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18-25 October: Monks’ Ongoing Resistance Against the Burma’s Military Regime

October 27, 2010

Riot police and security forces were on high alert in Rangoon this week after monks and activists issued a statement that they would be organizing protests against the 7 November elections. At least 2 monks were detained at the Shwedagon Pagoda for handing out pamphlets saying they do not accept the elections or the regime’s new flag.

Saturday marked the end of Buddhist Lent, an important religious event. On this day, temples and pagodas throughout the country hold alms donation ceremonies and are attended by millions of people. At Thayettaw Monastery in Rangoon, authorities stopped alms donations to monks. Authorities also banned the alms donation ceremony in Three Pagodas Pass, Karen State.

Since the Saffron Revolution, it has been clear that Burma’s monks hold a symbolic and collective strength that has the potential to pose a significant challenge to the military regime’s authority. With the aim of improving the well-being of the people of Burma, monks have continued to find ways to show their opposition to military rule, while continuing to respect and uphold their religious vows.

On 22 October, monks at Mahamyatmuni Pagoda in Mandalay distributed copies of the loving kindness sutra, a Buddhist prayer for the well-being of all living things, at the alms donation procession. They were immediately stopped by authorities. Reciting the loving kindness sutra and praying for the well-being of all has become a symbol of the Saffron Revolution. Monks distributed copies of the sutra during the 2007 protests and they have been used as a subtle form of resistance against military rule ever since. The following day at the Shwedagon Pagoda in Rangoon, monks distributed the same sutras with a stamp of 2010 crossed with an ‘X’.

In the aftermath of the Saffron Revolution, the regime has continued to place junta-allied monks in leading monasteries, and purging them of less obedient or politicized monks. The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners – Burma reports that 257 monks are currently in jail, including two who were sentenced last month – one whose monastery offered shelter for victims of trafficking and the other for supporting an anti-elections campaign.

Since the Saffron Revolution, and in the lead up to the elections, the regime has continued to deny freedom of expression, assembly, association and religion. Without the protection of these freedoms, it is clear that the elections will not bring genuine democratic progress or political and religious freedom for the people of Burma.

Please Note: In the coming two weeks, rather than these usual Weekly Highlights, Burma Partnership will be issuing more timely news bulletins relating to the elections.

News Highlights

Election Commission chairman says that foreign monitors and journalists will not be needed to monitor the elections

Cyclone Giri hits Arakan State killing at least 27 people, leaving 15 missing and destroying 2,800 homes

SPDC changes Burma’s flag, official name and anthem, as set out in the yet-to-be enacted 2008 Constitution

Inside Burma

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi intends to start using Twitter once she is released from house arrest in order to communicate with the younger generation

Burma’s highest court has agreed to hear a final appeal against the Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s house arrest

The New Mon State Party ceasefire group releases a statement calling for a boycott of the elections

New head of military intelligence unit Major General Kyaw Swe, “wants to restore the practices of the former intelligence services” under Khin Nyunt

USDP supporters destroyed a campaign billboard and threatened members of the rival National Democratic Party for Development; members of the two parties clash at a public meeting in Kha Mong Site Village, Arakan State

Nasaka border guard force in Arakan State orders commanders to pressure village authorities and residents to vote for the USDP

Soldiers in SPDC Army based in Falam town, northern Chin State, have been urging Chin people secretly not to vote for the USDP

SPDC authorities order factories throughout Burma to close so that laborers can vote

SPDC Army surrounds three Kachin Independence Organization offices in Kachin State

Junta-backed Pa-O National Army and Mark Kieng militias clash after an argument between Pa-O National Organization party members and villagers in southern Shan State

Oil pipeline explosion in Pakokku, Magwe Division, kills at least 14 people and injures more than 100

Work has started on a railway line from the planned deep-sea port at Kyaukphyu, Arakan State, to south-western China’s Yunnan province


Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya says refugees from Burma will not be immediately repatriated after the elections

Thai army increases border security ahead of elections in Burma

Thai police carry out a raid at the Mae La refugee camp following a tip-off that drugs and firearms were being stashed there

ASEAN leaders to call for free and fair election in draft statement


UN Special Rapporteur on human rights Tomas Ojea Quintana says conditions for genuine elections are limited, with election laws restricting freedom of expression and assembly

SPDC’s United Nations Ambassador, Thant Kyaw, tells an incredulous UN human rights committee that Burma has no political prisoners

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon omits Quintana’s recommendation for a UN commission of inquiry from his report to the General Assembly

China calls UN commission of inquiry “dangerous” and “counterproductive”, lobbies that it should not be allowed to proceed

Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah criticizes the EC’s announcement that foreign media and monitors would not be allowed to cover the elections

British Foreign Secretary and First Secretary of State William Hague expresses his support of the release of 88 Generation Students leading member Ko Mya Aye and the more than 2,100 political prisoners in Burma

Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen calls for greater global scrutiny on Burma’s elections, warning the vote could “hugely” set back democracy efforts

SPDC Embassies fail to inform overseas citizens of Burma to cast advance votes; advance voting at Tokyo embassy was met with protests calling for a boycott

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This post is in: Weekly Highlights