Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Myanmar, Sri Lanka Buddhist hard-liners join hands

Myanmar, Sri Lanka Buddhist hard-liners join hands

Last updated: Monday, September 29, 2014 11:40 PM
Monks from Buddhist organization Bodu Bala Sena (Buddhist Power Force, BBS) listen to a speech by Ashin Wirathu at a BBS convention in Colombo on Sunday. — Reuters

COLOMBO — A hard-line Buddhist monk from Myanmar known for his anti-Muslim stance said his movement would join hands with a like-minded Sri Lankan group to “protect” Buddhists, whom he called an endangered world minority.

Ashin Wirathu, leader of 969, a fundamentalist movement, was a special invitee o. Sunday at a rally of Bodu Bala Sena, or Buddhist Power Force, a Sri Lankan group accused of instigating deadly violence against the country’s minority Muslims in June. Joining 969 could further boost an already soaring support base for Bodu Bala Sena, an ultranationalist group that has enlisted thousands of youth and Buddhist monks in just two years of existence. This, in turn, could exacerbate mistrust and tensions between Sri Lanka’s majority Sinhalese-Buddhists and its Muslims.

Politically, President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s credibility among Muslims stands to erode further after his government allowed Wirathu to visit Sri Lanka despite opposition from Muslim groups, including his own allies.

Rajapaksa is already under criticism for not taking action against Buddhist monks whose inflammatory speeches are blamed for anti-Muslim violence in June that killed two people and wounded dozens, and saw many shops and homes set on fire in three western towns.

“Buddhists are a world minority. If we don’t protect this small group, remember, it will be the end of the Buddhists,” Wirathu said. Sri Lankan Muslim groups urged the government not to allow Wirathu to visit the country, warning it could lead to religious tensions. However, in his speech, Wirathu thanked Rajapaksa for granting him a visa despite “attempts of sabotage by extremists.” — AP