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    In Myanmar It’s Free Beer But No TIME

    Luke Hunt
    July 5, 2013
    As Myanmar continues
    its reform process, the politics is throwing-up a bevy of contrasts – some
    welcomed and others not. One tour company is offering free beer while the
    government has banned the recent issue of TIME Magazine, featuring a cover of a
    Buddhist monk blamed for the recent carnage against Muslims in the country’s
    north.
    The July 1 edition of
    Time carried the cover photo of Burmese
    monk Ashin Wirathu
    , a known fundamentalist and head of the 969 group, which
    has deployed the age-old technique of mixing rabid nationalistic and religious
    sentiment to stir up hatred against minorities.
    He would like to see
    a ban on the marriage of people from different faiths and remains unapologetic
    for the waves of anti-Muslim violence that has to date claimed more than 200
    lives in the country and forced another 150,000 people from their homes.
    In a recent interview
    with the Global Post he
    even added
    : “Muslims are like the African carp. They breed quickly and they
    are very violent and they eat their own kind. Even though they are minorities
    here, we are suffering under the burden they bring us … because the Burmese
    people and the Buddhists are devoured every day, the national religion needs to
    be protected.”
    Burmese President
    Thein Sein seemed sympathetic and is on the record as saying Wirathu is “a
    son of Lord Buddha
    ” and his 969 movement is “just
    a symbol of peace
    ”.
    “The cover story of
    the magazine, depicting a few individuals who are acting contrary to most of
    Myanmar, is creating misconceptions about Buddhism, a religion practiced by the
    majority of Myanmar’s population,” the
    President’s office said in a statement
    .
    This comes after
    proposals to impose a breeding limit on Muslims with a two-child policy.
    Oddly, it was among
    those temples which Wirathu insists are in need of his protection from
    non-Buddhist influences that one tour company is offering free beer if it rains
    for more than 10 minutes. The gimmick is for Bagan, Mandalay and Inle Lake only
    and is part of a broader strategy to convince tourists to visit during the
    rainy season. Soft drinks are also available.
    Edwin Briels, General
    Manager of Khiri Myanmar, the company behind the free beer offer, added:
    “Hotel prices are favorable, the scenery is green, the sightseeing,
    culture and markets are all vibrant during the summer … it’s a great time to
    come.”
    Reconciling the great
    divides within Burmese society – whether it’s the Buddhists and Muslims or
    warring minorities like the Kachin or Shan – could take some time yet. But
    helping business to deal with these stark realities could take a bit longer.
    Luke Hunt can be
    followed on Twitter at @lukeanthonyhunt.