Myanmar monks celebrate Buddha’s birthday at junta event

Published May 15, 2022
Mandalay: Monks line up to receive alms during a military junta-organised gathering to mark the Buddha’s Birthday near the former royal palace on Saturday.—AFP
Mandalay: Monks line up to receive alms during a military junta-organised gathering to mark the Buddha’s Birthday near the former royal palace on Saturday.—AFP

MANDALAY: Thousands of monks celebrated the birth of Buddha at a junta-organised event in Mandalay on Saturday, highlighting a division in the clergy since last year’s coup in Myanmar.

Since the coup that ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, more than 1,800 people have died in a brutal military crackdown on dissent, according to a monitoring group.

Some monks have joined street protests opposing the power grab, while other religious leaders have defended the military junta.

Ahead of Buddha’s birthday, a group of Mandalay monks opposed to the coup urged other holy men not to participate in the junta-organised event.

“They are ogres, but they pretend to be human beings,” the Sangha Mandalay monk group said in a Facebook post.

“They have bloody hands... It is time for our Buddhist monks to oppose this food donation event.” The last time the event was held in 2019, prior to pandemic disruptions, an estimated 30,000 monks attended.

Government officials and representatives from a military-linked political party hosted the religious ceremony near a former royal palace on Saturday — the day coinciding with a full moon. Lined up in long rows of chairs, 10,264 monks in crimson and saffron robes listened to prayers, chanted and filed past officials and their family members to collect rice and cash donations.

Mandalay monk Ugga Nyana insisted participation in ceremony was not a political statement, and the clergymen came in the name of love.

“We are coming to this ceremony just to think of peace for people and our country,” he said. “There is nothing in my mind about political party issues.”

Published in Dawn, May 15th, 2022

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