NAYPYITAW—Police have been combing Yangon since Wednesday evening in search of ultranationalist monk U Wirathu.
“We heard that he is in Yangon and we are searching for him. We heard that he used a different car, and not his own one, to go to Ywama Sayadaw [a Buddhist monk in Yangon’s Insein Township. We are verifying it,” a lieutenant colonel of the Myanmar Police Force confirmed to The Irrawaddy on condition of anonymity.
The Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture established a case against the firebrand monk for his nasty remarks about State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
Deputy administrator of Yangon Region Western District U Hsan Min filed a lawsuit against the monk for sedition under Article 124 (a) of the Penal Code. Following his complaint, local police in Mandalay went to the monk’s monastery in Maha Aung Myay Township Wednesday evening, but did not find him.
The monk told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday morning by phone that he was in Yangon and would give himself up to the police.
He said he was summoned by the Yangon Region State Sangha Nayaka Committee on May 22 to attend its office in Shwedagon Pagoda on May 30. The Yangon Region State Sangha Nayaka Committee, he said, was instructed by the State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee (SSMNC), the highest Buddhist authority in Myanmar, to rebuke him as a means of disciplinary action.
The Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture in its statement issued on Wednesday evening said the SSMNC’s disciplinary action has been suspended, but did not clarify the reason for the move.
Lawyer U Kyee Myint has questioned the rule of law, criticizing the police for their inability to arrest someone as well-known as U Wirathu. U Aung Win Khaing, the mastermind behind the assassination of National League for Democracy’s constitutional lawyer U Ko Ni is still at large too, he said.
“I think Sayadaw (U Wirathu) has run away boldly. If he hands himself in, his political role will be over. It will remain if he goes into hiding. [Fleeing] risks his dignity but it would be better than being arrested and jailed,” said the lawyer.