May 21, 2020 / 3:07 PM / in 6 days

Myanmar doctor charged for insulting monks over sex education

(Reuters) - A Myanmar doctor who criticised conservative Buddhist monks has been charged with insulting religion, officials said on Thursday, as a debate heats up over a proposal to teach sex education at school.

Kyaw Win Thant, 31, was arrested on Tuesday after angry scenes at a monastery in the central city of Meiktila, where he apologised to monks for deriding them in Facebook posts. His attacks stemmed from comments posted by numerous other monks denouncing the government’s proposal.

Footage shared widely on social media showed hundreds of people who had come to the monastery denouncing Kyaw Win Thant and chanting “arrest him, or kill us”.

Several sources, including two officials from the Ministry of Religion, confirmed on Thursday that Kyaw Win Thant had been charged with insulting a religion or religious beliefs. He faces up to two years in prison if found guilty.

His Facebook posts, which have since been deleted and could not be verified by Reuters, used language deemed offensive to monks and questioned whether they were in a position to pass judgement on sex education.

The issue has been a hot topic on social media but remains taboo in the conservative, mainly Buddhist country where monks have long been an influential source of moral guidance.

Sex education has broad support from women’s groups, activists and among the younger generation but is largely opposed by nationalists, conservatives and many parents.

U Warama, a Meiktila-based spokesman of the State Sangkha Maha Nayaka, a body of high-ranking Buddhist monks, said the monks had no opinion.

“We had never said whether we agree or do not agree on the new curriculum. It is not monks’ business,” he said.

Win Tun, a former politician and vocal supporter of nationalist groups, said there could be trouble ahead if the doctor went unpunished, and said sex education was unacceptable.

Editing by Martin Petty and Timothy Heritage

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