RANGOON — The National League for Democracy has rejected a statement by the powerful Buddhist nationalist organization Ma Ba Tha, which on Wednesday hit back at a senior NLD leader for asserting early this week that the group was interfering in the party’s campaigning ahead of Burma’s Nov. 8 general election.
In an escalating war of words, the Association for the Protection of Race and Religion, better known by its Burmese acronym Ma Ba Tha, on Wednesday released a statement calling party patron Tin Oo’s remarks “groundless and detrimental to our activities.”
During a press conference that largely focused on errors to voter lists currently being publically displayed, Tin Oo had said on Monday that “Ma Ba Tha is disturbing the National League for Democracy’s campaigning” by distributing anti-NLD pamphlets.
Ma Ba Tha launched a defense of its activities with the statement two days later.
“Ma Ba Tha is working for nationalism, religion and race, and is not a follower of any government, party or person,” it read.
“For the causes of nationalism, race and religion, we will work hand-in-hand with anyone, while being objectively against any party or person if they bring harm to those causes,” the statement continued.
“Ma Ba Tha neither attacks nor disturbs any party or person.”
But Win Htein, an NLD central committee member, disputed those claims, saying the party patron was moved to make his remarks on Monday because monks have in recent weeks made increasingly political comments as they have held events celebrating passage of a package of controversial legislation known as the Race and Religion Protection Laws.
“Their leading monks personally told their supporters not to vote for the party that is against the Race and Religion Protection Laws. U Wirathu said: ‘I have been watching the NLD.’ I want to ask them why they are saying these things,” Win Htein told The Irrawaddy on Thursday.
“Our NLD has had a clear policy not to mix politics and religion since the party was established in 1988,” he added.
The Irrawaddy reported on Wednesday that the NLD had filed formal complaints against Ma Ba Tha, alleging that the group was using religion to influence voters ahead of the November poll, in contravention of Burma’s election laws. The complaints remained outstanding as of Wednesday.