The government has warned that action will be taken against anyone who disrupts public talks on literature that are being held with legal permission.

The warning, issued by presidential spokesman U Ye Htut on February 18, follows incidents in which monks have disrupted public events involving Muslims or those who have spoken out against religious discrimination.

U Ye Htut said Article 348 of the constitution forbids discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, culture, gender or financial status.

“It is not considered to be in accord with this provision of the constitution if a person is prevented from participating in a public lecture on literature on the grounds of their religion,” he told Mizzima.

His comments follow an incident in Yangon’s North Okkalapa Township on Union Day, February 12, at which more than 100 monks forced the cancellation of a public talk on literature because two of the participants – Ko Mya Aye, a member of the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society group and U Ko Ni, a legal adviser to the National League for Democracy – are Muslims.

The monks said they were members of the Myanmar Patriotic Sangha Union.

The next day in Mandalay, objections from monks forced Ko Mya Aye to be replaced as a speaker at a public lecture held to commemorate the independence hero, General Aung San.

The previous month, writer Ma Thida (Sanchaung), who has spoken out against discrimination on the grounds of race and religion, was prevented from speaking at a literary talk at Paungde in Mandalay Region.

Speaking later about being banned, Ma Thida (Sanchaung) said: “We cannot gain peace and reconciliation this way.”

NLD leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who chairs a parliamentary committee on tranquility and the rule of law, said disrupting lawfully permitted events was not in accordance with the law.

The 88 Generation Peace and Open Society group said in a statement that disrupting public events was unlawful and contrary to democratic values.

The statement called on those who want the end of dictatorship and the establishment of democracy to collectively protect the rights of all citizens.

Meanwhile, local administrative officials have been also been banning literary talks involving writers, prominent author Maung Sein Win (Padigon) told Mizzima.

Maung Sein Win (Padigon) said that on February 13, the day after giving a literary talk at Pyawbwe in Mandalay Region with fellow writers Nyi Pu Lay and U Phone (Datu), they were summoned by local officials and told they would never again be granted permission to speak publicly in the township.

Maung Sein Win quoted one of the officials as saying the talk given by the three writers amounted to campaigning on behalf of the NLD.

“This officer was in fear of losing his position,” said Maung Sein Win (Padigon).