Buddhist Monk Takes up Arms Against The Myanmar Junta

Monk Kaythara goes from preaching not to kill to learning how to kill.

Buddhist Monk Takes up Arms Against The Myanmar Junta

A Buddhist monk has undergone armed training to fight with the popular resistance against the military junta in Myanmar, giving up his vows against killing in response to the deaths of peaceful protesters.

Former monk Kaythara, who now goes by the name George Michael, left the monkhood and took up arms in response to the arrests and killings of fellow monks who joined protests against the military regime that overthrew the elected government in February.

Kaythara, 33, became a monk when he was 20 years old and had been involved in humanitarian work. He served as head monk of the Dhamma Darna monastery in Hlaingthaya township, an area dominated by garment factories on the outskirts of Yangon, where he oversaw an orphanage.

In the early days of the military coup, Kaythara said he had actively participated in peaceful protest marches.

“We’ve been organizing the protests in Hlaingthaya since Feb. 6,” he told RFA in an interview. “Since then, we marched on the streets to protest every day until Feb. 14 when the authorities begin to crack down on the protests.”

A violent suppression of protesters by security forces that day left more than 60 people dead. Many residents, including thousands of factory workers, fled the area, which authorities placed under martial law.

Kaythara was not among the protestors that day because he went into hiding after authorities issued an arrest warrant for him. During his time in hiding, his mother died, but he wasn’t able to attend her funeral.

Kaythara said he later learned that many fellow protestors had been killed during the crackdown, the event that prompted him to join the popular armed rebellion against the military junta.

“We had resisted the military council’s rule peacefully, without even bearing a single needle, but after I learned about the forces shooting down fellow protestors, I changed my mind,” he said. “I decided to join the armed training when I arrived in this ‘liberated area.’”

Liberated area is a general term used in Myanmar to refer to territory unpenetrated by the Myanmar junta’s rule, including rebel-controlled ethnic areas along the borders of Thailand, India, and China.

“We were required to refrain from killing when we were Buddhist monks, but now we are in training to kill,” he said.

Authorities in the liberated area where Kaythara went for military training argued against his participation because he was a veteran monk. But they eventually relented, and he began training with an ethnic armed group in a location he declined to disclose for fear of endangering other soldiers.

“I remained a monk for 13 years,” Kaythara said. “I am still using the pronouns designated for monks. I remind myself I am no longer a monk and that I am a soldier now, so I try to eat and live like other soldiers do.”

Now that he has completed his military training, Kaythara is a ranking officer, though he said he is reluctant to confront Myanmar soldiers in battle because of his previous religious vow not to kill.

“I wonder if I am really capable of killing someone in battle,” he said. “I used to preventing others from killing, let alone killing someone myself, but now I am required to eliminate them as a soldier.”

Kaythara said he would have remained a monk had the military coup not occurred.

“I had an ambition to establish a Buddhist university,” he said. “I wanted to build a three-story facility. I aimed to build something as big as a landmark for Buddhists. This was my dream, but now it’s been destroyed.”

Other monks contacted Kaythara after they saw online photos of him in his military uniform, he said, but added that he doesn’t want them to follow in his footsteps.

“Although the armed rebellion is essential for this revolution, there are many things we can do as Buddhist monks,” he said. “I want to appeal to other Buddhist monks not to give up the monkhood to join the armed forces. There are many other ways you can help by remaining as a monk inside the country.”

At least 18 monks have been arrested by security forces for participating in protests since the Feb. 1 coup, according to the Dhamma and Peace Foundation, an online group set up in 2019 by prominent domestic and international Buddhist monks.

More than 860 people have been killed by the junta, and 4,480 remain in detention since the coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a Thailand-based monitoring group and NGO.

Reported by July Myo for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

Source : Radio Free Asia More   

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Ousted Myanmar Leader Aung San Suu Kyi Goes on Trial in Naypyidaw

Human Rights Watch calls the trial a move by Myanmar's military to remove any chance of future opposition to its rule.

Ousted Myanmar Leader Aung San Suu Kyi Goes on Trial in Naypyidaw

Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint, former national leaders deposed in a February 1 military coup, went on trial in the Myanmar capital Naypyidaw on Monday, with rights groups calling the charges against the pair “bogus” and politically motivated, sources said.

Meeting in a session closed to the public, the court heard three charges of alleged violations of Myanmar’s Disaster Management Law, Telecommunications Law, and Import/Export Law, defense attorney Min Min Soe told reporters after the day’s hearing.

“The trial opened at about 10:20 a.m. with [a reading of] the charge against the President under Section 25 of the Natural Disaster Management Law, and this was followed by the case of Amay Suu, who was charged under the same law,” Min Min Soe said, using an honorific to refer to the former de facto national leader and democracy icon.

After a short recess, the trial resumed at 1:45 with Myanmar police captain Kyi Lwin giving testimony against Aung San Suu Kyi related to a charge under Section 67 of the Telecommunications Law, Min Min Soe said, with another witness later giving testimony related to a charge against her under Section 8 of the Import/Export Law.

“Today’s session only heard witnesses for the prosecution,” the defense attorney said, adding that Aung San Suu Kyi appeared to be in good health apart from what he described as a “minor dental issue.” The trial will resume Monday, he said.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for the rights group Human Rights Watch, called the criminal charges filed by the court against Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of Myanmar’s National League for Democracy (NLD), “bogus, and politically motivated by the intention to nullify her landslide election victory in the November 2020 election and prevent her from ever running for office again.”

Aung San Suu Kyi should be immediately and unconditionally released, with all charges against her dropped, Robertson said in a statement Monday.

“But sadly, with the restrictions on access to her lawyers, and the case being heard in front of a court that is wholly beholden to the military junta, there is little likelihood she will receive a fair trial,” Robertson said.

“This trial is clearly the opening salvo in an overall strategy to neuter Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy party as a force that can challenge military rule in the future.”

Multiple charges

Aung San Suu Kyi has been charged in five cases in Naypyidaw and one in the former Myanmar capital Yangon for allegedly violating the colonial-era Official Secrets Act and with bribery, incitement and sedition, violation of the telecommunication laws, possession of unlicensed walkie-talkie radios, and violations of protocols set up to contain the spread of coronavirus.

The most serious charge against the 75-year-old Nobel laureate, for allegedly violating the Official Secrets Act, carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.

Myanmar’s military has defended its government takeover, claiming without evidence that the NLD’s landslide victory in the country’s November elections was the result of voter fraud, and authorities have responded to widespread protests against its coup with violent crackdowns that have killed more than 850 people.

On Monday, the lawyer for Nathan Maung, a U.S. journalist arrested three months ago in Myanmar while working for a local online news service, said a court has now freed Maung and dropped all charges against him.

Maung will be deported from the country on Tuesday, according to attorney Tin Zar Oo, wire service reports said on Monday.

Myanmar national Hanthar Nyein, a colleague arrested with Maung, and Danny Fenster, a U.S. journalist and managing editor for the print and online magazine Frontier Myanmar, remain in military custody, sources said.

Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Richard Finney.

Source : Radio Free Asia More   

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