Myanmar’s most prominent nationalist group has condemned sedition charges brought against one of its leading members, Ashin Wirathu, after he had made defamatory remarks about State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the government.
Wirathu had previously been arrested and sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2003 for preaching ultranationalism and anti-Muslim ideas but was released in 2012. Since the defamatory remarks on the 5 May, he has been able to avoid arrest.
The Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture released a statement which read that those who do not uphold the morals of the Buddhist clergy and break the law are not worthy of the name Sayadaw (royal teacher) and do not belong to the Sangha (monkhood).
The statement further read that those involved in matters that don’t concern the religion are causing confusion and do not deserve to be called Sayadaw.
Sayadaw Ashin Ariya Wun Tha Bhiwun Sa of Myawaddy Mingyi Monastery, said that according to the Vinayas (the framework of the sangha) monks cannot have their titles removed unless they break any of the four pārājikas (cardinal sins). These are killing, stealing, having sexual intercourse, and falsely claiming attainments of pure mental concentration.
Myawaddy Mingyi Sayadaw maintains that Wirathu encouraged murderers and therefore violated these rules.
Sayadaw further stated;
“I no longer use the honorific “U” for him, let alone call him Sayadaw. He doesn’t follow human morality. It is about time the government issued this statement,”
The Buddha Dhamma Parahita Foundation, also known by the acronym Ma-Ba Tha, has rebuked the criticism of Wirathu stating that his attacks on Suu Kyi were only “positive criticism”.
Central committee member Mya Nan Sayataw read a statement which called the government’s actions "unlawful". They maintain that religious authorities are responsible for the disciplining of monks.
Over 2,300 monks and nuns, as well as 3,000 laymen, attended a two-day ceremony at a monastery in the north of Yangon where there were speeches, recitations and donations.
The nationalist group has accused the government of allowing the massing immigration of Muslims and has supported a military campaign exiling Rohingya Muslims from the country in 2017.