Buddhist Monk Saydaw Wirathu, the self-styled "Burmese bin Laden", has called for a national boycott of Muslim businesses in Myanmar in a controversial video that emerged on YouTube.
Wirathu, who has led numerous vocal campaigns against Muslims in Burma and was arrested in 2003 for distributing anti-Muslim literature, urges Burmese people "to join the 969 Buddhist nationalist campaign" and "do business or interact with only our kind: same race and same faith".
"Your purchases spent in 'their' (Muslim) shops will benefit the Enemy," says Wirathu. "So, do business with only shops with 969 signs on their facets".
The numerology of 969 is derived from the Buddhist tradition in which 9 stands for the special attributes of Buddha; 6 for the special attributes of his teaching or Dhamma and 9 for the special attributes of the Sangha or Buddhist order.
In the footage filmed from Mandalay's Ma-soe-yein teaching monastery, Wirathu accuses Muslims of entertaining ties with the military junta that ruled Myanmar for five decades. The apartheid-like speech stirred shocked reaction on Twitter, with users calling the monk a "neo-Nazi" inciting anti-Muslim pogroms in Burma.
Wirathu played an active role in stirring tensions in a Rangoon suburb in February, by spreading unfounded rumours that a local school was being developed into a mosque, according to the Democratic voice of Burma. An angry mob of about 300 Buddhists assaulted the school and Muslim-owned businesses and shops in Rangoon. The monk said that his militancy "is vital to counter aggressive expansion by Muslims". He has also been implicated in religious clashes in Mandalay, where a dozen people died, in several local reports.
Sectarian clashes erupted this week in the central Myanmar city of Meikhtila, where mobs of Buddhists, some led by monks, have attacked a Muslim neighbourhood leaving at least 20 people dead.
"Buddhist monasteries have been distributing leaflets that were critical of Muslims on various things, and that has been going on for months" said Burma Campaign UK's director Mark Farmaner. He maintains there were individual reports, around 10, of monasteries around Rangoon and in the Rakhine state distributing anti-Muslim leaflets.
Muslims in Myanmar represent the 4 percent of a total population of 60 million, according to government census. However, according to the U.S. State Department's 2006 international religious freedom report, the country's non-Buddhist populations were underestimated in the census. Muslim leaders estimate that as much as 20 percent of the population may be Muslim.