Myanmar Buddhist body 'bans' ultra-nationalist monks

Hard-line group Ma Ba Tha 'told to end activities or face prosecution'
Myanmar Buddhist body 'bans' ultra-nationalist monks

Buddhist monks walk in procession to collect alms in Yangon in this Jan. 17 photo. Myanma's Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee has banned hard-line monk group Ma Ba Tha, according to reports. (Photo by Ye Aung Thu/AFP)

May 25, 2017
A government-appointed body that regulates Myanmar's Buddhist clergy has banned an ultra-nationalist monk organization known for its anti-Islamic rhetoric, according to media reports, ordering the group to disband or face punishment under both Buddhist and secular law.

The Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee (Ma Ha Na), a group of high-ranking monks that serves as Myanmar's Buddhist authority, informed government ministries on May 23 that it had ordered the hard-line group Ma Ba Tha to end its activities, according to a document obtained by Agence France-Presse.

"People, either as individuals or as a group, cannot take any actions under the name of Ma Ba Tha," the Sangha said in its statement, which also directed Ma Ba Tha to take down its posters and signboards around the country by July 15, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported.

According to a report by Frontier Myanmar, the Sangha's statement also warned that any breach of its edict would lead to punishment under Buddhist law and be referred to the Ministry of Home Affairs for "immediate" prosecution.

Ma Ba Tha representatives agreed to "obey [those decisions] exactly and inform other monks" in the group, Frontier said, citing the statement.

Thawparka, a leading member of the Ma Ba Tha Steering Committee, told RFA's Myanmar Service that his organization is still determining how to respond to the order.

"We have to review the Ma Ha Na decision and discuss our future plans," he said.

"We will let the country know what we decide."

Thawparka added that the Ma Ba Tha's fourth anniversary conference scheduled for May 27-28 had been canceled.

Myanmar has seen frequent outbreaks of religious violence in recent years amid tensions stoked by hard-line groups such as Ma Ba Tha.

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