Mandalay Ma Ba Tha to Defy Govt Ban

By Zarni Mann 11 July 2017

MANDALAY — The Mandalay sub-chapter of the Association for the Protection of Race and Religion – known by its Myanmar acronym Ma Ba Tha – announced on Monday that it would continue to use the name and would not remove signboards in defiance of a State Buddhist Sangha authority ban.

“We will not let anyone touch the name Ma Ba Tha,” U Wirathu, a leading nationalist monk and signatory of Monday’s announcement, told The Irrawaddy.

“We will protect [the association] and we can assure that Ma Ba Tha will not be a threat to the stability and security of the country’s sovereignty,” he said.

If the state Buddhist Sangha authority continued to pressure the group or forcibly removed signboards, the government would have to “face the consequences,” according to the statement.

“If [the government] cracks down on us, it will be breaking the association acts stated in the Constitution,” said U Wirathu.

Last month, the Karen State Ma Ba Tha chapter issued a similar statement, threatening legal action against anyone removing its signboards.

Since its founding in 2014, Ma Ba Tha has become infamous for its hardline anti-Muslim stance and inflaming of religious tensions.

In May, the State Buddhist Sangha authority – also known by its Myanmar acronym Ma Ha Na – announced a ban on the association using its name and ordered all signboards to be removed by July.

Senior abbots of Ma Ba Tha’s central committee signed the ban.

After a two-day meeting with members from across the country in late May, the association released an announcement that it would “no longer use [the name] Ma Ba Tha, but would go by the Buddha Dhamma Charity Foundation,” rebranding itself as a charity group.