‘There will be Ma Ba Tha members watching’: Nationalist group refuses to remove signage as government-imposed deadline looms

Ma Ba Tha members protest a US embassy statement related to the deaths of the Rohingya Muslim minority from an April 19, 2016, boat accident in Sittwe. Photo: AFP / ROMEO GACAD

Defying official orders, Ma Ba Tha members will be patrolling around Mandalay to make sure that their signs don’t get taken down, the organization told media earlier this week.

On May 23, the Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee — Myanmar’s highest Buddhist authority, also known as Ma Ha Na — sent a letter to government ministries ordering the dissolution of Ma Ba Tha by mid-July, including the removal of all Ma Ba Tha signage by July 15 at the latest.

In the first week of July, Ma Ba Tha members in Mandalay — the organization’s home base — were once again reminded of the deadline. However, they are still refusing to comply.

“There are about three spots in Mandalay where we have large Ma Ba Tha signboards. There will be Ma Ba Tha members watching [these locations],” a head Ma Ba Tha monk in Mandalay told The Voice.

Ma Ba Tha has also stated that they will be sending an appeal to Ma Ha Na to reconsider the ban, as well as request a one to two month delay on the sign removal deadline while their appeal is being considered.

It’s unclear if authorities will forcibly remove the signs should Ma Ba Tha fail to comply by the end of Saturday. The leading monk of Ma Ha Na’s Mandalay chapter told The Voice: “We don’t want any trouble… Why are they so attached to these signboards?”

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