Buddhist monk hacked to death in Bangladesh

Monk believed to be latest victim of killing spree by Islamist militants

DHAKA • An elderly Buddhist monk was found hacked to death yesterday in Bangladesh, police said, the latest in a spate of murders of religious minorities and secular activists in the Muslim-majority nation.

No group has claimed responsibility yet, although the killing in the remote south-eastern district of Bandarban appeared to bear a resemblance to recent murders by suspected Islamist militants.

A troubling rise in violence in the South Asian nation has now seen seven murders since the start of last month alone.

"Villagers found Bhante (monk) Maung Shue U Chak's dead body in a pool of blood inside the Buddhist temple this morning. He was hacked to death," Mr Jashim Uddin, deputy police chief of Bandarban, told Agence France-Presse.

He said the monk, 75, appeared to have been attacked early yesterday morning by at least four people at the temple in Baishari, some 350km south-east of Dhaka.

A troubling rise in violence in the South Asian nation has now seen seven murders since the start of last month alone.

"We saw human footprints in the temple and found that four to five people entered the compound," he added.

He said Mr U Chak was living alone in the hillside temple after having recently left farming to become a full-time monk.

A top Bangladeshi human rights lawyer who is close to the country's Buddhist community told AFP that Mr U Chak had received anonymous death threats.

"He became a monk just 11/2 years ago. He had received death threats, but nobody took it seriously," lawyer Jyotirmoy Barua said.

Bandarban is largely Buddhist, home to indigenous peoples who adopted the religion centuries ago.

The killing comes as suspected Islamists have been blamed for or claimed responsibility for dozens of murders of minority Sufi, Shi'ite and Ahmadi Muslims, Hindus, Christians and foreigners in recent years.

Yesterday's murder adds to a grim toll in past weeks, with an atheist student, two gay rights activists, a liberal professor, a Hindu tailor and a Sufi Muslim leader hacked to death since last month.

The terrorist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and a Bangladeshi branch of Al-Qaeda have said they carried out several of the killings.

But the secular government in Dhaka denies that ISIS and Al-Qaeda are behind the attacks, saying they have no known presence in Bangladesh, and blames the killings on home-grown militants.

Clashes broke out in Bangladesh last week after the main Islamist party called a nationwide strike to protest against its leader's execution for war crimes.

Jamaat-e-Islami party president Motiur Rahman Nizami was hanged late last Tuesday following his conviction for the massacre of intellectuals during Bangladesh's 1971 war of independence from Pakistan.

Bangladesh is predominantly Sunni Muslim, with small Christian and Hindu minorities.

Buddhists make up less than 1 per cent of Bangladesh's 160 million population.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 15, 2016, with the headline 'Buddhist monk hacked to death in Bangladesh'. Print Edition | Subscribe