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Monasteries shaken by rumors of arrests

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IMNA : Rumors of religious arrests in conjunction with the January 7th 2010 arrest of a Mon monk in Thanphyuzayart Town continue to trouble monastic communities across Mon State.

Monks studying at various monasteries across Mudon and Thanphyuzayart Township informed IMNA that they have been subjected to religious ID checks by Burmese authorities both at their residences, and while traveling through checkpoints along the Moulmein to Ye highway. Due to the severity of security concerns, many of the sources interviewed for this article requested that their identities and personal information be concealed.

“Currently, at the checkpoints they [the authorities] are inspecting monks’ religious IDs. Especially the youth monks; they are being investigated the most”, a monk youth, who recently passed through the checkpoint on his way to Ye Township, informed IMNA.

According to a senior monk from the Mon Pariyatti Monastery in Moulmein, “ this monastery has not been investigated yet after the arrest of Ashin Uk Kong Sah. They [Burmese government police] have not come to investigate this monastery yet, and they have not watched the monastery, but the studying monks are afraid”.

“The situation is the same, and we do not know for certain what information [regarding monk arrests] is true. They will arrest other monks, this monk [Ashin Uk Kong Sah] and other monks were caught… we heard all kinds of rumors” a youth from Moulmein said to IMNA’s reporter.

Monasteries in Moulmein are not being watched, but monasteries in Mudon and Thanphyuzayart Townships where Ashin was known to take up residence are under surveillance, according to a monk in Mudon Township, whose monastery has been subject to religious ID checks by Burmese government police.

“They [Burmese government police] are especially watching the monasteries where Ashin entered and left. It is normal for monks to enter these monasteries and stay in these monasteries, it is nothing. They [the police] are just playing mind games on the monks to make them afraid”, this monk informed IMNA.

A monk youth who asked that his location be concealed told IMNA that arrest rumors are disrupting religious scholarship. Lecturing monks at various monasteries are reportedly concerned their students will be linked to Ashin Uk Kong Sah’s arrest; many monks have been distracted from their upcoming annual exams on Buddhist scripture by rumors of continued arrests among monastic communities. According to this source, tales of arrests are potentially a government ploy to threaten Mon State’s religious communities.

According to this monk youth, “ We have being worrying. We didn’t hear about monks being continuously arrested. We only heard a villager was arrested. The SPDC is making the difficulties for the monks”.

Ashin Uk Kan Tha was arrested on January 7th,  2010 this year in Kjan Khaing Ye ward in Thanphyuzayart Town , after being implicated in an anti-government campaign across Mon State, that involved the phrase “No 2010” being graffitied onto various buildings and highways across Moulmein city and Mudon and Thanphyuzayart Townships on the night of December 31st.

The Burmese government has maintained heighted surveillance of Burma’s monastic communities since country’s monks lead the Saffron Revolution in September 2007.

Monks from Moulmein city, Mon State participated in the Revolution’s peaceful demonstrations. As a result, provisional offerings to monks in Kamawet village in Mudon Township, were stopped for the year 2007. The Burmese government maintained strict security at the provision-offering ceremonies celebrated at Kamawet Village in the years 2008 and 2009.

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