Hours before authorities decided to shutter four Islamic schools in Thaketa, controversial monk U Wirathu was part of a 100-strong crowd that attended a trial for nationalist protesters in Kamaryut.
Mirza Ghalib, Staff Repoeter, Arakan Watch
3 May, 2017
Buddhist nationalist group allegedly supervised by the leader of the fundamentalist Monk group MA Ba Ta (also known as 969) Mr. Wirathu, has sealed two Islamic schools (madrasas) un-noticed near downtown Rangoon at Thaketa Township’s Anawmar 1 ward on last Friday 28 April.
These institutions were shut down on the allegation of operating them as place of worship instead of schools, without official permission. Residents in the area said the religious buildings were shut down without any official decree. They claimed that the shut down done in the presence of police and city officials on-site.There are about 1,000 students in these schools, The schools had permission to act as an education and religious site since they had been established.
The closure came just hours after the first hearing in the trial of several prominent nationalist leaders. Hours before authorities decided to shutter four Islamic schools in Thaketa, controversial monk U Wirathu was part of a 100-strong crowd that attended a trial for nationalist protesters in Kamaryut. It is clear and evidenced that the incident in Thaketa was instigated by external actors. Most of the people in town seem to think the incident resulted from a dispute between local Buddhists and Muslims in Thaketa,
An Eyewitness said to the reporters that the police did not allow representatives of the media within the vicinity of the buildings as they were being sealed off, saying that they intended to prevent further conflict. A videographer belongings to Associated Press—Ko Min Kyi Thein—was reportedly attacked by the nationalists during reporting at the place incidence.
The incident in a chronological timeline sequence is presented here to enable Arakan Watch readers to be comprehened the real scenario and to identify the vilenes at back of the scene.
“Clerks at Kamaryut Township Court confirmed that the first hearing in the trial of several monks and laypeople facing a charge under section 505(b) of the Penal Code for staging a protest outside the United States embassy in Yangon on April 28, 2016, would be heard that day by Township Judge Daw Thanda Shin.
The charge relates to making, publishing or circulating any statement, rumour or report “with intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, fear or alarm to the public or to any section of the public whereby any person may be induced to commit an offence against the state or against public tranquility.”
Those facing court include: U Nyarna Dhamma, chair of the Patriotic Myanmar Monks Union; U Thu Saitta, PMMU secretary; U Parmaukkha, the head monk of Magway Monastery; and nationalist activists Ko Win Ko Ko Latt, Ko Naing Win Tun, Ko Thet Myo Oo and Ko Nay Win Aung.
It is the second charge they have been hit with as a result of the protest, which was related to the Rohingya issue in Rakhine State. They are also facing trial for allegedly violating section 19 of the Right to Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law.
Supporters of the defendants began gathering at the court around 9am.
More than 100 monks and laypeople, many dressed in white shirts and longyis, arrived at the court. Soon after, controversial monk U Wirathu arrived and was cheered by the group.
Ko Sai Zaw Thike , a photographer for 7Day newspaper, tried to take a photo of Wirathu, but was pushed and shouted at. He moved away and sat at a nearby teashop, where about half a dozen people from the protesting group approached him and questioned him in an aggressive manner. Wirathu then walked away from the court, towards a nearby monastery.
Judge Thanda Shin began the trial at 2pm. All those facing charges were present, except Parmaukkha. Unlike in other trials, the judge did not sit at the bench, but instead removed her shoes and stood where the lawyers usually stand. She explained the case to the defendants in a gentle manner, then said that she was moving to a new posting in Nay Pyi Taw and that a new judge would oversee the trial. The hearing was postponed until May 12.
Nyarna Dhamma and Thu Saitta said it was “oppression” to charge them, and that anyone who sought to lay charges against monks must first get permission from the township branch of the Sangha Nayaka, which regulates the clergy. They claimed that any judge who accepted a case against monks without seeking permission from the authority was neglecting the law. The judge responded in a gentle tone and said she would act according to the law.
One of the monks present told reporters to make sure they write accurately about the trial.
The protesters applauded and cheered the defendants as they left the court.
Wirathu then walked back to the court from the monastery with a black mask covering his mouth – a protest against a recent decision by the State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee to ban him from delivering speeches for one year. When he arrived at a car that was waiting to transport him, he removed the mask to reveal black and red tape over his mouth and raised an arm above his head in apparent triumph. The crowd cheered and began singing “Nationalism must win”.
After the defendants left the court, reporters heard members of the group saying they would travel to Anawmar ward. Win Ko Ko Latt, a defendant and one of the country’s best-known nationalist activists, told Frontier that he wasn’t part of the group travelling to Anawmar and that he didn’t know who the leader was.
Members of the protesting group left Kamaryut and began arriving at the General Administration Department office in Anawmar 1 Ward, Thaketa Township. Three monks and other members of the group then spoke to a local GAD official and demanded that Islamic schools in the ward be shut down, saying the schools could be used for education, but not for praying.
The argument was led by a monk who arrived in a car with yellow-coloured number plates – for cars registered by religious institutions – and a sticker for a monastery named as “Taung Thar Lay”. There were about 100 monks and laypeople present.
The GAD officer told the group that he did not have the authority to close the schools. The crowd then grew bigger and the administrator said he would report the complaint to his superiors.
The administrator and a police officer arrived at the GAD office to meet the group. Soon after, a monk known to be the general secretary of the local township monk authority also arrived.
The group then removed all media from the GAD office, but videos shared on social media show the monk from the local township trying to negotiate with the group, telling them that the matter should be dealt with systematically in collaborating with other religious leaders. But the protesters were insistent that the schools be closed immediately. Police Colonel Myo Swe and more members of the protesting group arrived at the office.
Ko Min Kyi Thein, a broadcast journalist for Associated Press, began taking footage at the front of the administration office and asking questions. The group responded that the media is not reliable and an argument followed.
Min Kyi Thein then addressed a monk in a manner that is supposed to be used for laypeople – in Myanmar, it is respectful to address a monk in a different manner than laypeople – and was shouted at. He was then hit with an umbrella by one group member, and kicked by another. Then unrest occurred and the police intervened, blocking off media access to the administration office.
U Wai Phyo Aung, the NLD’s Lower House MP for Thaketa Township, arrived at the office and news emerged that a decision had been made to close the four Islamic schools in the ward: those at Anawmar East 4th Street, West 7th Street, West 11th Street and East 12th Street. Police prevented media from taking footage of them shutting the schools.
The schools were closed by 7pm and a group of Muslim residents complained about the decision to Dr. Wai Phyo Aung, the National League for Democracy lawmaker who represents the township. He denied to comment to the reporters on the situation before an official anouncement came out.
Muslims in the neighborhood said they were worried that the remaining Islamic institutions would be sealed off any time.
[Source: Different local media in Rangoon]