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Burmese Buddhist monks have claimed that the government fabricated accounts that appeared in state media, which claimed that those monks detained in the aftermath of the Letpadan student protests had apologised for their actions and promised to avoid political action in the future.
State-run newspapers on 12 March reported that the monks had been interrogated, then “allowed to return to their monasteries” after they “vowed to stay away from party politics, social affairs and student protests in the future and abide by the instructions of the state Sangha Maha Nayaka committee [the highest order of Buddhist monkhood in the country]”. State-run newspaper Myanma Ahlin reported the monks apologised for being involved in the protest with “wrong intentions”.
Seintita, a monk from Mandalay who was in the protest, slammed the government’s report as false.
“This is completely untrue. We did not give them any promise, and their report is incorrect. The authorities were actually very eager to arrest us. In fact, they only let us go because the head monks from Letpadan Township’s Sangha Maha Nakaya insisted that the issue should be handled by the monastic order. We never made any promise. They have created the news as they want it,” he said.
Another Buddhist monk, Arloka, said, “This is what they always do – they make [protestors] sign papers, and then write down the conditions later. I think that the Ministry of Information is misleading people to this day, and not promoting transparency.”
There were some 20 monks involved in the in Letpadan protests, and around ten of them were rounded up along with students who had taken shelter inside the Aungmyay Beikman monastery.
Another monk who was in the monastery said that the police had attempted to disrobe them once they had been detained, but that the local Sangha Maha Nakaya had raised objections.
“The township Sangha Maha Nakaya insisted that we were merely marching alongside the students to protect them, and were not actively protesting, so we did not technically violate the monastic code. Therefore, we told them we should be allowed to return to our monasteries without any action – and that the monks in Letpadan will not allow the authorities to harass the Sangha community,” said the monk, under condition of anonymity.
Uttara, a monk who was present at the police raid at the monastery, described the events on Tuesday to DVB. He said that: “It was such an ugly scene, an ugly thing for a government to do. We condemn the use of violence against the students and members of the public. They’ve arrested everyone – I can’t even count how many. There are many people with injuries to their head and legs.”
Buddhist monks from Mandalay held a press conference about their experiences in Letpadan after arriving back in Mandalay following their release.
“I am saddened. The protestors are just young students, and they were righteous and peaceful. I am very upset to have witnessed them treated in such a way. I will always remember the images from that incident – the scene of injustice,” said Ashin Seintita.
The monks have also called for an investigation into the government officials who ordered the violent crackdown.