Myanmar & COVID-19

Eight Cases Opened Over Religious Gatherings for Violating COVID-19 Restrictions: Govt

By Thiha Lwin 12 June 2020

NAYPYITAW—The Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture has opened eight cases against people who organized religious gatherings in violation of the government’s ban on mass gatherings, said Deputy Minister U Kyi Min at a press conference in Naypyitaw on Wednesday.

The Myanmar President’s Office imposed a ban on mass gatherings in April to curb the spread of COVID-19. The ban remains in effect until June 15. The Ministry of Health and Sports has also requested that citizens not organize public events and avoid gathering in groups of more than four people.

“So far we have opened eight cases over religious gatherings,” said the deputy minister.

The cases were opened regarding a communal donation ceremony in Sagaing Region’s Khin-U Township, the funeral of an influential Buddhist monk in Tanintharyi Region’s Yebyu Township, Buddhist events in Mon State, Islamic prayer gatherings in Mandalay’s Chanmyathazi and Meiktila townships and against Christian pastor Saw David Lah in Yangon.

Twelve of the 14 Muslims who gathered to pray at a mosque in Chanmyathazi Township in April were already given three months in prison for violating the government’s ban.

But in the case of the funeral of a Buddhist monk in Yebyu in April, over 200 people reportedly attended the funeral. A case was opened against the lead Buddhist disciples, who were fined 100,000 kyats (US$70.89). In one of the cases in Mon State, the violator was sentenced to nine months in prison.

Though the ministry has opened cases against violators of different faiths, it did not take action when Yangon Region Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein and his cabinet members attended a Buddhist religious event at the riverside Botahtaung Pagoda in Yangon on May 24.

Although the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture directly manages the Shwedagon Pagoda, the most sacred Buddhist site in Myanmar, Botahtaung Pagoda is under the management of the Yangon regional government, according to Deputy Minister U Kyi Min.

“The regional government does not need to report its activities to us, and the President’s Office has not asked for our remarks,” he said. The President’s Office has asked the Yangon chief minister to explain the gathering.

As of Friday morning, Myanmar has reported 261 COVID-19 cases, with six deaths and 165 recoveries.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.

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