YANGON – Venerable monks have been denied access to hotel conference rooms to host a press conference urging the release of five Buddhist monks detained on Friday.
Five Buddhist monks from Maha Thandi Thukha monastery in Yangon were disrobed and detained at Insein prison for offending the state religious ruling committee.
The religious dispute came to a head last Tuesday when police, officials from the Religious Affairs Ministry and some 250 monks from Yangon Sangha Nayaka Committee raided and shut down the monastery, run the venerable abbot Penang Sayadaw.
The authorities took some 20 monks into custody and have since disrobed and charged five — including the abbot’s disciple, English national Sayadaw U Ottara — for religious offences under Section 295 (a) 20/90 of the Penal Code at Tarmwe Court.
Sayadaw U Pamauk Kha aimed to hold a press conference on June 15 but found there was no available place to rent.
“We went to Sky Star Hotel owned by Shwe Than Lwin Company on June 14 morning to rent a hall and the hotel staff agreed. When we came to pay a deposit in the afternoon they didn’t accept us. They lied to us and denied saying that the rooms were already full,” said U Pamauk Kha.
Other followers found similar difficulties, with many owners refusing to associate themselves with the monastery for fear of repercussions from the government.
“Many owners agreed to rent their places before knowing the case but then refused us after hearing that we were from Maha Thandi Thukha monastery. On June 20, Sayadaw U Oatta and monks will be hearing at Tarmwe Court. We will know what to do while meeting with the Sayadaw U Oattara,” said Ye Min Oo.
MEANWHILE TODAY IN FRONT OF BURMESE EMBASSY LONDON
Penang Sayadaw, abbot of MahaThandiThukha monastery, yesterday lashed out at the authorities for defrocking five monks before investigating their alleged religious offence.
Asked by Daily Eleven, Penang Sayadaw was commenting on the Tuesday’s raid at his monastery which led to the remanding and disrobing of the five monks.
The abbot, who has been on a trip to Japan, said he would return and resolve the incident carried out by secular authorities as well as the Regional SanghaMahaNayaka Committee, the ruling body for Buddhist monks.
“The Regional SanghaMahaNayaka Committee has the mandate. We do not have any mandate; therefore we will watch and respond to the actions they carried out. I will return to Myanmar to solve the problem. I cannot say exactly when I am going to come back. It may be tomorrow. It is difficult to set the date,” said the abbot, also known as U Pannavamsa.
The five monks are U Ottara (Sayadaw from England), U Thondnara, U Pannawura (Sayadaw from London), U Nanniya and a Sayadaw (name unknown) from Rakhine. They are guests at the monastery, according to the abbot.
The abbot said he suspected foul play in the defrocking process and that he questioned whether the decision to deprive the monkhood reflected the view of the entire ruling body for Buddhist monks.
“The Sangha code of conduct office has to determine whether a monk should be disrobed. Depriving monkhood without investigation is against Buddhist teaching, code of conduct and Sangha laws. The incident has caused uneasiness among local and foreign monks. The order of Regional Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee is based on 47 monks in the committee, representing some 500,000 monks. I want to ask them whether their order was really based on the view of all 47 monks,” said the abbot.
Under the instruction of the committee, the five monks were charged for religious offence under Section 295 (a) 20/90 of the Penal Code at Tarmwe Court.
The five have been disrobed and are currently detained at Insein prison, according to Friday’s news reports.
At the Ministry of Religious Affairs press conference, President’s Office advisor Ant Maung said the monastery raid was carried out because the monks violated religious disciplinary rules and trespassed on the monastery grounds.
In rebuttal, the abbot said, “The defrocked and detained monks are staying as guests of the monastery. U Ottara does not have the residency at the monastery. He has been travelling back and forth between London and Myanmar. U Pannawura came to Yangon to attend a Sayadaw’s funeral. U Thondnara is visiting to help SayadawGyi. U Nanniya has come at the invitation to take care of me (the abbot). This is for a month. The next monk , a Rakhine monk was staying for a while. While I am abroad, they are helping as per assignments given by SayadawGyi.”
The ministry said the abbot could return to Myanmar because there was no ban for him.
The 88 Generation Peace and Open Society issued a statement denouncing the monastery raid. The use of force in the raid triggered public anxiety, it said.
The committee chairperson Sayadaw U Eindapala is believed to be behind the shut-down of MahaThandiThukha monastery. He is also reportedly the preceptor of the five monks.
His present residence is at Mula Se-Taung-Pyae monastery, near Zawana Junction, Thingangyun.
“Brothers should write the history bravely. If a monastery owned by State Sangha Maha Nayaka is not protected, whose would be? The assigned duty should be performed decisively. ThandiThukha case which is drawing world’s attention would be recorded today,” said the Voice Weekly quoting an audio clip of Sayadaw U Eindapala.
The journal report appeared in the publication dated June 16-22, 2014.
“Leave all the cars at the regional office. We will go in express buses. We will enter like we are foreign guests. We must act bravely. The monks there are not young. I have heard that they used to be those who returned to the legal fold from Myawaddy and Kawthaung,” according to the journal quoting U Eindapala ahead of the raid.