Buddhist monk Ashin Wirathu, leader of the extremist 969 movement in Myanmar, announced that he will join hands with a radical Sri Lankan group to “protect Buddhism around the world,” according to media reports.
“Buddhists are facing a serious threat today from jihadist groups…the patience of Buddhists is seen as a weakness. Buddhist temples have been destroyed. There is a jihad against Buddhist monks,” Wirathu, who has been dubbed "the Burmese bin Laden," reportedly said, addressing a congregation of Sri Lankan Buddhist monks in Colombo, late on Sunday.
“To protect and defend the threatened Buddhist the world over, my 969 movement will join hands with the BBS (Bodu Bala Sena),” he reportedly said.
The Bodu Bala Sena, or Buddhist Power Force -- a Sinhalese Buddhist nationalist organization --has, in the past, been accused of instigating and participating in violence against the minority Muslim community in Sri Lanka.
Members of the organization, headed by Buddhist monk named Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara, were also suspected to have been involved in attacks on Muslim-owned shops and businesses in towns along the southern coast of Sri Lanka in June, killing at least four people and injuring over 80.
On Sunday, Gnanasara reportedly said that “the time has come for Buddhists to ally internationally,” and that Wirathu “understands the situation.”
Several other leaders of the Bodu Bala Sena also demanded that the Sri Lankan government draft a new constitution to protect the majority Sinhalese community, and called for a new national flag that would recognize only the Sinhalese majority, according to media reports.
Several Sri Lankan Muslim leaders reportedly criticized the Mahinda Rajapaksa-led government’s decision to provide a visa to Wirathu. Azath Salley, leader of the Muslim Tamil National Alliance, told Al Jazeera that Wirathu’s presence in the country will severely damage the chances of “any form of reconciliation taking place.”