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Mandalay Peace Protest – Police have surrounded the monastery

By The Best Friend  •  November 16, 2011

Mandalay: Senior monks from the Mahanayaka (Sangha Council) negotiated with the five protesting monks, including Ashin Sopaka, and convinced them to move to the New Masoeyein Monastery with the promise that the Mahanayaka would take responsibility for the security of all five monks and that they would be allowed to continue their protest by delivering a speech to the public on the three following days.

On Wednesday the senior monks requested that they once again move, this time to the Old Masoeyein Monastery. After the first public speech, which was attended by around 1200 listeners, the senior monks told Ashin Sopaka and his friends that they could not give them permission to speak any more and that they now would have to move again, this time to the smaller “Water Monastery” near Mahamuni Paya.

They have permission to stay at the “Water Monastery” for only one night. On Thursday they have to move to another place. Which place that will be is still unclear. The monastery compound has since been blocked by police. No civilians are allowed to enter and talk with the monks.

Laypeople who have tried to protect the protesting monks are unable to make contact with them anymore. We were able to talk to one man who said, “I’m so delighted that I have a chance to participate in a peace movement with him (Ashin Sopaka), but now I’m so so afraid. …If I face with something wrong, don’t forget me please.”

Ashin Issariya (King Zero) was able to talk to Ashin Sopaka shortly. He said that for him this is a success, it is enough. He is happy he could discuss the matters with the Sangha Mahanayaka (Sangha council). The Senior monks of the Sangha council will report the discussion to President Thein Sein. Even though Ashin Sopaka doesn’t know what will happen next, he trusts that the Sangha Mahanayaka will protect him and his friends as promised. Ashin Sopaka is really happy that he can work together with the Burmese people. He said, “I am ready to face any consequences according to the law”.

If arrested he could be charged for crossing the border into Burma, for violating the “Electronics Act” (The Electronics Law bans Burmese citizens from using the Internet to send information, photos or videos critical of the junta to foreign audiences), or for connection to an “illegal” organization.

Background: 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.

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