Burma

As Myanmar Burns, Junta Pours Money Into ‘World’s Tallest’ Buddha Image

By The Irrawaddy 27 June 2022

While over 2,000 civilians have been killed in crackdowns and interrogations and 1.2 million more people displaced since the coup in Myanmar, junta leader Min Aung Hlaing and his supporters are having a Buddha statue—touted as the world’s biggest sitting Buddha image—built in Naypyitaw.

The 81-ft (24.69-m)-tall Buddha image known as Maravijaya is being constructed in a park of the same name in Dekkhinathiri Township along with more than 700 marble slabs inscribed with text from the Tripitaka, the entire Pali Canon of Theravada Buddhism. Through its media, the regime has been constantly urging people to make donations toward the construction of the Buddha image and stone inscriptions.

On Sunday, Min Aung Hlaing visited the construction site, and construction of the Buddha image is now 40-percent complete, junta media reported.

Among the biggest donors to the project are members of the current regime as well as former generals and ministers of former military dictator Than Shwe and ex-general U Thein Sein’s administrations, according to the junta’s announcement.

Regime chief Min Aung Hlaing in November 2021 with an architectural rendering of the pagoda compound where the world’s largest Buddha image will be located.

Donations were made in memory of late prime minister General Soe Win of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) regime, who allegedly masterminded the 2003 Tabayin Massacre in which junta-backed thugs attempted to assassinate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in Sagaing.

U Nay Aung, U Pyi Aung and Navy chief Admiral Moe Aung also donated 60 million kyats (about US$32,500) in memory of their late father U Aung Thaung, a henchman of U Than Shwe widely considered the most corrupt minister of the former regime.

U Nay Aung and U Pyi Aung are known to be arch-cronies of the current regime. U Pyi Aung is a son-in-law of General Maung Aye, who was the No. 2 man in Than Shwe’s SPDC regime. U Moe Aung was promoted to Navy chief shortly after last year’s coup.

Vice-President U  Tin Aung Myint Oo of U Thein Sein’s administration, former Union Election Commission chairman former Lieutenant General Tin Aye, former information minister Brigadier-General Kyaw Hsan, former ministers at the President’s Office former Vice Admiral Soe Thane and Thein Nyunt, former defense minister ex-general Wai Lwin, and former sports minister U Tint Hsan have also made contributions toward the building of the Buddha image to honor Min Aung Hlaing, who seized power from the National League for Democracy, which won two consecutive general elections in 2015 and 2020.

U Tin Aung Myint Oo donated 10 million kyats and ex-general U Tin Aye, who is U Thein Sein’s friend and former chairman of military-owned Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd., handed out nearly 75 million kyats.

(Top: Left to Right) Soe Htut ,U Khin Yi, U Wai Lwin, U Thein Soe
(Bottom: Left to Right) U Ko Ko Hlaing, U Wunna Maung Lwin, Yar Pyae,U Kyaw Hsan

While the ex-generals of the previous regime have poured donations toward the building of the Maravijaya (“Victory over Mara”) Buddha image, at least 20 regime minister including Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin, Immigration Minister former Brig-Gen Khin Yi, Investment and Foreign Economic Relations and Social Welfare Minister Daw Thet Thet Khaing and Minister of Justice and Attorney-General Daw Thidar Oo also made contributions.

The majority of them lost to the NLD in the 2020 general election, but became ministers thanks to Min Aung Hlaing.

In the international arena, Wunna Maung Lwin who also served as foreign minister in U Thein Sein’s administration is defending the atrocities of Min Aung Hlaing and his regime. U Khin Yi who served as the police chief in U Than Shwe’s regime and immigration minister in U Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian government, organized large-scale pro-military rallies before Min Aung Hlaing’s coup.

After being appointed as the minister of Foreign Investment and Economic Relations, former military officer U Aung Naing Oo sacked striking staff of his ministry. Daw Thet Thet Khaing, the former NLD lawmaker, is a turncoat who approached Min Aung Hlaing after she was defeated by her former party in the 2020 general election. Her husband Dr. Aung Kyaw Win, the owner of Golden Palace gold and jewelry shop, received an honorary title awarded by Min Aung Hlaing.

Union Attorney-General Daw Thidar Oo was concurrently appointed as minister of justice after she successfully adopted legislation designed to stifle dissidents in a way favorable to Min Aung Hlaing.

Meanwhile, Sitagu Sayadaw Bhaddanta Nyanissara and Ashin Chekinda, who are overseeing the construction of the Buddha statue, have also received promotions. After the coup, Sitagu Sayadaw, who was previously the joint head, became the head of the Shwekyin sect, the second largest monastic order of monks in Myanmar. Ashin Chekinda has also been promoted from a department head to acting rector at the International Theravada Buddhist Missionary University in Yangon.

Obviously, retired and active generals are of one mind on perpetuating the military dictatorship in Myanmar, and they will definitely help the pagoda donor Min Aung Hlaing to become the country’s president next year.

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