Irrawaddy Govt Plans Lawsuit Against U Wirathu’s Silent Protest

By Salai Thant Zin & Zarni Mann 13 March 2017

PATHEIN, Irrawaddy Division — The Irrawaddy divisional government plans to take legal action against ultranationalist monk U Wirathu in response to his silent protest in Einme Township on Saturday evening.

The state Buddhist clergy Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee (Ma Ha Na) banned the high-profile leader of the Association for the Protection of Race and Religion, known by the Burmese acronym Ma Ba Tha, from delivering sermons across the country for one year starting from March 10, because of his religious hate speech.

The decision was made at a special meeting of the country’s 47 senior Buddhist monks who run the Ma Ha Na in Naypyidaw last Thursday. He was also banned indefinitely from preaching in Irrawaddy Division on March 5 after violating a divisional ban.

U Wirathu told The Irrawaddy that he did not break the rules of the Ma Ha Na’s ban.

“I wonder which law they are going to use against me because I have broken no rules of the [Ma Ha Na] notice,” he said. “The notice banned me from delivering sermons, sitting on the plinth and greeting my followers and the audience. I didn’t do that, and instead, just sat there silently. I’ve followed every instruction of the senior Sayadaws and broke no laws.”

U Wirathu delivered what he called a “silent sermon” against the Ma Ha Na’s ban in Thee Kwin village in the township on Saturday night.

A video of him staging the silent protest to a congregation of more than 500 people was streamed live on social media including on his Facebook account. In the video, U Wirathu had his mouth covered with two pieces of colored tape while one of his previous sermons played on a CD player.

The minister of the division’s municipal department U Kyaw Myint told The Irrawaddy he would consult with senior monks of the divisional Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee to confirm whether U Wirathu’s actions violated the restriction.

“We will take action in line with the law against any act that violates the restrictions of the Ma Ha Na and the divisional government,” he added.

In February, the Irrawaddy divisional government banned U Wirathu from delivering a sermon in the capital of Pathein for security reasons, following the assassination of prominent Muslim lawyer and National League for Democracy (NLD) 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 Kyone Ku, the native village of former President U Thein Sein in the division’s Ngapudaw Township, on Feb. 9.

The 969 Movement is a nationalist movement that 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.