Reuters wins Pulitzer for reporting on Myanmar’s Buddhist/Muslim conflict; signs of hope appear amid ongoing violence

Youth activists with Myanmar's new "Flower Speech Movement" spreading their anti-hate speech message at the recent Water Festival

Youth activists with Myanmar’s new Flower Speech Movement spreading their anti-hate-speech message at the recent Water Festival

This past Monday, Reuters reporters Jason Szep and Andrew Marshall won the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting for their two-year series of articles from Myanmar — whose inhabitants mostly self-identify as Buddhist — raising international awareness of the sometimes violent persecution of that country’s Rohingya Muslim minority, as well as their susceptibility to human trafficking in their desperation to escape these conditions. For an example of Szep and Marshall’s reporting, see “Apartheid tactics separate Myanmar’s minority Muslims from majority Buddhists” from May 2013.

Other news from Myanmar this week draws attention to a more positive trend. A youth activist group launched April 4, calling itself the Flower Speech Movement, aims to stop the hate speech it says is fueling violence against Rohingya Muslims and others. It was started by blogger Nay Phone Latt, an activist who was jailed for four years for writing against Myanmar’s previous military junta and its brutal suppression of the 2007 Saffron Revolution protests. Read the report and see video of the FSM spreading its message at Myanmar’s recent Water Festival.

“I think there’s a relation between violence and hate speeches which are spreading in our community and on the internet,” Latt told NDT TV. “If we can reduce this hatred, I believe that we can expect love in our society, and not hate among each other. I hope people will adopt the attitude when they see flower speech, which means they will talk by not using insulting words to others, or talk without using hate speech.”

Deadly Buddhist/Muslim conflict continued elsewhere in Southeast Asia, however, with the roles reversed. Australia Network News reports that in Thailand’s far southern states, militant Muslim separatists have been targeting Buddhist women, with the latest fatal attacks occurring last week:

“Sunai Phasuk, from Human Rights Watch, says since February at least five Thai Buddhist women have been killed and their bodies mutilated. ‘These are the most horrific attacks on Buddhist women in years,’ he said.”

Read the full story here.