The Burmese government continues systematically to violate the religious freedom of the people of Burma. The government persists in exercising strict control over all religious activities and imposing severe restrictions on certain religious practices. Members of the Burmese military have reportedly killed members of religious minorities or instigated violence by the Buddhist majority against them. The plight of religious minorities in Burma is made worse by the widespread social tensions – encouraged by the regime – between the Buddhist majority and the Christian and Muslim minorities there. During much of 2001, the escalating tension between the Buddhist and Muslim communities in Burma resulted in several outbreaks of violence involving members of the Buddhist community who attacked shops, restaurants, and homes owned by Muslims. During one particular outbreak, police and soldiers reportedly stood by and did not attempt to halt the violence against the Muslims until they began to fight back, prompting the soldiers to begin attacking the Buddhists in retaliation. Other severe violations of religious freedom have included forcible conscription of religious minorities as military porters and death for those who refuse.

The majority Buddhist religion is not protected from government repression. Throughout the 1990s, the government imprisoned more than 100 Buddhist monks for advocating democracy and encouraging dialogue between the government and the pro-democracy forces. Many members of the Buddhist clergy remain in prison, although a precise number is not available. Members of minority religious groups face severe abuses to their religious freedom, especially those in the ethnic minority areas. In some of these ethnic minority localities, the military reportedly has forcibly conscripted members of religious minorities to become military porters. Christians have been forced to engage in the destruction of churches and graveyards for the purpose of clearing sites for military camps. Those who refuse have been killed. Christians, as well as Muslims and Buddhists, reportedly were also forced to donate "labor" to clean and maintain Buddhist monasteries. In addition, local officials have separated Christian children from their parents, with the children receiving instruction in Buddhism without their parents' knowledge or consent.

The government of Burma has also persistently discriminated against members of minority religious groups. Non-Buddhists are discriminated against at the upper level of the public sector. Christian and Islamic groups continue to report difficulties in obtaining permission to build new churches and mosques. These groups also have had difficulties importing religious literature since the 1960s.

The government has prohibited Christian public religious expression and persuasion among ethnic minorities and has enlisted the cooperation of pro-government Buddhist monks to convert ethnic minorities to Theravada Buddhism. In at least one instance, Christian clerics were beaten to discourage the aforementioned religious persuasion.


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