U Mahawthada is a young monk in Mandalay Hill monasteries complex, at Mandalay, about 500 mill north Rangon, Burma. Through his small radio he is stealth listen Burma politics broadcast with his friends. " Radio is cheap way to know what was happen in Burma,” says Mahawthada. Usually, he got politics information from the radio BBC London, VOA (Voice of America) and DVB (Democratic Voice of Burma) from Norway.
The national media in Burma like the English newspaper New Light of Myanmar, Myanmar Times, Myanmar Radio and Televisi (MRTV), and Myawaddy television (MWD) that owned by Burma military regime are usually only loads and broadcasts news which have a positive view to the military junta. Usually, they will censor information on Aung San Suu Kyi, NLD (National League for Democracy) and exponent’s pro- democracy movement others.
According U Mahawthada, now the Burma military junta is being in a state of its strong. Nothing any again a resistance from the groups of pro democracy movement from the within Burma. "Most of all pro democracy groups in Burma has been successfully to be keep quiet and made to be weak by military junta. Not only the opposition group of NLD (National League for Democratic Party) which been ended, but also all groups of civil society, including the Sangha (monks community). But we are the monks still have a lucky because the Sangha still be strongest traditional power in the Burmese society. So now only the monks which still have chance to make a political different situation for the democracy in Burma," says Mahawthada.
Tate Naing, Secretary of Assistance Association for Political Prisoners Burma ( AAPP) in Chiang Mai, North Thailand, said estimated there is any about 3.000 political detainees in serving a sentence in hundreds Burma military prisons which scattered in throughout Burma. Around 300 detainees is Buddhist monks. " They are in custody treated like as a criminal prisoner. They are prohibited to wear their pride of Buddha robes," said Tate Naing.
Buddhist monk in throughout Burma is estimated reach 3% of total population peoples. With total population now 53 million peoples estimated there are any 1.500.000 Buddhist monks (hpongyi) and nuns (woman monks/thillasin). They are stay together at around 50.000 monasteries and pagodas at throughout Burma. Especially at Sagaing Hill, South Mandalay, that living together around 11.000 monks and 3.000 nuns in hundreds monasteries at a cool, peace, and quiet mountains -- really an exotic place. Buddha in Burma is majority religion about 90% of population.
“In the last decade, the poorness has been cause many young women decided to choose her life to be nuns. The numbers nuns is increasing twofold compared to decades before. To be nuns is only a choice for the rural women that will give her a guarantee to get free a food, clothes, and stay in monasteries at safe area,” says Thiha Saw, a senior journalist and chief editor of Myanma Dana economic weekly magazine, at Rangon.
Monks Identity Card
The military junta is tightly controlled and observed to every all monks activities in monasteries. “We don’t have a freedom religion. The military government places an intelligent military officer in every monastery to observing the monk’s activities. All activities of monks must be have a permission from the government, though its just a religious ceremony," says U Pandavamsa, secretary general of the Young Monks Union for region Lower Burma, in Rangon.
While according to U Wayama, a monk in Swe Dagon pagoda, Rangon -- the biggest pagoda in Burma and heritage from the 10 century. Swe Dagon pagoda is a center of Burma Buddhist spiritualism. He told that the junta now only confesses a legal organization is the state Sangha Mahanayaka Committee as ones of state Buddhist monks organization. The committee of Sangha Mahanayaka has member 47 senior monks, which was selected from a 300 senior monks council. The 300 senior monks council was selected by 1.400 monks representative from every province, sub province, district and representation of the famous and influential monasteries.
The state’s Sangha Mahanayaka committee is a legal body that has capacity to arranging and observing to all activities of the monks. The body was formed in national level, province, sub-province, and the village level. Coordination operation under the Burma Religion Departments, the Sangha Mahanayaka has been entitled to release a monk identity card. Anytime the Sangha Mahanayaka Committee also has been entitled to abstracted the card if the monk suspected involves in the politics movements.
According to emergency decree state of SLORC Law No. 20/90, date of October 31, 1990, the government military junta only confess a legal organization of Sangha Mahanayaka Committee, also only confess to 9 organization sect of Burma Buddha Terravada. Five of the biggest sect is Sudhama, Shweikyin, Dhammanudhama Mahadvara Nikaya, and Dhammavinayanuloma Muhadvara Nikaya.
"Sangha (monks community) is the Burma cultural power. Existence of Sangha may not be limited by the monk identity card regulation system. Each and everyone have a basic right to experience his life as a monk. They aren’t need permission to decide choose his life as a monk. Now any many monks who aren’t to be member the Sangha Mahanayaka Committee because they are disagrees with existence a super power regulation body monk. They aren’t confessed as a monks and alleged as a rebel," says U Pandavamsa, he shows his identity card monk.
According U Pandavamsa, the state’s Sangha Mahanayaka Committee also have release a regulation of Order No. 15/2001 that will implemented starting this year 2006. The regulation is addressed to all monks that have being served a sentence in the prison. The regulation said that the monks could’t uses his robe again after he is free from the prison. This regulation really make fright the young monks. “We are not afraid to living in the prison, but we are afraid if banned to wear our pride of monk robe. The monk robe is an identity of my life,” he told.
