Three US State Department officials met with Buddhist monks at Mandalay’s Masoeyein Monastery yesterday to discuss sectarian tensions in Arakan state and last week’s crackdown at the Latpadaung Copper Mine in Sagaing division.
According to Abbot Ottama at the Masoyein Monastery, the US State Department’s Southeast Asia Director Ike Reed along with Consular Douglas Sonnek met with influential monks, including Wirathu, and Latpadaung protest leaders Aye Nat and Thwe Thwe Win, who were briefly detained in September.
“They discussed the situations in Arakan and the Latpadaung for about three hours. I can only say this much but can’t provide further details,” said Ottama.
The US State Department’s decision to include Wirathu at the meeting has yet to be explained. Wirathu made headlines in September for leading thousands of Buddhists monks in street demonstrations in Mandalay where he publicly supported Thein Sein’s plan to deport the Rohingya.
According to a report in the AFP, Wirathu claimed to have organised the demonstration to “let the world know that Rohingya are not among [Burma]‘s ethnic groups at all”.
The talks were hosted at Masoeyein Monastery, which is one of the more influential and politically active monasteries in Mandalay.
The monastery is now providing assistance to monks who were injured, including to those who sustained severe burns, during last week’s crackdown where government forces are believed to have used incendiary devices and water cannons to disperse protestors at the Latpadaung Copper Mine.
Journalists were allowed to briefly photograph the talks, but did not attend the closed-door meeting.