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Myanmar monks switch anger from race issues to toilets

By Kyaw Ye Lynn
January 15, 2016

Ma Ba Tha accuses local newspaper of desecration for placing advert for toilet manufacturer on top of article on religious festivals

YANGON, Myanmar -- A powerful Myanmar Buddhist nationalist organization that many blame for a rise in persecution of Muslims has found a new target -- but whereas in the past it has been seen to focus on religious minorities, this time it's unhappy about a lavatory.

On Friday, Ma Ba Tha -- or the Organization for the Protection of Race and Religion -- accused a local newspaper of desecration for placing an advert for a toilet manufacturer on top of an article on religious festivals.

It urged authorities to take action and said it is planning to sue 7Day News Weekly for publishing images of pagodas alongside lavatories.

“Pagoda [a temple or sacred building] is holy place of Buddhist religion, and toilet is nefarious. So 7Day desecrated the Buddhist religion by publishing such a picture," a post on Ma Ba Tha’s Facebook said Friday evening.

"We will file a lawsuit against the newspaper,” said Tilawka, the organization's head.

Anadolu Agency was unable to reach the newspaper for comment.

Ma Ba Tha -- led by nationalist Buddhist monks -- is widely seen as a hardline religious organisation, sometimes even branded extremist.

In 2015, pressure from the organization led to the government enacting Race and Religious laws that are widely seen as designed to stop Muslims having multiple wives, large families and marrying Buddhist women.

It has become increasingly influential in Myanmar politics.

One of its most outspoken leaders, Wirathu, has been accused of provoking anti-Muslim violence with fiery sermons warning that Muslims are poised to overrun Myanmar and are an existential threat to Buddhism, the national religion.

Critics of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) claim the party refused to propose any Muslim candidates for the general election in November in order to appease the group.

The NLD, however, romped home with around 80 percent of seats that were up for grabs.

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