Monks lead International Peace Day march

Sept 21, 2009 (DVB), Around 100 people led by monks marked International Peace Day today by marching through the Thai town of Mae Sot, close to the border with Burma.

The event coincides with the two-year anniversary of the September 2007 monk-led uprising in Burma, which due to the presence of thousands of robed monks on the streets of Rangoon and elsewhere has come to be known as the Saffron Revolution.

Today's march began with a symbolic sounding of the bell at a memorial shrine close to Mae Sot, and Buddhist monks and dignitaries from a variety of religions read prayers throughout the day.

The event, intending to symbolize cross-cultural solidarity, ended at the Thai-Myanmar Friendship Bridge, but protesters were met by a significant security presence.

Panithida Phongphaew of the Thai Action Committee for Democracy in Burma said that the need to support this movement is vital for a "real [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] community".

"It is time that leaders of the world should stop saying they support peace and actually act to ensure that peace happens," she said.

For Ashin Sopaka, of the International Burmese Monks Organisation, the march was also a rejection of ominous nuclear signals that have emanated from the military junta this year. "We don't want any nuclear weapons," he said.

A number of monks were among the estimated 138 civilians killed by police and army during the September 2007 uprising.

Monk communities in Burma have been under close surveillance in the lead-up to this year's anniversary, with the ruling junta fearing a repeat of two years ago.

At least four monks have been arrested in recent weeks, and many more have reported intimidation. Their normally apolitical stance leant extra credence to their role in the 2007 uprising.

More than 200 monks are imprisoned in Burma, according to the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP). Four were released last week in the government's prisoner amnesty.

Reporting by Joseph Allchin

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