Ultra-nationalist Myanmar monk walks free from prison

Ultra-nationalist Myanmar monk walks free from prison

YANGON – Agence France-Presse
Ultra-nationalist Myanmar monk walks free from prison

An ultra-nationalist Myanmar monk was released from prison on March 9 after serving time for inciting unrest in an anti-Rohingya protest in 2016, a rare punishment handed to one of the country’s hardline Buddhist clergymen.

Parmaukkha, who was handed a three-month jail term, has helped peddle a fiery brand of Buddhist nationalism and Islamophobia in Myanmar, a country accused of waging an ethnic cleansing campaign against Rohingya Muslims.

The monk was arrested in November over a rally he held outside the U.S. Embassy in Yangon in April 2016 to protest against America’s use of the word “Rohingya.”

The Buddhist-majority nation refuses to recognize the Rohingya as citizens, referring pejoratively to the community as “Bengalis” and insisting they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

On March 9 several dozen supporters cheered and scattered petals in front of Parmaukkha as he walked out of Yangon’s notorious Insein prison at dawn before heading to pray at the city’s iconic Shwedagon Pagoda.

“He has work to do...I love everything he does for religion and the nation,” said Aye Lay, a 32-year-old supporter.

Anti-Muslim hate speech has been brewing in Myanmar for several years, often spilling over into bouts of bloodshed.

Religious hatred has surged in the wake of a ruthless military crackdown that has compelled 700,000 Rohingya to flee the country since August.

The U.N. says the campaign amounts to ethnic cleansing and possible genocide.