Govt should take action on U Wirathu hate speech, Saffron monk urges

By HTUN KHAING | FRONTIER

YANGON — Notorious nationalist leader U Wirathu’s controversial public statements were threatening both Buddhism and Myanmar and action should be taken to prevent further speeches, a Buddhist monk has warned.

Ashin Issariya, also known as Min Thunnya, urged Buddhist monks across the country to dissociate themselves from Wirathu’s activities, saying his pronouncements were contrary to Buddhism.

At issue, Ashin Issariya said, was Wirathu’s exaltation of U Kyi Lin and his accomplices, who together conspired to assassinate government advisor U Ko Ni in January 2017.

“Likening killers to the very holy Buddha is equal to insulting Buddhism,” he told journalists at a Sunday press conference in Thingangyun Township. “We’ve found many young monks following him, echoing his position — that a monk can abuse in this manner, a monk can support killings like that, and a monk can agitate like that.”

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Wirathu has long been one of the most recognisable faces of the hardline Buddhist nationalist movement in Myanmar, establishing a reputation as a firebrand anti-Islam monastic leader.

Last year, the State Sangha Committee ordered a one-year preaching ban for Wirathu after the monk made public statements supporting the assassination of Ko Ni, a Muslim.

Despite threats of criminal prosecution, Wirathu has regularly skirted the ban, which is due to expire of March 9.

In August, days after militant attacks in northern Rakhine State prompted the massive crackdown on the area’s Muslim population and sent nearly 700,000 refugees across the border to Bangladesh, Wirathu headlined a public rally in downtown Yangon to demand martial law in Maungdaw District.

Ashin Issariya was one of the principal organisers of the widespread civil unrest against the former military regime in 2007, known internationally as the Saffron Revolution. In the aftermath, as authorities defrocked, detained and jailed hundreds of monks involved in that year’s protests, he was forced into hiding and relocated to the Thai border town of Mae Sot.

Along with other members of the “Anti-Adhamma Committee”, a Saffron-linked monastic group formed to combat what it considers “unlawful” Buddhist doctrine, Ashin Issariya had been slated to address a press conference at the offices of the Myanmar Journalist Network in Kyauktada Township on Sunday.

Before the event began, a group of around 50 monks and lay supporters of U Wirathu had arrived in advance, forcing the press conference to relocate across town.

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