Fri 30 Sep 2016
Filed under: Naypyitaw,Religion
A nationwide inventory is being conducted to determine the legality of religious buildings, according to the Ministry of Religion and Culture. Those found not to be in compliance with the laws could be denied funding from their local state and regional religious authorities.
The inspection function was devolved from the national government to the states and regions some years ago, said U Aung San Win, director of the Ministry of Religion and Culture.
He told The Myanmar Times yesterday, “[The inspection of] new buildings, modifications and repairs of all religious buildings has been a state and regional function since 2012. The government reminded the state and regional governments of this responsibility in May.”
Inspectors gather data on such matters as the name, address and type of building concerned, its area, and the names and other details of trustees.
The designation of “illegal” religious buildings has been a contentious issue triggering public backlash and allegations of religious discrimination following a stupa-planting spree by a renegade monk in Kayin State, and then two separate incidents of angry mobs destroying Muslim edifices earlier this year.
In Lone Khin, Kachin State, a temporary prayer complex erected without permission from local authorities angered the village’s Buddhist community who demanded the local administration take action. Finding the government channels too slow, an angry mob then razed the structures on July 1.
More recently, Rakhine State officials have announced plans to scrutinise and then demolish thousands of “illegal” buildings, including dozens of mosques and madrassas in Muslim-majority townships.
But the religion ministry’s index appears to be aimed at controlling funding streams.
“Religious buildings have to be registered to ensure they receive grants. There’s not much room for new building in Yangon,” said regional religious affairs director U Sein Maw.
Buddhist monasteries must have their status verified by the State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee (Ma Ha Na) or risk losing grant funding, he added.
In Shan State, a department of religion official, U Aung Than Maung, said the state government had sent out requests for the information, but not all the details had been provided.
“Some townships have filled in all the forms, but not all,” he said.
Under the previous government, 137 Yangon monasteries were found to be illegal. The number of unauthorised monasteries in Nay Pyi Taw was found to be 24, and there were 86 unauthorised monasteries in the other regions and states.
At a meeting last week with Yangon Region religious authorities, Union Minister for Religion Thura U Aung Ko said the new government, which is presiding over its first such inventory, had collected all the necessary background data.