Bangkok paper slams Thai Buddhist group’s Ma Ba Tha deal

A Thai group that has agreed to help the Committee for the Protection of Race and Religion to set up a radio station has been accused by a Bangkok newspaper of ignoring Myanmar’s Buddhist mainstream and basic Buddhist tenets.

The accusation was made in an editorial published in the Bangkok Post on July 6 under the headline ‘Shun hateful Buddhists’.

it referred to an agreement between the national Thai Buddhism and Culture Mass Media Association and the committee, known by its Myanmar acronym Ma Ba Tha, to provide equipment and expertise for Myanmar’s first Buddhist radio station.

The agreement was signed in Yangon during a Ma Ba Tha conference late last month and provides for the Thai group to furnish broadcasting equipment worth about 1.5 million baht (about K50 million or US$44,000).

“This will only multiply the hateful messages of Ma Ba Tha,” said the editorial, which said the committee represented neither Theravada Buddhism in general, nor the Buddhist community in Myanmar.

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The editorial was sharply critical of a prominent Thai lay Buddhist leader, Dr Pornchai Pinyapong, who attended the conference and was described as a key supporter “of this poorly considered aid agreement”.

Dr Pornchai’s claim at the conference that the situation in Rakhine State involving its Rohingya Muslims community was similar to the problem in southern Thailand was “false on virtually every level,” it said.

“At least in Thailand, there is no legitimate group that supports antagonistic messages aimed at other religions,” the editorial said.

“Thais deserve to be proud of this,” it said.

“Religious figures abusing freedom of speech to call for strife and even violence deserve to be shunned and ignored. The Buddhist mass media experts would do the religion and their nation a favour by rethinking the Myanmar venture.”

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