Interview with U Wirathu, the leader of 969 Movement

The Irrawaddy, March 29 2013
Translated by M-Media

Monk Wirathu Seen with Ex-General Khin Nyut Recently

Monk Wirathu Seen with Ex-General Khin Nyut Recently

U Wirathu, 45-year-old Buddhist monk from Masoyein Monastery, Mandalay, who has been recently famous for spreading anti-Muslim sentiments and organizing the 969 campaign, was arrested in 2003 and sentenced to twenty-five years imprisonment for having distributed hate-speech documents that had led to the racial and religious conflicts. He was set free in 2012 January from the Myitkyinar Prison (with the presidential pardon). He lead demonstrations for imprisoned monks in March 2012. He also led the demonstrations against the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in October 2012. Thar Lon Zawn Htet interviewed him regarding the recent religious conflicts.

Q: The government announced that the death toll in Meikhtila conflict has reached up to forty-two. You also went to Meikhtila and tried to halt the rioters, so, why do you think that many people had died there?

A: Heavy casualties occurred on the second day (March 21), when trapped Muslims, mainly students from a Muslim religious school and a few civilians, died. The quarter administration authorities had hidden them and provided necessary securities. When the securities left around 4 am, those hiding Muslims became frenzied, yelling out aloud. So, the mob noticed that they were hiding there, and surrounded them. For them, on their left is the Mosque, right the burnt area, and opposite to them is a hummock. So, simply there was nowhere for them to escape. While the mob was approaching them, one of them started shooting a monk with the slingshot. That made the Burmese (Buddhists) uncontrolled. As the mob got nearer, they (Muslims) threw the mob with acid bags. Until then, there was no riot – Burmese (Buddhists) were just staring at them and they were throwing with things at the mob. That’s it. I was there in Meikhtila on that day. I got there on 20th night. Me, Min Ko Naing and Shwenyawar Monk were there in Meikhtila then. In that situation, about 20 of them got out from their place and fought with the Burmese mob. Then the casualties occurred. Nine, ten or eleven people died on the spot. During the riot, the security-forces covered and took the rest of them. It was there where many died at one place. The rest was just arson, setting on fire at each other. One person died here, another there. The group casualty was only there.

Q: The United Nation’s Myanmar envoy Mr. Vijay Nambiar and International Press Media say the Meikhtila riot was a planned violence. May I know your opinion regarding that?

A: Nothing was planned and systematic on the first two days. Actually, those who were systematic were Muslims from Kalar (a derogatory term for Muslims or Indians) Quarter. They had sticks, knives and weapons, and attacked any Burmese they saw. On hearing the news of the death of a monk, the Burmese (Buddhist) mob just went there to the Kalar Quarter, indeed they were unarmed. Only one in ten had a stick taken from the demolished houses, nothing else. As they (Muslims) chopped the mob with knives, two died and about sixteen got injured. So those who systemically planned were from Muslim quarters. Nothing was planned until the second day. It was like “The frog dies as it shouts”.

Q: Now the international media use the word Buddhist extremist regarding “969” campaign. Could you please explain us the meaning of “969” ?

A: Alright. The first 9 stands for the 9 attributes of the Lord Buddha, second number 6 for the 6 attributes of the Buddhist teachings, and the third 9 stands for the 9 attributes of Sanghas (Monks). So they stand for the attributes of three Treasures of Buddhism – The Lord Buddha, his teachings and the monk. Like the other symbols of Buddhism such as “Buddhan Saranan”, “Arahan” or “Dhamma Sekya”, this “969” is also just a Buddhist symbol. Now the blame on “969” as the culprit is just ungrounded accuse, as they cannot prove anyone guilty, they are just accusing. There was not even a paper about 969 in Meikhtila. No one had distributed this there. When I delivered a sermon there, I just distributed only about 25 stickers. Those stickers were meant only to “Save Our Future”, that’s it. For that, they are accusing “969”. Nothing is related. “969” is indeed attributes of Buddhism. It is innocent.

Q: Muslim houses and mosques in Pegu (Bago) division were destroyed. On the destroyed houses and cars, the logo “969” was written in green (ink). What is your comment on the demolition of mosques and the writing of “969” on the ruins?

A: I am not actually sure of what exactly has been happening in Pegu (Bago) Division, as I do not have contact with the locals there. In the places where I am controlling and organizing, there is no problem as the process is under my control and it is going accordingly with my vision and mission. I have been dealing with many cases between Burmese (Buddhist) and Muslims. Most of them are rape cases – to the underage Grade 4 and Grade 7-student girls. And some cases are like physical fighting and religious assaults – even the cases of abusing the monk, illegal mosques, annexing mosques, and regarding Muslim cemeteries. I have been entrusted for more than 50 cases, and summing up the cases that I am giving advice on the telephone, there are over 1000 cases. As I am guiding people to handle these legally, even the elder monks and people listen to me. As things are being handled lawfully, there has been no problem in the case that I know of. In our circles or communities, real “969” does not do anything violent.

