Wanted Myanmar firebrand abbot ‘not afraid’ of arrest: local media

30 May 2019
Wanted Myanmar firebrand abbot ‘not afraid’ of arrest: local media
 (FILE) Myanmar nationalist Buddhist monk Wirathu delivers a speech during a rally to show the support to the Myanmar military, in Yangon, Myanmar, 14 October 2018. Photo: Lynn Bo Bo/EPA

An ultra-nationalist monk dubbed the "Buddhist Bin Laden" for his anti-Muslim vitriol said Wednesday he was not afraid of arrest as police pursued him on charges of stirring up unrest.

Wirathu has long been the face of the country's hard-line Buddhist movement, notorious for espousing hate against Islam and particularly the long-persecuted Rohingya minority.

A court issued an arrest warrant for the abbot late Tuesday under article 124(a), which targets anyone who "excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government".

Wirathu told local media by phone Wednesday he was in Yangon, but said the police had not yet come for him.

"If they want to arrest me, they can do it," the Irrawaddy newspaper quoted him as saying. "I'm not afraid."

The exact reasons behind the warrant have not been clarified but the rabble-rousing monk has recently given several provocative speeches at nationalist rallies.

In April, he took aim at the country's civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

"She just dresses up like a fashionista, wears makeup and walks around in stylish, high-heeled shoes, shaking her ass at foreigners," he told a cheering crowd.

At another rally in Yangon, he caused widespread offence by saying "soldiers protecting the country should be worshipped like Buddha".

He has also upset the country's highest Buddhist authority, the State Sangha Maha Nayaka -- a state-appointed body of high-ranking monks that oversees the clergy across the Buddhist-majority country.

Last week, the council summoned him for a disciplinary hearing Thursday over his "involvement with social affairs during a rally" -- but announced Wednesday this had been postponed due to "current events".