Backers of hardline monk confront Myanmar police
Crowd demands timely trial for Wirathu on hate-speech charges
published : 16 Jan 2021 at 14:42
YANGON: Police in Myanmar scuffled on Saturday with dozens of followers of the ultra-nationalist monk Ashin Wirathu at a demonstration calling for him to be put on trial more than two months after he surrendered to face sedition charges.
Protesters, many of them Buddhist monks, gathered outside the Insein Prison, where Wirathu has been held since November.
Police said they had not set out to break up the protest but had been provoked and had arrested one protester.
“We were trying to negotiate and that man talked back rudely and started fighting,” Tin Latt, the head of Insein police station, told Reuters by phone.
The protest by about 50 people dispersed after the scuffle.
Wirathu is known for his hate-filled rhetoric against minority Muslims, particularly the Rohingya community. But he has also been critical of the civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi and supportive of Myanmar’s powerful military.
The sharp-tongued monk in 2013 appeared on the cover of the region edition of Timemagazine, which called him “The Face of Buddhist Terror”. The depiction led to widespread criticism in Myanmar.
“Although he handed himself courageously and decisively to face trial, he was not brought to court or given a verdict,” one monk at the protest told reporters. He said that other prisoners in custody should also be brought to trial.
Wirathu faces trial under a law that prohibits bringing “hatred or contempt” or exciting disaffection toward the government. It carries a prison sentence of up to three years.
He denies wrongdoing. He handed himself in to police after more than a year on the run.