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Monday, 20 February 2012

Mizzima News

State Buddhist council lives in authoritarian past

by U Pyinya Zawta (Pakada)

(Commentary) – As the military prepares to bring Ashin Gambira back into criminal court, it’s time to reexamine the relationship between the State-sanctioned Sangha Council and the military-dominated government of Burma.

In the traditional Buddhist Pāli language, a single monk is called Puggala, an individual. Two to three monks are called in Sanskrit Gana, a circle of devotees, and four or more monks constitute a Sangha or Samgha. From the time of Buddha, Buddhist monks have always lived in communities of Sangha and will continue to do so for ages to come.


Throughout history, ordained monks and nuns were not obligated to join additional organizations outside of the Sangha. According to the Pāli Canon, there are no other organizations to represent Buddhist monks besides the Sangha.

Buddhism recognizes all ordained monks as members of the Sangha as long as they adhere to the moral discipline outlined in the Vinaya Pitaka of the Buddhist scripture. There is no requirement to register with any government authority to prove one’s identity of monkhood.  Monks have always lived a simple and meditative life by paying respect to the senior monks and by fostering harmonious relations among the monastic members. No monk can be involuntarily expelled from a Sangha, except when the Buddhist monastic code of conduct, called “the four Parajika Dharma,” has been violated.

Even if the monk’s robe is forcibly removed, the person’s monkhood still remains. One can only ordain or disrobe a monk by following strict rules of the Buddhist Canon. Disrobing cannot take place without a proper ceremony, but those who are “Buddhists” in name only incorrectly assume that removing the robe will reduce a monk to a layperson.

In 1980-81 the Maha Nayaka, the government sanctioned Sangha Council in Burma, was formed with 47 monks under the rule of the BSPP (Burma Socialist Program Party).  Many prominent monks denounced the government’s use of a registration system to control Burma’s Sangha. Even at the height of the BSPP dictatorship, monks bitterly resisted the government’s intrusion into Buddhism. They believed that by requiring the monks to register with the authority, Ne Win’s government was putting collaborating monks in charge of the Sangha community to control religious freedom inside Burma.

Some senior monks candidly told Sein Lwin, a government recruiter, that they would rather not become part of an instrument to tyrannize the monks. When more and more monks began speaking out against the government’s attempt to undermine the religion, some were arrested under false charges of violating the most serious Parajika-Dharma, the monks’ moral code of conduct.  After accusing those monks as “fakes,” the Central State Sangha Council was formed amidst criticism by the prominent monks in Burma. Again, in 1991 and in 2007, activist monks were arrested under false charges of being “fake” monks when they refused to receive alms from the members of the military because of their failure to help the people in dire poverty.

At the founding of the Maha Nayaka or Mahana, the BSPP raised enormous amounts of funds by partnering with popular entertainers. They brought in large amount of alms offerings, telephones, cars, land, and above all, power and influence, to the Mahana monks who collaborated with the authorities.  From time to time some monks were even suspected of offering bribes for lucrative Sangha Council positions, causing conflicts within the previously harmonious monks’ communities.

Profits from bribery and kickbacks have become a big business for the justices and middlemen at the Ka-bar-aye office of the State Sangha Council, where monastic disputes over lands, buildings and violations of the monks’ Parajika-Dharma code of conduct are settled. Regardless, it is still the responsibility of the Nayaka council to protect and promote the humanitarian and religious efforts of the Burmese monks. Together with local authorities, the Nayaka Council should try to clean up the unethical behaviors of a few monks—such as gaming, gambling, panhandling at bus depots, consumption of alcohol, and eating after noon.

Though the Mahana was founded to preserve the growth and integrity of the Buddhist institutions in Burma, monks with true convictions were powerless against the regime’s handpicked Nayaka Council members. Although a number of new Pariyatti Buddhist institutes for higher learning were opened in the past, young Burmese monks were still not able to practice religion freely.

Young intellectual monks with true convictions were prohibited from openly discussing their views and were often threatened with expulsion and failed grades. Following the downfall of the BSPP, under the SPDC (The State Peace and Development Council), the Nayaka Council continued to harass these monks over trivial offenses while it routinely offered the preferred seats at the religious seminaries to monks who collaborated with the regime.

Additionally, the government’s Na-pa-tha Buddhist universities have not been able to promote Burmese Buddhism abroad because of the shortage of talent, inadequate supplies, and the dictatorial tendency of the Nayaka Council.

