Abbot Lashes out at Govt-Backed Clergy Over Monastery Raid

Buddhism Myanmar monastery, Maha Thanti Thukha Monastery, State Sangha

Buddhist monks walk in front of the Myanmar Port Authority building as they cross a road in Yangon March 5, 2013. (Photo: Reuters)

Abbot Penang Sayadaw U Pyinnya Wuntha has lashed out at the government-backed Buddhist clergy council, the State Sangha Maha Nayaka, over the forced eviction of his followers from Rangoon’s Maha Thanti Thukha Buddhist monastery on Tuesday.

The monastery has been at the center of an ownership row between the abbot and the State Sangha since the early 2000s.

On Tuesday night, State Sangha monks with the support of the Ministry of Religious Affairs raided the monastery and seven monks and 32 laymen—all followers of U Pyinnya Wuntha—were detained.

State-owned newspaper The New Light of Myanmar reported that the laymen were released on Wednesday morning and that the monks are being held “for further questioning.”

“I was told that they stormed inside the monastery as if they raided a terrorist base and took away [my] monks,” U Pyinnya Wuntha, 86, told The Irrawaddy by phone from Japan, where he is on a visit.

The abbot said the former military government built the monastery and granted the building and land to him in 1999, complete with legal ownership papers.

Following an overseas visit by the abbot in 2002, U Pyinnya Wuntha said, he fell out of favor with the government and the State Sangha claimed ownership of the large monastery.

He said that in 2004 “Gen. Khin Nyunt sent a letter and explained that they handed over the monastery to the [State Sangha] council because they found some administrative problems at the monastery while I was away.”

The State Sangha took control over large parts of the monastery and a small number of the abbot’s followers were allowed to reside in part of the building.

U Pyinnya Wuntha subsequently spent a decade living in Japan. Following the reforms, he returned and set to resolve the ownership issue. He said he contacted the State Sangha, adding, “But they said ‘no’ as it was donated to them.”

“So, I made a plea to the president, saying that we have every legal document on the ownership of the monastery. He responded that the property should go to someone who has legal ownership. But the State Sangha Maha Nayaka still insisted that they own it. Now it leads to an eviction, while I am away,” the abbot said.

Religious Affairs officials, quoted in state media, said at a press conference Tuesday that the government and individual donors paid about US$8 million for the monastery’s construction and that the abbot “has no right to privately own the property as the government already handed it over to the Sangha Maha Nayaka committee.”

U Pyinnya Wuntha insisted he has full ownership and he criticized the State Sangha over the way it conducted the raid and its activities at the monastery in the past decade.

“[State Sangha] monks with walkie-talkies raided a monastery, and their action was akin to people committing violence,” he said.

“My followers reported to me that during my absence the State Sangha Maha Nayaka put some parts of the monastery on hire for business use. They offered the venue for weddings and even for dancing classes!”

“We are the guardians of Buddhism who are against of any unjust action. Now we are mistreated. So people should be aware how bad the situation is,” the abbot said.

3 Responses to Abbot Lashes out at Govt-Backed Clergy Over Monastery Raid

  1. I am very much concerns about rule of law implementation in Burma.
    In my view, this case can be solved by needle; but unnecessarily the officials have used axe.

    Instead of promoting unity, peace and democracy in Burma, its appeared to be moved opposite direction.

    The land ownership dispute can be resolved in the appropriate court rather than using excessive force; its seemed like battle grounds with strategist plan, holding communication equipment to raid criminal drug camp. It should not be that way.

    I am very much fear of dividing among Sangha and using the religious as political tool by some politicians.
    I can foresee the danger and dis-stability of the country just one flash point.

    Burma indeed needs peace and stability within the country and international supports at this stage; unfortunately, this incident will certainly bring down the creditability of peace, stability and building genuine democracy of Burma.

    International political and business communities are watching closely on this event.

    Hoping the dispute would resolved happy ending.

  2. It is the fox than shwe’s strategy how to divide Buddhist monks into many pieces or levels because the monks sided with bama military thugs are pseudo-Buddhism, low born, low educated and very poor for being manipulated by fox. By doing so from bama military thugs’ dirty discipline ogle strategy , it is easy for them to rule the monks. At the same time, fox can downgrade the Buddhist monks as well as making monks to fight each others. Anyway, any reasons, any time and any where, fox can control monks because fox has private and paramilitary before fox uses airpower.
    Fox also knows fox will definitely lose in coming 2015 election in any kind of competition, so fox will not or never allow DASSK to participate in this election. Fox copies China in this regards but fox does not know there is a great difference between Chinese leaders and fox at the present time. Now and them, Fox enjoys free-lunch and kills own people/all ethnics-ethnic cleansing, kill students and kill local Muslim. Fox has U pie, his cronies with owing numerous properties ( for playing/controlling the high rent return), cheating naive, poor Arakenese,and poor Karen for divide and rule. Fox also threat China with the reason of potential racial clash with Fox’s underestimation of China political strategy. Fox than shwe, like late Ne win wants to blame China for his poor economic performance (high inflation in properties, poor health/education/living/social status/systems, the poorest income of ordinary Burmese, casual killing license, invading Kachin lands/homes , raping all ethnics for rewards and need of unfair, undemocratic, ogle 2008 nargic constitution-bama military favor-casual kill/rape/free-lunch. Fox is now luring all ethnics to sign peace before to tackle DASSK and ming ko naing. Not very long, Karen and Arakanese will know that fox is cleverly cheating them. Kachin activists and late U win tin said ” never trust bama military thugs. In history, bama military thugs were bad reputations ( dishonor panlong agreement, repeatedly break cease-fire agreement with their any reasons, anytime, any where with just the change of government name). If all ethnics sign the cease-fire agreement, fox will say all ethnics support/agree with his ogle, nargic 2008 bama military favored constitution.

  3. Who built this gigantic monastery? I thought monks only need three sets of robes, a begging bowl and a tree. The more people (especially the government) exploit monks by providing them with material things, monks will become more like laymen. U Wirathu, for example, is more like a layman than a monk. Why isn’t he disrobed?

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