Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Monks searched as they travel through Mon state

IMNA, Panorkkyar

Beginning this month, Burmese government authorities in Mon State have been increasing security measures and investigating Buddhist monks who are traveling – searching through their saffron robes and requiring them to open their bags.

According to one monk who was searched on his way from Moulmein to Mudon at the checkpoint in Ro Go, "At 5:00 PM I reached Ro Go checkpoint by bus. A soldier in uniform asked me to opened up my bag. As he found nothing he made me lifted up my robe and again found nothing. Then he allowed me to proceed on my way."

The security increase has come as tension has mounted after the recent re-incarceration of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who was found guilty of violating her house arrest and was sentenced to serve an additional 18 months. After her return to her home, every town gate and roadblock between Moulmein to Ye has been checked thoroughly, though some say these checks have been the standard military security practice even before the verdict.

The practice of so strictly checking Monks has only more recently developed, as, according to a monk from Moulmein, roomers have spread that monks in Rangoon are going to hold uprising soon.

The anniversary for the 2007 protests led by Monks is next month. Popularly known as the “Saffron Revolution” due to the color of the monks robes, the protest grew over frustration with the government as gas prices increased after price subsidies were removed. In a remarkable display, Monks joined the protests calling for a lowering of prices, and peaceful demonstration. The protests were ultimately put down by the Burmese military on September 26th, resulting in estimated 138 deaths though some sources cite higher numbers.

Though rumors have spread, the exact reason for the searches cannot be confirmed. According to a monk, “We don’t know why they’re carrying out these searches. They always do like this when some sort of news brakes out. Previously they just checked residents, but now they’re also thoroughly checking monks.”

According to residents in Moulmein, a few days ago a rumor spread that people are preparing for an uprising. This has been seen as one cause why authorities have tightened security in every corner of the city.

A resident stated, “I heard the news that people are going to demonstrate, but I don’t know who will act as a leader to hold the uprising.”

“In Moulmein the police are just taking role of travelers at different checkpoints,” A civilian in Thanbyuzayat told IMNA. “But, in Thanbyuzayat, the police, members of the USDA [Union Solidarity and Development Association] and the fire-fighter brigade, were also taking part in searching people at checkpoints.”

A Khitpyaing News article published on yesterday described a rumor that there will be a saffron revolution soon in Rangoon. As a result, people in Rangoon have been stocking food supplies, and have been worried about the increase in the price of goods.

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