Burmese Theravada Buddhism was brought to other countries only by those monks who were supported by private donations. Except for a brief period, religious freedom and Buddhism study came to a standstill under the present leadership of the Nayaka Council in Burma.

While there were ecclesiastic Vinichaya courts available to handle charges brought against Burmese monks, without the help from the Mahana Sangha Council, Burmese monks were instead tried in military-controlled criminal courts during the Saffron Revolution.  Monks were forcibly disrobed and sentenced to years in prison. In order to preserve their own privileges, the government-sponsored Mahana monks usually comply with the orders from the authority without weighing the moral consequences of their actions.

As witnessed during the 2007 Saffron Revolution, a weak and ineffectual Maha Nayaka State Sangha did not try to stop the nighttime raids on monasteries and the brutality against the monks by the military regime bent on crushing the freedom of the young monks.

Buddhism is a path of enlightenment from future sufferings, as well as the sufferings of the present life. According to Buddha’s teachings, Burmese monks are expected to contribute toward the wellbeing of those around them, in healthcare, education and many other ways all across Burma. Historically, monasteries have been the bastions of intellectual studies; and their contributions to the quality of life have earned them religious merits and recognition as champions of the oppressed. Since ancient time, monks have acted as pillars of the community, and their efforts and advice were kept in high esteem throughout Burmese society, where accepted etiquette and codes of conduct taught by the monks provided guidance to rulers and lay people alike on how to live in peace and harmony.

Burma, where Buddhism has flourished for centuries, deserves a much better Sangha Council, one which is unafraid to tell the truth, and which can remain independent of outside influences. It must be able to resist the temptation of the four offenses of Buddhism, and be able to provide proper guidance to the monastic communities across Burma.

To create an independent Sangha Council, the monks must be allowed to make free choices, and while the authorities and lay people can offer support, religious matters must be left only in the hands of the monks.

As long as the present Sangha Council remains in place there is no hope for the preservation of Buddhism in Burma.

First, the Council collaborated with the BSPP, and then with the SPDC. And now under Thein Sein’s government, the Maha Nayaka Council is still serving the interests of the authorities instead of the people. While the Burmese military is moving toward political reform, the State-sponsored Mahana is stuck in the authoritarian past. Indeed it is time now to replace the old and corrupt authoritarian Maha Nayaka Council permanently, with a new, democratic, just, kind, and truthful Sangha Council, according to the teachings of the Buddhist Canon.


Last Updated ( Monday, 20 February 2012 16:37 )



What Obama Can Do for Burma – from the Wall Street Journal

U.S. engagement with the junta shouldn’t be open-ended.

By AUNG DIN March 1, 2010

The news from Burma, my home country, seems to only go from bad to worse. Last week, Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi was denied yet another appeal and will remain under house arrest. Last month, Burmese-American human-rights activist Kyaw Zaw Lwin, also known as Nyi Nyi Aung, was sentenced to three-years in prison on trumped up fraud and forgery charges…

How can the U.S. and the international community play a meaningful role in bringing true peace and freedom to Burma? The answer lies in placing collective political and economic pressure on the regime to engage in meaningful and time-bound dialogue with Ms. Suu Kyi, her party, and the leaders of Burma’s ethnic minorities. Failing that, the U.S. should take the lead in organizing a global arms embargo against the regime, and establish a commission of inquiry to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity in Burma by the United Nations.

This will require Mr. Obama’s strong leadership and commitment.

To see the whole article, click here.


In 2007, Burmese monks marched on the streets of Burma and chanted prayers to bring attention to the hardship of their people. And for expressing compassion toward the long suffering people, the Burmese military regime attacked and punished the monks. Innocent people and monks have endured this government’s brutality for over twenty years, but the army generals responsible for crimes against humanity have gone unpunished and the international community has been powerless to help the people inside Burma. In order to be more effective, people everywhere and of all religions need to come together and hold the Burmese junta responsible for their brutal acts. As long as members of any government continue to commit brutal crimes with impunity in its own country, the world will remain in turmoil and peace will be impossible.

U Pyinya Zawta

December 2009

YouTube ABMA Video by Gersing Aung

YT Video Volunteers for Human Rights

26 August 2009

Opinion article – Senator Webb’s visit (Read Irrawaddy online here)

Webb’s Misguided Views

By PYINYA ZAWTA Wednesday, August 26, 2009

US Sen Jim Webb recently traveled to Burma to lean not on Burma’s military regime, but to pressure my country’s democracy movement into giving up economic sanctions—the most important tool in our struggle for freedom.

