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Shwedagon Pagoda monasteries sealed after monks, students evicted

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Three monasteries in the Shwedagon Pagoda compound lie dormant on order of the pagoda’s junta-controlled board of trustees, which sealed the scripture houses this week after evicting resident monks, temple residents and monks said. The evictions have forced the monks to break their Buddhist lent rule against travel.

The board alleged the monks at Daw Hla Sin Pitakat Taik, Shwe Hin Thar Pitakat Taik and Nyaung Done Pitakat Taik were living with laymen at the monasteries and ordered them to vacate the premises no later than June 30. It then extended the deadline to Sunday. Devotees and laymen were also told to move out.

The monks facing eviction sent letters to the chairman of the Central Committee for All-round Renovation of the Pagoda and Rangoon Command deputy chief Brigadier General Kyaw Kyaw Tun, denying the allegations, stating their residence complied with secular and Buddhist Canonical rules. The authorities ignored the explanation.

“No monks are at these monasteries and they are locked. We don’t know to which place they moved but there are no security forces deployed [to prevent their return],” a resident near the Daw Hla Sin Pitakat Taik told Mizzima. “We feel unhappy to see these monks moved to other places as they had lived here for many years without any problems.”

Sixteen Dhammasaryiya candidates – usually monks studying for a degree to teach laypeople Dhamma, or teachings of Buddha that lead to enlightenment – who had also lived in the shuttered monasteries, are now living at Thumingalar monastery in Kyaukmyaung Township during the current Buddhist lent period.

The letter to the Rangoon Command deputy chief by monks evicted from Daw Hla Sin Pitakat Taik, obtained by Mizzima, says, “We feel very sorry to be evicted from our monastery despite living here in accordance with the secular and Buddhist canon laws”.

It also says the stern eviction order that demands immediate vacation of the monastery is a black mark on the history of the Buddhist Sasana (the religious community in Burma).

The activist All Burma Monks’ Alliance (ABMA) appealed to senior Sayadaws (abbots) in the State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee (the junta-sponsored Buddhist monks’ organisation) on July 23 to intervene in the case, citing the great inconvenience the evicted monks would face.

The ABMA is a religious and social NGO comprising Burmese Buddhist monks who fled after from the 2007 “saffron revolution” protests. It supports refugee monks inside and outside Burma, and has offices in  locations that include Mae Sot, Thailand; New York and Malaysia.

Other Pitakat Taiks (monasteries originally known as scripture houses) in the Shwedagon Pagoda compound are Shwe, Ye, Karen, Daw Ngwe Nyunt, U Ohn Khin, U San Chein and the Land Record and Settlement Department. Daw Hla Sin Pitakat Taik is more than 76 years old.

“This act is an abuse of power that should not be applied even to laymen but now they [the authorities] have misused their power against members of the Sanghas, who are sons of the Lord Buddha,” an abbot at a monastery still allowed to operate in the compound told Mizzima.

“Every Buddhist knows monks can’t travel during the lent period. But they [the authorities] don’t care about it. Now these monks will face a lot of troubles,” he said. 

A board of trustees’ member told Mizzima the board would answer questions at a press conference to be held at a later date.
“We must press them to move if they don’t comply with our order as we have already paid them three million Kyats. Now the laymen have been involved in this case and it will be inglorious in the eyes of the people. The persons [those affected] can’t see this point”, the trustee said.

The trustee also blamed Burmese news services in exile for raising awareness of the situation, alleging a role of instigating dissent.

However, a monk living near these monasteries suggested the junta was harassing monks in the wake of the street protests against fuel-price increases in 2007 known as the “saffron revolution”. The protest marches were led by monks but thousands of Burmese participated before a violent crackdown by the army and junta officials left hundreds, perhaps thousands of people including monks dead or missing.

“Since 2007, the authorities have targeted these monasteries for alleged assembly and getting involved in the politics. They delayed their action not to make waves”, the monk said.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 28 July 2010 23:23 )  

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