Five Monks Released From Prison After Threat of Mass Protest

monastery raid

The monks, dressed in white polo shirts, exit the courthouse in Rangoon on Friday. (Photo: Sai Zaw / The Irrawaddy)

RANGOON — Five Buddhist monks have been released from detention but are still facing charges after a state-backed Buddhist clergy raided their monastery in Rangoon earlier this month.

After nationalist monk U Wirathu threatened to rally hundreds of thousands of fellow clergyman to protest the detainment, a court in Tamwe Township, Rangoon Division, announced on Friday that the five monks would be released on bail from the notorious Insein Prison and returned their robes. The bail for each defendant was 20 million kyats (US$20,000).

More than 100 supporters of the monks gathered at the court to hear the announcement, which came the same day the country’s religious affairs minister was fired for allegedly failing to uphold his duties. The minister is also facing allegations of corruption.

Aye Cho, a senior lawyer for the five monks, said his clients had been charged with insulting religious feelings and beliefs, and with disturbing places of religious worship and assembly. The charges carry fines and prison terms of between one and two years.

The raid on Rangoon’s Maha Thanti Thukha monastery on June 10 has become a scandal in Burma, a Buddhist majority country that holds monks in high esteem. The state-backed clergy responsible for the raid evicted seven monks and 32 laymen from the monastery.

The five detained monks, including the English national Sayadaw U Ottara, are followers of Penang Sayadaw U Pyinnya Wuntha, an 86-year-old abbot who has been involved in a dispute with the state-backed clergy over the ownership of the monastery since the early 2000s. The Ministry of Religious Affairs had backed the state clergy in the case and supported the raid.

2 Responses to Five Monks Released From Prison After Threat of Mass Protest

  1. Putting hands on Monks by the government violate freedom of religion according to the international norm in democratic nations. Government’s thugs are inside Buddhist Organization too. All of us who really love democracy must stand up and rebuke the regime. Arresting monks at night is proving that regime is insincere when arrest was made. These monks were there in that Monastery all the time. Why should regime go in the daylight?

  2. The government of a Buddhist country has no business to disrobe monks, except if they are found guilty of breaking one of the four Parazika precepts laid down in the code of 227 monks’ rules.
    The four Parazika precepts are
    1) sexual intercourse with the opposite sex,
    2) stealing,
    3) killing a human being, or encouraging suicide,
    4) intentional lie about supramundane attainments.

    Were the five monks accused of stealing the monastery in which they lived, from the rightful owner the Sangha Mahanayaka?
    Or was the Sangha Mahanayaka stealing it from the rightful owner the Penang Sayadaw?
    There ought to be an answer to this in accordance with the Vinaya rulings.

    A dispute about ownership of a monastery between different members of the Sangha should have been solved by applying the Vinaya jurisdiction, not by forcibly disrobing monks.

    The lay government is still responsible for this wrong action, even if the minister of religious affairs was dismissed.

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