‘969’: The three digits that are terrifying Muslims in Burma

This photo shows the cover of two CDs with the '969' logo at the top. On the far right is the monk Wirathu, the leader of the '969' campaign. The CD is titled "Monks' teachings: How to protect our religion and nation." Photo courtesy of MMedia
 
 
Brightly-coloured posters and stickers bearing the number "969" are popping up in cities all over Burma. These look innocuous enough at first glance. However, “969” actually denotes an anti-Islam campaign led by hardliner Buddhist monks. Burmese Muslims say it has stirred up hatred and paranoia, resulting in a string of bloody anti-Muslim riots across the country over the past weeks.
 
The three digits ‘969’ originally refer to the Buddha’s “three jewels” , but they are now being used as a brand name for a nationalist, anti-Muslim campaign led by a prominent monk based in Mandalay. Wirathu, who likes to refer to himself as the “Burmese Bin Laden”, was jailed in 2003 for inciting riots against Muslims, but was released as part of a general amnesty in 2012. Since then, he’s spearheaded the fast-growing ‘969’ movement, making numerous speeches calling on Buddhists to “buy 969” and boycott Muslim-owned stores.
 
Anti-Muslim sentiment has boiled over repeatedly since the ‘969’ campaign first emerged several months ago. In late March, rioters went on a three-day rampage in the central town of Meikhtila, burning down Muslims’ homes, businesses, and mosques. About 40 people were killed. The remnants of Muslim-owned stores were spray-painted with the digits ‘969’. Many witnesses said that during all this, the police stood by and watched. Shortly afterwards, more riots erupted in the Bago region after travelling monks preached the ‘969’ ideology. And early this week, fresh clashes broke out in Oakkan, a town north of Rangoon, where at least one person was killed.
 
With no end to these tensions in sight, thousands of Muslims displaced by these recent riots are staying shut up in refugee camps. According to the latest census, Muslims make up about 4 percent of Burma’s total population.
 
An activist placing a pamphlet calling for peace between religions on the windshield of a taxi bearing ‘969’ stickers (circled in red). Photo published on Facebook by CJMyanmar. Photos of the ‘969’ campaign are rather difficult to obtain, due to the sensitive nature of the subject. However, one Malaysian journalist was able to film ‘969’ propaganda in a Rangoon market.

“My sister, who owns a store, has lost nearly all of her customers since the start of the ‘969’ campaign”

Aung (not her real name) lives in Rangoon. She is Muslim.
 
I started seeing ‘969’ stickers and signs in Rangoon just a couple months ago. Some shopkeepers put them on their storefronts, and taxi drivers stick them to their windshields. It’s a minority, but it belies a wider boycott of Muslim stores. Supporters of ‘969’ have been passing out pamphlets telling people not to shop at Muslim-owned stores.
 
My sister owns a store, and has lost nearly all her customers since the start of this campaign. They know she’s Muslim – she looks Muslim, and wears a scarf. Like many other Muslim business owners, she is facing serious financial troubles because of this boycott.
 
“All of my closest friends are Buddhists, and all of them avoid me these days”
 
I recently visited one of my oldest friends’ stores, and noticed she had put up a ‘969’ sign. She’s Buddhist and has recently started treating me like a stranger, so I didn’t dare ask her why she did this. All of my closest friends are Buddhists, and all of them avoid me these days.
 
I don’t feel safe in Rangoon anymore. I don’t think Muslims are safe anywhere in this country right now. I would like to go live abroad, but my parents are too old to move, and I can’t leave them alone.
 
 
A ‘969’ sticker in a Rangoon textile store. This photo was sent to us by one of our Observers. 

“The more we see the ‘969’ signs, the more we feel unsafe”

Ko Moe Myint (not his real name) is a technician who lives in Naypyidaw, Burma’s capital. He is Muslim.
 
In Naypyidaw, the ‘969’ campaign has really kicked off in the past few days. Unknown people in vans are now going around house-to-house, shop-by-shop to distribute ‘969’ stickers and DVDs. They’re also putting stickers up in public areas, like at bus stops. It’s like they’re carrying out a marketing campaign! They’re doing this mainly along Yaza Hta Nay Road, which is a major business area but is also home to a mixed community of Buddhists, Muslims and some Chinese business people.
 
Recently, I’ve also seen lots of DVDs of Wirathu’s speeches being sold in town. One store I went to had about 100 copies. Newspaper vendors sell it out on the street, too. Lots of copies are spreading hand-to-hand. Others spread his speeches online, mainly through Facebook.
 
