Myanmar's military releases captives and honors an anti-Muslim monk
An ultranationalist monk in Myanmar who was formerly known as the "face of Buddhist violence" for inciting religious intolerance against Muslims has been honored as the nation's military rulers commemorate the country's independence from Britain.
Prior to the nation's independence day celebrations, the military's communications team announced on Tuesday that the monk Wirathu had received the honorific "Thiri Pyanchi" title for his "great work for the Union of Myanmar."
Wirathu was one of hundreds of persons who received honorary titles and other forms of recognition as the nation on Wednesday honored 75 years of independence from Britain. The award was given to her by the military government's leader, General Min Aung Hlaing.
Wirathu has a long history of using rhetoric that is both ultra-nationalist and anti-Islamic, notably in reference to the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar. He was shown as The Face of Buddhist Terror on the Time Magazine cover in 2013.
He has demanded limits on Muslim-Buddhist unions and a boycott of Muslim-owned businesses.
Human rights organizations charge Wirathu with inciting hatred towards the Rohingya people and setting the groundwork for a military operation in 2017 that resulted in the forcible migration of an estimated 740,000 Rohingya into Bangladesh.
According to local media and a government spokeswoman, thousands of convicts were also expected to be released on Wednesday to commemorate the national event; however, it was unknown if political prisoners would be included in the estimated 7,012 scheduled to be released.
Along with criticizing nations for meddling in his country's internal affairs, military head Min Aung Hlaing thanked China, India, Thailand, Laos, and Bangladesh for "positively" cooperating during Wednesday's independence day celebrations.
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