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A Buddhist monk who assisted the Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee during its raid on the Mahasantisukha Monastery in Rangoon late on Tuesday, has come forward to say he was tricked into participating by the committee and was ashamed to have been involved.
Some 60 disciplinary monks from monasteries across Rangoon were summoned by the Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee, popularly known as the “Mahana” – the highest office of Buddhist monks in the country – to take part in the raid at the monastery, which is the subject of an ongoing land ownership dispute between the Sangha committee and a revered abbot, Penang Sayadaw.
Video and photographic footage of the senior monks wielding walkie-talkies and coordinating the raid with government officials were circulated in the media. During the late-night operation, which also involved riot police, five monks and 32 laypersons were arrested. The forceful action against monks drew much condemnation from Internet users across Burma.
Film actress Hla Hla Moe, a long-time supporter of Penang Sayadaw, voiced outrage at the raid on the monastery’s monks and staff. “I cannot comprehend why the Religious Affairs Ministry and the Sangha Maha Nayaka have resorted to force instead of helping and protecting the monastic community,” she said on Wednesday. “Watching them rounding up Buddhist monks as if they were fugitive thugs, it was all too much for my eyes!”
On Friday, a disciplinary monk from another Rangoon monastery told DVB on condition of anonymity that he and other monks had been lied to by the senior monk of the Rangoon Division’s Mahana who told them the monastery was being occupied by “elements from across the border” who may be armed.
“The Mahana summoned monks from 12 townships in Rangoon to the divisional committee office around 8pm – there were about 300 monks in total including Mahana monks brought in on six express buses,” he said. “We were read instructions from the national head monk which implied that Penang Sayadaw was inside the monastery.
“We really were not really sure what was going on, but went along to the scene. The officials said the ‘occupiers’ might be armed with sharp weapons, but when we arrived at Mahasantisukha Monastery all we found was a handful of peaceful monks.”
He said that the five resident monks from Mahasantisukha were then taken to the National Mahana office in Kaba-aye Township and ordered to disrobe. He added that the secretary of the township’s Mahana pleaded with the senior monks to reconsider this order but his words were ignored.
“We are ashamed of ourselves,” said the disciplinary monk, “but we handled the situation delicately so that no one was harmed.”