“Some ‘969’ campaigners told people that meat and vegetables sold at Muslim-owned stores were poisonous”
 
This campaign is clearly influencing Buddhists quite a lot. For example, I’m currently building a house, and some of my employees are Buddhists. They’ve just quit. They either don’t want or don’t dare to talk to me anymore. I saw ‘969’ stickers on their motorbikes.
 
Buddhists now go only to shops owned by Buddhists. Some ‘969’ campaigners warned people not to eat meat and vegetables bought at Muslim-owned stores. They told them that it was poisonous! They said that it was not poisonous immediately, but in six months…
 
Some Buddhists say that the ‘969’ campaign doesn’t attack other religions, that it is just expressing pride in Buddhism. However, since it’s emerged, Muslim communities across the country have been targeted! For us Muslims, ‘969’ is a sign of violence, a threat. The more we see the signs, the more we feel unsafe. Buddhist and Muslim communities that had lived together peacefully in the past are now torn apart because of ‘969’. As long as this campaign exists, I don’t think there will be any stability in Burma.
 
'969' stickers on a temple in Naypyidaw.
 
A '969' sticker at a betel nut stand in Naypyidaw.

A '969' sticker on a motorbike in Naypyidaw.
 
This flyer reads: "Protect your race and religion. Avoid to buy anything with the label of 786, meaning 'halal'. Don't deal with Muslim 'Kalar' [a derogatory term for Burmese Muslims] for friendship, marriage, or business. Myanmar girls must avoid falling in love with Muslim 'Kalar'. Everyone must be responsible for preventing Myanmar from becoming an Islamic country." Photo courtesy of MMedia.

Comments

It's not a matter of hate

When significant numbers of Muslims settle somewhere they end up causing violence to get their way and try to usurp the territory, eventually bringing in Sharia law. Most Muslims do not engage in the violence; yet they countenance it. No one hates them per se. People just do not want to see their lands being taken over and they themselves shunted aside and mistreated, as has happened historically to all the indigenous peoples of the Mideast and beyond.

Muslims Exterminate Competing Religions

Once Muslims start acheiving population parity they just blatantly start exterminating other people. Recent examples are Lebanon in the 1970s and today in northern Nigeria, where the Christians are being killed indiscriinately.

These anti-Muslim stickers are simply a disgrace

I can't believe the kind of comments we are seeing here. There is very convoluted logic that basically says "anything bad that happens to Muslims are because all Muslims deserve it" and if any Muslim did anything bad then it's "See this proves that Muslims are bad and deserve to be killed." This is the same logic that all leaders of genocide have used to kill.

It doesn't matter who the group is that you try to apply this evil type of understanding to, it's simply illogical, bigoted, evil and only leads to more and more deaths.

As an example, communists in China can use this same incident and similar logic and say "See. This proves that what we have been doing in Tibet is right. If we let the Buddhist monks rule they will kill others."

Al-Qaeda can look at this same incident and say "This only proves that the world hates Muslims and will stand by and even blame Muslims even when Muslims are the victims".

This logic is simply wrong.

Instead we should have basic criteria that is 'anytime anyone tries to harm a whole people for the actions of few, or incites violence against innocents, or when any group of people are wronged for their racial, religious, ethnic, cultural, etc identity then they must be rejected by society as being instigators of violence.' Plain and simple.

These hate that is behind this movement and the placing of anti-Muslim stickers is simply intolerance and must be stopped by all people.

Buddhist are mostly peaceful

Buddhist are mostly peaceful people they teach peace and harmony so what happened to make a people of peace go to war and if the Islamist do not like terror used against them thin they should root it out in there own ranks even Buddhist can get feed up after so long

I agree, ...but please tell

I agree, ...but please tell me where is the outrage when these people kill Hindus, and Buddhist and Christians? Doesn't it says in their "Q" book that all infidels must be killed? and recently there have been demands for changes in of some places to make it being an Atheist an offence punishable by death,...death by hanging.

Pro-Buddhist comment from Texas

Good for Burma. They are fortunate to have a wise Buddhist monk show them how to resist Islamic domination. While we in America have actually elected a Muslim president who can't produce a valid birth certificate. Maybe one day I will seek refuge in Burma when Muslim terrorists overrun my own country.

well done that is what i

well done that is what i wanted to say myself

With you on that from

With you on that from Georgia!

President

He wouldn't be President if he didnt have a valid Birth certificate...common knowledge.

He wouldn't be President if he didnt have a valid Birth certific

Funny , he has only produced forgeries and the Hawaii campaigne vetter has publicly stated that there was never a birth cert produced. And he was told not to bring it up.
Common knowlage.

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