NLD ‘Will Not Take Ma Ba Tha Demands Seriously’

By Htet Naing Zaw 8 July 2016

NAYPYIDAW — Win Htein, spokesperson for the National League for Democracy (NLD), said that the party will not take seriously a demand by ultra-nationalist monks that the government punish a regional minister for recent remarks criticizing their hardline Buddhist group.

The Association for the Protection of Race and Religion—better known by its Burmese acronym “Ma Ba Tha”—on Thursday called for action to be taken by the country’s ruling NLD leadership against the Rangoon Chief Minister Phyo Min Thein—also an NLD member—for deeming the hardline organization “not necessary.”

In their statement released on the same day, Ma Ba Tha said they would send also their request to longtime NLD patron Tin Oo.

“Regarding that case, we only have the attitude of making big problems smaller, and making small problems none. We don’t take it too seriously. We won’t take it seriously just because of their demands,” Win Htein, one of the party’s central executive committee members, told the reporters in Naypyidaw on Friday evening.

He said that the NLD’s policy is not to mix religion and politics. For the time being, he added, the NLD’s primary focus is to smooth the political, economic and peace processes prioritized by State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi. Win Htein described all other issues as “trivial” matters.

“We have no reason to respond to [those] who usually say terribly nasty things on Facebook. We won’t put those things into our minds while Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is moving forward shrewdly,” Win Htein said, referring to Ma Ba Tha leader Wirathu, a monk known for his anti-Muslim stance and public statements which have been criticized by rights groups as hate speech.

Burma’s 2008 Constitution forbids the abuse of religion for political purposes, he pointed out. If Ma Ba Tha abides by the law, Win Htein explained, issues will be settled under the law; if Ma Ba Tha fails to abide by the law, local authorities will be called in to regulate the group, he added.