Coup leader hits out at NLD for abolishing Ma Ba Tha, introducing sex education

Coup leader Min Aung Hlaing has expressed his dissatisfaction with the National League for Democracy’s (NLD) decision to abolish the extremist Buddhist group Ma Ba Tha in 2017.

In a speech published in military-controlled newspapers last week to mark the first anniversary of the establishment of the so-called State Administration Council, the senior general sought to paint the NLD as an enemy of Buddhism. 

“Religious organisations such as Ma Ba Tha, an organisation for the protection of race and religion and other organisations that run religious affairs… were demolished for various reasons,” he said. 

He also appeared to blame the party for a 2020 incident in which the Myanmar boy band Project K danced in front of an image of the Shwedagon Pagoda during a performance in South Korea for the Asia Song Festival. 

“The religious and cultural arenas were destroyed due to the dance wearing shoes on the terrace of the Shwedagon Pagoda,” said an English-language text of the speech that is either erroneous, incorrectly translated, or both. 

“The moral values of young people regarding Myanmar customs and traditions… are also destroyed using online media,” the text said. 

U Wayama, a monk from the Spring Revolution Interfaith Network, said the speech was an attempt to gain public support by exploiting Buddhism. “He is taking advantage of religion,” the monk said. 

The coup leader also criticised the NLD government for Covid-19 restrictions that were imposed at various religious buildings. 

“The pagodas and religious buildings were also closed under the reason of COVID-19 and the propaganda was spread as the State economy declined due to monks,” he said.

Ma Ba Tha has strong links to the military and its members have rallied support of military causes on numerous occasions. In December 2020 Min Aung Hlaing gave donations to former Ma Ba Tha chair Insein Ywarma Sayadaw. 

In last week’s speech the coup leader also hit out at the introduction of sex education lessons under the NLD. 

“During the term of the previous government, they restricted the religious training courses for young students and added the sex education lessons that affect Myanmar culture,” he said.

“We need to protect religion from being confused with politics, and we need to conduct systematic measures in order to keep our religion clean and bright,” he added. “It has infiltrated politicians to the point of concealing the true history and inciting hatred against the military among the youths.”

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