Journal of Social Sciences

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This article aims to explore the historical development of Buddhist nationalism in Myanmar, and the way it has been politicized by the state. According to the study, political legitimacy has been constructed by the revival of Buddhist nationalism in two ways. First, it is through policy implementation and legislation of religious protection laws, which declare Buddhism's superiority in Myanmar and to segregate as well as discriminate against non-Buddhists in the conduct of their daily lives. The state uses state authorities, including an unelected civilian government and National Legislative Assembly, with retired soldiers and representatives from the tatmadaw (the military) as members, to function in this process. Second, the state supports civilian movements to stage activities and to stimulate nationalist sentiments among the Buddhists. The state uses Buddhist nationalist movements that include monks and laypeople as the main actors for mass mobilization in accordance with policy and legislation. Unlike dictatorial rule, these two elements adjust the relationship between state and religion such that the old elites could retain its power. Furthermore, the state chooses to restore Buddhist nationalism through Islamophobia and historical memory about Rohingya Muslims in order to bring out the significance of the regime. In addition, Buddhist nationalism builds the political legitimacy of this semi-authoritarian government in order that it could retain power despite democratic transition, and contributes to its popularity for upcoming elections in the near future.

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