YANGON — Supporters of firebrand nationalist monk U Wirathu launched campaigns to garner signatures in his support in Karen State and Mandalay Region earlier this month.
The “We Love Wirathu” campaigns were launched in response to allegations that U Wirathu’s sermons were against Buddha’s teachings, according to campaign organizers.
“I believe U Wirathu is on the side of Dhamma [the doctrine or teaching of the Buddha], and I’m upset that some people call him on the side of Adhamma [against the Buddha’s teachings],” said a supporter of the petition in Karen State, who declined to give their name. “So, we confirm with our signatures that he is on the side of Dhamma.”
The campaigns came as the Anti-False Buddhist Doctrine Group collected signatures across Yangon for a petition asking the State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee, better known by its Burmese acronym Ma Ha Na, if the actions and speeches of U Wirathu conformed with Buddha’s teachings or not.
One campaign, held at a monastery in Karen State’s Hpa-an Township on June 11, garnered around 10,000 signatures and another on June 14 in Myawaddy Township got more than 300 signatures, campaign organizer and Hpa-an local Ko Thurein told The Irrawaddy.
“There is an ongoing campaign in Yangon, saying that Sayadaw U Wirathu’s sermons contain Adhamma things,” said Ko Thurein. “We organized these campaigns to show that he is not Adhamma, and that there are many people who love him.”
People from other townships in Karen State and in Mon State’s Mawlamyine (Moulmein) Township have contacted him to organize similar campaigns in their respective places, he said. The signatures collected will be presented to U Wirathu, he added.
Last week, the Patriotic Monks Union (Mandalay) and U Wirathu’s supporters conducted a campaign and garnered over 55,000 signatures, said U Wirathu’s supporter Mandalay local U Naing Win Tun.
“Those who speak ill of the Sayadaw [U Wirathu] online do so because they don’t know exactly what Sayadaw is doing,” he said.
The Anti-False Buddhist Doctrine Group conducted a petition against U Wirathu in nine townships in Yangon Region from May 21 to June 17. The founder of the group Ko Myat Kyaw said the number of signatures would be announced on Wednesday.
“We don’t want him to be jailed or ruined, we just want to show that we do not accept his false doctrine,” Ko Myat Kyaw told the press in May.
The petition will be put forward to the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture on Wednesday, and will also be sent to the President’s Office, the State Counselor’s Office and the Ma Ha Na.
Regarding the “We Love Wirathu” campaigns, Ko Myat Kyaw said: “I agree to disagree. They have the right to [campaign], and I cannot do anything.”
The campaign organizers of “We Love Wirathu Campaign” said similar campaigns would continue across the country, and an online voting system was also launched on June 17. A total of 13,209 signatures were collected by Tuesday, according to organizers.
U Wirathu was banned by the Ma Ha Na from delivering sermons across the country for one year, starting from March 10, due to his religious hate speech.