Official urges action against 'bogus monks'

Aug 21, 2008 (DVB), A government official in Arakan state has urged abbots to take action against "bogus monks", though a local monk said poverty had driven people to dress as monks in the hope of receiving food.

The state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper said yesterday that the matter of bogus monks was raised with religious committees in Sittwe on 18 August.

"Religious matters concerning taking action against bogus monks and novices were supplicated to 28 members of the Sangha of All Ganas State and Township Sangha Nayaka Committees at Maha Waiyan Sasana Beikman of Lawkananda Pagoda," the New Light article said.

The acting religious affairs officer of the Arakan state Religious Affairs Department, U Tin Win, said he recognised the committees' work in "carrying out three major tasks of purification, perpetuation and propagation of the Sasana", but claimed that there were still a small number of bogus monks and novices.

The article reported that six people had been exposed for posing as monks and asking for donations without having been ordained, while some young monks were reported to have drunk alcohol.

U Tin Win urged abbots to take action against the culprits, who the article said tarnished the dignity of the Sangha and the image of the Sasana.

"[U Win Tin] urged the Sayadaws to take action against them under the directives and Vinichaya procedures and tell them to reside in monasteries in accord with rules and regulations prescribed," the article said.

But an Arakan monk insisted that people are only resorting to this kind of behaviour because the government fails to provide them with the means to meet their basic needs.

"People are very poor and they are wearing monks' robes to beg for food to feed their families," the monk said.

"People are very poor. They dare not steal. They dare not rob. They have to survive somehow by living as fake monks," he said.

"The government has the responsibility to provide people with food and healthcare."

Another monk told DVB that around 50 monks had planned to protest on 18 August in Sittwe but the authorities got wind of the plan and hastily called a meeting of abbots to pressure the monks.

But the monks warned that there would be more unrest for as long as people are struggling to survive.

The streets of Sittwe are currently being patrolled by armed security personnel due to the upcoming anniversary of the day more than 200 Sittwe monks started widespread demonstrations against the government's fuel price hike on 28 August last year.

Reporting by Nan Kham Kaew

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