Buddhist Monks Take on Military Regime
Asia in focus ⬿

Buddhist Monks Take on Military Regime

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September 7, 2007

Yesterday, twenty security officials were taken captive for several hours by Buddhist monks in the town of Pakokku, Burma. The officials had went to their monastery–populated by some 10,000 monks–to apologize for the injuries they caused during a protest about rising fuel prices the day before.

On August 15, the military junta unexpectedly doubled the price of fuel, which has hit many people very hard. The cost to use transit for instance, increased fivefold.

A series of protests have occurred since then. The one on Wednesday, gathered some 400 people. Security officials attempted to break up the protest by firing shots into the air. Then they dragged about 10 monks away, tied them to electricity poles, and beat them with bamboo sticks.

When the officials arrived at the monastery the following day, the angry monks refused to let them leave, setting fire to their vehicles. A short while after, hundreds of locals gathered outside the Monastery gates to applaud the monks.

From IPS News – Political tension in military-ruled Burma has taken an ominous turn with soldiers clashing, this week, with sections of the country’s respected Buddhist clergy. The confrontation was the latest in an unfolding drama that has featured rare public protests at massive hikes in fuel prices in August.

On Thursday, monks in the central town of Pakokku openly defied the regime by burning four cars belonging to local authorities. ‘’The monks, who are students at a large monastery in Pakokku, are very angry with the military regime,’’ Than Win Htut, a senior producer for Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), a radio and TV station run by Burmese exiles in northern Thailand, told IPS.

Anger directed at a military regime, known for its oppressive grip on power, first erupted as a clash on Wednesday between soldiers and monks in Pakokku town some 500 km north of Rangoon. On the morning of that day, soldiers fired warning shots, for the first time since the protest against the fuel hike began, to break up a crowd of over 300 monks.

‘’The monks started a protest march from their monastery and were cheered on by thousands of people as they headed into the town,’’ says Than Win Htut. ‘’The soldiers dragged about 10 monks away, tied them to electricity poles and beat them with bamboo sticks.’’

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