I spent four months in South East Asia; two and a half were spent working in Vietnam, but I also got to go to Thailand, Laos, Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia. Although it has been the longest time I’ve been away from the UK, it would be impossible and presumptuous for me to generalise the arts in the whole of South East Asia, or even just one country. Instead, this will be a reflection on the things I experienced whilst travelling.
by Eve Lacroix
When travelling to a new place you know to anticipate that things are not the same as at home— and you will discover in which way quickly enough. This could mean hearing a new language, covering your head and shoulders when entering a place of worship, or drinking a different type of coffee. You may learn to point your feet away from the statue of the Buddha, eat with a fork and spoon, greet people with a kiss on the cheek, or even expect incoming traffic on a different side of the road. Keeping in mind all the differing customs helps to properly respect the historical, spiritual and cultural significance of landmarks, locations, or places of faith.
The recent Rohingya crisis in South East Asia is nothing new — clashes between the ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in northern Rakhine State, Myanmar, have been ongoing since 2012 through a series of riots. By October of that year, Muslims of all ethnicities had begun to be targeted.
The riots were supposedly triggered by widespread fears among Buddhist Rakhines that they would soon become a minority in their own ancestral state. Riots sparked after weeks of sectarian disputes, which included a gang-rape and murder of a Rakhine woman by Rohingyas and the killing of ten Burmese Muslims by Rakhines.
It is the refusal from fellow South East Asian nations to
take in tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees which
has been the main source of recent controversy.