Myanmar authorities begin crackdown on protesting monks, laypeople

Photo: Bo Bo/Mizzima

The authorities launched a crackdown against the protest camp of the nationalist Buddhist monks at Sasana 2500 Beikman in Mahamuni Pagoda Compound in Chanmyathazi Township in Mandalay at around 2:15 am in the morning of August 5.

The move came after Deputy Minister of Home Ministry Maj. Gen. Aung Soe told parliament August 4 that they were planning to peacefully handle demonstration camps in Yangon and Mandalay.

The demonstrators including lay people and monks are demanding the resignation of the National League for Democracy-led government. They say has the government has not dealt effectively with national interest and race issues and has failed to protect the majority Burman nationality and the predominant Buddhist religion.

Video, shot by a Mizzima reporter, shows government officials working in the dark to remove protestors in Mandalay.

The protestors had disregarded an official notice from local religious authorities to dismantle the camp.

Maj. Gen. Aung Soe was speaking earlier at a parliament session in Nay Pyi Taw.

“The Ministry of Religious Affairs is discussing and in negotiation with the departments concerned in townships, districts and region-level to handle this matter. Moreover the Region Governments concerned are also having meetings and they are planning to handle these demonstrations peacefully according to the existing laws and procedures,” he said.

Maj. Gen. AungSoe added that they would take action against these demonstration camps based on negotiations with the Sangha Nayaka Organziations and news releases issued by Region Governments with the relevant procedures step by step.

There are two main sites of protest – in Mandalay and in Yangon.

Some lay people and some monks totaling 70 have set up a protest camp at Kyaythun pagoda near the eastern gate of Shwedagon pagoda in Yangon and the dozens had a sit-in at the Mandalay Mahamuni Pagoda premises.

The demonstrators said that they would stage their demonstrations indefinitely with the demand for the resignation of the government. They accused the government of being a “dictator government” and “spoiling Buddhism”. They also accused the NLD government of giving favour to Muslims on the Bangladesh border in northernwest Myanmar.

Sangha organizations have reported issued advice to the striking monks to leave the camps at the earliest.

Abbot U Agga from Mandalay demonstration camp said on August 4 in the evening that the Township Sangha Organization called them at 10 a.m. and gave advice to move from their camp and had sent a letter to them earlier.

“Abbots from the Township Sangha Organization clearly said to us to leave from our camps by 10 p.m. today as the latest. We replied to them this was not a demonstration. This is boycott of the government so we have no plan to move from this camp,” U Agga said. 

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