Although he emphasized the necessity of the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, this falls far short of the demands of the US, the United Nations and the European Union for the immediate and unconditional release of all my country’s 2,100 political prisoners.

Webb’s ignorance of the situation in my country was revealed his book “A Time to Fight” in which he came down squarely on the side of the oppressors in Burma. He wrote about the demonstrations which took place in Burma in 2007, led by Buddhist monks such as myself.

“If Westerners had remained in the country this moment might never have occurred, because it is entirely possible that conditions may have improved rather than deteriorated.”

Webb’s statement is either shockingly naïve or willfully misleading. We Buddhist monks, who Webb discounts as a “throng,” marched for an end to military dictatorship in Burma not because we wanted marginal improvements in our economy. We marched because we believe in freedom and democracy and are willing to make sacrifices to reach those goals.

Webb claims that the Burmese people would benefit from interaction with the outside world, as if we need to be condescendingly “taught” by Americans about our rights and responsibilities. Had Webb spent some time with real Burmese people apart from the military regime and others who share his views, he would better understand the sacrifice we made for democracy, and he would know that we Burmese value the longstanding support we have had from the US Congress.

Webb, an author, has proven extremely manipulative in his use of language, calling for “engagement” and “interaction” instead of sanctions. His implication is that the Burmese people are solely set on sanctions and confrontation—the exact same language used by Burma’s military regime, which couldn’t be further from the truth. The truth is that the world is not as black and white as Webb would have it. We want the United States to talk to and negotiate with Burma’s military regime, but this shouldn’t preclude increasing international pressure. The US appears to be able to carry out this policy with other countries such as in North Korea where it is willing to talk to the North Koreans while at the same time increasing sanctions if Pyongyang doesn’t respond. Webb is intent on driving a wedge into this process in the case of Burma. We must choose, he explains, between sanctions and engagement—there can be no sophisticated strategy, only complete involvement or none at all.

What Webb proposes—lifting sanctions on Burma—translates to basically handing over the Burmese peoples’ natural resources to rapacious multinational corporations, particularly Big Oil.  If the US lifts sanctions on Burma, there will be a rush of companies into Burma intent on looting my country’s natural heritage and the benefits of such “engagement” will flow directly to the military regime.

In terms of human rights, Webb has remained focused only on Suu Kyi’s freedom and ability to participate in scheduled elections in Burma, never mind the fact that the Burmese regime has already rigged the elections so that no matter who participates there will be many more decades of complete military rule.

The new constitution is an air-tight document that gives no room whatsoever for reform from within. At the same time, Webb has completely ignored the purposeful, massive human rights violations carried out by Burma’s military regime. The human rights nightmare in Burma includes the recruitment of tens of thousands of child soldiers, pressing hundreds of thousands of Burmese into forced labor and the widespread rape of ethnic minority women.

Luckily for the Burmese people, Webb is not the only US senator. Recently, the US Senate voted unanimously to extend sanctions on Burma. President Obama signed the bill into law.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is a student of politics and more likely to examine the facts on the ground instead of falling for blanket ideological generalizations. While Webb may seek to sell out Aung San Suu Kyi, our courageous Buddhist monks, and all the people of Burma, we hold out hope that Secretary Clinton and President Obama will take a more nuanced view in formulating policy toward Burma.

In particular, the US should seek to negotiate with Burma’s military regime—but, at the same time, carry forward along the lines of the advice offered by South Africa’s Nobel Peace Prize recipient Desmond Tutu: seek a global arms embargo on Burma’s military regime, start a UN Security Council investigation into crimes against humanity committed by the regime, and begin the process to full implementation of financial sanctions against the regime and its cronies.

Webb is now despised by the people of Burma. If he succeeds in achieving a shift in US policy to abandon sanctions, he will have secured his place in history as one of the
most important supporters of Than Swe’s military dictatorship.

U Pyinya Zawta, Buddhist monk, was actively involved in the 1988 demonstrations. He was sentenced to three years in prison in 1990 and again sentenced to seven years in 1998. He is one of the founding members of the All Burma Monks’ Alliance (ABMA) which lead the 2007 Saffron Revolution. He is now in exile in New York after fleeing the country due to the threat of arrest.

This article also appeared in the Huffington Post on 31 August, 2009.  Click Here to see the article.

