Ma Ba Tha leaders mock Sangha committee ban


YANGON — Members of hardline Buddhist nationalist group Ma Ba Tha have indicated they plan to defy a recent order by the State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee to disband and remove their posters and signboards from across the country.

About 2,000 members from across the country gathered at Aung San Taw Ya Monastery in Yangon’s Insein Township on May 27 for the opening of the two-day event. Originally organised to mark the fourth anniversary of Ma Ba Tha – formally known in English as the Association for the Protection of Race and Religion – it was rebranded as a “special conference” in the wake of the committee’s May 23 ban order.

During a question and answer session with the crowd, Ma Ba Tha’s leaders made clear that they would not accept the decision by the Sangha committee, which is better known as Ma Ha Na.

One monk in the audience asked Ma Ba Tha leaders whether they accepted the Ma Ha Na decision to disband Ma Ba Tha.

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One then responded, “I have to ask the audience – do you like and accept that decision?” to which the crowd gave an emphatic “no”.

Central executive member Ashin Sopaka said the Sangha committee had suddenly changed its tune on Ma Ba Tha. When senior monks from the committee met Ma Ba Tha leaders in May 2014, he said, “they welcomed cooperation with Ma Ba Tha”.

“But now I don’t know why they’ve changed their opinion,” he said.

Minister for Religious Affairs and Culture Thura U Aung Ko also came in for heavy criticism at the event, with firebrand monk U Wirathu – recently hit with a one-year preaching ban by the Sangha committee – at one point indirectly calling him a “dickhead”.

“Stop insulting the actions of Ma Ba Tha, whose members have been working with faith,” said Wirathu, whose spirited speech drew loud applause from the crowd. 

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