A leading member of Burma’s most prominent Buddhist nationalist organisation has spoken out against an anti-Rohingya protest that took place in the central Burmese town of Pakokku in Magwe Division on Monday.
Ashin Kawthala, a Buddhist monk who is also the chairperson of the Magwe Division chapter of the Association for the Protection of Race and Religion — better known by its Burmese acronym, Ma Ba Tha — accused the roughly 1,000 protestors who gathered in the town of trying to stir up trouble.
“Our town, Pakokku, is actually a peaceful place with loving-kindness, and I think they were trying to whip up hatred in this peaceful place,” Ashin Kawthala told DVB on Monday.
“Most of the participants weren’t people from Pakokku, and the monks [leading the protest] were outsiders, too. They weren’t from Ma Ba Tha, either,” he added.
The protest was staged by a group calling itself the “Non-Party National Politics Force”, suggesting that it aimed to distance itself from the controversy surrounding Ma Ba Tha’s close association with the former ruling party, the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).
Although it was unclear who the organisers were, the protest was conducted in an orderly fashion and appeared to have been authorised.
Despite his objections to the protest, Ashin Kawthala said he didn’t have a problem with the message that it conveyed.
“While both I and the whole country agree with the notion that there are no ‘Rohingyas‘ and we don’t want them in our country, I don’t understand why they felt the need to protest to highlight the obvious,” he said.
“What I want to say is that, we have waited for 54 years, so we should be patient and wait for five more years,” he added, apparently suggesting that he expected the new government led by the National League for Democracy, which routed the USDP in last year’s elections, to recognise Ma Ba Tha’s demands for “protection of race and religion”.