U Wirathu Claims Facebook Blocked His Accounts

By Lawi Weng 12 June 2017

Myanmar’s ultranationalist Buddhist monk U Wirathu claimed Facebook temporarily shut down his account in a video shared on another Facebook account last Friday.

“On May 31 [Facebook] said they would shut down the account for a month, after sending a report,” he said, adding that he had not posted anything that violated Facebook policy.

A screenshot of Friday’s video displayed a report sent by Facebook saying the account was temporarily blocked for 30 days as the account holder had repeatedly made posts, which were not allowed on Facebook.

The account had almost 400,000 followers.

“I did not write the names of people on my Facebook,” said the firebrand monk in the video. “I did not post any personal attacks, I only wrote simple things, but they shut it down,” he said.

U Wirathu, a prominent member of ultranationalist organization Ma Ba Tha known for his anti-Muslim hate speech, spuriously accused Facebook of falling under the control of Muslims.

Another of his accounts under the name Ma Soe Yein Wira Thu in Myanmar language with 70,000 followers was allegedly also shut down.

“I got a report saying they would close it for a week. But, I found later that they destroyed it completely,” he said in the video.

The National League for Democracy-led government has sought to curb hate speech by U Wirathu and other Ma Ba Tha members. In March, the Buddhist authority State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee, known as Ma Ha Na, banned U Wirathu from delivering sermons across the country for one year.

Last month, Ma Ha Na imposed restrictions on Ma Ba Tha, banning the organization from operating under its current name and ordering that their signboards be taken down across the country by July.

It was the second blow by the Buddhist cleric authority after its announcement last year that Ma Ba Tha was not a “lawful monks’ association” as “it was not formed in accordance with the country’s monastic rules.”

Late last month, Facebook seemed to impose a ban on the word “kala,” which originally was used to describe those of South Asian descent but has increasingly been used as a derogatory term for Muslims.