Karen State Ma Ba Tha Chapter Refuses to Remove Signboards

By Hintharnee 17 July 2017

MOULMEIN, Karen State — The Karen State chapter of the Buddhist ultranationalist association Ma Ba Tha will not take down its signboard from the Thayettaw Monastery in Karen State capital Hpa-An, chapter spokesperson Ashin Gambi Sara told The Irrawaddy.

The State Buddhist Sangha authority—also known by its Myanmar acronym Ma Ha Na—banned Ma Ba Tha from operating under its current name on May 23 and ordered it to take down its signboards by July 15.

In an announcement published on Friday and Saturday in state-run media, the government said the group’s members from Mandalay and Hpa-An have failed to follow the orders despite Ma Ba Tha leading monks agreeing to the restrictions.

The announcement said the government would take legal action against Ma Ba Tha if it does not remove its signboards.

“We are not revolting against the order given by the Ma Ha Na Sayadaws. So far, no one has come and asked us to take down the signboard, so we haven’t,” Ashin Gambi Sara told The Irrawaddy.

On Sunday, Ma Ha Na senior monks, Ma Ba Tha monks, and monks from Myaing Gyi Ngu—the Buddhist religious land in Karen State’s Hpa-An under the administration of influential and renowned Myaing Gyi Ngu Sayadaw (who is also chairman of the Karen State Ma Ba Tha chapter)—held a meeting in Hpa-An, after which they replaced the old Ma Ba Tha signboard in Thayettaw Monastery with a new one.

Karen State religious affairs minister U Min Tin Win said the state government had no plan to forcibly remove the Ma Ba Tha signboard.

“We have no plan to take down the signboard by exercising executive power. We will hold talks with senior Ma Ha Na and Ma Ba Tha monks to handle this. Sayadaws have great goodwill for the welfare of Karen State. We don’t want to act hastily or affect the stability of the state,” said U Min Tin Win.

On Friday after the government released the announcement, around 10 armed members of the Karen State Border Guard Force provided security at Thayettaw Monastery. They also provided security after the Karen State Ma Ba Tha chapter issued its statement refusing to take down the signboards on July 8, said Ashin Gambi Sara.

The statement said: “Actions shall be taken in line with existing laws and local regulations against anyone who attempts to forcibly take down Ma Ba Tha signboards. The consequence is yours.”

U Min Tin Win refused to comments on this.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.