27th Apr 2016
By Kyaw Ye Lynn
YANGON, (AA): One of Myanmar’s top Muslim leaders urged calm Tuesday, after he accused a militia-style monk and his disciples of trying to incite violence by building an unauthorized Buddhist structure in the shadow of a mosque in the country’s southeast.
“These are people who want to create an unstable situation [between the majority Buddhists and minority Christians and Muslims],” Tin Maung Than, secretary-general of the country’s official Muslim body, the Islamic Religious Affairs Council Myanmar, told Anadolu Agency by phone Tuesday.
“We request our people not to quarrel with them. We don’t want to see inter-communal violence anymore.”
On Monday evening, powerful Buddhist monk Thu Zana, known as Myaing Gyi Ngu Sayadaw (abbot), and his disciples constructed a stupa — a mound-like or hemispherical structure containing Buddhist relics — in Shwe Gone village in Karen State despite objections from mosque caretakers and regional government officials.
It was the second such attempt to push Buddhism in the area in the past week, after Thu Zana, the key person in the Karen Buddhist rebel group the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), built an unauthorized stupa near a Christian church.
Tin Maung Than said that during the country’s years of junta rule Sayadaw had ordered his followers to demolish a mosque with dynamite in Thakhutkone village in Karen state after Muslims refused to leave.
“We believe they don’t represent the Buddhist community [at large],” he added.
The Myanmar Times reported Tuesday that authorities in Karen state have said that they will not allow the abbot to build more stupas in compounds of other religions.
It quoted State Minister for Religious Affairs U Min Tin Win as expressing his disappointment, saying such actions could cause conflict between religious groups.
“We will not damage the Buddhist image. This issue needs to end now and we don’t want to see this anymore,” he added.
Thu Zana is widely believed to be the most powerful person in the DKBA.
The DKBA split from the predominantly Christian Karen National Union (KNU) in 1995, after Thu Zana said he planned to build several pagodas in Karen State, including one in the KNU’s headquarters.
It has since signed a cease-fire with the government in exchange for financial and military assistance, on the condition it supports government offensives against the KNU.
In 2013, communal violence between ethnic Buddhists and Muslims in Rakhine left 57 Muslims and 31 Buddhists dead, around 100,000 people displaced in camps and more than 2,500 houses burned — most of which belonged to Rohingya Muslims.