The international Buddhist organization Peace Sangha Union has issued a public statement denouncing the recent military coup d’état in Myanmar. As pro-democracy protests and strikes continue, Buddhist monks and nuns have joined tens of thousands of civilian demonstrators marching in towns and cities across this Southeast Asian nation, protesting the military’s removal and detention of Myanmar’s democratically elected leaders on 1 February, and calling for democracy to be restored.
The military declared a year-long state of emergency in Myanmar (formerly Burma) on 1 February, hours after detaining President Win Myint, State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, and other senior members of the governing National League for Democracy (NLD) party. The coup took place just hours before he country’s new parliament was due to convene following a general election in November last year, during which the NLD made substantial electoral gains.
Suu Kyi has served the country from 2016–21, following a long struggle for democracy that overturned decades of military rule. Suu Kyi is now believed to be under house arrest, while the reins of power have been handed over to Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services Min Aung Hlaing. The military, which had backed the parliamentary opposition in the vote, has claimed that it staged the coup in response to election fraud, however the national election commission has said there is no evidence to support these claims.
In an official response shared with Buddhistdoor Global, the Peace Sangha Union, a recently formed international union of socially engaged Buddhists, states:
Official Response from the Peace Sangha Union (PSU) 2021
to the Present Situation in Myanmar
6 February 2021
The Buddha applied the qualities of both compassion and wisdom as he aimed to help all beings in this world. Those who abide by the teachings of the Buddha will find peace in his immense compassion and the ability to refrain from any wrongdoing, to do what is right instead through great wisdom.
We have witnessed that the politically ugly events has been taking place in Myanmar due to the military seizure of power in a coup on 1st of February 2021. As the elected leaders have been forcefully detained, there has been a total lack of compassion. The arbitrary declaration of military rule and its related negative impacts have destroyed any semblance of wisdom.
The result of these reckless actions is that the citizens cannot even pay attention to the unprecedented global Covid-19 pandemic that we are presently facing. Moreover, the momentum of the growing economy as well as all social welfare programmes have come to a sudden halt. Our future generation as well as all of their freedoms have also disappeared. In fact, the forceful seizure of control from the civilian government by the military leads to huge barriers in achieving the most coveted national unity under a federal democratic system.
The Peace Sangha Union totally denounces and condemns these illegitimate power-grabbing acts by the military. These acts are completely opposite to the path of the Buddha. It is clear that it is not the path of the wise, but the path of the fool. We assume this military coup as a path leading to much loss for the citizens from all walks of life.
Due to these factors, the Peace Sangha Union calls for the following:
1. To immediately release the President U Win Myint, the State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, government officials as well as all other political activists detained illegally.
2. To relinquish the military control of the country and immediately restore power to the duly elected civilian government.
3. To make sure that all senior leaders of the country resolve the disagreement through compassion, wisdom and established legal mechanisms for the interests of the people and the country.
As of today, the Peace Sangha Union will assist in returning the country to the path of democracy, voicing our opinions on this matter peacefully, and we also pledge to fully collaborate on a range of peaceful civil disobedience movement (CDM) that many citizens and the civil servants of this great nation are currently undertaking.
Peace Sangha Union (PSU) 2021
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In Myanmar’s largest city, the former capital Yangon (formerly Rangoon), groups of Buddhist monks and nuns were seen marching alongside students and workers, amid widespread calls to back a public campaign of civil disobedience. Protests on Sunday were reported to have been the largest since the 2007 “Saffron Revolution” led by Buddhist monks that lead up to democratic reforms in Myanmar.
The monastic and civilian protesters, many dressed in black, marched with banners and signs reading, “Release Our Leaders, Respect Our Votes, Reject Military Coup,”“Save democracy,” and “Say No to Dictatorship.” (Reuters)
Although the demonstrations and public gatherings have so far been peaceful, unlike the bloody crackdowns seen during previous protests in 1988 and 2007, police on Monday reportedly brough water cannons to bear on thousands of protestors thronging the streets of the capital Nay Pyi Taw.
Meanwhile, the London-based Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN) has called on Myanmar’s military to immediately release three Buddhist monks who were detained during last week’s coup.
“The three monks were detained on 1 February in Mandalay and Yangon as part of the sweeping arrests that led to the military’s coup d’etat. Ashin Sobitha has reportedly been sentenced to two years in prison. Myawaddy Sayadaw has been disrobed and is scheduled to appear in court again on 9 February. BHRN has not yet found an update on Shwe Nya War,” the BHRN sated. “The three monks are peaceful figures known for standing against toxic religious nationalism. Their arrests were part of the military’s early efforts to imprison activists, artists, and religious figures who would have stood against the coup government.” (BHRN)
The BHRN added that it had also received reports of other pro-government religious leaders and activists being questioned and harassed by the military, with many going into hiding.
Myanmar is a predominantly Theravada Buddhist country, with 88 per cent of the population of roughly 60 million people identifying as Buddhists, according to census data for 2014. Christians, folk religions, and Muslims make up the bulk of the remainder. Buddhist monks, venerated throughout Burmese society, are estimated to number in excess of 500,000, with some 75,000 nuns in the Southeast Asian country.
Peace Sangha Union – PSU 2021 (Facebook)
Burma Immediately Release Monks Detained as Part of Coup (BHRN)
Saffron-robed monks join third day of street protests against Myanmar coup (Reuters)
Myanmar coup: Police use water cannon as thousands strike (BBC News)