Q: The Ministry of Religious Affairs in Naypyidaw says that “969” is not a registered or officially accepted Buddhist religious Symbol. We would like to know your view on this.

A: Yes, we are just distributing with all efforts that we can, with all what we know of. We are not officially registering and distributing that. For instance, someone prepares this, someone makes some financial support, and someone distributes this, so we are not commercializing this by registering at the government or state level.

Q: In your sermon titled “Don’t think lightly for our Nationals”, you mentioned Daw Aung San Suu Kyi cannot do anything (for the wellbeing of Burmese Buddhist) and NLD is not “ Khuddaung” [Fighting Peacock – which is the symbol of the National League for Democracy, NLD] anymore but has become “ Muddaung” (Muslim Peacock – meaning that NLD is under the influence of Muslims.) Can you elaborate us about that?

A: I have always supported Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. But when the Rakhine incident broke out, (I find that) Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was not reliable. That’s why I assume that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi became silent because of the people around her, who could approach her. And also, in many towns, the persons in charge in NLD offices are Muslims. Because of them, when Burmese (Buddhists) went to the offices, they had to just turn back. In some towns, the house-owners (of the NLD office) are Muslims, and so (the NLD members) dare not even offer food to the monks in occasions such as Martyr’s Day due to the fact that the house-owner didn’t allow them. These are the reasons why I stated Khuddaung has become Muddaung.

Regarding Min Ko Naing and the 88 Generations, I expected a lot from them as they are the second most powerful group (in people’s admiration or as the government opposition). But they are also not very much reliable in Rakhine Crisis. As an organization, they did not stand for the people I would say. Some of them personally said something, and had a press conference when they returned from the humanitarian aids trip from Rakhine State, and that was all. No statement was seen declaring that Rohyngyas are not Myanmar ethnics or, condemning the massacre of Rakhines by the Banghalis. So, Min Ko Naing, who has claimed himself as always stands for the Truth or Justice (Damma) and against the Injustice (A-Damma), actually did not stand for the Justice in Rakhine. I pointed out these in my sermons.

Q: In your sermons, you say not to buy from Muslim shops with “786” logos. Doesn’t it make discrimination against religions or races, and wouldn’t it lead to the mistrust and hatred amongst the different societies?

A: Well, well. This is not the way of we Burmese (Buddhists). It is their Muslim’s way. They do practice that. You go around the city and look for that, how many Muslims are good customers of the Burmese (Buddhists)? If they buy only from Muslims themselves, we should also do the same. Let’s say, if we had bought only from each other, we would not have experienced such assaults. Even if there are some little disputes, it may not be worse than that, may not lead do such crises at the National level. Now, we didn’t buy from the gold shop owned by us (Burmese Buddhist) and we were insulted as a consequence. Such insults lead problems in the national level. So it is not discrimination, but it is only protection of our people.

Q: Now the riots and crises have spread, and both communities have had their fears and concerns. What would you suggest to eradicate these?

A: I am always suggesting for these. Since I was released from the prison, I have been advising the Muslim community, until now, even last night. We need to work together to solve these problems. Muslims need to organize the leader groups, and so do we Burmese (Buddhists). In case of any problems, these leaders should take prompt and severe actions for their own community. If the action has been taken and yet the other side still goes on with the violence, each side need to stand before their people and try to solve the problems. In this the whole world will be peaceful.

Q: In the president’s speech yesterday on the recent Meihktila Crisis, he mentioned that necessary actions would be taken for those who are utilizing the religion as a tool, and misguiding people to the extremes, and leading to the hatred growth between peoples of different creeds. I would like to know your opinion for that.

A: Yes, serious actions need to be taken. Rather than the prominent activists, it will be more effective to take actions to those who are trying to divide people with propagandas. For instance, Mawlawis (Islamic religious teachers or leaders). They are teaching children, and they instill hatred in children. The way Muslim children look at the monks is like as if we are their enemies. The way they look at Burmese (Buddhists) people is as if we are their enemies.

So, such people who are brainwashing children and dividing people need to be revealed and, serious actions should be imposed.


One Comment

  1. James Simmen says:

    I am so ashamed of the buddhists in Myanmar…They are contradicting everything that the Venerable Buddha created. Shame on you Buddhists monks who use your red robes to spread hate and murder and death and fear and destruction.

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