Buddhist monks against the coup
by Francis Khoo Thwe

The Mahana, the state committee of the Sangha Maha Nayaka, is preparing an official statement condemning the violence against the demonstrators, along with the torture and killings. Threats of strike in activities in Buddhist temples and schools.

Yangon (AsiaNews) - The state committee of the Sangha Maha Nayaka, the most powerful group of Buddhist in Myanmar, has asked the junta to stop the violence against demonstrators and accuse "an armed minority" of torturing and killing innocent people. The "Mahana" - the Committee acronym - is expected to issue a statement tomorrow, after a meeting with the minister of religious affairs.

News of the strong stance of the most authoritative body of Buddhist monks was shared with Myanmar Now, a local newspaper targeted by the junta along with other media.

The condemnation of violence and killings is the most official and toughest stance to date taken by the world of Buddhist monks regarding the coup.

So far minks have participated in demonstrations in different cities - Mandalay, Yangon, Pegu, Pakokku… - but their requests were more general: peace for the nation and victory of evil over good. In recent weeks, news circulated that Shwe Nya War Sayadawa, a monk very close to the NdL (the National League for Democracy, the party that emerged as the super-winner of last November's elections), had been arrested.

The strikes, fasts, processions of Buddhist monks were fundamental in 2007, in the so-called "saffron revolution" against the military junta of the time. Although it did not achieve tangible results, it served to draw the attention of the international community to Myanmar, initiating a process of change.

After 2007, however, the junta changed all the authorities of the various monasteries in the country. Since then, the Mahana has been trying to guide the monks to stay out of political issues. This is why it’s taking a stand today is of great significance.

According to a member present at the Mahana meeting, the monks are threatening to stop all their activities in Buddhist temples and schools.

According to 2016 data, the Mahana oversees nearly 600,000 Buddhist monks and nuns, of whom about half are novices. The Buddhist religion is practiced by 90% of the Burmese population.