An influential Buddhist monk who has been erecting Buddhist pagodas on the grounds of churches and mosques in eastern Myanmar’s Karen State may begin building a monastery near an Anglican church, said the bishop who oversees Anglicanism in the state and neighboring regions on Tuesday.
Monk Myaing Kyee Ngu, also known as U Thuzana, has been building pagodas—also called stupas—near Christian churches and mosques in an act of defiance to supposedly reclaim ancient Buddhist lands.
Anglican Bishop Saw Stylo told RFA’s Myanmar Service that the monk and his supporters arrived near St. Mark Anglican church in Kondawgyi village of Hlaingbwe township on Monday with eight trucks of bricks.
Another truck arrived near the church on Tuesday morning, although church officials do not know if workers intend to build a monastery or make a fence dividing the two properties, he told RFA’s Myanmar Service.
“We called the state religious officer this morning [to inform him],” Saw Stylo said. “We will send an official letter to the state government tomorrow.”
In the meantime, Myaing Kyee Ngu has been building two more stupas in front of the Anglican church and about 30 stupas in the village, including one close to the church’s lavatory, he said.
“I think he is trying to create difficulties for the new government,” Saw Stylo said, but added that Anglican church officials want to resolve this problem by talking with the national government, the state government, and the State Sangha Mahar Nayaka Committee, a government-appointed body of high-ranking Buddhist monks that oversees and regulates the Buddhist clergy in Myanmar.
So far, the committee has failed to stop Myaing Kyee Ngu’s activities.
In early May, Myaing Kyee Ngu and 300 supporters erected a dome-shaped Buddhist shrine on the grounds of St. Mark Anglican church.
The monk, who is spiritual adviser to an armed ethnic Karen group, built his first pagoda on the church property on April 23 despite objections by religious authorities.
Senior monk quits Ma Ba Tha
In a related development, Parmaukkha, a member of the central committee of the powerful ultranationalist Buddhist monk organization Ma Ba Tha, has stepped down over political differences with the group.
The group, also known as the Organization for the Protection of Race and Religion, has led demonstrations against members of Myanmar’s Muslim minority group and backed the passage of controversial laws on race and religion that are seen as discriminatory against Muslims and women.
The organization also advised citizens to vote for the incumbent, military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) in last November’s national elections.
The organization passed out pamphlets during a conference it held, telling people to vote for the USDP in the elections, Parmaukkha told RFA.
“I decided to quit Ma Ba Tha because I didn’t like it when Ma Ba Tha was making speeches in many towns to vote for a certain party during the election campaign period,” he said.
The pro-democracy National League for Democracy defeated the USDP by a landslide in the elections.
“I want Ma Ba Tha to stand free from party politics,” he said. “Now people are looking down on us because they say we are working for the USDP. I am resigning from Ma Ba Tha because I don’t agree with their attitudes.”
Parmaukkha, who helped found the group in 2013, also said he has not been to Ma Ba Tha’s offices in five months.
Reported by Tin Aung Khine and Khet Mar for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.