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US Report Highlights Concerns about Religious Freedom in South, Southeast Asia

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Muslim women in Indonesia

Muslim women in Indonesia. Photo: Arian Zwegers.

Buddhist monks in Thailand took to social media to call for violence against Muslims last year, the United States government said Tuesday in its latest annual report on curbs to religious freedom worldwide.

The U.S. State Department also highlighted concerns about issues affecting minority groups in Malaysia, Indonesia, India and Bangladesh, in its report that assesses religious freedom in 200 countries to sum up developments during the previous calendar year.

“Where fundamental freedoms of religious expression, press and peaceful assembly are under attack, we find conflict, instability and terrorism. On the other hand, governments that champion these freedoms are more secure, stable and peaceful,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters in Washington as he released The International Religious Freedom Report for 2017.

In its country report on Buddhist-majority Thailand, the state department pointed to how some members of the clergy who define themselves as Buddhist nationalists had “used social media to call for violence against Muslims. They also criticized what they said was the state’s accommodation of Islam.”

The Muslim community represents less than 5 percent of Thailand’s population but is largely concentrated in the far southern region known as the Deep South, where a Malay separatist insurgency has simmered for decades.

In September 2017, the state department reported, the Thai military arrested Buddhist monk Apichat Punnajanatho in the Deep South because he was suspected of promoting violent, anti-Muslim hate speech.

The military flew him to Bangkok, where the nation’s leading Buddhist clerical body, the Supreme Sangha Council, disrobed and expelled him from the monkhood, the report said. It noted that Apichat was turned over to police but they did not charge him and later released him.

The state department said there were no reports last year of calls by Muslims advocating violence targeting Buddhists in Thailand.

Full story: BenarNews

BenarNews staff

Copyright ©2018, BenarNews. Used with the permission of BenarNews.

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