Monks who led pro-Wirathu rally that turned violent fined in court, reprimanded by Buddhist committee 

Two monks who led a protest supporting the jailed firebrand preacher Wirathu earlier this month, as well as two laymen who attended the rally, were fined 10,000 kyat each by a court in Yangon’s Insein township on Wednesday. 

The fines were handed down for breaches of section 20 of Peaceful Assembly Law, a broadly worded law that in practice can be used against anyone who participates in a protest authorities disapprove of. 

The two monks also received a warning from the Sangha Nayaka Committee, Myanmar’s government-appointed Buddhist authority on Tuesday. 

The Yangon branch of the committee summoned Pyin Nya Wun Tha and Igga Daza after they were charged with breaching the Peaceful Assembly Law with their January 16 demonstration, which turned violent when protestors clashed with police. 

The monks appeared before the committee on Tuesday. “They told us to be clever and courteous in whatever we do,” Pyin Nya Wun Tha told Myanmar Now after the meeting. The committee also told them to live in accordance with their teachings, he added. 

This week he was also fined 20,000 kyat by a Yangon court for leading a January 12 protest calling for Wirathu to be allowed to appear in court in person, rather than by videolink. 

“When we do something, it needs to be good work. When we say something, it needs to be good words,” said Igga Daza. “What I mean to say is, the venerable monks just told us to practice good intentions and act with them in mind in whatever we do, whether it’s politics, nationalism, or even business.”

The Yangon Sangha Nayaka Committee did not answer calls seeking comment on the case. 

During the protest at Insein prison, where Wirathu is being held while on trial for sedition, Win Htwe, one of those fined on Wednesday, allegedly provoked and then punched police officers. He still faces a charge of disruption of duty. The fourth man who was fined is named Thet Myo Oo. 

Pyin Nya Wun Tha has been hit with several charges in the past five years for his protests against the government. 

In October last year, he protested against the popular boy band Project-K, claiming that they had stepped on an image of the Shwedagon pagoda during a performance. The Mingalardon township court also fined him 20,000 kyat.

And he is still on trial for his involvement in a rally in 2019 in support of Wirathu, who was still a fugitive at the time. 

In 2017, after he staged a protest at Shwedagon pagoda calling on the government to resign, he was jailed for a year by the Bahan township court for defamation under section 505b of the penal code. 

Monks face off with police in front of the Insein prison during a protest that turned violent on January 16 (Sai Zaw/Myanmar Now)

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