Ultranationalist Ma Ba Tha movement banned for spreading ethnic-religious hatred
The decision was made by Myanmar’s Buddhist authority the Sangha Maha Nayaka,. The movement forced to remove its flags and banners by July 15th. Wirathu, a prominent monk in the organization, was banned from giving sermons for a year. The army rejects the allegations of ethnic cleansing launched by the United Nations.
Yangon (AsiaNews / Agencies) - An organ of the Burmese government governing the Buddhist clergy in Myanmar has banned an organization of ultra-nationalist monks known for its anti-Islamic rhetoric, ordering the group to dissolve or face the penalties established by Buddhist and secular law.
According to a document found by the media, the Sangha Maha Nayaka (Ma Ha Na) Committee, a group of high ranking monks acting as Myanmar's Buddhist authority, on May 23 informed the government ministers who had ordered the extremist group Ma Ba says to put an end to its activities.
"People, both as individuals and as a group, cannot take any action under the name of Ma Ba Tha," Sangha said in his report. The Ma Ba Tha movement is also required to remove its flags and banners throughout the country by July 15th.
Extremist group members report that Ma Ba Tha's fourth anniversary conference, scheduled for 27 and 28 May, has been cancelled. An official statement of the movement says a meeting will be held in place to discuss the Sangha decision.
In recent years Myanmar has experienced frequent waves of religious violence following tensions sparked by extremist groups such as Ma Ba Tha. One of the last incidents occurred on May 9 in a Yangon district, where Ma Ba Tha monks claimed some Rohingya Muslims were being illegally hidden. Following a violent confrontation between Buddhists and Muslims, two people were injured and the police fired warning shots to disperse the crowd.
Sangha's decision to ban the Ma Ba Tha came several weeks after it also banned Wirathu, a prominent monk in the ultranationalist organization, from giving sermons for a year. His incitement to hatred against religions other than Buddhism is seen as a cause of ethnic conflict and an obstacle to common efforts to maintain the rule of law. Since then, the monk made several appearances in front of crowds with a gagged mouth, in protest against the silence imposed by the authorities, and recently arranged a controversial visit to the state of Rakhine, in western Myanmar, which is home to the Muslim Rohingya minority.
The Buddhist majority in Myanmar considers the Rohingya, a stateless ethnic group of 1.1 million people, illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh, and for decades government policies have denied them citizenship and other fundamental rights.
The news of the ban imposed by Sangha came as the Myanmar army yesterday rejected the charges, launched by a United Nations report in February, that it had conducted ethnic cleansing on the Rohingya in Rakhine State. Even Myanmar's civilian government, led by Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, denied allegations of violations of rights against Rohingya and refused to authorize a UN investigative commission in the State of Rakhine.