ABSTRACT

In this chapter the contemporary period will be taken to mean the period of Ne Win's government, from 1962 to the present time. The religious minorities contributed significantly to events which led to the military take-over on 2 March 1962. 1 The state of affairs which made the coup necessary had developed out of the excitement and turmoil of the preceding decade, and the so-called 'Buddhist Revival' promoted by the government of U Nu and the Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League. Comprehensive accounts of the controversies and tensions which arose between the Buddhist majority and the non-Buddhist minorities in Burma during the years up to 1962 have been provided by D.E. Smith and Michael Mendelson. 2 After the euphoria of the Buddha Jayanti celebrations in 1956, which in Burma took the form of the building of a vast new 'cave' to serve as the assembly for the Sixth Buddhist Council and the setting up of a new Buddhist complex at Kaba Aye on the outskirts of Rangoon, some further culminating symbolic act seemed to be required, in Prime Minister U Nu's view. It took the form of a declaration by U Nu to the monks at the final full session of the council that consideration would be given to the possibility of making Buddhism the state religion of Burma, but he did warn the assembly of monks that there were, however, certain difficulties — the effect such an action would have on the unity of Burma; on neighbouring countries; and on non-Buddhist government servants in Burma.