11 August 2009

Open Letter to Senator Jim Webb, on visit to Burma and meeting with the Military Regime … from the All Burma Monks’ Alliance, the 88 Generation Students and the All Burma Federation of Student Unions

Foreign Policy Article – Letter to Senator Webb

July 13, 2009

Statement to UN General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon after his meeting with Gen. Than Shwe
from ABMA, ABFSU, 88Gen


January 2, 2009
Leading saffron monk’s memoir
by U Pyinya Zawta

Read original Mizzima article here

Burmese monks are known to have played an important role in their nation’s politics throughout its history. While they did not partake in mundane political processes, they traditionally held positions of moral authority, and dispensed wisdom and guidance to past kings, rulers and governments in Burma. On some occasions, emissaries from the monasteries were despatched on peace missions to avoid war with foreign powers.

Buddhist monks gave council to past monarchs, ranging from the first King Anawrahta of unified Burma in Bagan, to the last King Mindon and his son King Thibaw, guiding them on how to properly conduct themselves as responsible rulers. Burmese monks fulfilled their obligations toward their religion and the people in the past as royal advisers, and most importantly, as the guardians of sacred rights and responsibilities of all citizens.

Burmese monks continued to play an important role in national affairs even after Burma fell under British colonialism, in 1886. During the Colonial era, a monk leader U Ottama brought political enlightenment back to Burma and eventually helped lead the nation to independence from Britain. His lectures inspired generations of followers including Ko Aung San who later became the father of Burma’s Independence. Another brave and defiant monk, U Wisara, died in prison after a 166-day hunger strike in 1929, but still helped reawaken political consciousness in Burma, and with his final words, to “never forget,” urged the people to persevere until independence was obtained from Britain.

After the 1948 independence, numerous political and social organizations proliferated in Burma. During this period Burmese monks formed the All Burma Young Monks’ Union (ABYMU) to continue championing the causes of their people.

But after the 1962 military coup, General Ne Win abolished all civil and political organizations in Burma, and the ABYMU was banned in 1964. Even though barred by the military, young Buddhist monks remained at the forefront of political movements from the 1974 U Thant crisis, to the 1975-1976 one hundred years’ anniversary of labor unrests in Burma.

During the nationwide uprising in 1988 when one government faction after another failed to control the county, monks used their authority to prevent anarchy and chaos and provided sanctuary to the public. After the military took back power through another coup on September 18th, 1988, the All Burma Young Monks’ Union was again established, as an Upper Burma branch in Mandalay and as a Lower Burma branch in Rangoon, and monks joined the people’s protest against the return of the military dictatorship.

In 1990, the National League for Democracy (NLD) members, student activists, and ordinary citizens made alms donation to the monks marching peacefully on Zay-Cho and 26-B roads in Mandalay, marking the two year anniversary of the ’88 uprising. When the army forcibly tried to stop the procession, unrest broke out and many monks were brutally beaten. Since the authorities prevented the monks from alms collection by egregiously violating Buddha’s Dharma, two monk leaders, U Raza Dama Bewitha and U Kovida Bewitha of the Upper Burma Young Monks’ Union called for a religious boycott dubbed ‘Overturning of the Alms Bowl,’ against the SLORC government, for the first time.

Led by monks from major monastic academic institutions, the Young Monks Union in Rangoon joined the boycott movement, as prescribed under Buddha’s Dharma laws, and they affirmed their pledge with obeisance toward the Shwe Dagon Pagoda, on 3 October 1990, the Tha-din-kyut full moon day of Burmese year 1352, at the Ngar Htait Kyi Pagoda pavilion.

With prompting from U Ahnt Maung, a high ranking member of the government’s religious affairs department, the military junta in panic arrested and sentenced to long prison terms senior monks from renowned monastic academies, members of the Rangoon Young Monks’ Union, and monks from other Sangha academies. Tragically Ashin U Arsara from the Thayettaw monastery died in Thayet prison and Ashin U Zaw Tika from the Shwebon Pyint monastery died in Insein prison, both from torture and inhumane conditions. The fates of many other monks taken away by the government during the 1990 boycott protest remain unknown.

Finally, after almost two decades since many monks were arrested and imprisoned, the monks’ resistance against military oppression in Burma seemed to have all but evaporated. But the Saffron Uprising in 2007 proved that the monks’ resolve to defend the future of Burmese Buddhism and their people was growing only stronger, not weaker.

