Myanmar Court Freezes Bank Accounts of Fugitive Monk U Wirathu
By Htun Htun 31 October 2019
YANGON—The Yangon Western District Court issued a warrant on Wednesday freezing the bank accounts of fugitive ultranationalist monk U Wirathu.
According to police in Maha Aung Myay Township, where U Wirathu lived before going on the run, the monk has an account balance of more than 12.5 million kyats (US$8,200) at Myanma Economic Bank Branch No. 3, and over 4.5 million kyats in an account at Ayeyarwady Bank Branch No. 11 in Mandalay.
“Police said they have only found assets of the monk at those two banks. We have frozen the accounts so the money cannot be withdrawn or transferred to anyone,” the court’s information officer, U Zaw Zaw Tun, told the media.
The monk has been on the run since May, when officials issued an arrest warrant for him under Article 124(a) of the Penal Code for his attempt to incite disaffection with the government.
He is being tried in absentia.
If convicted under the article, he faces seven to 20 years in prison, or a fine. The monk, who is notorious for his anti-Muslim rhetoric, has also been banned from Facebook for hate speech.
The court also ordered that a legal warrant of attachment (a writ authorizing seizure) be posted on U Wirathu’s properties. Police however found that the monastery at which U Wirathu was based and its cars are not his property.
Meanwhile, the administrator of Patheingyi Township has filed a lawsuit against seven individuals in connection with a school funded by U Wirathu in the village of Ohn Chaw in the township. Police allege the school was built on land owned by the government.
According to police, U Wirathu’s disciple U Myo Myint Oo illegally acquired the 1.27-acre plot, which is under the management of the Urban and Housing Development Department, for 5 million kyats.
The country’s highest Buddhist authority, the State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee (known by its Burmese acronym Ma Ha Na), said it would apply its Instruction No. 15 in U Wirathu’s case.
Instruction No. 15 says, “If a monk or novice commits a particular crime, whether he is found guilty or not, only after the civilian court renders its verdict shall the concerned Sangha Nayaka Committee judge whether or not he has violated the code of conduct for Buddhist monks.”
Another ultranationalist, U Hla Swe, has been on the run since August after being charged with sedition under Article 124(a) of the Penal Code for comments deemed defamatory to government leaders.
U Hla Swe’s trial is set to begin with testimony from prosecution witnesses on Nov. 6 at Yangon Western District Court.
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