Sunday, August 20, 2017

Human rights less important than ‘nationalism’: senior monk

A Senior Buddhist monk has urged political parties to prioritise “nationalism” – or “the interest of national ethnic groups and citizens” – over human rights.

Sayadaw Ashin Daywaindarbhivamsa, a member of the Central Committee for the Protection of Nationality and Religion, better known as Ma Ba Tha, made the comment while defending the controversial draft interfaith marriage law, which could restrict marriages between Buddhist women and non-Buddhist men.

“All political parties should give priority to nationalism, which is the interest of the majority, in their political activities. General Aung San carried out political activities with a nationalist spirit. Nationalism means the interest of national ethnic groups and citizens. We must protect these interests,” Sayadaw Ashin Daywaindarbhivamsa said.

The sayadaw was responding to accusations from a National League for Democracy official, U Myo Yan Naung Thein, that the draft law was a “superficial” and “cheap” political move. U Myo Yan Naung Thein, secretary of the NLD Central Research Management Team, is also principal of Bayda Institute, a political training school. Other civil society and political leaders have also criticised the law, with more than 100 groups issuing a joint statement describing the draft as “disgraceful”. Some members of organisations that issued the statement subsequently received death threats.

Ma Ba Tha chair Sayadaw Bhaddanta Tilawkabhivamsa has also responded to U Myo Yan Naung Thein’s comments, saying in a statement that the proposed law was in the best interests of the country and it was the duty of all patriots to support it.

Sayadaw Ashin Daywaindarbhivamsa said the proposed law resembled legislation in other countries, adding that Mabatha welcomed discussion with and criticism of the draft law from political parties.

The interfaith marriage law is one of four pieces of draft legislation written by Ma Ba Tha in 2013 and submitted to the President’s Office. President U Thein Sein invited parliament to approve the bills but Speaker Thura U Shwe Mann sent them back to the government, arguing they were not in a suitable format to be considered.

A drafting committee was subsequently formed with representatives from the Ministries of Religious Affairs and Immigration and Population and the Supreme Court.

Translation by Thiri Min Htun