October 18th, 2010
Thu Rein, IMNA : The Township Peace and Development Council (TPDC) from Three Pagodas Pass Sub-Township, Karen State, has prohibited residents from gathering at all monasteries in the region to celebrate an upcoming festival.
This year’s annual monk donation festival at TPP, where attendees give communal offerings of provisions and articles of clothing to members of the local monastic community, was to originally to be held on October 22nd, the full moon day of the Buddhist month of Thadingyut, a sabbath day devoted to fasting and abstinence from sensual pleasures. As of the second week of October, the festival for 2010 has been cancelled.
Authorities reported that they banned the festival on the grounds that large gathering have been discouraged by the Burmese government until after the upcoming Burmese elections this November. Similar anti-assembly mandates banning local festivals were reported in Mudon Township, Thanphyuzayart Township,and Kyiakmayaw Township in Mon State earlier this month.
According to a member of the TPDC at TPP, “[We] will not allow to hold [the festival] for fear of crowding people before the election. No celebration in this year”.
Three Pagodas Pass residents are reportedly extremely unhappy with this recent prohibition, which prevents residents from donating provisions to monks living in the roughly 80 townships in the region.
The donation celebration is traditionally led by the TPDC chairman and the head pagodas trustee from the TPP Sub-Township. Angry residents reported that they had been preparing for the festival by compiling donations of rice and other foodstuffs, and had been in the process of sewing special celebration garments to wear to the celebrations.
TPP residents attributed the ban to an alleged desire by Burmese government and its proxy party, the Union Solidarity and Development Council (USDP), to limit contact between monks and civilians before the upcoming elections, as a means of stifling anti-government sentiment. Since the monk-led uprising known as the “Saffron Revolution” in 2007, donation ceremonies to monasteries all over Burma have been strictly monitored by Burmese government forces, although this year marks the first instance of festivals being completely banned.
A TPP resident said, “The issue is the monks and people were closed. The USPD is being busy campaigning in the area, that’s why they ban it [the festivals]. They [the USDP] are worrying it will become a difficultly for them”.
While the donations festivals themselves have been banned, monks residing in TPP monasteries still stand a chance of receiving a portion of their typical donations. A woman residing in Mudon Township in Mon State reported that the festival organizer from the township has been busily collecting funds to donate to the area’s monks; it is unknown if such a measures will be taken in TPP.
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