Prominent Myanmar Monk Denied Bail on Incitement Charges For Anti-Rohingya Protest

UPDATED at 2:10 P.M. EST on 2017-11-21

A Myanmar court on Tuesday denied bail to an ultranationalist Buddhist abbot arrested on charges of inciting unrest for his participation in an anti-Rohingya protest outside the U.S. embassy in Yangon last year, one of the monk’s relatives said.

Parmaukkha, a prominent monk from the nationalist Buddhist group Ma Ba Tha, has been charged under section 505(b) of the country’s Penal Code and Article 19 of the Peaceful Assembly Act for participating in an anti-Rohingya protest on April 28, 2016, said family member Aung Mying.

Section 505(b) pertains to sedition, and section 19 covers unlawful assembly and protesting without a permit.

Parmaukkha was among a group of about 300 hardline monks and nationalists who publicly excoriated the United States for using the term “Rohingya” to refer to the stateless Muslim ethnic minority group that has long lived in western Myanmar, despite the Buddhist majority’s view that they are illegal “Bengali” immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh.

A recent brutal military crackdown targeting the Rohingya in northern Rakhine state has driven more than 600,000 Muslims across the border into Bangladesh.

“His lawyers have applied to try to bail him out,” said Aung Mying. “He was granted bail for Section 19 after two people deposited one million kyats [U.S. $728] each, but not for Section 505(b) because bail cannot be granted under this section.”
“The judge can help us to appeal in higher courts, and he is helping us,” he said.

Police issued an arrest warrant for Parmaukkha because he did not report to the police station after he was charged. They also issued arrest warrants for two other monks, Thusaitta and Nyarna Dhamma, for participating in the same protest.
Parmaukkha was arrested on Sunday at North Dagon Police Station in Yangon where he was applying for permission to protest against a land-grabbing case.

Though hardline monks are rarely punished for their views and actions in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, Parmaukkha was charged at Kamaryut Township Police Station for his role in protesting outside the U.S. embassy to denounce the American government’s use of the term “Rohingya” in a statement it had issued on Apr. 20, Aung Mying said.

The protesters had received permission to protest at Boseinhyman stadium in Bahan township, but decided to march instead.

“The U.S. embassy should take care using such controversial terms,” Pamaukkha said when interviewed during the April 2016 protest.

“They used the term Rohingya instead of Bengalis – illegal immigrants from Bangladesh,” he said using a derogatory terms for the Rohingya.

“International diplomats should study Myanmar’s history,” he said at the time. “I want to declare something here to all foreign countries through the U.S. embassy that there is no such ethnicity as Rohingya in our country.”

Parmaukkha along with the notorious monk Wirathu have been leaders in promulgating anti-Muslim sentiment in Myanmar that has sparked ethnic and religious tensions, resulting in violence between Buddhist and Muslim communities.
Parmaukkha’s next court hearing is scheduled for Nov. 21.

Reported by Aung Thein Kha for RFA's Myanmar Service Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin