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We call on all monks, people of Burma and people outside of Burma to join Ashin Sopaka

By The Best Friend  •  November 16, 2011

Official Statement. In the past several months people around the world have been asking us “Where is Ashin Sopaka?” Now everyone knows.

On 15 November at 5 a.m., Ashin Sopaka and four other Buddhist monks locked themselves in a building on the compound of Mahamuni Paya, which is one of the most revered places in Burma. They unfurled banners in English and Burmese reading: “We want freedom”, “Free all political prisoners”, and “Stop civil war now”.

This is the first public protest by monks since the mass demonstrations in 2007.

King Zero: “Ashin Sopaka and the other four monks are friends of mine. Monks who are visiting here in Mae Sot at the moment will go back to Burma soon to join the protest. They will share information to all monasteries inside Burma. I have contacted my whole network. I call on all monks inside and outside of Burma to follow Ashin Sopaka now. The more monks and people who can join in the demonstration, the better. We must work all together now.

The military-backed government had promised the release of some political prisoners on Monday, but they did not release anyone. We monks cannot wait any longer. We all monks have to work to free the political prisoners, including the monks, now. Ashin Gambira and Ashin Kheminda, for example, are very ill. We have received alarming reports about U Gambira’s condition, and U Kheminda is also in poor health. He has had no connection whatsoever with his family in a very long time. His mind and body are in decline.

Many monks have been in jail for more than four years now. We monks have to demonstrate for their release because they have worked for our country’s freedom, not for themselves. We must not forget them.

The military regime has never stopped the civil war against the ethnic minorities. Over a million people are on the run, the military burns down houses, rapes woman. This is a big problem. We have to try to stop the civil wars.

We have no freedom of speech. Famous preachers are not allowed to preach the Buddha’s teachings freely. We have to be able to teach freely and give dhamma talks. Even though we are a Buddhist country, the military regime has never allowed us to teach freely.

These are the three things Ashin Sopaka and his fellow monks are asking for. They are very important and have to be demanded because we need these three things now.

I have been working together with Ashin Sopaka since 1999, trying to get freedom for our country. We have been working together inside the country and outside the country. When I was working inside Burma for freedom, he was working in exile for the freedom of our country.

Now he is back inside Burma to continue his work there. He is always thinking about how to bring about the freedom that we all want to see so much.

In 2006, when he was in Germany, he did a 29-day peace walk from Köln to Berlin.
In 2007 he did a peace walk from Bangkok to Mae Sot and from New York to Washington. While he was living in Mae Sot he organized a peace walk every year.”

Ashin Kovida: “Ashin Sopaka is someone who speaks frankly, but he never uses violence. In his mind violence is never a possible way. He never thought about bringing change to Burma through violence. Wherever he goes he will talk about that non-violence — never about change with brutal force. He is always searching for a peaceful way to bring about change. This is why he created the peace dove symbol as a logo.

I support his actions because they are non-violent, and because they are in accordance with the Buddha’s teachings and with Burmese traditions as well.

Ashin Sopaka has been campaigning continuously for non-violence. Several months ago, he went back inside Burma to make close contact with the people. But whether outside in the west or inside Burma, he has been talking about peace and non-violence all the time, because he is not a violent person.
He now tries to show a way to free all political prisoners in a non-violent way.“

About Ashin Sopaka
Ashin Sopaka was born in Burma in 1977. He became a novice at the age of 12, and has been living as a Buddhist monk ever since. He is the co-founder of The Best Friend. He had to flee his home country in 2001.

In exile Ashin Sopaka has lived in Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Laos, and Japan. In 2003 he went to Germany where he founded the Kölner Buddhismus Center, and in 2011 the Best Friend International e.V.
After the brutal crackdown on the Saffron Revolution in 2007 he became a secretary of the International Burmese Monks Organization and traveled extensively in Europe and America.

Between 2006 und 2007 he organized several peace walks in Europe, Asia, und America. He was honored with the International Peace Award in 2008 by the Society of Libera.

Since summer 2009 he has been living at the Thai-Burma border where he was running several projects for Burmese refugees. This includes The Best Friend Library, which offers free English and computer classes, and a relocation project for Burmese refugees living on the rubbish dump of Mae Sot. He founded a school for migrant children and has organized a free mobile health care project.

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