‘Patriotic Monks Union’ Interrogates Shwedagon Vendor Over Origin of Goods

By The Irrawaddy 22 July 2016

RANGOON — The Board of Trustees for Rangoon’s Shwedagon Pagoda told The Irrawaddy on Friday that they received a complaint from a group of Buddhist monks claiming that an on-site vendor was selling religious goods supplied by a non-Buddhist wholesaler, an act which does not violate any existing regulations.

The complaint was filed following an incident on Wednesday, in which eight monks—identifying themselves as belonging to the Patriotic Buddhist Monks Union—interrogated the shop owner, named Sandar, and inspected her stall to see whether she was selling religious goods purchased from a non-Buddhist distributor, according to a report by local newspaper The Voice.

Htun Aung Ngwe, chief of the office for the Board of Trustees, told The Irrawaddy that Shwedagon Pagoda has no restrictions regarding from whom vendors can purchase their wholesale religious goods to sell on-site.

Central Ma Ba Tha Online Media, which claims to be a mouthpiece of the ultranationalist Association for the Protection of Race and Religion—better known by its Burmese acronym Ma Ba Tha—published a statement on Thursday saying that Ma Ba Tha had no connection to the incident.

Last April, monks from the Patriotic Buddhist Monks Union threatened Muslim vendors, ordering them not to sell items near the Shwedagon Pagoda. The monks seized their goods and demanded they send letters to the police and local authorities stating that they would close their shops around the pagoda in the future.

Shwedagon Pagoda is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Burma. It has received nearly 30,000 foreign visitors in June alone, according to figures on the pagoda’s official website.