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Myanmar monk rejects accusations of instigating unrest

Some in Myanmar have blamed controversial Buddhist monk Wirathu for heightening ethnic tensions with his graphic photos and posts of the recent violence in Mandalay. But he has rejected accusations that he is fanning the fire.

MANDALAY: Some in Myanmar have blamed controversial Buddhist monk Wirathu for heightening ethnic tensions with his graphic photos and posts of the recent violence in Mandalay, and have even warned that his actions may ignite new rounds of sectarian attacks.

The recent attacks in Mandalay, which killed two people, broke out after negative posts on Muslims went viral on social media.

Wirathu has been accused of fanning the fire through his posts, but the controversial figure has rejected that suggestion.

He said: “What I'm writing and the pictures I've posted on Facebook are real. I want to stop the problems. I'm not instigating the conflict. Even if we have to stay together, we have to be cautious. An example is if you live with a snake and tiger, you have to be cautious as they're dangerous. We have to be careful.”

Others however disagreed, saying that he has a history of spouting anti-Muslim views and that his views could potentially escalate the sectarian violence in Myanmar.

Gawiya, chairman of Mandalay Buddhist Monk Union, said: “The problems were created by the photos. The situation will get worse with photos from the internet. The Muslim community doesn't like (Wirathu) and he doesn't like Muslims either. He does not know how to control this conflict. The situation will worsen with his biased views. The people do not believe (Wirathu) can be neutral.”

Wirathu dismissed this view, claiming that he wants to help promote peace by working with Muslims, but he said they have rejected him.

Wirathu claimed: "I welcome the Muslim community to cooperate with me, but what can I do if the Muslim organisations don't want to work with me? Peace cannot be achieved only through one person. If one party is aggressive, you won't be able to get peace. I want to work with them to get peace."

Peace is also what Muslims and inter-faith groups want.

Khalifa Thein Win Aung, vice president of Interfaith Committee, Mandalay Division, said: “Wirathu said Muslim leaders are not cooperating with him but this is not true. I will tell him all the Muslim leaders are ready to work with (Wirathu). Communication is critical. If we work with the monks, they'll come and help protect us.”

In a radio address to the nation, President Thein Sein condemned the Mandalay attacks and hit out at those manipulating the new media freedom to intentionally create social unrest.

The president vowed to take serious actions against any media that poses a threat to national security and those who propagate hate and incite violence.  

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