Myanmar’s recovery from half a century of military rule has been fraught. As in other religiously, culturally and linguistically heterogeneous countries where a dictatorship has loosened a tight grip, people there have wanted for democratic institutions to express and manage conflict. Under these circumstances, mundane and seemingly apolitical events sometimes unfold into moments of intense violence.
Interpreting Communal Violence in Myanmar addresses one such violent chapter in Myanmar’s recent past: the communal violence that shook the country between 2012 and 2014. The violence, most of it involving Buddhists attacking Muslims, ranged from localised, fleeting, inter-group melees, to large scale, apparently well-organised, state-supported killing and destruction of property of a targeted community, running over a number of days.
The book’s seven chapters comprise a response to the violence by a group of Myanmar and Southeast Asia experts. Their contributions trace the histories and contemporary features of the violence, and the legal and political arrangements that made it possible. Their interpretations, while specific to Myanmar, also contribute to broader debate about the characteristics, causes and consequences of communal violence generally. The chapters were originally published as a special issue in the Journal of Contemporary Asia.