NLD Accuses Ma Ba Tha of Defamation at Charity Shindig

By Salai Thant Zin 24 July 2015

PATHEIN — The Myaungmya Township branch of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) in Irrawaddy Division has filed a criminal complaint against two people, alleging that a meal donation ceremony was used as a forum for distributing materials that defamed party leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Influential monk Natsin Taya Sayadaw held the charity event in Myaungmya on Saturday, which was attended by ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) vice-chair Htay Oo alongside Union ministers Tint Hsan and Khin Yi.

The NLD asserts that people at the event distributed flyers and CDs casting doubt on the integrity of the opposition leader.

“I have filed a complaint with the court against the two who distributed pamphlets,” township NLD secretary Win Maung told The Irrawaddy. “The court has not decided on whether the charges will proceed yet. It has instructed the police to investigate those connected with the case within the next two weeks.”

“I believe it is a targeted attack on both our party leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD. It is a politically motivated attack. We will continue to investigate and search for other accomplices.”

The materials were marked with the emblem of the Association for Protection of Race and Religion, the Buddhist nationalist organization also known by its Burmese acronym, Ma Ba Tha.

A flyer sighted by The Irrawaddy labels the NLD as an anti-natonalist organization, saying that it opposed a raft of legislation sponsored by Ma Ba Tha to restrict interfaith marriages and allowing government population control initiatives. It also accuses the NLD of seeking to annul the 1982 Burma Citizenship Law and criticizes the party for its alleged support of non-ethnic Burmese people outside of the country’s predominant Buddhist faith.

The flyer concludes with a warning not to support Suu Kyi’s party in the November general election because she is the daughter of independence hero Aung San, claiming that to do so would herald unexpected dangers to the country and the Buddhist faith.

On Thursday, the township NLD office filed a police complaint against Myaungmya locals Thiha Zaw Min and Than Aung. The latter is a ten-household administrator under the supervision of a local ward authority.

Separate complaints were filed on the same day with the township and district Election Commission offices, claiming that the materials were an unlawful distribution of campaign materials.

The Myaungmya Township Ma Ba Tha office has denied any involvement in the production and distribution of the materials, telling The Irrawaddy that those handing out the flyers were not their members.

“We are not responsible for the pamphlets,” said U Kayunika, abbot of the Arzarni Monastery and chairman of the township Ma Ba Tha branch. “On donation day, I asked some children to come and help with the ceremony. As they were waiting at the entrance, those who were distributing pamphlets asked them for help.”

“They do not know the name of the person who asked them to help distribute. But if [the NLD] insist on suing us, we can do nothing but face the charges,” he added.

Irrawaddy Division USDP secretary Aung Tin Myint said that members of his party had only attended to help with the charity drive organized by Natsin Taya Sayadaw and had no knowledge of the flyers.

The divisional chair of the NLD, Dr Myo Nyunt, said that senior members of the USDP leadership were present at the event, and the party owed an answer to the opposition.

“Pamphlets were distributed at the donation ceremony attended by top members of the USDP,” he said. “So we have reasons for our suspicions. It is their responsibility to answer for this.”

Natsin Taya Sayadaw has held meal donation drives across Burma, which are largely funded by top USDP officials and lawmakers. At a similar ceremony in nearby Kyaunggon Township last year, many USDP members were on-hand to help with cooking and marshaling attendees.

Additional reporting by San Yamin Aung in Rangoon.