Karen State Ma Ba Tha Chapter Keeps Name Despite State Sangha Ban

By Htun Htun 12 June 2017

YANGON — The Karen State chapter of the Buddhist nationalist Association for Protection of Race and Religion—known as Ma Ba Tha—will continue to use the name, despite a ban by the State Buddhist Sangha authority.

The state Buddhist Sangha authority—known as Ma Ha Na—on May 23 banned the nationalist organization from operating under its current name and also ordered that all signs bearing the name be taken down across the country by July.

Members of the Karen State Ma Ba Tha chapter, however, decided to continue using the name at a meeting on Sunday.

“This is not in opposition to Ma Ha Na. We’ve looked into its legality and decided to continue using the name as it is not against the law,” said a Ma Ba Tha monk from Karen State.

The Karen State chapter released a statement on Sunday stating that the name does not go against Sangha organizational laws or procedures and that it conforms to the 2008 Constitution and the 2014 Association Registration Law.

Senior monks from the Buddha Dhamma Charity Foundation (Central)—formerly Ma Ba Tha (Central)—attended the meeting and said they respected the decision.

Dr. Sopaka, a leader of the Buddha Dhamma Charity Foundation (Central), said: “Though Ma Ba Tha (Central) has decided to go by Buddha Dhamma Charity Foundation, it does not instruct all chapters to change their names. We have no comment on this decision.”

In the statement released on Sunday, Karen State’s Ma Ba Tha chapter said it would follow the guidelines of the Buddha Dhamma Charity Foundation and also cooperate with Dhamma Wunthanu Rakhita, other charity groups, and all nationalist forces.

Ma Ha Na has said any monk who breaches its ban would be punished under Sangha law and any layperson would be referred to the Home Affairs Ministry for prosecution.

Ma Ba Tha on May 20 rebranded itself as the Buddha Dhamma Charity Foundation following Ma Ha Na’s ban.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.