Myanmar’s Highest Buddhist Body Calls Ultranationalist Monk Group ‘Illegal’
07/31/2019 Myanmar (International Christian Concern) – The government-appointed council, Myanmar’s highest Buddhist body declared a hardline monk organization an illegal association and ordered the nationwide removal of all its signage, three weeks after their leader, ultranationalist monk U Wirathu was issued an arrest warrant.
Radio Free Asia reports that the 47-member Sangha Maha Nayaka (Mahana), which oversees and regulates the Buddhist clergy in Myanmar, summoned the chairman and vice chair of the ultranationalist Buddha Dhamma Parahita Foundation to censure them for publicly criticizing the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) government.
However, only the vice chairman of the group, formerly known as the Committee for the Protection of Nationality and Religion (Ma Ba Tha) and a main driver of anti-Muslim sentiment in the country, came to this meeting.
Afterwards, Mahana leaders declared the group illegal and ordered it to take down its signboards across the country by Sept. 13, a statement issued by the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture said. It also added that monks and layman supporters of the group who failed to comply with the decision would be charged under the relevant law.
Ariyawontha, an influential Buddhist monk, said the organization was outlawed because its actions and words conflicted with Buddhist teachings.
“There are Buddha’s teaching on ethics, rules, and laws. They are the group violating these teachings. They are defying the laws,” he said.
The nationalist group, led by controversial monk U Wirathu, was successful in convincing former president U Thein Sein to approve a divisive set of four laws on race and religion that imposed restrictions on interfaith marriage, polygamy and conversion, birth spacing, aimed to prosecute Muslims. Wirathu also has been encouraging violence against religious minorities in Myanmar, especially Rohingya Muslims.