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Report: Senior Buddhist Monk Killed by Myanmar Military

The body of Sayadaw Bhaddanta Munindabhivamsa has been returned to his monastery in Bago ahead of his funeral. From

A senior Buddhist monk, Sayadaw Bhaddanta Munindabhivamsa, the abbot of Win Neinmitayon Monastery in Myanmar’s Bago Region, was reported to have been shot dead on 19 June by members of Myanmar’s military as he was being driven from an airport in the central Mandalay region.

In a video shared on social media a day after the shooting, another monastic, Sayadaw Bhaddanta Gunikabhivamsa, who was also in the car at the time of the attack, said junta soldiers had fired seven or eight rounds at the car, killing the abbot, and injuring himself and the driver of the vehicle.

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.*

Monks pay their respects to Sayadaw Bhaddanta Munindabhivamsa as he lies in state. From

“I got out of the car and said, ‘Why are you so cruel to monks?’” Sayadaw Bhaddanta Gunikabhivamsa recounted after the incident. “They [the junta soldiers] replied that they had not known that monks were inside the car. They admitted that they wrongly shot at the vehicle thinking that it was the enemy’s, as the car’s windows were shut. Then they asked us to give them our phones and told us not to call anyone,” (The Irrawaddy)

According to independent media reports, junta-controlled media attributed the death of Sayadaw Bhaddanta Munindabhivamsa, a retired member of the State Sangha Nayaka Committee, which oversees the nation’s Buddhist clergy, to rebel fighters. The MRTV television channel reported that the abbot’s car had been caught in a firefight between junta troops and guerrillas from the rebel People’s Defense Forces, a grassroots militia formed by citizens opposed to military rule.

The independent news website The Irrawaddy reported that Sayadaw Bhaddanta Gunikabhivamsa’s account of the shooting appeared to corroborate a report on the incident submitted by the chief of the Mandalay Region Religious Affairs Department, which said that soldiers conducting a security patrol had killed the abbot when they opened fire on his vehicle after it did not pull over as instructed.

In an announcement on 21 June, a day after junta-controlled media had denied responsibility for the shooting, Myanmar’s military junta said it would investigate the senior monk’s death. The RFA news website reported that on the same day, the junta’s chief minister for Bago Region had visited Win Neinmitayon Monastery and admitted to the monks there that the military had published incorrect information. 

At the time of his death, Sayadaw Bhaddanta Munindabhivamsa was 77 years old. He had been a Buddhist monk for 57 years, and held several advanced degrees in Buddhist studies.

Despite more than three years of violent suppression by government forces, the junta continues to face widespread public 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. 

In response to the crisis in Myanmar, 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 21 June, a total of 5,302 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 26,900 people were known to have been arrested by the junta, including 124 post-coup death-row prisoners. Altogether, 167 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)

See more

Senior Buddhist monk shot dead in Myanmar (UCA News)
Myanmar Junta Investigating Veteran Monk’s Deadly Shooting (The Irrawaddy)
Failed Cover-Up of Its Troops’ Role in Monk’s Killing Shows Depths of Myanmar Junta’s Dishonesty (The Irrawaddy)
Myanmar Junta’s Attempt to Cover Up Troops’ Killing of Senior Monk Exposed (The Irrawaddy)
Senior Myanmar monk shot dead by junta soldiers, colleague says (RFA)
In rare backtrack, junta says it will investigate senior monk’s shooting death (RFA)
In rare backtrack, junta says it will investigate senior monk’s shooting death (Mizzima)
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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