Ma Ba Tha Calls For Release of Jailed Nationalist

By The Irrawaddy 6 June 2016

RANGOON — Buddhist extremist group Ma Ba Tha issued a statement Sunday in support of nationalist provocateur Nay Myo Wai, who is under arrest and facing trial for allegedly defaming Burma’s president, state counselor and army commander-in-chief on social media.

The Association for the Protection of Race and Religion, better known by its Burmese acronym Ma Ba Tha, released an eight-point statement after the conclusion of their annual conference on Sunday, saying that someone had created fake Facebook accounts to implicate Peace and Diversity Party Chairman Nay Myo Wai in the defamation of President Htin Kyaw, Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing and State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi.

The statement warned that the detention of Nay Myo Wai would damage the image of the new government that has vowed to prioritize the rule of law, complaining that the politician has been denied bail.

“The authorities should avoid this kind of unjust action, and we strongly urge them to promote the rule of law by reviewing U Nay Myo Wai’s case,” the statement said.

The party chairman has been detained since May after Wai Yan Aung, an executive member of the Burma Teachers’ Federation, filed a lawsuit against him under Article 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law and accused him of defaming the most powerful trio in Burma.

The Ma Ba Tha also urged the government to “protect” Buddhism as it is the faith of the majority of the Burmese citizens, and called on the government to declare there are “no Rohingya in the country” and implement the 1982 Citizenship Law, which denies the ethnic group—who are Muslim and reside in Arakan State—citizenship in Burma.

Ma Ba Tha on Sunday urged its followers to support the controversial Protection of Race and Religions Laws, which place new sanctions on polygamy and adultery, add restrictions on religious conversions and interfaith marriage and give the government new powers to implement birth control measures. The association was behind drafting the laws and lobbied hard for their enactment.

Rights groups and other observers have alleged that the laws, passed by the Union Parliament under the previous government, were aimed at the perennial target of the Ma Ba Tha’s propaganda, Burma’s Muslims, which are estimated to comprise about 5 percent of the country’s population.

Founded in 2014, Ma Ba Tha is made up of a group of nationalist monks who view themselves as the guardians of Buddhism. They are accused of spreading anti-Muslim sentiment throughout the country. Currently, it has nearly 300 branches across Burma.

In their Sunday directive, Ma Ba Tha encouraged all 300 branches to open Facebook accounts for information sharing and collaboration on the issues of race and religion.