Myanmar's Enemy Within

Buddhist Violence and the Making of a Muslim 'Other'

Francis Wade


As the darkness of military rule recedes, deep and violent fissures have opened between Myanmar's religious communities.

In 2017, Myanmar’s military launched a campaign of violence against the Rohingya minority that UN experts later said amounted to a genocide. More than seven hundred thousand civilians fled to Bangladesh in what became the most concentrated flight of refugees since the Rwanda genocide of 1994. The warning signs of impending catastrophe that had built over years were downplayed by Western backers of the political transition, and only when the exodus began did the world finally come to acknowledge a catastrophe that had been long in the making.

In this updated edition of the book that foreshadowed a genocide, Francis Wade explores how the manipulation of identities by an anxious ruling elite laid the foundations for mass violence. It asks: who gets to define a nation? How can democratic rights be weaponised against a minority? And why, at a time when the majority of citizens in Myanmar had begun to experience freedoms unseen for half a century, did much-lauded civilian leaders like Aung San Suu Kyi become complicit in the most heinous of crimes?

Author Bio

Francis Wade is a journalist specialising in Myanmar and Southeast Asia. He began reporting on Myanmar in 2009 with the exiled Democratic Voice of Burma news organisation, based in Northern Thailand, before going on to cover in-depth the transition from military rule and the violence that accompanied it. He has reported from across South and Southeast Asia for The Guardian, TIME, Foreign Policy Magazine, and others. He is now based in London.

Table of Contents

  • Prologue
  • 1. A Popular Massacre: Rallying to a Lethal Cause
  • 2. The First Wave: Widening the Communal Divide in Western Myanmar
  • 3. Songs of Whose Soil? Britain and the Birth of a Fractured Nation
  • 4. The Art of Belonging: A Peculiar Transaction in Yangon
  • 5. Us and Them: Making Identities, Manipulating Divides
  • 6. Ruling the Unruly: Social Engineering and the Village of Prisoners
  • 7. 2012: The Making of a Catastrophe
  • 8. At First Light the Darkness Fell: Myanmar’s Democratic Experiment Falters
  • 9. ‘We Came Down from the Sky’: The Buddhist Preachers of Hate
  • 10. Apartheid State: Camps, Ghettos and the New Architecture of Control
  • 11. U Maung Soe: An Outcast in Disguise
  • 12. In the Old Cinema Hut: A Delicate Thread is Cut
  • 13. Bystanders: Quiet Diplomacy and a ‘Glaringly Dysfunctional’ UN
  • 14. Rebirth: After the Killings


'Lucid ... exceptionally timely ... vital to understanding how things could go so disastrously wrong. Wade predicted the miserable fate of Myanmar's hated Muslim minority.'

'As Francis Wade's excellent new book shows, this disaster was easily predictable and, with a bit of forethought, could have easily been prevented.'
Literary Review

'[Wade's] razor-sharp attention to narrative ... succeeds, with remarkable nuance and precision, at bringing the country's intricate history into the present.'
Los Angeles Review of Books

'A lucid and admirable attempt to come to terms with a deeply complicated country.'

'Bold and brave ... Wade's book tells the personal stories of Muslim and Buddhist characters who have animated the tragic scenes of Myanmar's deadly morality play.'
TIME Magazine

'This is a deeply insightful work on the dynamics of ethnic violence.'
Foreign Affairs

'A book of impressive historical depth and intellectual acuity. Francis Wade shatters many clichés about religious violence as he explores its tangled roots in Buddhist Myanmar.’ Pankaj Mishra, author of Age of Anger: A History of the Present

'Francis Wade has invested immense energy in pursuit of the truth about the tragedy of Myanmar and its Muslim population. There is no other writer on this topic with the same moral courage and intellectual insight. His work demands serious attention.’
Fergal Keane, BBC Correspondent and author of Road of Bones: The Epic Siege of Kohima

'Essential for all who wish to understand the ethnic cleansing that today threatens Myanmar’s Rohingya population and, with it, Myanmar’s tenuous path to democracy. Historically deep, balanced, large-spirited, and adorned with vivid and enlightening vignettes.'
James C. Scott, Yale University, author of The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia.

‘This gripping investigation into the plight of Myanmar’s Muslim community reads like a forensic case history, uncovering the full extent of a nation's festering wound. Lucid, compassionate, admirably researched and reasoned, here is scholarly reportage at its best.’
Wendy Law-Yone, author of Golden Parasol: A Daughter's Memoir Of Burma

‘Elegantly written, empirically rich, and analytically nuanced, the book combines in-depth, on-the-ground reportage with a solid command of the scholarship. An excellent book.’
John T. Sidel, LSE, and author of Riots, Pogroms, Jihad: Religious Violence in Indonesia

'A fine, engrossing work, at the centre of which is that all too common enmity and conflict between people of different religious and ethnic adherences.'
Paul Brass, author of The Production of Hindu-Muslim Violence in Contemporary India

'A sober account of ethnic mistrust and communal violence in Myanmar.'
Australian Foreign Affairs

'The strength of Myanmar’s enemy within lies in Wade’s attempt to understand and explain the complex ways in which discrimination has been perpetuated and entrenched, by looking at the human experience—on all sides—of this ongoing situation … excellent starting-points for those wanting to understand more about the situation of the Rohingya in Myanmar.'
International Affairs

'Dotted with anecdotal recollections, the book brilliantly captures how individual lives are shaped, reshaped and irrevocably damaged due to a real or acquired membership within a certain group ... an important work informing debates in these troubled times.'
Tea Circle


Publication Date: 15 June 2019
456 pages

Product ISBNs: Paperback 2nd Edition: 9781786995773
Hardback: 9781783605286
eBook ePub 2nd Edition: 9781786995797
eBook PDF 2nd Edition: 9781786995780
eBook Kindle 2nd Edition: 9781786995803

Previous Editions: Paperback 1st Edition: 9781783605279
eBook ePub 1st Edition: 9781783605309
eBook PDF 1st Edition: 9781783605293
eBook Kindle 1st Edition: 9781783605316

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