At least 21 people have been killed by government forces during an attack on a Buddhist monastery in Myanmar’s southern Shan State on Saturday, the BBC has reported, citing an insurgent group on the ground. The BBC added that the military strike came amid an increase in deadly clashes between the Myanmar’s military and armed resistance groups.
According to the Karenni Nationalities Defence Force (KNDF), one of several ethnic militia groups who oppose Myanmar’s military government, government troops shelled Nan Nein Village in Shan State on Saturday. Military forces then entered the village after the shelling and executed at least 21 villagers they found hiding inside a monastery there.
“It was like the [military] made them line up in front of the monastery and brutally shot them all, including the monks,” a KNDF spokesperson was quoted as saying by local media. (BBC News)
Myanmar’s military declared a state of emergency on 1 February 2021, after detaining President Win Myint, State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, and other members of the governing National League for Democracy (NLD) party. The coup d’état took place just hours before the country’s new parliament was due to convene following a general election in November 2020, during which the NLD made substantial electoral gains.
Since the coup, the military-led State Administration Council has sought to consolidate its hold on power by conducting violent crackdowns on public dissent and street demonstrations held in defiance of the military-led suppression. Even the country’s venerated Buddhist monastic sangha have found themselves in the military’s crosshairs.*
The BBC reported that a video shared by the KNDF militia group showed at least 21 bodies, including three in monastic robes, piled up against the monastery. The bodies showed evidence of what appeared to be multiple gunshot wounds, the BBC added.
Despite more than two years of violent suppression, the junta continues to face widespread opposition. Crackdowns on peaceful protest movements have resulted in a growing number of communities turning to armed resistance, often with support from existing ethnic militia groups.
“Hope is rare now in Myanmar,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Volker Türk on 6 March, calling for greater international support for the country’s citizens. “The disregard and contempt for human life and human rights that are continuously demonstrated by the military, constitute an outrage to the conscience of humanity.” (UN News)
The OHCHR’s latest report, which covers the period from 1 February 2022 to 23 January 2023, states that thousands of people have been detained by government security forces, with dozens of people, including children, killed in shelling and military strikes.
Furthermore, some 40,000 homes have been gutted, eight million children are no longer in school, and 15 million people are judged by the UN to be dangerously short of food.
“Those who can escape—over 1.3 million people displaced since the coup was launched—face destitution,” Türk said. (UN News)
In response to the crisis, the International Network of Engaged Buddhists has joined hands with the Clear View Project based in Berkley, California, to launch an international appeal for urgent humanitarian relief for Buddhist monks and nuns living in the shadow of the junta.**
“The International Network of Engaged Buddhists and the US-based Clear View Project are coordinating an urgent appeal to raise funds to support the humanitarian emergency in Myanmar that focuses on Buddhist monks and nuns,” INEB said in a message shared with BDG. “[In February 2021] the Myanmar military staged what they considered would be a ‘quick coup’ in which democratically elected members of government, including President U Win Myint and State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, were detained. Since that time, the country has been in turmoil with the people responding by taking a civil disobedience movement to cities and villages across Myanmar.”
The Myanmar- and Thailand-based human rights organization Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) reported that as of 10 March, 3.120 people involved in pro-democracy movements were confirmed to have been killed by the military junta. The AAPP noted that the figure represented only deaths that it could independently verify and that the actual number was likely to be much higher. A total of 16,432 people were known to be in detention, including 103 post-coup death-row prisoners. Altogether, 145 people have been sentenced to death—some in absentia, the AAPP said.
About 90.1 per cent of Myanmar’s population identify as Buddhists, according to census data for 2016. Christians make up 6.2 per cent, Muslims 2.4 per cent, and Hindus 0.5 per cent, with tribal and other religions comprising 0.5 per cent. Groups representing all religious communities—including monastics and clergy—have taken to the streets and demonstrated against the military takeover.
* Buddhist Monastics Targeted in Ongoing Crackdown by Myanmar’s Military Junta (BDG), Myanmar Junta Drops Plan to Place Buddhist Monks on Military Roadblocks (BDG)
** INEB, Clear View Project Launch Humanitarian Appeal for Buddhist Monastics in Myanmar (BDG)
Myanmar army kill more than 20 in monastery attack – insurgent group (BBC News)
‘Hope is rare now in Myanmar’, UN Human Rights Council hears (UN News)
Myanmar Humanitarian Situation Report, January-February 2023 (UNICEF)
Daily Briefing in Relation to the Military Coup (Assistance Association for Political Prisoners)
Statement Calling for Solidarity and Preserving the Sanctity of Life in Myanmar (International Network of Engaged Buddhists)
URGENT APPEAL for Humanitarian Relief to support Buddhist Monks and Nuns in Myanmar’s Political Movement Against Military Dictatorship (International Network of Engaged Buddhists)
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