Before the leading monks’ organization the ‘All Burma Monks Alliance’ was founded during the Saffron Revolution, many smaller monks’ coalitions had already been established. As the first step, the All Burma Young Monks Union organized a central working committee with five leading monks from Rangoon and one from Mandalay, selected from many monks’ organizations. At the same time various smaller local monks’ organizations were being created, in Pegu, Pye, Magwe, Moulmein, and Arkan areas. The famous leading monk, Ashin U Gambira, who was arrested last year, and six other monks led the formation of the Rangoon Young Monks’ Union to represent monks from the Rangoon area.

Monks from upper Burma in Mandalay formed the Federation of All Burma Monks’ Union and helped organize monks’ reading groups, libraries, and literary discussion groups, among other activities. Young Monks’ Unions, like Students’ Unions, were being formed all over Burma with the sole intention of ending the military dictatorship in Burma. During the mean time, Young Monks’ Union members helped other monks’ organizations to coordinate, consult and exchange ideas by helping them communicate with each other. When the regime became suspicious at times, new monks and civilians were used as dispatchers. And on occasion, meetings were cancelled in order to evade the junta’s relentless assaults.

Since 2005, there was a growing realization that a mass movement to overthrow the Burmese dictatorship was becoming inevitable, and many activist groups began expanding their underground movements in anticipation.

When the military junta suddenly increased the price of fuel on August 15, 2007, impoverished people in Burma faced an unprecedented level of hardship. When small demonstrations broke out against the severe economic conditions, government thugs’ organizations named, Swan Ahh-shin, Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), and riot police were sent in to violently suppress the peaceful protests, and swiftly ended the public outcry.

In order to come to the rescue of frightened and battered citizens suffering under severe economic hardships, the monks took it upon themselves to unite all of the monks’ unions and to create a larger monks’ alliance at a meeting scheduled for September 9, 2007 at a monastery in Mandalay. By September 4 many monks had left their monasteries and were on the way to the meeting.

But on September 5 when the Pakokku monks came out to chant the peaceful prayers of the ‘Metta Sutta,’ – the sutra of loving kindness to radiate the spirit of love to all beings – in sympathy with the suffering public, the local government militia brutally attacked the monks and tied them to electric poles, beat them with rifle butts, and arrested them. News of these actions spread quickly, and the next day unrest broke out and cars were burnt in Pakokku.

Burmese monks from all over the country felt compelled to respond to such shocking violence against revered Buddhist monks who were marching peacefully. When the monks gathered on September 9 as previously agreed, the meeting was forced to move to a new location for fear of detection by the authorities. Finally, monks at the meeting unanimously decided to boycott the military if the government failed to comply with the following demands by a given deadline.

The monks demanded that the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC)

1. Apologize to the Pakokku monks, by midnight of September 17
2. Reduce the prices of fuel oil and basic commodities
3. Unconditionally release Aung San Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners
4. Hold dialogue with the democratic political opposition representatives in order to begin a national reconciliation process

The ensuing united monks’ organization was named the ‘All Burma Monks’ Alliance’ (ABMA) and the monks decided to proceed with boycotting the military on September 18, 2007 after the regime failed to meet the demands before the deadline.

Members of All Burma Monks’ Alliance

1. All Burma Young Monks’ Union
2. Federation of All Burma Monks’ Union
3. Rangoon Young Monks’ Union
4. Sangha Duta Council of Burma

The executive founding members of ABMA

1. U Pakada (Pannasara )
2. U Medhavi
3. U Kheminda
4. U Aww Ba Tha
5. U Tay Za
6. U Gambira

The announcement of the above formation of the ABMA was handwritten, photographed, and published via email media sent from a handheld camera, since computer communications were disrupted or unavailable.

During the Saffron uprising, generous provisions of food and essential services were donated to the monks by a caring public. There were exemplary unforgettable individuals like one outstanding patron who took diligent care of the monks.

On September 18, 2007 the ABMA effectively began the boycott against the SPDC regime, and the event became known as “the Saffron Revolution.” The United Nations and the rest of the world were forced to acknowledge the Burmese people’s struggle for freedom from brutal military dictatorship.

Much of the credit for the Saffron Revolution was since given to famous organizations or people, but the real contribution to the Saffron Revolution was made by the monks and people who genuinely shared the grievances of ordinary citizens, and who took unified and daring actions inside Burma.

Many Burmese people were aware of the 2007 Saffron Revolution and people from all over the world had also taken notice and became more interested in Burma, since ‘The Golden Uprising’ – as it was known in Burmese – eventually brought the UN Secretary General’s special envoy, Mr. Ibrahim Gambari, to Burma.

