Myanmar anti-Islam monk says barred from Facebook


Myanmar Buddhist monk U Wirathu (R), leader of the Ma Ba Tha (969 movement), arrives at the Peace Organization of Ma Ba Tha (Patriotic Association of Myanmar) members conference in Yangon, Myanmar, 27 May 2017. Photo: Nyein Chan Naing/EPA

A Myanmar monk once dubbed the "Buddhist Bin Laden" for his extremist diatribes says he has been banned from using Facebook, as the site ramps up efforts to clamp down on hate speech.

For years firebrand preacher Wirathu has used the social network as a platform to rail against the country's embattled Muslims, comparing them to dogs and accusing them of raping and killing Buddhists.

His tirades, which have gained him hundreds of thousands of followers online, have been blamed for stoking deadly sectarian violence including riots in 2013 outside Mandalay which killed dozens of people.

But in his latest video, posted on Friday, the monk said he had been banned from using the site for 30 days for repeatedly posting content not allowed by Facebook's monitors.

"I am not sure (if I can keep using my account) as Facebook's team is in the hands of Muslims," he said in the video, put up from a different account.

"Facebook is occupied by the Muslims."

A spokesperson for the site did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The move comes at a time when Facebook is facing global pressure to clamp down on hate speech, violent threats or deliberately misleading information on posted on its platform.

Last month its monitors appeared to ban people in Myanmar from posting the word "kalar," a term often used as a slur against the country's embattled Muslim minority.

The move caused uproar online after some users said they had been blocked after writing other words that include the same sound in the Burmese alphabet, such as the word for chair.

Myanmar's government has also been seeking to stifle hate speech after a spike in anti-Muslim actions by nationalists.

Last month Myanmar's top Buddhist authority officially banned the ultra-nationalist Ma Ba Tha movement to which Wirathu belongs, which responded by simply changing their name.

Censors have also banned a documentary on festering religious tensions between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state from an upcoming film festival for fear it could stoke tensions.

© AFP

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