Karen Govt Shuns Lawsuit Against Nationalist Rally Organizers

By Htet Naing Zaw 18 September 2017

NAYPYITAW — The Karen State Government will not file a lawsuit against organizers of an unauthorized nationalist rally at Taunggalay Ground in Karen State capital Hpa-an on Sept. 10, according to state chief minister Daw Nan Khin Htwe Myint.

The state government rejected the application for the event because of “security concerns,” according to an organizer, but the rally went ahead, pushing an administrator to request that the state sue the organizers.

Daw Nan Khin Htwe Myint decided not to take action “in consideration of their emotional outburst.” The four speakers at the rally, including the ultranationalist monk U Wirathu, focused on the Rakhine crisis.

“We won’t tolerate it next time,” Daw Nan Khin Htwe Myint told reporters after she attended a central executive committee meeting of the National League for Democracy (NLD) in Naypyitaw on Sunday.

The Karen State Association for Protection of Race and Religion claimed about 40,000 people attended the event. The chapter—known by its Myanmar acronym Ma Ba Tha—has defied a countrywide ban by the State Buddhist Sangha authority from operating under its current name.

The state Buddhist authority banned U Wirathu from delivering sermons for one year, starting from March 10, due to his religious hate speech. Despite the ban, he addressed the crowd, aiming most of his words at the NLD government for what he said was its neglect of Buddhists.

Maung Thway Chun, chief editor of the Ma Ba Tha’s recently suspended weekly journals, columnist for those publications, U Kyaw Swe, and writer Anyataya Kapiya also spoke at the event.

The Karen State chief minister said the “outburst was understandable” since about 30,000 Arakanese and Hindus were internally displaced in Rakhine State following Aug. 25 Muslim militant attacks on police stations, according to government figures.

The attacks provoked communal violence and an army crackdown which has seen about 400,000 self-identifying Rohingya flee to Bangladesh so far, according to the UN.

“We have a lot to do to move forward. There is no big problem in Karen State, and we don’t want to blame monks [who participated in the event] as we were able to control the situation. They may have their grievances,” said Daw Nan Khin Htwe Myint.

After the rally, Karen State Ma Ba Tha released a statement calling on the government to officially deny self-identifying Rohingya recognition as an ethnicity in Myanmar, and to take prompt actions against Muslim militants in Rakhine.

Many of the self-identifying Rohingya are not allowed citizenship and endure travel restrictions along with a lack of access to education and healthcare.

In a recent interview with BBC, nationalist monks in Mandalay said they supported Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s stance on the Rakhine crisis.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.