On a hot evening in early September, a dark blue Toyota Double Cab parked outside a temple in Mandalay. It was there to pick up a monk who five years earlier had played a major role in issuing an excommunication order on members of the military and their families.
The order, which marked the beginning of the 2007 Saffron Revolution against Myanmar’s then ruling junta, was imposed after a crackdown on a small monk-led protest in Pakokku, Magway Region, in early September 2007. That incident led to much larger demonstrations around the country that were also suppressed by force, creating a lasting fissure between two of Myanmar’s most powerful institutions: the military and the monastic community.
The monk in Mandalay was taken to a hotel on 80th Street, where in a room on the third floor he met four people who turned out to be senior government officials seeking an end to the monks’ patam nikkuijana kamma, or formal refusal to accept alms.
This secret meeting led to subsequent talks, where the monks stated their demands, including a full apology and the reinstatement of monks removed from their monasteries for taking part in the protests. No deal has yet been reached, but if successful, the negotiations could bring closure to one of the most acrimonious episodes in recent Myanmar history.
This story first appeared in the December 2012 print issue of The Irrawaddy magazine.