom. But ever since the central Bur- mese kings conquered Rakhine, the people there have been treated badly. And over the last century, a million Rohingya Muslims, seeking new opportunity or fleeing poverty and mistreatment in present-day Bangla- desh, have settled in Rakhine. Today, over- populated Bangladesh doesn’t want them back and the Rakhine natives, already poor and mistreated by the central government, fear they are losing land and livelihood to Burma at a Glance • Population 57,000,000 in an area the size of Texas • 89% Buddhist, 4% Muslim, 4% Christian • 650,000 internal refugees displaced by military offen- sives against minority groups. Burma is a major source country for human traffick- ing and world’s third-largest opium producer. • Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine stripped of citizenship in 1982 and considered stateless persons. State of emergency declared in Rakhine after rioting in 2012 left hundreds of Muslims dead and tens of thousands homeless. • After independence from Britain in 1948, Burma was ruled until 1988 by General Ne Win. • Opposition won landslide victory in 1990 election but military refused to hand over power. State law and Order Restoration Council (SlORC) placed National league for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest and renamed country Myanmar. • In 2008 Burma began a grad- ual and uneven move toward democracy. Economic sanc- tions lifted in 2013. • Today, Aung San Suu Kyi is a member of parliament but still faces restrictions. Politi- cal parties are preparing for a general election in 2015. the Muslims immigrants, even though many Rohingyas have lived there peacefully for decades. The current economic pressure has made the situation ripe for fear, violence, and political exploitation. Muslim homes and businesses have been torched and 100,000 Rohingya Muslims, many of them women and children, have been forced into impoverished refugee camps. When I spoke to Rohingyas from Rakhine, their eyes got wide with dismay, and there was a palpable helplessness and fear of attacks by the Buddhist majority. Recently, the drumbeat of violence against Muslims and other minorities has spread to other parts of Burma, often with the tacit approval of the local police and military. I witnessed firsthand the results of the spreading violence in the town of lashio RAKHINE STAT E MAP©BOGDANSERBAN/ISTOCK Certificate in Mindfulness Facilitation 2015 www.marc.ucla.edu •