Mandalay Colonel to Sue Monk for ‘Defaming’ Army

By Zarni Mann 12 September 2019

MANDALAY—A military officer in Mandalay has filed a lawsuit against a Buddhist abbot at Mandalay’s Myawaddy Mingyi Monastery for criticizing the army in the media.

Lieutenant Colonel Thawdar Dwe from Mandalay’s Field Engineer Battalion filed the lawsuit against Sayadaw U Arriyawuntha directly to the court in Pyigyitagon Township. The township’s police questioned the monk on Tuesday evening.

“The police said they will investigate and question me under the court’s instruction but they do not know which law I will be charged under,” said U Arriyawuntha, who is also known as Myawaddy Mingyi Sayadaw.

The abbot said the lawsuit was based on his comments over 30 million kyats (US$19,700) in donations by a senior military officer to the ultra-nationalist group Buddha-Dhamma Parahita Foundation, which changed its name from Ma Ba Tha. The comments were published online by Yangon Khit Thit in June.

The abbot said the Buddha-Dhamma Parahita Foundation contravened the Sanga’s rule by receiving financial support from military officers that wanted to block democratic reforms.

He called the military a robber and thief, accusing the unit responsible of not following presidential orders, bullying civilians using its weapons as power and taking seats in parliament without an election.

“That nationalist group is working in partnership with an organization [the military] that is going against Buddhist rules,” the abbot was quoted as saying.

The abbot told The Irrawaddy that police asked him about his comments to the media.

“I told the police I did not mean to defame the military as they claim,” said Sayadaw U Arriyawuntha.

A lawsuit could be filed under Article 505 of the Penal Code or the Telecommunication Act’s notorious Article 66(d).

“The police said they can’t name the law yet as it is still under investigation by the court. They said the court will inform me when it is ready,” he said.

Pyigyitagon police confirmed the investigation.

Sayadaw U Arriyawuntha is a strong supporter of peace and interfaith groups in Mandalay and of the National League for Democracy (NLD) and State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

He is also a vocal critic of Buddhist nationalism, the military and military-backed organizations and businesses.

Last week, it was announced that U Sein Ti Ta, another Buddhist monk from Mandalay, was being sued by a military officer under the Telecommunication Act’s Article 66(d).

The military regularly uses Article 505 of the Penal Code and Article 66(d) to sue critics, accusing them of defaming the armed forces.

“I will contest whatever lawsuit they use. Suing us shows there are no rights but it will not stop me from speaking the truth. I will keep saying what should not be done and what should be avoided. I’m a Buddhist monk and this is my duty to show the right path for everyone,” said U Arriyawuntha.

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