But the Saffron Revolution did not simply emerge without effort. The Saffron Revolution was born of the leadership of the All Burma Monks’ Alliance – ABMA – the joint organization of four original monks’ unions and the extraordinary courage of the member monks, and their ability to unite for the sake their people. The uprising took place precisely because of the determined leadership of the All Burma Monks’ Alliance (ABMA).

The All Burma Monks’ Alliance (ABMA) was founded on 9 September 2007. Numerically it lines up as 9-9-9, when 2 and 7 from the year 2007 are added and also when all numbers 9+9+2+7=27 are added, including the sum of 27; 2+7=9.

After the thugs hired by the junta government attacked a group of monks marching peacefully in Pakokku, on 5 September 2007, the ABMA made four demands to the Burmese military government, with 17 September 2007 as a deadline to respond. The ABMA announced via local media that if the military failed to accede to its demands, the monks would carry out a boycott against the government officials beginning on 18 September 2007. Numerically digits of the date 09 18 2007 also add up to numeral 9.

September 18, 2007 was the 19th anniversary of the military coup and therefore an important date for Burma’s generals. It also became a symbolically significant day for the Burmese monks, as the severe moral rebuke by the monks against the army junta, called ‘overturning of the alms bowls,’ was to begin on that same day. As early as 5:00 AM on 18 September, reporters began calling the ABMA leaders about the monks’ boycott against the military. The reporters continued calling every hour on that day, asking whether the monks’ boycott — of refusing alms from military families, effectively denying them important religious merit — would still be taking place. Early on, while events were still unfolding, it was very difficult to predict the day ahead. But, at that moment it became evident that the honor and esteem of Burmese monks and their religion was terribly at stake. As the gravity of the risk we had taken became clearer, we anxiously continued reassuring the public that conditions were good and that monks were proceeding with a boycott against the Burmese military. Still, we were not able to give a real encouraging answer, yet. Till noon of that day we were not quite sure of the outcome of the decision we had made while we responded to the inquiries about the monks’ boycott.

The dramatic event of the 18 September 2007 Saffron Revolution was similar to the ‘8-8-88′ uprising in Burma. Even as news media were reporting the rising momentum for countrywide mass protests in 1988, no one dared predict the inevitability of 8-8-88 uprising with confidence. Even at 7:00 and 8:00 a.m. there was still no certainty that the uprising was to take place. Only at 9: a.m. on 8 August 1988, when marchers from labour and student movements joined and advanced together along the promenade could we let out a sigh of relief.

In spite of heavy army roadblocks, the Burmese monks had also successfully staged a protest against the SLORC military government for the first time on 3 October 1990, the full moon day of the lunar month Thadingyut, (the end of Buddhist Lent), Burmese year 1352, at Rangoon’s Ngar Htait Kyi Pagoda.

The most anxious moment on 18 September 2007 was at noon after our daily meal, as we watched the day’s events with anticipation and saw nothing unusual. But after that moment many monks began gathering at Thingan-Kyun, Kyaikasan, and Shwedagon pagodas.

The authorities moved to close down the monks’ quarters at Kyaikasan Pagoda, and monks from the Thingan-Kyun monastery began arriving at the Kyauk-sar-daw historic pagoda of the Magin monastery. The government and its violent militia organizations, the USDA (Union Solidarity and Development Association) and Swan Ah Shin (SAS-force of violence) were sent into pandemonium. Meanwhile, the monks began to arrive and seated themselves with great dignity and grace on the ground of the Kyauksardaw Pagoda. And then there was only utter silence.

Until suddenly, when sounds came from the distance, we only listened, listened for the sounds. It was 1:30 PM on 18 September 2007, and the resounding murmurs of the monks’ Metta Sutta prayers could now be heard from afar. The monks were praying and chanting to emphasize their rebukes against the military for violating Buddha’s teaching.

Soon after, the phones began to ring constantly, and the news of monks chanting the Metta Sutta and marching to the Shwedagon Pagoda in Rangoon and to other pagodas and monasteries in Taunggote, Pakokku, and Kyaukpadaung began to reach us.

Then phone calls from news media started to come in. And it was recorded that the All Burma Monks’ Alliance had survived this great day. Followed by more dramatic days….

May freedom come to the people of Burma soon…

The writer is the founding member and Foreign Executive Director of the All Burma Monks’ Alliance