Thou­sands of monks, nuns gather de­spite ban

New Straits Times - - World -

YAN­GON: Thou­sands of Bud­dhist monks, nuns and sup­port­ers of an ul­tra­na­tion­al­ist Bud­dhist group gath­ered at an an­nual con­fer­ence on the out­skirts of Myan­mar’s big­gest city on Satur­day, de­spite be­ing banned by the gov­ern­ment.

The State Sangha Maha Nayaka, the coun­try’s high­est Bud­dhist in­sti­tu­tion, of­fi­cially banned Ma Ba Tha for mo­ti­vat­ing ri­ots largely tar­get­ing Myan­mar’s Mus­lim mi­nor­ity.

The group was or­dered to stop its ac­tiv­i­ties and to take down its sign­boards na­tion­wide by July 15.

“Ac­cord­ing to their terms, our group is called an un­law­ful as­so­ci­a­tion, but we want you to know that our group will not be abol­ished,” a senior monk from the group told the au­di­ence at the con­fer­ence. Ma Ba Tha and its high-pro­file lead­ing monk, Wi­rathu, have been ac­cused of sum­mon­ing anti-Is­lamic preach­ing and stir­ring up mob vi­o­lence in Bud­dhist-ma­jor­ity Myan­mar, caus­ing deaths of Mus­lims and de­struc­tion of their prop­erty.

Most of the vic­tims are from the Ro­hingya Mus­lim mi­nor­ity in Rakhine State.

“We just wanted to save our peo­ple, but maybe many peo­ple just want to die like dogs and pigs in the hands of the en­emy,” the monk said.

The gov­ern­ment’s ban came after Bud­dhist hard-lin­ers forced lo­cal author­i­ties to shut down two Mus­lim schools in April and later con­fronted Mus­lim neigh­bour­hoods claim­ing to search for il­le­gal Ro­hingya hid­ing in the area.

It was the lat­est man­i­fes­ta­tion of years of ris­ing anti-Mus­lim sen­ti­ment in Myan­mar.

“Even if we are banned, that doesn’t mean we will dis­ap­pear,” the monk said. “We will con­tinue to do what we can to pro­tect our race and re­li­gion.” AP

Wi­rathu

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