Govt Forms Committee to Prevent Interreligious Violence

By The Irrawaddy 15 July 2016

RANGOON — The government has formed a high-level “Emergency Management Central Committee” tasked with preventing and mitigating interreligious violence in Burma, according to a statement from the President’s Office.

According to the statement, prepared on Tuesday but released on Friday morning, the committee includes Vice President (2) Henry Van Thio, ministers of defense and other Union ministries, the attorney general, ministers from state and divisional administrations, and police commanders.

The committee will work to prevent “other religious problems in the country,” and clamp down on “instigations of violence,” the statement read.

The committee will work directly with state, divisional and also local-level authorities, including branches of the police. It will also work, if required, with civil society on strategies to preempt violence locally, and will make use of media to spread “awareness” and combat any harmful instigations coming from within the media.

More detailed plans will be worked on in consultation with state and divisional governments, and training will be provided to the latter on how to manage incidents and conflagrations.

Burma has seen bouts of anti-Muslim religious violence across the country in recent years, most recently in Pegu Division, where the government refused to take action against those responsible, and Kachin State, where some arrests have been made.

The ultra-nationalist Buddhist monks association Ma Ba Tha, which has been accused of fomenting anti-Muslim violence through hate campaigns, was declared illegitimate by the State Sangha Maya Nayaka Committee, the highest clerical authority in Burma, on Tuesday evening.

On Thursday, Culture and Religious Affairs Minister Aung Ko said that, if Ma Ba Tha kept “making problems with other religions,” disturbing the peace and flouting Buddhist “discipline,” the government would “take action against them according to the existing laws.”