Myanmar monks to protest in solidarity with Thailand’s Dhammakaya Temple


YANGON — A group of nationalist monks are planning to hold protests in Yangon to express their solidarity with the Dhammakaya Temple in Thailand, which has been the subject of a police crackdown over the past week.

Thai police first surrounded the temple, which is located on the outskirts of Bangkok, on February 16 in search of its founder and honorary abbot Phra Dhammajayo, 72. Dhammajayo is accused of money laundering, a charge his supporters say is politically motivated. 

“We are very sad for our religion, I cried even though I am male. We need to protest for our religion,” said U Thu Sateta, an executive committee member of the Coalition of Nationalists at a Wednesday press conference in Bahan.

The monks are planning to hold protests outside the Royal Thai Embassy in Dagon Township, most likely on Friday.

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The most prominent wing of Myanmar’s nationalist monk movement, known by its Burmese acronym Ma Ba Tha, has fostered close links with the Dhammakaya temple and its foundation in recent years.

After floods ravaged large parts of Myanmar in 2015, the Thai foundation provided food and aid packages through Ma Ba Tha in Mandalay.

Thai monks said they would help Ma Ba Tha establish a radio station in 2015 and representatives from Dhammakaya Temple gave speeches at Ma Ba Tha’s third anniversary celebration in Yangon last year.

The Yangon protest plans come days after Thailand’s former Prime Minister Mr Thaksin Shinawatra is believed to have visited Myanmar, according to Thai news reports

Critics of Dhammakaya Temple say it is closely linked with Thaksin, who has lived in self-imposed exile since his ouster in 2006 and in 2008 was sentenced in absentia to two years in prison after being convicted of corruption.

On Saturday, Thaksin’s daughter Ms Peathongtarn Shinawatra, posted a photo to her Instagram account appearing to show her father standing in front of Yangon’s Shwedagon Pagoda.

Ousted in a 2006 coup, Thaksin’s political movement swept back to power in 2011 under the leadership of his sister, Yingluck Shinawatra.

She was in turn removed from office in a May 2014 by the incumbent military junta, and is in the middle of a controversial criminal negligence trial that critics allege is politically motivated.

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