Pattam Nikkujjana Kamma
Ashin Zagara is head of senior monks at Chauk Htat Kye monastery, in Rangon. He is also an editor of Damma Yeik Magazine --a popular local Burmese monthly magazine on Buddhism. He told, actually the Burmese monks are not apathetic to the various political problems and the grief of life Burmese peoples under power the military junta.
According Azhin Zagara, in history, the Burmese Buddhist monks always playing important role in the politics and social change. When Burma under period power of King Naraphistu (1173-1210) in Bagan, at middle Burma, the Sangha is actively advocating to the public life. When the King Naraphistu have an ambitious to build a big Pagoda. He is applies a regulation that is an obligation for all men to compulsory work build the pagodas. The Sangha is boycotting this King policy, because the compulsory work system has made peoples to be poor. The Sangha boycott to give serving the ceremonial prayer to the King, because the King was acted arbitrary to his peoples.
Zagara told, in history of Burma modern, the Young Monks Association ( YMA) in the beginning of century 20 is the first organization and an exponent in struggle movement to Burma freedom and independence from the British colonialism. The young monks are take a fights because they feel have been affronted by the British government officers which them refuse to take off their shoes when they are enter to pagodas or monasteries.
U Pandavamsa said, actually if we learning from the struggle of Tibetan Budha Mahayana in Mongolia, the monks can directly to take a fights for democracy. " Dalai Lama is a inspiration on Buddhism political struggle in contemporary era," he said.
A senior journalist in Rangon, Thiha Saw, said, the role of politics monks in Burma is a cultural politics movement. "The method of the struggle Burma monks for democracy is criticizes to the government by media, support indirectly to opposition party, and boycott to the junta,” he said.
A top role monk in Burma democracy movement is a bloody event of the Mandalay monks bloodies in 1990. When tens of monks were dies by shot and hundreds was catched by military junta. When around 7000 monks’ was gathered to celebrate second anniversary the student pro- democracy demonstrations of 8888 national bloodies tragedy. In the event also around 3110 monks was arrested and jailed by junta.
Eventful of the Mandalay monks bloodies 1990 was coordinated by the Young Monks Union (Sangha Sammagi). The leader is U Yewata, In the event was expressed a declaration "Pattam Nikujjana Kamma," agreement. That is a Buddhist monk important statement to refuses alms donation from the personnels military and their families. The all-Burmese monks agree to break off the spiritualism relation with military families. And the monks refuse to give serving the religious ceremony prayer to military families. Because they have a assume that military junta personals was in outside of religion line and humanity. Because the military was done killing mass of thousands student demonstrator in 1988.
This statement is very important. In the Burmese Buddhist Terravada society, the ritual of giving alms from a laymen to the monks in every morning is one of important parts Buddhist rituals. The ritual alms bowl is marks of spiritual relations between a layperson and the monks that will help us to determine a place in heaven in next life after dies. Statement boycott monks of Pattam Nikujjana Kamma is a big ignominy and the fall of morale of one and their families.
In history of Burmese, Pattam Nikkujjana Kamma even effective to droped the king power. The statement Pattam Nukkujana Kamma confessed in holy book of Buddha is Tipitaka. Like arranged in section 262 of Vinaya book, the third book of Tipitaka that arranging on procedures discipline of the life monks.
According U Pandavamsa, Secretary General the Young Monks Union ( Sangha Samaggi) for region Lower Burma. This statement is still applying until now. The committee compiler of Pattam Nikujjana Kamma is a team of respectable senior monks. They are representation from the famous and influential monasteries from throughout Burma.
They are U Tilawkar Biwuntha (head of Insein Ywama monastery), U Thumingalar Linkara (head of Mahar Ghandaryone monastery), U Nyarna Wuntha (head of Maydini monastery), U Panditha Biwuntha (head of Maharbawdi monastery), U Tanza Wunda (head of Ma Soe Yein Nu monastery), Ashin Aingitha (head of Parli Karyi monastery), U Wantha Wanpandi (head of Maggin monastery), U Waryamandar Biwuntha (head of Shwe Phone Pwint monastery), U Byanma Thini (monk of Shwe Phone Pwint monastery), and U Kaw Thanla (monk of Shwe Phone Pwint monastery).
Statement still applying until now. In year 2003, about 26 monks were catched with brutally by military junta officer in Mahar Gondhayone monastery at Kabaraye, Rangon, because they are also boycott to receive alms from the government. The Mahar Gandhayone is the biggest monastery and most influential in Burma. Till now, every year any tens monks have been catched and jailed by junta Estimated there is about 300 Burma monks in the prisons because boycottt alms from the military junta now.
“The boycott monks is a culminating strategy democracy movement of monks. This is a highest political morale movement of political Buddhist Sangha,” said U Pandavamsa.