Vil­lagers de­mand to re­take con­trol of Mon State pagoda

The Myanmar Times - - News - Aungkyawmin@mm­times.com AUNG KYAW MIN

HUN­DREDS of vil­lagers took to the streets in Mon State on Oc­to­ber 24 to de­mand the restora­tion of their re­li­gious rights. The demon­stra­tors, in Kawt Ka Dut vil­lage, Bilin township, say they want to re­take con­trol over a lo­cal pagoda.

Shwe Bone Thar Muni Pagoda has been man­aged by the Kyaik Htee Saung mis­sion­ary com­mit­tee since 2003.

“Our goal is to re­cover our rights over the pagoda. We have no con­trol over our re­li­gious cer­e­monies, we’ve been told to hold our sea­sonal of­fer­ing events at un­rea­son­able lo­ca­tions and we’re not con­vinced the pagoda is being prop­erly looked after,” said protest leader U Kyaw Min.

The pagoda was en­trusted to the mis­sion­ary com­mit­tee by then-Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Khin Nyunt un­der the for­mer mil­i­tary regime.

The demon­stra­tors claim that the com­mit­tee has im­prop­erly per­formed re­li­gious rites and dis­obeyed the in­struc­tions of the state re­li­gious au­thor­i­ties con­cern­ing monks’ liv­ing ar­range­ments in the pagoda.

The lo­cal Pyithu Hlut­taw MP, U Tin Ko Ko (NLD; Bilin) has called for calm, say­ing the sit­u­a­tion can be re­solved through ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween the con­cerned par­ties.

“This demon­stra­tion is not the an­swer,” he said. “Re­la­tions with the gov­ern­ment are fine, but monks’ re­la­tion­ship with the Sangha [au­thor­i­ties] should be dis­cussed.”

If the state gov­ern­ment and the State Sangha Com­mit­tee can­not re­solve the mat­ter, the case will be han­dled through the hlut­taw in or­der to avoid con­flict spread­ing among the lo­cal vil­lagers and the Kyaik Htee Saung mis­sion­ary com­mit­tee, he added.

“This ar­gu­ment among Bud­dhists can be re­solved,” said U Tin Ko Ko.

Vil­lagers say a 5-foot-high (1.5-me­tre) statue of the sit­ting Bud­dha was stolen in 2012, while the pagoda was un­der the care of the Kyaik Htee Saung com­mit­tee.

Ac­cord­ing to the doc­u­ments de­scrib­ing the 2003 trans­fer of own­er­ship, Lt Gen Khin Nyunt en­trusted the Kyaik Htee Saung mis­sion­ary com­mit­tee with the pagoda’s de­vel­op­ment, with the agree­ment of the vil­lagers and the Bilin township Sangha com­mit­tee and its chair, U Panna Cakka.

The pagoda’s ab­bot, U Tay Zaw Bhar Tha, also ad­mit­ted sign­ing the doc­u­ment, but said he did so un­der duress. “Yes, I signed, but I did not agree. In those days, who would dare to re­sist the au­thor­i­ties? ” he said.

Monks at the pagoda said any com­ment on the mat­ter would be made by the Kyaik Htee Saung mis­sion­ary com­mit­tee.

Photo: Aung Kyaw Min

Hun­dreds of vil­lagers in Kawt Ka Dut vil­lage protested what they al­lege is poor pagoda man­age­ment.

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