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Burma’s top Buddhist body vows to keep Ma Ba Tha hard-liners in check

Supporters of Burma (Myanmar) nationalist groups, including Buddhist monks, clap in support of preserving a constitutional clause barring Aung San Suu Kyi, the popular leader of the country's new ruling party, from becoming head of state, in Yangon, Burma, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016. Pic: AP

June 7, 2016

BURMA’s top Buddhist authority has vowed to monitor the activities of the hard-line Ma Ba Tha group.

State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee general secretary U Sandi Marbhivamsa said the Ma Ba Tha should comply with the set of guidelines prepared by the committee.

“Some of Ma Ba Tha’s ideas are aligned partially with those of Mahana [the Sangha, or monk community] because they are under our guidance. But some Ma Ba Tha members are intense on religion and race and go against the committee’s stance,” he was quoted as saying in the Myanmar Times.

The prominent monk said although no action had been taken against any Ma Ba Tha members due to weak implementation of regulations, authorities can take action against them.

The announcement by the Sangha was made several hours after Ma Ba Tha leaders sent support letters to protesters staging a demonstration against the use of the term “Rohingya” to describe the stateless Muslims from Rakhine state.

Nationalist protesters in Mawlamyine in Mon State had gathered on Strand Road bearing anti-Rohingyan posters.

Protest leader Ko Than Zaw said: “We are protesting to show the new government that we are against the use of the term ‘Rohingya’ instead of ‘Bengali’”.

An estimated 1,000 people attended the nationalist protest on Friday, which Ko said was not organised by any particular group or party.

During a third anniversary gathering today, the Ma Ba Tha monks vowed to continue protecting race and religion under the new government.

They also want to maintain the fight against citizenship for those who self-identify as Muslim Rohingya.

Organisation chair U Tilawka Bhivamsa told a crowd of 1,000 monks and followers that they must focus on uniting 135 recognised ethnic groups of Burma.

“Whatever the party and whoever the president is running the government, Ma Ba Tha shall protect nationalism for future generations,” he said.

At the event, U Tilawka also raised the Rohingya issue: “I heard now the Myanmar government has stopped building the border fence in Rakhine State due to a lack of funding under the current budget. We must support its completion if the current government can’t implement the needs of the country’s security.”

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