YANGON (Reuters) - A Myanmar official on Tuesday told a court that a nationalist Buddhist monk, Wirathu, who has evaded arrest on sedition charges, “incited hatred” against leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her government.
Police issued an arrest warrant for Wirathu last month but he has not been detained and has taunted authorities on social media.
Complainant San Min, an administrator in the city of Yangon, told the court he had been ordered by the office of President Win Myint, a close ally of Suu Kyi, to file a legal complaint against the monk.
“Wirathu’s speeches can cause disrespect and incite hatred in the people against Aung San Suu Kyi ... (and) the government,” San Min said in his complaint.
Wirathu is infamous as a proponent of anti-Muslim rhetoric that has spread as Myanmar has transitioned from full military rule and as social media sites like Facebook have become popular.
He speaks in support of the military and opposes Nobel laureate Suu Kyi and her efforts to amend a 2008 charter that cements the generals’ power.
The sedition charge is related to his criticism of the government, not to his comments on Muslims.
The Western Yangon District Court on Tuesday held the first of several hearings to decide whether Wirathu should be formally declared a fugitive from the law, which requires a judge to rule there is evidence he broke the law.
A video was played of a speech Wirathu gave at a rally in Yangon last month, when he argued broadly against democratic governance and warned Myanmar would “drown in a muddy puddle” if its constitution was amended to reduce the political role of the military.
A transcript of a separate speech Wirathu gave in southern Myanmar in April, submitted to the court, records Wirathu crudely criticizing Suu Kyi’s relationships with foreigners. Suu Kyi married and had two sons with the late British academic Michael Aris.
“Tap, tap, tap go her high heels,” the monk said, according to the transcript, referring to when Suu Kyi meets foreigners.
A Buddhist nationalist group said on Monday that Wirathu’s “positive criticism” of Suu Kyi did not merit legal action.
Some human rights activists have said Wirathu should face action for inciting violence against Muslims, especially the Rohingya minority, rather than for comments critical of a politician.
Buddhist authorities have previously censured Wirathu, but a one-year order banning him from speeches expired this year.
Reporting by Thu Thu Aung; Writing by Simon Lewis; Editing by Robert Birsel