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Religious Affairs officials deny plans to sue Wirathu

Wirathu (PHOTO: DVB)

By Aye Nai
January 23, 2015

Officials from the government’s Religious Affairs Department in Mandalay have rejected rumours that they plan to sue controversial Buddhist monk Wirathu after he called the UN’s Special Human Rights Rapporteur Yanghee Lee a “whore”.

According to rumours circulated on social media, officials from the department visited the New Masoyein monastery in Mandalay – where Wirathu resides – on Thursday, when they informed the abbot Kethara Biwunsa of their intentions to sue the nationalist monk for his comments.

It was reported that the controversial monk, renowned for his firebrand anti-Mulsim rhetoric, was to be sued under Article 295(a): Deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings.

Wirathu was previously indicted for inciting religious hatred in 2003 and sentenced to 25 years in prison. He was freed in 2010 under a general amnesty.

Kyaw Hlaing, deputy-director of the Religious Affairs Department in Mandalay Division, said that while he and other officials did visit the monastery, they did not to talk about bringing legal action against Wirathu but discussed an upcoming Buddhist ceremony.

“We were at the monastery by invitation from the abbot to discuss an event planned for 2- 3 February to award academic monks who have passed exams,” said Kyaw Hlaing.

“We don’t have a plan to sue Wirathu as claimed by social media reports.”

In a phone interview with DVB on Friday, Wirathu said that officials were at the monastery in the morning of the day before, but that he did not know what they discussed with the abbot.

“They came to the monastery around 11:30am on Thursday – I have not yet spoken to the abbot and he has not told me anything.” said Wirathu.

“There is speculation that the officials are planning to sue me. I don’t know what they discussed because the talks were held privately,” he added.

The UN has condemned the monk’s slurs, which they alleged are sexist and insulting.

The Religious Affairs Department has been involved in some high-profile cases as religious incidents have spiralled in post-dictatorship Burma. Philip Blackwood from New Zealand is facing charges in court after being arrested for “insulting religion” and “hurting religious feelings” last year for posting on Facebook a picture of Buddha wearing headphones as part of a nightclub promotion.

Last year, Religious Affairs Minister Hsan Hsint was ousted from his position following a botched raid on the Mahasantisukha Monastery in Rangoon. He was found guilty of sedition and criminal breach of trust and sentenced to 13 years’ imprisonment.

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