Conflicts & War

‘Some conservative monks don’t want democracy in Myanmar’

By Gaspar Ruiz-Canela

Bangkok, May 25 (EFE).- Some conservative monks do not want democracy because they fear that Buddhism will lose in Myanmar, a Buddhist monk says.

In a telephone interview with EFE, Vijjo said his temple in Yangon did not accept donations from uniformed men as religious groups and civilians were against the coup, yet some supported the Feb.1 coup.

“They believe fake news of military, if democracy prevails in Myanmar, Buddhism will be in danger,” said the monk, who used an alias to avoid reprisal from the military rulers.

In his view, some monks support the military out of fear. Several others are close to ultra-nationalist groups that campaigned against Muslims in recent years, particularly the Rohingya minority.

“I do not accept the military coup. The military leader, I cannot call him a Buddhist, Buddha taught not evil, not to kill. He killed many civilians,” said the monk, in his 30s, who joined a monastery two decades ago.

“Everything is changed, we lost normal life. People are afraid of military,” added Vijjo, expressing sadness at the military repression on civil disobedience and protests against the coup.

He said protests had declined in Yangon because of the violence perpetrated by the military and police, and the fear was even greater at night when uniformed men harass and detain civilians accused of dissent.

In the temple, they distribute food daily to dozens of people out of work as the economy continues its free-fall due to months of protests and strikes.

Soldiers have turned some schools into barracks to monitor the population.

The monitoring group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said the uniformed men have so far killed at least 824 civilians as a part of the repression and arrested more than 5,400 people, including several monks.

About 90 percent of the 54 million people are Buddhists in the Southeast Asian country, home to 500,000 monks and 40,000 monasteries and temples.

The head of the military junta, General Min Aung Hlaing, is a fervent believer and has attended several religious ceremonies since the uprising, including one dedicated to the construction of a 19-meter high marble Buddha in the capital, Naypyidaw.

These ceremonies in which the military rub shoulders with saffron-robed monks are highlighted in the official media entities to showcase an apparent return to normalcy in the country.

In March, a draft statement leaked from the committee of the Sangha Maha Nayaka (Mahana), the top Buddhist authority in Myanmar.

The statement announced that the panel of 47 high-ranking monks was suspending its activities after asking the military to stop killing, arresting, and torturing unarmed civilians.

However, members of the committee continue to attend events and military ceremonies as seen in state media, such as the Global New Light of Myanmar.

Several ultra-nationalist and Islamophobic Buddhist groups supported Min Aung Hlaing when, as the army chief, when he conducted a military operation against the Muslim minority Rohingyas between 2016 and 2017.

The events from that period are under investigation for alleged genocide in the International Court of Justice.

These monks, like the popular Wirathu, also opposed Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader deposed in the coup,

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