Police defer to Sangha after Mandalay monk allegedly assaults boy

By KYAW LIN HTOON | FRONTIER

YANGON – A Buddhist monk who allegedly attacked a 14-year-old boy on April 21 in Mandalay Region has not been detained or questioned, as police wait for guidance from religious authorities on how to proceed.

A video uploaded on April 23, which appears to show the monk beating an eight-grade student in Mandalay’s Madaya Township, has been widely shared on Facebook, prompting outrage.

Student Ko Wai Phyo Naing had been picking mangoes with a group of other teenagers in the grounds of Lwin Oo monastery in Kin village, in Taung Kan village tract.

As the boys teased one another, Wai Phyo Naing used the expression, “The Lord’s speech came out from the mouth of a dog”. Overhearing him, a group of monks informed the monastery’s temporary head, U Bazin Soe, who rushed over to the boys.

Support more independent journalism like this. Sign up to be a Frontier member.

The video appears to show the monk seizing Wai Phyo Naing by the hair, punching and kicking him, and then beating his body and head repeatedly with a branch. When another monk tries to intervene, he appears to throw him aside and continue beating the boy.

Local sources, who confirmed the authenticity of the video, said the monk may have reacted violently to the expression because he believed it was directed at him.

Two years earlier, the monk had an affair with a woman from the village, they said, and villagers who no longer respected him had disturbed his sermons by shouting the phrase.

U Daung Lann, a villager and a friend of Wai Phyo Naing’s parents said most villagers now avoided the monk’s sermons and events at his monastery. “Only his relatives and strong supporters attend and donate for his daily needs,” he said.

The village has no police station, so Wai Phyo Naing’s parents reported the incident to Madaya Township police and filed a lawsuit under section 325 of the Penal Code. This states that anyone who voluntarily causes grievous hurt can be sentenced to up to seven years in prison and fined.

Wai Phyo Naing was admitted to Madaya Township hospital and then moved to Mandalay General Hospital. He was discharged on April 28 and will return for a check-up on Tuesday, his father U Thura Naing told Frontier.

“The surface wounds are now healing, but there are still some concerns about deeper injuries. He is still suffering aches inside his body and backbone pain and he cannot sit for a long time,” he said, adding that the family would pursue the lawsuit.

His mother told Frontier by telephone today that the monk’s behaviour was unacceptable. “My heart was throbbing with sadness when the witnesses came to inform me,” Daw Khin San Nawe said.

“I have watched the video and every night I hear my son’s voice yelling: please forgive me, please don’t beat me, mum, help.”

She said her family was poor, and that she had worked hard with her husband as a manual farm worker for a daily wage, to save money for Wai Phyo Naing’s ninth grade tuition.

“Because of this incident my boy has not been able to attend his classes to prepare for school. It has impacted his education and this monk punished him unreasonably with the kind of punishment that we, the parents, never used,” she said.

U Min Min, the Madaya Township MP for Mandalay regional parliament, said he would support Wai Phyo Naing.

But he said even though the incident occurred over a week ago, police are unlikely to act until they have received guidance from the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee, the supreme body representing the monkhood.

Members of the police could not immediately be reached for comment. 

Police have the power to arrest the suspect, explained Ma Saint, a lawyer from Yangon Justice Centre.

“But if the suspect is a monk, they tend to wait for a response from religious bodies,” she said, adding that the committee may choose to discipline an offending monk or expel him from the Buddhist order.

By Kyaw Lin Htoon

By Kyaw Lin Htoon

Kyaw Lin Htoon is a Yangon-based journalist. He previously worked at Myanmar Now, Mawkun and Myanmar Business Today.
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on email

More stories

Latest Issue

Stories in this issue
Ahead of the vote, it’s still ‘Myanmar vs the world’
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s election address through state media doesn’t just present Myanmar and its government, perversely, as the real victims of the Rohingya crisis, it also contradicts what she is trying to tell the rest of the world.
Keeping the faith: Can the USDP retain its Dry Zone stronghold?
Buddhist nationalism and a focus on rural voters helped the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party retain a rare stronghold in southern Mandalay Region, but.

Stay on top of Myanmar current affairs with our Daily Briefing and Media Monitor newsletters

Our fortnightly magazine is available in print, digital, or a combination beginning at $80 a year

Sign up for our Frontier Fridays newsletter. It’s a free weekly round-up featuring the most important events shaping Myanmar