Union Election Official Says Hands Tied on Ma Ba Tha Politicking

A senior member of the Union Election Commission says the body has no authority to prevent religious figures or organizations from speaking out on politics. 

RANGOON — A senior member of Burma’s union level election body said the organization has no authority to prevent religious figures or organizations from speaking out on politics.

Union Election Commission (UEC) official Win Ko said Buddhist monks’ exhortations on political affairs were not a matter the election body could police as its mandate did not extend to the clergy.

“We are only responsible for preventing any abuse of religion for political purposes by a party or candidate,” he said to media Wednesday on the sidelines of a forum on electoral conflict.

“If it is monks [involved], we can do nothing. Only the Sangha Mahanayaka [the Sangha Council] or the Ministry of Religious Affairs can handle them.”

His comments come on the back of concerns aired by Burma’s main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), that influential Buddhist nationalist group Ma Ba Tha is behind a push to defame the party and influence the electorate.

The NLD, chaired by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, filed a number of complaints earlier last month alleging that the Buddhist hardline group had distributed print materials and delivered public sermons urging supporters not to back the party on the ground that its members did not have Buddhism’s best interests at heart.

The NLD has been referred to derisively in various speeches made during a series of recent rallies organized by Ma Ba Tha to celebrate passage of the controversial Race and Religion Protection Laws. The group, also known in English as the Association for the Protection of Race and Religion, was the principal proponent of the legislative package that was opposed by NLD lawmakers.

NLD spokesperson Nyan Win told The Irrawaddy on Friday the party would soon meet with the UEC to discuss concerns over the Ma Ba Tha’s politicking and to offer “a thorough explanation of their case.”

“Although the Ma Ba Tha is branded a religious association, they are intervening in politics. It is difficult to view them only as a religious association,” he said. “We think the Ma Ba Tha should not take part in politics.”

Nyan Win said the party would also seek talks with the State Sangha Council or officials from the Ministry of Religious Affairs if necessary.

“We think the body most responsible is the UEC as they have kept insisting on a free and fair election,” he said.

Representatives of the Sangha Council and the religious affairs ministry were not available for comment on Friday.

Burma’s election law prohibits persons from seeking to influence the electorate on the grounds of race and religion, with offenders punishable by up to one year imprisonment.


What is the real role of monks? Does buddism teaches hatred, discremination, and to kill people of other faith?
Does these monks run the country? Are they the one who decides to whom one should marry? Are they the one who says what one should eat and where to eat?
What a joke in this 21st century. Look at Malaysia, Singapore, S.Korea and Japan, the way they have developed.
But Burma is way behind because the
military regime there is corrupt, and their sponsored Ma Ba Tha is a terror
I can’t understand why the international community is quite in this regard.
How will the Election be fair? The election commission is like a rubber stamp. They are scared of Ma Ba Tha.
I hope the poor people of Burma will again vote for NLD to achieve real democracy.

Sai Lin Kan

I don’t know whether UEC is responsible for Ma Ba Tha unlawful action or not but State Sangha Council and Ministry of Religious Affairs have responsible Ma Ba Tha unlawful action.

State Sangha Council and Ministry of Religious Affairs are treating double standard for Ma Ba Tha.

Why State Sangha Council and Religious Affair Department took action against other Monks who involve in Politic and put them in prison?

Why State Sangha Council and Religious Affair Department don’t take action against Monks from Ma Ba Tha and put them in prison for broken the law?

Obviously, Ma Ba Tha was created by President U Thein Sein Government for to divide Burmese communities. You can see how President U Thein Sein Government was dirty and corrupted by creating of Ma Ba Tha. The goal of creating Ma Ba Tha was to destroy opposition NLD image. U Wirathu was using by President U Thein Sein Government.

So Ma Ba Tha was given ticket for free ride from heaven to hell by President U Thein Sein, Soe Win and Gen Ko Ko.


First I don’t agree with what MBT is doing. Second, this is politics. By definition, politics is dirty. Even in an advanced countries like the US, there are still some folks who believe Obama is muslim and born in Africa. Fox news (republican media) will also air stories like that. It’s a choice whether to do negative campaigning. I don’t hear Obama making a fuss over it, apart from issuing a statement and certificate of birth. People leak stories, both fake and real from both sides. These days campaigns can be won by social media interaction. By NLD complaining about MBT incessantly, they are giving MBT legitimacy and it will reflect as if NLD can’t win solely because of MBT influence. That’s just nonsense.

People sure like to make things up without proof. There is no proof that Thein Sein actually established this silly organization and personally funding them. Otherwise all speculation. Yes some minister in ayerwaddy give some cattle license but that’s just part of campaigning. Do you have evidence that Thein Sein give clearance? It’s ridiculous. When NLD party members join USDP in ayewaddy, I’m sure they were promised something in return, too. Don’t get upset certain people in the USDP leverages MBT (even if that platform is the wrong message) and NLD is just not very strategic in their campaign. Mind you, ASSK/NLD also courts western media often to get their message across. If NLD is smart, it’s a very easy fix to counter against MBT’s claims, if they so wish. Get someone else in charge, other than ASSK, who married a non-burmese and have mixed children (I don’t think anything’s wrong with this but a lot of Myanmar people have xenophobia and they tend not to be comfortable with people who are different). By not putting forward anyone else other than Tin Oo and Win Htein, both are way beyond retirement age, together with ASSK, I’m skeptical that there’s an alternative voice and leadership within NLD, beyond those three elderly people.


Write a Comment

Your email address will not be published. All fields are required.