Myanmar Now Journalist Demands Authorities Take Action Against U Wirathu

By San Yamin Aung 29 March 2017

RANGOON — Myanmar Now chief correspondent Ko Swe Win has requested the government take action against U Wirathu, claiming the ultranationalist monk has broken laws and defamed Buddhism.

Ko Swe Win sent letters on Tuesday to the chairman of the state Buddhist authority State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee, popularly known by the Burmese language acronym “Ma Ha Na,” the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission, and to the Minister of Religious Affairs and Culture.

In the letter sent to the minister, Ko Swe Win said the infamous monk had violated Article 295 (a) of Burma’s Penal Code, which sets punishments for acts that insult religious beliefs. The charges carry fines and prison terms of up to two years.

The reporter also said U Wirathu violated the 2008 Constitution’s Article 364, which forbids any act that is intended to promote feelings of hatred, enmity or discord between racial or religious communities.

Ko Swe Win has faced two lawsuits this month: one filed by a nationalist for allegedly insulting Buddhism and another filed by one of U Wirathu’s supporters, accusing him of insulting the monk.

“It is not a response to [U Wirathu] for instructing his supporters to sue Ko Swe Win,” said U Khin Maung Myint, the reporter’s legal adviser. “It is because we want the rule of law in the country.”

Ma Ha Na and the religious affairs ministry banned U Wirathu from delivering public sermons across the country for one year starting from March 10 because of his religious hate speech, stating the monk’s comments were not in accordance with Theravada Buddhism.

U Wirathu disobeyed this order, said U Khin Maung Myint, but is yet to be punished.

Since the ban, U Wirathu has delivered three “silent sermons” in Irrawaddy Division’s Einme Township, the Kachin State capital Myitkyina, and Rangoon Division’s Kawhmu Township.

U Khin Maung Myint said that the nationalist monk’s sermons insulted other religious beliefs as well as Buddhists.

Over the weekend, Bhamo Sayadaw Bhaddanta Kumara, chairman of Ma Ha Na, said if U Wirathu continues to deliver sermons in defiance of the ban, he could be imprisoned; it would be his second stint in jail—he was sentenced to 25 years in 2003 for inciting religious conflict, but was released in 2012.

U Khin Maung Myint told The Irrawaddy that the timing of their letters and the Ma Ha Na chairman’s comments were a coincidence.

“We, together with other legal experts and the public, will wait and see what action will be taken after our complaints have been received,” he said. “If none is taken, we will keep demanding.”