Saturday, September 8, 2007

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And here I thought "angry Buddhist monks" was an oxymoron

The Financial Times' Amy Kazmin and Andrew Ward report that Myanmar's regime is so bad that they've actually managed to make Budshist monks angry. Apparently, you wouldn't like them when they're angry:

Burma’s military regime fulminated on Friday against ’external anti-government groups’ which it claimed were trying to foment a mass uprising in Burma, and warned that it remains determined to crush open displays of dissent....

The regime’s outburst came amid persistent high tensions in the town of Pokkoku, a centre of Buddhist learning, where angry Buddhist monks have clashed with government authorities and pro-regime supporters in recent days....

Burma’s ruling generals are on edge after a rare wave of small but persistent protests against a sudden sharp increase in the price of rationed fuel, which has exacerbated the hardships of the impoverished population.

Initially, the regime relied mainly on its civilian militias – with frightening names like Swan-aah Shin, or “Masters of Force” – to help police and other security forces to haul off demonstrators, and snuff out protests and marches almost as soon as they began.

But tensions have intensified since Wednesday night when soldiers in Pokkoku fired warning shots over the heads of hundreds of protesting monks, who complained of being manhandled, and tied to electricity poles.

On Thursday, monks infuriated at the harsh treatment held a dozen government officials captive in a tense standoff, and burned four official cars, before freeing the group unharmed a few hours later. However, later monks and town residents destroyed an electronics shop and a home that belong to members of the regime’s Union Solidarity and Development Organisation, reflecting the strength of public anger towards any one seen as linked to the regime.

More than 100 people have been arrested by the regime in an attempt to quell the protests.

posted by Dan on 09.08.07 at 02:58 PM


Buddhists are no more inherently peaceful than any other major religion. Japan historians will tell you that Kyoto is situated between two opposing Buddhist monestaries. These monks would regularly war on each other or terrorize Kyoto.

posted by: Japan scholar on 09.08.07 at 02:58 PM [permalink]

In addition, Buddhist monks have not been a force for peace in Sri Lanka, but quite the opposite.

posted by: Steve Saideman on 09.08.07 at 02:58 PM [permalink]

I don't have a ready reference, but I'm sure I've read of some real bloody confrontations among the Buddhists many centuries ago. As I recall, violent and bloody enough to have eventually caused the morphing into the pacifism of recent times (so far anyway).

posted by: Mark H. on 09.08.07 at 02:58 PM [permalink]

Pretty much all Buddhist regimes have excessive entanglement between state and monastery and there's a pretty good correlation between Buddhism and human rights violations. There's widespread forced labour in Bhutan, as well as enthusiastic and sometimes homicidal oppression of Nepalese citizens and immigrants. In Sri Lanka, you have the treatment that gave rise to the Tigers. In Thailand you're finally beginning to see their oppressed minorities becoming more violent. Japan's generally peaceful, but obviously has a less purely peaceful or unabusive past. Indonesia isn't Buddhist, but when they wanted an oppressive police state constitution, they turned to Buddhism for the best text. The jailers for the Cambodian and Vietnamese attrocities had Buddhist backgrounds (and many retained their faith). Burma is 90% buddhist.

Buddhists like Gere in the west support dictators elsewhere, but they do have the virtue of not actually being dictators in their own right. Not all of their eastern co-religionists can claim the same.

posted by: James of England on 09.08.07 at 02:58 PM [permalink]

It’s hard to associate Buddhist monks with the notion of peace if you happen to be from Sri Lanka. The monks there are the driving force behind Buddhist nationalism and attacks against the minority. They hold an amount of political sway over the government that is comparable to the powers that the Islamic clergy hold in some countries in the Middle East.

posted by: TC on 09.08.07 at 02:58 PM [permalink]

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