Ultranationalist Sued for Hate Speech

By Zue Zue 25 May 2018

YANGON — Ultranationalist Maung Thway Chun has been sued under Section 505(b) of the Penal Code in connection with religious hate speech during Dhamma talks in March in the village of Kyauktan in Sagaing’s Mingin Township.

U Naing Naing Zaw, the deputy township administrator of Mingin Township, filed a complaint with the township court on Monday, said U Kyaw Hsan, regional lawmaker of Mingin Township.

U Wirathu, the high-profile leader of the ultranationalist religious organization better known by its Burmese acronym Ma Ba Tha, also delivered sermons during these Dhamma talks. The monk has returned to giving sermons after a one-year preaching ban against him expired in March.

Maung Thway Chun, a staunch Ma Ba Tha supporter and the chief editor of its weekly and monthly publications, delivered hate speech at these Dhamma talks.

“He spoke with disregard for the current government. His speech could mislead people and he apparently has an intention to incite a riot. So, he was sued under Section 505(b),” said U Kyaw Hsan.

In a video clip that went viral on social media, Maung Thway Chun said that although it has been only 70 years since Myanmar got independence, Myanmar will soon be subjugated again, and this time, it is bound to lose its race, religion and territory.

“The Republic of the Union of Myanmar will be changed to Myanmarnistan or Myanmarnesia,” said Maung Thway Chun, referring to Muslim-majority countries Pakistan and Indonesia.

“There won’t be Buddhism in the country, and mosques and churches will replace pagodas and temples,” he added.

He further argued that speakers in both houses of Myanmar’s legislative branch are Christians, and that the race and religion protection laws – that largely target certain Muslim religious and cultural practices – endorsed by Ma Ba Tha may be scrapped soon.

“One of the vice presidents [Henry Van Thio] is Christian. And [the government] is being instigated by Muslim Kalars,” he said, using a racial slur for those of South Asian descent often used against Muslims.

“Christians and Muslims have joined up and started a scheme to annihilate Buddhism. No, not just started, they are already implementing it. And we and Sayadaw (U Wirathu) are defending against this,” he said.

U Kyaw Hsan said it took awhile to file the lawsuit, as he had to seek the approval of the regional government.

When asked by The Irrawaddy, Maung Thway Chun said that he has not been informed about the complaint.

“Reports spread online that I have been sued. But [the court] in Sagaing’s Mingin has not notified me,” said Maung Thway Chun.

He said he would face trial if he were sued under Section 505(b), adding that what he said during the talks was not as harsh as what he wrote in Ma Ba Tha publications. He said he only talked about the reality of preventing the danger imposed by the ‘Bengalis,’ a term used by nationalists to refer to Rohingya Muslims, implying that they are interlopers from Bangladesh.

“I have time to hide if I want to. And there are many places where I can hide. I could even hide until the government’s term ends. But I won’t. I would face the trial,” he said.

Penal Code Section 505(b) states that whoever makes, publishes or circulates any statement, rumor or report, with intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, fear or alarm to the public or to any section of the public whereby any person may be induced to commit an offense against the State or against the public tranquility; shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.