Action to be Taken Against Dozens Who Disrupted Muslim Ceremony in Pyay

By Kaung Myat Min 18 January 2017

PYAY, Bago Division — Police will charge members of a Rangoon-based nationalist group that disrupted a Muslim celebration of the Prophet Muhammad’s birth on Sunday in Bago Division’s Pyay Township, according to the township police station.

Police are preparing to file a lawsuit against 12 members of the Rangoon division of the Nationalist Coalition Group, including its leader U Hla Thein Maung, after Union Minister for Religious Affairs Thura U Aung Ko instructed them to take action against those involved in the disturbance.

Authorities plan to charge members of the group—a coalition of 17 smaller nationalist groups based in Rangoon—with disturbing civil servants from performing their duties and are consulting a legal team on other possible charges.

Rangoon division of the Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee—a government-appointed body of senior monks that oversees Buddhist clergy also known by the acronym Ma Ha Na—will summon and admonish three monks for their participation in the disturbance, according to the head of Bago Division’s religious affairs department.

“The township Sangha Maha Nayaka will take care of the monks who participated in the action on Jan. 1,” Dr Win Myint Chit, lawmaker representing Bago Constituency 8 in the Upper House, told The Irrawaddy.

“As for the other people, administrators will take action in line with the law,” he added.

Authorities asked organizers of the Muslim celebration in Si Taw Mingalar Ward, Pyay Township to condense their planned celebration to 30 minutes last Saturday following a demand by the Nationalist Coalition Group and some hardline Buddhist monks, to which the organizers agreed.

The nationalists later demanded the event be canceled, however, and on Sunday morning The Irrawaddy witnessed eight vehicles parked outside the mosque and dozens of nationalists and hardline Buddhist monks distributing flyers against the celebration. The event was canceled at the last minute.

Twenty-seven local civil society organizations released a joint statement on Tuesday calling for legal action against the nationalist group as well as calling on authorities to prevent recurrences of the incident.

“Their actions instigate religious violence,” said general secretary of Moe Mitta Philanthropic Association in Pyay Ko Nyi Nyi Aung, referring to the nationalist group.

“By issuing this statement we also want to raise public awareness of instigating religious violence,” he added.

A Muslim ceremony held inside Rangoon’s Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) was also interrupted by Buddhist monks and nationalists earlier this month.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko