11/26/2009, 00.00
MYANMAR
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The Burmese junta continues the persecution of Buddhist monks

The regime threatens the families of the men who participated in the riots of 2007, imposes travel restrictions and bans prayers. Over 270 monks detained in prison for their alleged political activities. Buddhist movement has "excommunicated" the chief General Than Shwe.

Yangon (AsiaNews) - The military junta continues to persecute the Burmese Buddhist monks, while the international community remains silent. The regime - still seeking revenge for the protests of 2007, which were bloodily suppressed - threatens the family members of religious monks who have taken part in the peaceful revolt, imposing restrictions on the travel of monks and prohibiting many of them from leading traditional prayers.

Ashin Thavara - Secretary General of the Committee representative of all the Burmese monks (Abmrc) based in India, a group at the forefront of protests two years ago - told the newspaper The Irrawaddy: "My parents have to register every month with local authorities, who also demanded to be informed about any contact they have with me. Not only that but they also put pressure on my parents employers to fire them".  

On 27 September 2007, the military junta that has governed Myanmar for 60 years, ordered the repression of the monks, who were only seeking respect for human rights and greater democracy in the country: Monasteries were raided, monks were arrested, many were killed or forced into exile.

Ashin Issariya - one of the founders of the Alliance of All Burmese Monks (Abma) - reports: "The generals have not ceased to insult and punish monks and the Buddhist religion. More than 270 religious are still held for their alleged political activities”.  

The Burmese Ministry of Religious Affairs tries to control the community through the Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee, a semi-state organization of monks, which has issued the order to limit the travel of monks and prevent them from reciting the Dharma (the traditional public discourse taught by a Buddhist master, on the teachings of Buddha). This happened, for example, to Nya Sayardaw War, the rector of the Buddhist University of Yangon. Two years ago, moreover, the regime confiscated the property of monks deemed "rebellious" and to date has not yet returned it.  

According to the testimony of the abbot of a monastery in Mandalay, "plainclothes security agents are keeping a close eye on us and spy on the activities of the monasteries every day." The Abbot says that "four young men who were in contact with the monks in Mandalay were arrested in September and they have been untraceable since".  

Last October, the Alliance of all Buddhist monks (who in 2007 had promoted the peaceful demonstrations, that started in Yangon) has effectively excommunicated General Than Shwe, the leader of the junta for not having apologized for the violence inflicted on the monks and the Buddhist religion.  

According to official figures, there are currently 400 thousand monks in Myanamr and their community - Shangha - is one of the most respected institutions in the country.

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