Ma Ba Tha finished its month-long celebration of the government’s signing of the religious protection laws with a special guest defending the group’s actions, widely viewing as straying into the political arena.
“When monks campaign to protect race and religion, people say they are doing politics. Some say monks cross the line. Don’t get irritated by those declarations. If you are irritated, you will get into trouble. You will lose,” said Sayadaw Ashin Nyanissara, commonly known as Sitagu Sayadaw.
“However, I don’t mean monks should get involved in politics. I mean we monks watch the condition of this country with patience and with care. We should help in changing social injustice to social justice. We should also help in social welfare. But, we should avoid politics. This I request respectfully to all of you,” he told thousands of supporters who packed out the large Thuwanna Stadium, spilling out into the halls, with those outside following the speech on a large screen.
Sitagu Sayadaw said monks needed to do more than social welfare.
“Please also do social welfare. In this time, we monks only work for religious issues, this is not enough these days. But only doing social things and not trying anything [to support] religion, our religion will be relinquished. Try to find a balance.”
The respected monk was speaking on October 4, at the end of what Ma Ba Tha had proclaimed as a month of special celebration for the passing of the highly contentious ‘Protection of Race and Religion Bills’ that rights groups claim are discriminatory to followers of Islam and women.
Sitagu Sayadaw told followers that they should not focus their energy on their loved ones or enemies, rather they should instead “try to avoid these two extremes just as Buddha preached and work for the interest of our countrymen.”
He suggested to the tens of thousands of followers not to “over speed” or overdo their efforts to support their religion.
He alluded to old laws which no longer exist, notably the ‘The Pali University and Dhammacariya Act’ of 1950. The act paved the way for the construction of 22 constituent colleges and 114 Dhammacariyas (teachers) in country.
Protection of race and religion you would need this act and other reinstated, he said.
Ma Ba Tha set out a month ago from Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon carrying out celebrations in a journey around Myanmar. Critics claim the Ma Ba Tha is delving into politics, claiming they are encouraging voters to support the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party.