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HomeBreakingUltranationalist Buddhist monk Wirathu re-emerges in post-coup Burma

Ultranationalist Buddhist monk Wirathu re-emerges in post-coup Burma

Ashin Wirathu, a Buddhist monk banned from Facebook and jailed in Burma for spreading hate speech, held a sermon to mark the Buddhist Kathina festival in Nattalin Township’s Sinthaykone village, Bago Region, on Oct. 27. Wirathu’s sermon discussed the principles of the 969 Movement – a Buddhist ultranationalist group promoting hate toward Burma’s Muslims. It was attended by 25 locals and monks from the village and nearby areas. 

This is Wirathu’s first public appearance since being released from prison last year by the military after its coup in Burma. He was being guarded by police and Burma Army troops. Security forces even fired five times into the air to mark the ceremony, according to attendees. One local in attendance told DVB that he arrived at the village in a police car full of police and junta soldiers. 

Wirathu was spotted with another recently released prisoner, Sino-Burmese businessperson Michael Kyaw Myint, founder of the now defunct United Democratic Party, which was dissolved by the Union Election Commission (UEC) in 2020 for violating the political parties’ registration law. 

“He preaches hatred that promotes toxicity. I am now concerned because the religious conflicts have raged in places where he has preached previously,” said one local in attendance at the Kathina festival. An arrest warrant was issued for sedition after Wirathu made derogatory statements against detained National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi in 2019. He turned himself in to authorities before the 2020 elections. Charges were dropped and Wirathu was released from prison in September 2021 after serving a few months, which led some to speculate he handed himself in – after spending several months as a fugitive from justice – with the knowledge he’d be released by the military following its ouster of the civilian NLD government and arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi.

In 2013, Time Magazine featured Wirathu on its cover as “The Face of Buddhist Terror.” He was dubbed by the media as Burma’s “Buddist Bin Laden” referencing Osama bin Laden, the Saudi mastermind behind the 9-11 attacks on the U.S.

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