A war on monks is still underway in Burma, revenge for the monk-led peaceful mass demonstrations in 2007. The military junta continues to put pressure on monks and their family members, place bans on preaching the Dhamma and impose travel restrictions.
Ashin Thavara, the secretary of the India-based All Burma Monks’ Representative Committee (ABMRC), told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday: “My parents go to sign up at the township authority every month, and the authorities order my family to inform them whenever I contact them. They also pressured my parents’ employer to fire them from their job.”Ashin Thavara, 26, played a leading role in in the demonstrations and is a founding member of the ABMRC, which launched the demonstrations together with other monk organizations.“The Burmese authorities confiscated all of my belongings in February 2008, they have pressured monks leave my monastery, Zeya Theikdi Monastery in Rangoon’s Thingankyun Township. It now has only one old monk.”
On Sept. 27, 2007, the military government cracked down on the demonstrators and scores of monks were forced to flee their monasteries to escape arrest. Dozens of monks fled the country .
According to official data, there are now more than 400,000 monks in Burma, and its community, the Sangha, is considered one of the strongest and most revered institutions in the country.
Ashin Issariya, one of the founders of All Burma Monks’ Alliance (ABMA), said: “The military junta still oppresses and insults monks and the Buddhist religion. There are currently more than 250 monks and more than 20 nuns in prison in Burma for their political activities.” The regime’s Ministry of Religious Affairs seeks to control monks through the Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee (a state-sponsored Buddhist monks’ organization), which has issued orders restricting monks’ travel and ability to offer dhamma teachings.
Authorities have also banned individual monks, such as Shwe Nya War Sayardaw, the dean of Shwe Nya War Buddhist University in Rangoon, from delivering dhamma talks.
A monk who studied at the Buddhist University told The Irrawaddy on Thursday: “ Shwe Nya War Sayardawgyi has been banned from Dhamma talks in Rangoon since last year, because of his two Dhamma CDs, “True Independence” and “Don’t be Unfair.” Recently, he was also banned from presenting talks on full moon day in Hledan Township and Kyee Myin Daing Township on Nov. 19.”
The Ministry of Religious Affairs has also stopped issuing letters of recommendation, which are required, for a monk to travel to a foreign country.
A monk in Rangoon, Ashin Panyarsarmi, said, “Now the authorities are watching monks closely, and it’s very difficult to get visas and scholarships.”
Ashin Nayminda, who played a leading role in the 2007 demonstrations, said the authorities told his friends that if they contacted him, they could be arrested.
“Some of my friends who took part in the demonstrations have stayed away from me and returned to lay life,” he said. “All of my property in my monastery in Dawbon Township in Rangoon was confiscated.”
An abbot in Mandalay Division told The Irrawaddy on Thursday: “Plain clothes security officers are closely watching certain monks and monasteries.”
He said four youths who were in contact with monks in Mandalay were detained in September. “Their family and relatives do not know where they are now,” he said.
State authorities closed Maggin Monastery in Rangoon’s Thingankyun Township in November 2007 after its abbot, Sayadaw U Indaka, was arrested for his involvement in the demonstrations. Monks and novices were evicted along with several HIV/ AIDS patients who were receiving treatment in the monastery at the time.
In October 2009, the All Burma Monks’ Alliance expelled Sen-Gen Than Shwe from the Buddhist faith because he had failed to issue an apology for his abuse of monks and the religion of Buddhism.