09/08/2021 Myanmar (International Christian Concern) – On September 6, the Burmese Army (Tatmadaw) released the ultranationalist Buddhist monk Ashin Wirathu, after dropping all previous charges against him for no reason.
Known as the “Burmese Bin Laden” and notorious for his anti-Muslim remarks, the firebrand monk turned himself in for arrest in November 2020, after he was issued an arrest warrant for a sedition charge in July 2019. The government-appointed council at the time, Myanmar’s highest Buddhist body declared his hardline monk organization, Ma Ba Tha, an illegal association and ordered the nationwide removal of all its signage.
Wirathu’s release was confirmed by Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun, a spokesman for the Tatmadaw, though the monk is still receiving medical treatment at the Tatmadaw Hospital.
Wirathu has incited violence against religious minorities, especially Rohingya Muslims, pushing for a Buddhist nationalist view. His disbanded Ma Ba Tha also has repeatedly harassed or oppressed Christians in various parts of the country.
He was freed following General Min Aung Hlaing’s recent remarks on the establishment of a caretaker government, where Buddhist-centric ideology will be prioritized. The Tatmadaw toppled Myanmar’s democratically elected civilian government last February.
An ethnic Kachin Christian told ICC that the monk might incite new religious conflicts once he recovers and becomes active, but it is uncertain how influential he is with his followers. In the past, he was instrumental in recruiting thugs to commit religious violence. Named “Swan Arr Shin,” the members were followers of the Tatmadaw and Ma Ba Tha. Whether or not the armed gang will be re-activated remains to be seen.
For interviews, please contact Addison Parker: firstname.lastname@example.org.