Updated: September 07, 2021 05:22 AM GMT
Buddhist monk Ashin Wirathu is said to have close links to the junta. (Photo: AFP)
Ultranationalist Buddhist monk Ashin Wirathu, notorious for his anti-Muslim rhetoric, has been released from prison by Myanmar’s military junta.
He was released on Sept. 6 after the military government dropped all charges against him without giving any reasons but was still receiving treatment at a military hospital, according to local media reports citing the junta’s spokesperson.
No further information was available about the monk, who is said to have close links to the junta, though he had complained about ill-treatment while in prison in a video released on social media.
Wirathu was dubbed the “Burmese Bin Laden” and charged under the sedition law in 2019 for making speeches criticizing ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) government.
He had been on the run and an arrest warrant was posted at his monastery in the northern city of Mandalay on July 9, 2019. He turned up at a police station in Yangon in November 2020 after being on the run for 18 months and had been awaiting trial since then.
Wirathu, a leader of the now-defunct ultranationalist Buddhist group Ma Ba Tha, is known to spew hate against religious minorities, especially Muslims, in the Southeast Asian nation of around 54 million, where the Rohingya Muslim people have been persecuted by Buddhist mobs and the military.
He was barred from giving sermons for one year in March 2017 due to his hate speech and banned from Facebook
His brand of extreme Buddhist nationalism and anti-Muslim rhetoric fuelled riots nationwide in 2013 and 2014.
He was barred from giving sermons for one year in March 2017 due to his hate speech and banned from Facebook in January 2018 because of incendiary posts.
Since 2018, he had shifted from anti-Muslim rhetoric and adopted a pro-military stance, targeting Suu Kyi and her civilian government.
Myanmar descended into political and economic turmoil following the military coup on Feb. 1 that sparked mass protests. More than 1,040 people have been killed and at least 7,000 detained by the junta since then.
The National Unity Government (NUG) in exile formed by ousted lawmakers, activists and ethnic groups has strongly condemned the hostile acts of the junta, which continues to kill, arrest and torture civilians in major cities and rural areas.
NUG acting president Duwa Lashi La announced on Sept. 7 that the people’s “resistance war” against the junta had started and urged the public to revolt against the coup led by Min Aung Hlaing.
The military offensive in ethnic minority areas can result in “a major humanitarian crisis and millions of civilian population will face a situation where they will be forced to leave their homes,” the NUG said in a statement on Sept. 5.
Hundreds of thousands of terrified Rohingya refugees have fled the ethnic violence in their home country to Bangladesh and other neighboring Asian countries since August 2017.