Young Men’s Buddhist Association Bestows Title on Myanmar Military Chief

By Htet Naing Zaw 7 October 2019

NAYPYITAW—Commander-in-Chief of Defense Services Senior General Min Aung Hlaing received the title “Mingala Dhamma Jotikadaja” from the Young Men’s Buddhist Association (YMBA) in Yangon on Monday.

“The title is Mingala Dhamma Jotikadaja. What’s more important is he has also been given the honor of serving as the standing patron of the YMBA,” said military spokesperson Brigadier-General Zaw Min Tun.

The military chief has a lot of experience in administration and military service and will be even better able to serve the country in his capacity as the YMBA’s permanent patron, he told The Irrawaddy.

According to the letter sent by the YMBA to the Myanmar military (or Tatmadaw), the title was conferred on the military chief because of his efforts to protect and promote Buddhism, and what it said was his constant engagement in the national peace process.

The letter also praised him for his efforts to modernize the Myanmar military, and described the senior general as a humane leader who protects the lives and property of Myanmar’s people, regardless of race or religion.

The YMBA was founded in Yangon in 1906 as a federation of lay Buddhist groups to preserve the Buddhist-based culture in Myanmar against the backdrop of British colonialism, including the incorporation of Myanmar into British India.

It was one of the key organizations that contributed to the growth of nationalism in Myanmar during colonial rule. However, since independence, it has mainly engaged in the promotion of Buddhism.

In August and September, the military chief made donations to non-Buddhist religious communities in Yangon, Mandalay and Naypyitaw.

Skeptics suggest the military chief’s donations were made to placate his international critics, but the Tatmadaw spokesperson said the donations were aimed at building political, social and religious cohesion among followers of different faiths in the country.

The donations came amid mounting international pressure to have Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing tried at the International Criminal Court for human rights violations committed against Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim community. More than 700,000 Rohingya fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh to escape the Tatmadaw’s clearance operations against Rohingya insurgents in northern Rakhine State in 2017.

The US has imposed sanctions on Myanmar’s military leaders, including Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing, barring them and their families from entering the country.

During his donation tours, the military chief stressed the need for unity in promoting stability and the rule of law, warning that incitement of racial and religious tension would fuel conflict and political instability in the country.