Bomb during sermon by radical Myanmar monk wounds five

The monk delivering the sermon says the bomb was intended to silence him.


Reuters July 22, 2013
Buddhist monk Wirathu (C), leader of the 969 movement, attends a meeting on the National Protection Law at a monastery outside Yangon, in this June 27, 2013 file picture. PHOTO: REUTERS

YANGON: A bomb exploded metres away from a radical Buddhist monk as he delivered a mass sermon in Myanmar while inter-religious tensions simmer, wounding five people on late Sunday night, police said.

The explosion took place in Myanmar's second city, Mandalay.

Wirathu, the prominent monk who heads a movement accused of stirring violence against minority Muslims, said he believed that the blast was intended to silence him.

The home-made bomb went off inside a parked car, according to police and witnesses. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Tensions have been smouldering between radical elements of Myanmar's Buddhist majority and its minority Muslims. Bouts of religious violence have killed at least 237 people and displaced 150,000 in the past year, testing the resolve of a two-year-old quasi-civilian government.

The device exploded during a ceremony conducted by Wirathu, who once called himself "the Burmese bin Laden". He is the chief proponent of a movement known as 969, which reformist President Thein Sein's office has described as a "symbol of peace".

Wirathu was unharmed, despite being just 40 feet away from the blast, according to police.

Media investigations in two of the hotspots of unrest - the Rakhine state and the central city of Meikhtila  - have revealed the violence was started on both occasions by Buddhist mobs led by monks.

A novice monk was among those who received minor injuries in Sunday's blast.

"We can say it was a small hand-made bomb that caused the explosion. We are not in a position to reveal any more information at the moment since investigation is ongoing," a Mandalay police officer said, requesting anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media.

Death threat received

Sources close to Wirathu could not be immediately reached for comment.

However, the monk told Radio Free Asia's Burmese service that he had previously received a sound recording containing a threat to his life, which he believed was the voice of a Muslim cleric.

The bomb, he said, was intended to silence him.

"I've no idea who exactly carried out this explosion. But it must have been done by those who usually carry out terrorist acts," he told Radio Free Asia.

"The motive could be to shut my mouth."

A witness said security had since been stepped up in Mandalay. Even prior to the explosion, security had been tight during Buddhist events held in the past week in the commercial capital, Yangon.

The explosion took place on the fifth and final day of mass sermons held by Wirathu. The president's office, which insists it wants to foster peace, tolerance and unity in ethnically diverse Myanmar, has described Wirathu as "a son of Lord Buddha".

Buddhists make up about 90 percent of the estimated 60 million population.

The 969 movement has been accused of stirring anti-Muslim sentiment in a deeply Buddhist nation, where curbs on freedom of speech and assembly have eased since the end of military rule two years ago.

An investigation last month showed 969 monks were providing a moral justification for a wave of anti-Muslim bloodshed that could derail Myanmar's nascent reforms.

Government officials were unavailable for comment about Sunday's explosion.

COMMENTS (4)

Raj - USA | 7 years ago | Reply

@ethicalman: The sad part is that these hindu minor girls are raped, not by the mullas or criminals, but by the religious minded, pious and even progressive muslims. These girls are not raped in an isolated location but right in good affluent neighborhoods, within the family homes of muslims with the support and encouragement of all family members, men and woman alike; parents, spouses and children cheering and celebrating and even distributing sweets. Media Mulla Khan has Ramzan special live broadcast of conversions. Imam CJ does not even probe the age of the girls and does not bother to look into her NADRA cards. He did not care even when gun wielding mob surrounded the girl right in the courtroom. Never raised a question why armed men were present in his courtroom. Every hindu girl knows that when she visits her muslim classmate's home, the entire muslim family will be eyeing her and attempting to convince or coerce her to convert. The hindu parents will be waiting anxiously and praying for the safe return of their girl. They may not know that they shall never be able to see their daughter again as the converted girl will not be allowed to meet her family again. Yes, this is all allowed in the Constitution of Pakistan. Why else should the government try to bring in laws to stop forced conversions, if the currently prevailing laws do not outlaw it. Every muslim of Pakistan, its law enforcement and judiciary knows well what has happened to all these girls who have been converted over the last 65 years. The past and present records of these girls are readily available at the NADRA database. But, no one will talk about it as all these girls who have been converted no longer remain married to the man for whom they converted. Is it difficult for the government or the judiciary to probe through all conversions over the last 10-20 years and find out the truth about these girls such as, the age when they were converted, their present marital status and their present whereabouts? Why no one is doing so and why the media and muslims of Pakistan do not want any such probe? We saw thousands of Pakistani muslims claiming Rinkle converted on her own wish? Where is she now and what is her current marital status? Does she have any children? These are inconvenient questions for each and every muslim of Pakistan. Even Christians and Ahmedis stood aside and did nothing then. Nor are they doing anything on this today.

ethicalman | 7 years ago | Reply

How Pakistanis are worried about minoriites (Muslims) in Burma, India and the world..but what about the Pakistani minorities..

Probably the biggest hypocrites are muslims..the Hindus living in pakistan are not even considered humans..there daughters are picked like any animal from a flock..they are converted, sold of in prostitution..

Still Pakistanis can talk about minorties in other nations..

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