Ma Ba Tha Airs Its Dirty Laundry

By Lawi Weng 13 June 2016

RANGOON — Fissures have appeared within the Buddhist extremist organization Ma Ba Tha, after two senior members of the monk-run, anti-Muslim organization traded barbs on social media over the weekend.

U Parmaukkha, a one-time senior monk within Ma Ba Tha, the Burmese acronym for the Association for the Protection of Race and Religion, condemned his former organization for supporting only one political party in last year’s election..

Ma Ba Tha allied itself with ex-president Thein Sein’s Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), which was routed in November’s elections.

“They did not focus on national issues and just concentrated on supporting one political party [the USDP] during the election. That is why I resigned from the organization,” said U Parmaukkha, who resigned from Ma Ba Tha last month.

“Ma Ba Tha proposed a so-called race and religion protection law, which was ratified by the USDP government. In gratitude, Ma Ba Tha encouraged the people to support the USDP during the election,” he said.

He said Ma Ba Tha believed the Thein Sein government supported the cause of “protecting” race and religion, but that he has not seen that same commitment from the new National League for Democracy government.

U Parmaukkha was a high-ranking member in Ma Ba Tha who was heavily involved in anti-Rohingya protests around the country; the Rohingya are a persecuted Muslim minority denied citizenship in Burma. The country experienced widespread violence against during the quasi-civilian government of then-President Thein Sein, who ruled from 2011-2016, and human rights activists have accused members of Ma Ba Tha of involvement in the unrest.

The third anniversary of Ma Ba Tha’s founding was celebrated in Rangoon earlier this month, and this dispute was first sign of divisions within the organization.

“I wanted the Ma Ba Tha to not just work on race and religion issues, but also to take up major national concerns, but they did not listen to me,” U Parmaukkha said. “I wanted everyone in the country to love and support Ma Ba Tha. I wanted to have a pure Ma Ba Tha that all people in the country, not just one political party, could support.”

In response, Wirathu, another senior monk from Ma Ba Tha, posted a message on his Facebook page on Sunday attacking U Parmaukkha.

“We all supported you when you attained a high position [in Ma Ba Tha], but you insulted others and were jealous when other people were promoted above you,” Wirathu wrote on his Facebook.

“You were the most hostile member of our organization,” he wrote. “We did not kick you out—you left on your own because you were upset you did not get a higher position.”

But the nationalist monk remained resolute that Ma Ba Tha would overcome its first public spat.

“We can do fine without you,” Wirathu wrote. “The Ma Ba Tha is a strong force no matter what.”