By HEIN KO SOE | FRONTIER
YANGON — Firebrand monk U Wirathu has vowed to ignore a ban on the activities of Ma Ba Tha and urged supporters from upper Myanmar to travel to Yangon for a planned meeting this weekend.
In a Facebook post, the controversial monk, who is already subject to a one-year preaching ban, said the group’s Mandalay branch would “show our strength and unity in Yangon meeting”.
“Most member should go to meeting and show their strength,” he said, adding: “In my opinion, we can’t remove our signboard, can’t change our logo and we can’t stop our original work. We will operate normally.”
Frontier could not contact Wirathu for comment. It is unclear whether he would personally travel down for the meeting on May 27 and 28.
The event was originally planned to mark the group’s fourth anniversary but on May 23 the State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee ordered Ma Ba Tha to cease all activities by the middle of July or face legal action.
The same day, senior clerical leaders met Ma Ba Tha chairman Bhaddanta Tilawka Bhiwantha and deputy chairman Bhaddanta Thiletkhanda Bhiwantha at the Sangha committee’s Bahan headquarters to present an order for the group to disband.
Following the decision, Ma Ba Tha leaders in Yangon announced that the anniversary event, at Insein Tawya Monastery, would instead become a “special conference”.
On May 24, Wirathu led a meeting of 15 senior Ma Ba Tha officials in Mandalay, at which it was agreed to support the conference.
U Toe Aung, a member of the working committee of Ma Ba Tha’s Mandalay branch, said he and two friends would travel to Yangon for the trip, but Wirathu’s attendance was not yet confirmed.
“We will lend our strength to the meeting. Our leader has already instructed during yesterday’s meeting but we can’t say exactly who or how many members will go to Yangon,” he told Frontier.
Other prominent nationalists from Mandalay are also expected to travel to Yangon for the conference.
“We will going to Yangon meeting because we are working together with Ma Ba Tha to protect race and religion,” said Patriotic Myanmar Monks Union secretary U Sandar Thiri. “If Ma Ba Tha doesn’t exist, we will continue to do our duty.”