Mandalay Cracks Down on Unauthorized Residents in Monasteries

By Zarni Mann 14 June 2017

MANDALAY — Mandalay Division’s state Buddhist Sangha authority known as Ma Ha Na will crackdown on unauthorized residents in the division’s monasteries in an effort to drive out suspected drug dealers, gamblers, and illegal traders from operating on monastery premises.

“The association requested occupants not connected to the monasteries to leave compounds by the end of July,” said director of Mandalay Division’s religious affairs department U Khin Maung Tint. “If they don’t leave, the Ministry of Religious Affairs will use security forces to drive them out.”

In August last year, more than 40 illegally-imported vehicles were seized from a monastery in Mandalay’s Chanmyathazi Township, according to the department. There have also been local reports of rape cases and illegal arms within monastery compounds in the past.

“Senior monks of the association want to take these ugly moles from the face of the country’s Buddha Sasana, so they instructed the ministry to take legal action if illegal occupants, or monks allowing them to stay, do not follow the warning,” said U Khin Maung Tint.

The director explained that only monasteries with unauthorized residents will be targeted in the crackdown, and that laymen and women who help in larger monastery’s kitchens and offices will be allowed to stay.

Monasteries, where Buddhist monks of all ages live, study, meditate, and preach, are technically not allowed to have women and laymen stay, according to the state Buddhist authority. Exceptions are made, however, for ill or disabled family members of monks, as well as young children who cannot be supported by their families.

There are cases of laymen renting land from monasteries or gaining permission from the abbot to live there and operating betel shops, tea shops, and even car and motorcycle workshops, which are believed to sometimes host illegal activities.

According to Mandalay’s religious affairs department, there are 9,755 monasteries in the division and efforts to drive out unwanted residents were completed in 1981, 1990, and 2004.