RANGOON — Ultra-nationalist monk U Wirathu said he will attend another conference of Buddhist monks in Rangoon on Thursday in order to garner support for a controversial draft law that would put restrictions on interfaith marriages in Burma.
The Mandalay-based monk told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that he had been reworking his proposal and petitioning the public to support the bill.
“This final draft is much more balanced… We even have collected signatures from people. Lawmakers from Parliament will accept our final draft when they see the signatures from the people,” he claimed.
Earlier this month, on June 13-14, about 200 monks convened at a monastery on Rangoon’s outskirts to discuss the ongoing tensions between Burma’s Buddhist majority and its Muslim minority, which have claimed more than 200 lives during the past year.
At the time, U Wirathu sought support from the Sangha for the draft law, which would require any Buddhist woman seeking to marry a Muslim man to first gain permission from her parents and local government officials. It also requires any Muslim man who marries a Buddhist woman to convert to Buddhism.
The proposal created a firestorm of reactions and was criticized for violating basic human rights. Women’s groups have since announced that they would campaign against the draft law on interfaith marriage.
The monks who organized the conference quickly distanced themselves from the proposal on June 14, although they had held a joint press conference with U Wirathu a day earlier.
On Tuesday, the firebrand monk declined to discuss the criticism of his previous draft, adding, “Though after the release of our final draft at this [upcoming] conference, anyone can criticize it if it would still contain rights violations.”
U Wirathu claimed the latest draft was the solution for Burma’s sectarian tensions and would gain support from the approximately 500 monks that are expected to attend the conference.
“If we can ratify this law, there will be no more violence in our country. Buddhist majority people cannot provoke violence against religious minorities, and minority people cannot provoke violence against the majority,” he said.
U Wirathu leads the nationwide 969 campaign, which has been accused of stirring up the inter-communal tensions. It encourages Buddhists to shun Muslims and their businesses, and to only support fellow Buddhists’ shops.
The monk is currently at the center of a controversy over Time magazine Asia’s July cover, which featured a photo of the monk with the headline “The Face of Buddhist Terror”.