Rohingya Muslims

Ultra-nationalist Myanmar monk denied bail for Rohingya protest

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 November, 2017, 5:20pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 November, 2017, 10:08pm

One of Myanmar’s most prominent ultra-nationalist monks was denied bail on Tuesday after he was arrested on charges of inciting unrest at an anti-Rohingya protest held outside the US embassy in Yangon last year.

The Buddhist abbot, Parmaukkha, was detained over the weekend in a rare move against hardline clergymen who have fanned hatred against the persecuted Muslim Rohingya – a group recently targeted by a deadly military crackdown in Rakhine state.

[I] am just protecting the sovereignty of the state

The monk, who appeared in court on Tuesday in layman’s clothes, has been charged over his role in an April 2016 protest outside the US embassy that denounced the American government’s use of the term ‘Rohingya’.

The name for the Muslim minority is rejected by many Buddhists and government officials in Myanmar, who deny the existence of the ethnic group, insisting the people are illegal “Bengali” immigrants – a description the Rohingya view as pejorative.

The monk was greeted by dozens of tearful supporters outside the Yangon court, where judges set the next hearing for November 21.

“[I] am just protecting the sovereignty of the state,” he said before entering the courtroom.

Along with the better known ultra-nationalist monk Wirathu, Parmaukkha has been at the forefront of anti-Rohingya sentiment that has bubbled in mainly Buddhist Myanmar for years, often spilling into bouts of violence.

Hate speech against the Rohingya has crescendoed in recent months amid intense global condemnation of an army campaign that has pushed more than 600,000 of the Muslim minority out of the country in two and half months.

Global and domestic views over the crisis are sharply divided.

The UN and international rights groups have accused the military of ethnic cleansing, based on Rohingya claims of murder, rape, arson and other atrocities carried out by soldiers.

But the government, and many Buddhists, have defended the military as a crackdown on Rohingya “terrorists”, after militant attacks on police posts over the past year.

The civilian government run by Aung San Suu Kyi’s party has refused to allow in UN officials to investigate allegations of crimes against humanity.

On Monday the military exonerated itself of any abuses in an internal probe that denied soldiers had attacked or raped civilians, among other claims.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will visit the Southeast Asian country on Wednesday and is expected to take a firm stance with the military generals.