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Buddhist monk Wirathu speaks during a rally in Yangon to show support to the Myanmar military in 2019. Photo: AFP

‘Face of Buddhist terror’ monk Wirathu honoured by Myanmar junta for ‘outstanding work’

  • Wirathu, also known as the ‘Buddhist bin Laden’, helped whip up animosity towards Rohingya before 2017’s crackdown on the Muslim minority group
  • He was jailed by Aung San Suu Kyi’s ousted civilian government on sedition charges, which were dropped once the junta had seized power
A firebrand monk dubbed the “ Buddhist bin Laden” for his role in stirring up religious hatred in Myanmar has received a national award, with the junta saluting his work in the country.

Wirathu – who received the moniker from Time Magazine in 2013 following deadly communal riots – was awarded the title of “Thiri Pyanchi” on Tuesday, the Myanmar military’s information team said.

The award for “outstanding work for the good of the Union of Myanmar” was presented by junta chief Min Aung Hlaing, it added.

Wirathu (left) is presented with an award for “outstanding work for the good of the Union of Myanmar” by junta chief Min Aung Hlaing (right) at a ceremony in Naypyidaw. Photo: Myanmar Military Information Team Handout via AFP

Wirathu was one of hundreds of people to receive awards and honorary titles as the junta prepared to mark the 75th anniversary of Myanmar’s independence from Britain on Wednesday.

Wirathu has long been known for his nationalist anti-Islamic rhetoric – particularly against the Rohingya Muslim minority.

In 2013, he appeared on the cover of Time Magazine as “The Face of Buddhist Terror”.

Wirathu – the monk they call 'the Buddhist bin Laden'

He had called for boycotts of Muslim-owned businesses and restrictions on marriages between Buddhists and Muslims.


Rights groups said these helped whip up animosity towards the community, laying the foundations for a military crackdown in 2017 that forced about 740,000 Rohingya to flee over the border to Bangladesh.

Wirathu was later jailed by Aung San Suu Kyi’s government on sedition charges.

Myanmar’s fugitive ‘Buddhist Bin Laden’ monk gives himself up

In September 2021, the junta announced it had released Wirathu after all charges against him had been dropped.
Suu Kyi, 77, has been detained since being ousted by the military coup almost two years ago.

Last week, a junta court handed down its verdicts in the final charges against the Nobel laureate, who now faces the possibility of spending the rest of her life behind bars with a total of 33 years in prison.