Wirathu Declared a Fugitive After Failing to Appear at Court

The hate-preaching monk Wirathu has been declared a fugitive after failing to appear at Yangon’s western district court on Tuesday to face charges of sedition.

Wirathu has evaded arrest for more than a week after a government official opened a case against him following remarks he made at a rally railing against the government’s efforts to amend the constitution in early May.

The monk said last week that he would willingly face the arrest. If convicted he faces up to 20 years in prison under section 124a of Myanmar’s penal code.

The court hearing has now been rescheduled for June 11.

As he has been declared a fugitive, members of the public are invited to tip off the police about his whereabouts, said police spokesperson Col. Myo Thu Soe.

In 2003 Wirathu was imprisoned under a number of charges including religious defamation after he helped incite a deadly anti-Muslim riot. He was freed from prison in an amnesty in 2012.

Since then he has toured the country delivering tirades against Muslims, who he describes as “mad dogs” and has been accused of once again whipping up tensions ahead of religious riots.

Rights groups have expressed disappointment that the monk is now being pursued for his criticism of the government, rather than for hate speech and inciting violence.

At a recent speech in Myeik he accused senior government officials of being thieves and made lewd comments about State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi. And in Yangon on 5 May he drew criticism for saying military lawmakers should be worshipped like the Buddha.

His speeches have also landed him in trouble with the State Sangha Committee, a government-appointed body of senior monks.

The religious affairs ministry said Monday that he will have to appear before the committee to be reprimanded and could be charged under Vinaya regulations, a Buddhist code used by the Sangha, if he doesn’t comply.

The ministry has also said it is preparing to slap Wirathu with new criminal charges.

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