Myanmar Elections 2020: Buddhist Nationalist Monk Body May Work against the NLD | Security Risks Asia Made with Humane Club

Myanmar Elections 2020: Buddhist Nationalist Monk Body May Work against the NLD

Published Jun 19, 2019
Updated Apr 13, 2020

National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi may face a tough challenge in the national elections due in 2020 as the Buddha Dhamma Prahita Foundation, a Buddhist nationalist monk body formerly known as Ma Ba Tha (the Burmese-language acronym for the Association to Protect Race and Religion),

After a meeting on 17 June, the Buddha Dhamma Prahita Foundation released a seven-point statement condemning the NLD-led government and Parliament and said, “We, the Buddha Dhamma Prahita Foundation, which has been safeguarding race and religion, seriously urge fellow monks and people to oppose by all means—including refusing to vote for—those who are responsible for the above-mentioned actions, which could ruin the country, race and religion.”

This is seen as an indirect reference to the NLD.

Buddha Dhamma Prahita Foundation or Ma Ba Tha is seen as a radical religious extremist group that supports the hard line stance of the military against the non Buddhist groups including the Rohingya in Rakhine State.

Ma Ba Tha was a strong supporter of the previous military-backed regime under president Thein Sein whose political party was trounced in the 2015 elections by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy. Now the tables may be turned.

The civilian-led NLD government has also pushed for the formation of a joint constitutional reform committee to determine which parts of the current 2008 charter, drafted by a military junta that previously ruled the country, should be amended to remove elements considered undemocratic.

Lawmakers from the military and the military-backed opposition Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) oppose the panel which will likely propose changes that will erode the political power of the armed forces. They have argued that that the committee’s formation was not in accordance with the constitution.

The current charter gives military members of parliament an automatic 25 percent of seats, a crucial veto over proposed changes to the charter, and control of three defense and security ministries.