A court in Myanmar issued an arrest warrant for a notorious firebrand monk known as the “Buddist Bin Laden”, over insulting remarks he is alleged to have made about the government of leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The warrant issued in Yangon, Myanmar charges Ashin Wirathu with sedition for the comments he allegedly made at a nationalist rally on May 5 about Suu Kyi, while comparing the military's representatives in parliament to Buddha. Police said Wednesday the warrant has been redirected to Mandalay, where Wirathu's monastery is located.
Suu Kyi is the leader of the National League for Democracy in Myanmar, formerly Burma.
Wirathu is known for criticism of the government and for making incendiary comments about the country’s Muslim minority, in particular the Rohingya community, through hate-filled, Islamaphobic speeches, The Guardian reported.
Myanmar Buddhist monk Wirathu speaks at a rally against constitution change in Yangon, Myanmar, May 5, 2019. (REUTERS)
The monk came to prominence in 2012 after deadly riots broke out between Buddhists and Muslims in the western state of Rakhine. He created a radical nationalist organization that was blamed for provoking violence against Muslims. That organization has since dissolved.
He allegedly supported the military crackdown on Rohingya villagers, who are mostly Muslim, in August 2017 in Rahkine, which caused more than 700,000 villagers to flee across the border to Bangladesh for safety.
Over the past few months Wirathu has been a regular speaker at pro-military rallies, known to express anti-Muslim sentiment by demanding boycotts of Muslim businesses. A senior Buddhist council reportedly banned the monk from preaching temporarily.
In this May 5, 2019, photo, Buddhist monk and anti-Muslim community leader Wirathu, center, speaks during a nationalist rally in Yangon, Myanmar. (AP)
Wirathu was also kicked off Facebook last year for violating its community standards by allegedly using the social media platform to disseminate anti-Muslim hate speech and racist comments.
If found guilty on the latest charge, Wirathu could be sentenced to three years to life in prison.
However, according to Myanmar law, Wirathu cannot be arrested unless he is defrocked by Buddhist authorities, which seems unlikely given he has a lot of influence among his fellow monks.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.