Myanmar, Sri Lankan hard-line Bhuddhists to work together against Islamist militants
COLOMBO: A Myanmar monk accused of inciting violence
against Muslims and a hard-line Buddhist group in Sri Lanka said on Tuesday that
they would work together to rally other Buddhist groups and defend their faith
against militant Islamists.
Ashin Wirathu, who once called himself “the Burmese bin
Laden” said the agreement with Sri Lanka’s Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) or “Buddhist
Power Force”, was the first step in a broad alliance against conversions by
Islamists in the region.
The deal gave no detailed indication what the groups
were planning to counter what they said was the risk of Buddhists becoming “victims
of conversions by extremists”, but the agreement could stoke anti-Muslim
attacks in both countries.
Violence against Muslims in Sri Lanka, where Buddhists
make up 70 percent of the 21 million population, has risen since 2012,
mirroring the events in Myanmar. In June, sectarian clashes erupted in two
Muslim-majority towns on Sri Lanka's Sinhalese-dominated southern coast during
a protest march led by the BBS.
Wirathu is known for his anti-Islamic sermons, and his
‘969 movement’ has been accused of running a hate campaign against Muslims in
Myanmar, where at least 240 people have been killed since June 2012.
“Both Bodu Bala Sena and 969 movement have felt that
they must now come forward to derive practical and meaningful ways to address
these burning issues which cannot be left for politicians to deal with,” the
The groups will work on building networks among
Buddhist societies and pool resources to fight for the faith, it said.
Wirathu was the guest of honour at a convention of the
Sri Lankan group on Sunday where it announced the plan to work together ahead
of a presidential election in Sri Lanka that could be held as early as January.
“The aim is to create an international Buddhist force
the way we have a Buddhist force nationally in the country,” said BBS
Secretary-General Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara said about the pact struck with
Wirathu’s movement. (Reuters)