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Repression on monks in Burma

Oct 01, 2009

The Resistance of the Monks, a Human Rights Watch publication, provides a detailed account of the repression on monks and the violations of their rights in Burma [Myanmar]. It slams the military junta’s shoddy approach to justice and recommends that political prisoners be freed.

The Resistance of the Monks

Publisher: Human Rights Watch, September 2009.

Burmese monks have played an important role at many critical historical junctures and, in response, the authorities have often cracked down hard.

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Monks have long been seen as a political and social threat to military rule in particular and, since 1962, successive military governments have gone to great lengths to sideline the Sangha from the country’s political life.

Since the Burmese army’s brutal military crackdown on Buddhist monks and other peaceful protestors in September 2007, a constant refrain has been, “What happened to the monks?”

This 99-page report written by longtime Burma watcher Bertil Lintner, describes the repression Burma's monks experienced after they led demonstrations against the government in September 2007.

The report tells the stories of individual monks who were arrested, beaten and detained, approximately 250 monks and nuns who remain in prison today Two years after Buddhist monks marched down the street of the detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, hundreds of monks are in prison and thousands remain fearful of military repression.

Many have left their monasteries and returned to their villages or sought refuge abroad, while those who remained in their monasteries live under constant surveillance.

Nearly all share the conviction that a time will soon come when Burmese monks again will be called on to serve as a public voice of conscience.

The junta’s mishandling of the Cyclone Nargis disaster has further exacerbated the already grave situation in the country. While the “shoe issue” marked the beginning of the end of colonial rule in Burma, it remains to be seen what impact the events of 2007-2008 will have on Burma’s future. If they spell the beginning of the end of military rule in Burma, history will show that monks were at the forefront of that long awaited change.

The report provides key recommendations of the International Community:

  • Pressure the Burmese military government to respect fundamental freedoms for members of religious orders in Burma.
  • Make the release of all political prisoners, including Buddhist monks and nuns, a precondition to any official political, diplomatic, or trade meeting with Burmese government officials.
  • Support stronger measures in the United Nations Security Council to ensure religious freedom and basic freedoms of Burmese citizens ahead of planned elections in 2010.
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