PATHEIN, Irrawaddy Division — Ultra-nationalist monk U Wirathu may be incarcerated if he continues to deliver sermons in defiance of a ban from the State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee, said Bhamo Sayadaw Bhaddanta Kumara, chairman of the state Buddhist authority known by its Burmese acronym Ma Ha Na.
“He has preached things as if they were delivered by the Buddha, which were not,” said Bhamo Sayadaw Bhaddanta Kumara. “He can be imprisoned for this, he can be put behind bars.”
Ma Ha Na banned U Wirathu, a high-profile member of the nationalist Buddhist Association for the Protection of Race and Religion, known by Burmese acronym Ma Ba Tha, from delivering sermons across the country for one year starting from March 10, because of his religious hate speech.
Despite the Ma Ha Na’s ban, U Wirathu delivered three “silent sermons” in Irrawaddy Division’s Einme Township, Kachin State capital Myitkyina, and Rangoon Division’s Kawhmu Township.
At the sermons, U Wirathu sat with his mouth covered by two pieces of colored tape while one of his previous sermons played over loudspeakers.
Bhamo Sayadaw Bhaddanta Kumara called U Wirathu’s silent sermons an act of defiance: “If he continues delivering sermons in spite of the ban, it is an act of defiance, and he will be punished for it. There is law. He must obey the order of the Buddha. If he doesn’t, he can be arrested and imprisoned.”
Last month, the Irrawaddy divisional government banned U Wirathu from delivering a sermon in the state capital of Pathein for security reasons, following the assassination of prominent Muslim lawyer and National League for Democracy legal advisor U Ko Ni in Rangoon.
Despite the order, the monk preached a sermon titled The 969 (movement) and Our Three Main National Causes in Kyunku, the home village of former President U Thein Sein in the division’s Ngapudaw Township, on Feb. 9.
The nationalist 969 movement urges people to boycott Muslim-run businesses, while the three main national causes are rhetoric of the former military regime: non-disintegration of the Union, non-disintegration of national solidarity, and the perpetual existence of sovereignty—as a national duty.
On March 5, the Irrawaddy divisional government released a statement banning U Wirathu from preaching in the division indefinitely. The nationalist monk still spoke at Tar La Baw village in Maubin Township on March 8.
A statement from the March 10 Ma Ha Na meeting warned U Wirathu that any breach of the order would lead to legal action. The ban will be in effect until March 9 next year.
Ma Ha Na said in the March statement that the nationalist monk was repeatedly delivering hate speeches against religions to cause communal strife, hinder rule of law, and that he took sides with political parties to inflame tension.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.