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Mandalay Peace Protest – Sangha under pressure

By The Best Friend  •  November 18, 2011

Since yesterday we have been unable to contact any of the five monks who led the peaceful protest in Mandalay calling for the release of political prisoners and an end to the civil wars in Burma.

The last information that we could confirm was that the five monks had been ordered to return to their hometowns with transportation arranged by the authorities this afternoon (Friday 18 November). Two local journalists today confirmed with us that all five monks arrived in Monywa in Sagaing Division. However, the local Sangha decided not to allow them to stay at local monasteries, possibly fearing repercussions from the authorities.

The monks have split up into two groups and are now heading to monasteries in remote areas.

Yesterday, the authorities reportedly delivered a guarantee via the Mahanayaka (Sangha Council) that the five monks would not be detained for their peaceful protest.

The restrictions preventing the media in Burma from reporting anything about the monks’ protest are seemingly still in effect, and with nothing new to report, Burmese media organizations-in-exile have also been quiet.

This procedure shines a clear light on the actual state of ‘freedom of speech’ in Burma. The Burmese Buddhist Sangha is clearly under an enormous amount of pressure not to tolerate monks who dare to speak out against the Burmese authorities, and to penalize those who organize peaceful protests in defense of human rights.

International organizations and individuals who advocate human rights are asked to keep a close watch on the fate of these five monks. We encourage people around the world to continue to keep an eye out for any developments in an effort to ensure that no one is imprisoned or harmed for their participation in the protest.

The Best Friend would like to sincerely thank artist and filmmaker Jeffrey Durkin for his creation and donation of two graphics in support of Ashin Sopaka and the other monks in Mandalay. Jeffrey is currently working on a documentary film about the intersection between street art, Buddhism, and the struggle for human rights in Burma. See more about his film here, and feel free to share and use his “Support for Ashin Sopaka” images available here.

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