Wirathu visits strife-torn Maungdaw


YANGON — Senior Ma Ba Tha member and Buddhist nationalist icon U Wirathu toured Maungdaw on Thursday in a provocative visit following the military’s crackdown on the Rohingya. 

The firebrand monk visited Maungdaw town, according to Phoe Thar, who is travelling in his retinue.

Wirathu’s presence in Rakhine State is likely to fuel religious tensions between the Buddhist Rakhine and the maligned Rohingya, as well as with Myanmar’s wider Muslim population.

His trip follows a months-long military crackdown that the UN says claimed hundreds of Rohingya lives and sent more than 70,000 of the Muslim minority fleeing to Bangladesh.

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UN investigators say the sweeps to clear out militant cells brought with them a campaign of rape and murder against the Rohingya that may amount to ethnic cleansing.

Myanmar’s government rejects the claims.

Since the latest chapter in Rakhine’s conflict-strewn recent history, Buddhist nationalists have shut down several religious events across the country as well as two Yangon schools accused of illegally doubling up as mosques.

U Khine Pyi Soe, vice-president of the Arakan National Party, welcomed Wirathu’s visit.

“Even though our party does not have much money to donate … we will help if he needs something,” he told AFP.

Nationalist leaders said Wirathu had gone to Maungdaw to donate rice to local ethnic Rakhine Buddhists — several thousand of whom were also displaced by the recent violence.

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