Religion Ministry Hits Out at Protesting Monks

By Kyaw Kha 4 August 2017

YANGON — Monks staging sit-in protests in Yangon and Mandalay against the National League for Democracy (NLD)-led government do not represent the majority of Buddhist monkhood in Myanmar, the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture said in a statement released Thursday.

Nationalist monks and laypeople staging a protest since Wednesday near the eastern gate of Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon and near Maha Myat Muni Buddha Image in Mandalay’s Chanmyathazi Township have been “taken advantage of by those who don’t want stability and tranquility,” suggested the ministry’s statement.

Protesters have been shouting slogans such as “we don’t want a government which downgrades race and [Buddhist] religion” and “we don’t want a government which favors those who are not good at management.”

There were banners stating “our cause is to overthrow the government which undermines Buddhism.”

The Yangon and Mandalay Sangha Nayaka committees attempted to dissuade people from demonstrating, but protestors had refused to leave by Friday morning.

The Mandalay Region Sangha Authority sent a letter to nationalist protestors in Mandalay on Thursday evening, warning the protestors to end the protest as they were against the law.

It was strongly denounced by the organizing committee on the same day, which said protestors would respond to any attempts to forcibly suppress the protest camp.

The ministry’s statement, quoting Buddhist scriptures, said that Buddhist monks could stage a protest only by refusing to accept the offerings and meals provided by laypeople and only inside their monastery compounds and only under eight circumstances.

The protests staged in Yangon and Mandalay did not conform, according to the statement.

Maj-Gen Aung Soe, deputy minister of the home affairs ministry, told reporters outside parliament on Friday that if the religion ministry files a complaint with authorities, there are laws and regulations in place to take action against the protestors.